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Key Research Findings

Researchers led by Professor Michael West have undertaken a number of studies to explore the links between people management and organisational effectiveness. Below are just a few of the general conclusions from key papers.

Teams and patient mortality

Salas et al 2016; Lyuobvnikova, West, Dawson & Carter 2015; West & Lyubovnikova, 2013
A meta-analysis of team training in health care shows that team training can reduce patient deaths by 15 % and medical errors by 19%.

Increasing the percentage of staff working in ‘real teams’ in acute hospitals in England by 5% is associated with a reduction of 3% in patient mortality. A real team is defined as having clear objectives, role interdependence and regular performance reviews.

Teams and innovation

Widmann & Mulder, 2018; Litchfield et al, 2017; Farnese & Livi, 2016; West & Sacramento 2012
In inter-disciplinary teams in vocational colleges, team learning behaviours, especially reflexivity and inter-team working, relate positively to innovative work behaviours.

Effective team working leads to higher levels of innovation in the delivery of patient care in primary care and community mental health teams.

Insurance, financial services, pharmaceutical, railway and health studies show that reflexivity enhances innovation which, in turn, motivates team members and their engagement levels.

In manufacturing, software and electronics, when reflexivity is encouraged and practiced, along with constructive debate, higher levels of innovation are in evidence both within and across teams.

Teams and customer satisfaction

Dawson 2018; Ambrosini et al 2007
Effective team working is a key predictor of patient satisfaction according to the analysis of NHS staff surveys from 2014/15. The higher the effectiveness of team working reported by staff (in terms of the clarity of objectives, interdependence of team members, and reflection by the team), the more satisfied the patients.

In financial services, inter-team coordination activities are critical to delivering superior value to customers as staff interact across internal boundaries to create greater synergy and improved services.

Teams and staff engagement, satisfaction and wellbeing

Chen et al, 2018; Powell et al 2014; West et al 2013; West & Dawson 2011
Good team working is associated with lower levels of errors, stress, injury, sickness absence, intention to quit and turnover, harassment and bullying from colleagues, and harassment and bullying from service users. Good team working is also associated with higher levels of staff satisfaction and engagement.

In manufacturing, when teams practice reflexivity on a regular basis their levels of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy) diminish significantly.

Teams and care quality

Dawson, 2004
There is substantial evidence to suggest that effective team working is associated with safer working practices. Results from the NHS National Staff Survey in the UK indicate that the greater the number of staff working in well-structured teams, the fewer errors, near misses and injuries occur. The greater the number of staff who say that they work in teams, but not well-structured teams, the more errors, near misses and injuries occur.

Team performance

Marlow et al 2018; Courtright et al, 2015; Peralta et al 2015; Hu & Liden 2011
Communication quality has a stronger relationship with team performance than frequency, in particular: information elaboration and knowledge exchange.

Task and outcome interdependence relates positively to team performance. According to a meta-analysis of 7,563 teams across many sectors, when team members depend upon one another and create workflows that require coordinated action, and when tasks are rewarded and communicated at the team level to emphasise collective outputs vs. individual contributions, team performance is enhanced significantly.

Goal and process clarity enhance team performance. Research in call centre and roller hockey teams demonstrates that when goals and objectives are clear within a team, as well as commitment to those goals, innovation processes are enhanced and these factors improve team performance. In Chinese banks, when team leaders adopt an employee-centred focus and practice servant leadership by empowering their team, they facilitate team confidence and effective team behaviours. When team members understand their individual task objectives and procedures and the connection between these and the team goals this reduces any possible interpersonal conflicts and reduces social loafing.

Teams and Diversity

Borrill, 2000; Fay et al 2005 
Cross-functional design teams can undertake radical change. The breadth of perspective offered by cross-functional teams produces the questioning and integration of diverse perspectives that enables teams to challenge basic assumptions and make radical changes to improve their products, services and ways of working.

Teams and Quality Management

West, 2002
Cross-functional teams promote improved quality management. By combining team members’ diverse perspectives, decision-making is comprehensive because team members question ideas and decisions about how best to provide products and services to clients. Diversity, properly processed, leads to high quality decision-making and innovation.

Teams and Rapid Change

West, Tjosvold & Smith, 2003 
Team-based organisations, with their flat structures, can respond quickly and effectively in the fast changing environments most organisations encounter. Teams enable organisations to speedily develop and deliver products and services quickly and cost-effectively. Teams can work faster and more effectively with members working in parallel and inter-dependently: individuals working in serial tend to work slower. Teams enable organisations to learn (and retain learning) more effectively. When one team member leaves, the learning of the team is not lost. Team members also learn from each other during the course of team working.

Teams and Delivering Strategy

West, Tjosvold & Smith, 2003 
Teams are the best way to enact organisational strategy, because of the need for consistency between rapidly changing organisational environments, strategy and structure. Teams can co-ordinate the enactment of strategy amongst groups of individuals working towards shared goals.

Teams and Learning

Brodbeck, 2004 
There is accumulating evidence that when students work in co-operative groups, rather than individually, they work harder, help less able group members and learn more. This is not without good reason. It is by working together and pooling our resources (knowledge, abilities, experience, time, money, etc.) that we can most effectively accomplish our shared goals.

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