Australian manufacturers are searching for new ways to improve their standing in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Following in the footsteps of the Quality Movement, work teams are commonly viewed as the ideal tool to develop a lean organisation, focused on customer needs. The manufacturing sector has historically been the site of the majority of experiments with the team concept. However, despite the large volume of literature on factors contributing to team effectiveness, there is little quantitative research to identify what are the critical 'success factors'. The aim of this research report is to contribute to overcoming this gap in the literature.
Two case studies were conducted involving interviews with key employees and a survey, which was completed by team members at each of the companies. The research identified the following factors as positively influencing the overall effectiveness of the manufacturing teams:
• The number of members in each team to be between 4 and 14.
• A medium level of conflict before and after the establishment of teams.
• Clear communication of the compelling reasons for introducing teams.
• Open and regular team communication.
• A perception that the team has realistic and achievable goals.
• The provision of financial rewards and verbal recognition for the achievement of team goals.
• Improvement in the team's product quality. (Note: This factor influences satisfaction and productivity but is not purely an independent success factor in itself).
Factor which were found not to be significant were:
• The level of consultation before and after teams were introduced.
• The level of dependency on other team members.
• The level of senior management commitment.
• The level of team leader commitment.
• Team member agreement with the need for teams.
• Team member involvement in establishing team goals.
• Team member sense of responsibility for team goals.
• The frequency of performance feedback.
• The effectiveness of training.
The research also suggests that the values and intentions of the both The Herron and ACL Company's may influence the overall effectiveness of their teams.
While the findings of this research are only tentative, they cast doubt on the significance of many factors usually considered critical to the success of teams.