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9.2 Types of Teams

Learning Objectives

  1. Define work team.
  2. Explain parallel team.
  3. Describe project team.
  4. Explain management team.
  5. Differentiate among the different types of teams and their importance.

Work Team

When you think of work teams, you might think back to Chapter 3 "Classical Theories of Organizational Communication" when we talked about workers who were shoveling coal or on assembly lines trying to complete a task. A work teamA group whose members are appointed in the organization. is a group that individuals are usually appointed in an organization. Richard Wellins, William Byham, and Jeanne Wilson defined work teams as “an intact group of employees who responsible for a ‘whole work process or segment that delivers a product or service to an internal or external customer.”Wellins, R., Byham, W., Wilson, J. (1991). Empowered teams. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, pg. 3. When we work for an organization, our supervisors and/or managers will usually assign work teams for us. These teams can differ in regards to type and size. These groups are vital to the organization’s longevity and overall success. Wellins et al. noted that several of the major corporations such as General Mills and AT&T, had significant results in productivity with the use of work teams. In order to have effective work teams, organizations must allow for empowerment.Einsenberg, E. M., & Goodall, H. L., Jr. (1993). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. As you can imagine, if a group is given a task to solve an organizational dilemma, but not allowed to execute it, then it does nothing but frustrate the group. Wellins et al. explained there is a relationship with the amount of group empowerment and the group responsibility.

Susan Cohen and Diane Bailey analyzed work teams and discovered that are many elements to their organizational performanceCohen, S. G., & Bailey, D. E. (1997) What makes teams work: Group effectiveness research from the shopfloor to the executive suite. Journal of management, 23, 239–290.:

  1. Group composition. How does the size, diversity, and experience of the group members influence the team?
  2. Task design. How does the constitution and difficulty of the team’s task impact their performance?
  3. Organizational context includes reward/punishment procedures and the type of supervision that the team experiences.
  4. Internal processes is the amount of teamwork and/or conflicts that occur.
  5. Group psychological traits include group norms that influence the team’s performance. Is the group cohesive and cooperative?
  6. Effectiveness is not just the outcome of the task, but also the perceptions of satisfaction, commitment, retention, and absenteeism.

Cohen and Bailey noted that work teams are viewed as the most ideal way to make decisions in organizations. This is because work teams have more flexibility, originality, and adaptability. There are many advantages to work teams. This includes:

  1. Empowerment of members to have a more straightforward part in the decision making process
  2. The development of a more multi-skilled workforce rather than deskilled
  3. The advancement of stronger team synergies that produce more creativity in decision making
  4. The subordination of individual’s agenda to the task
  5. Better decisions by grouping talented team members together
  6. Better autonomy due to direct supervision
  7. More commitment to the organization and its goals
  8. Overall higher productivity levels.Mumby, D. K. (2013). Organization communication: A critical approach. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Parallel Team

Collateral organizations are also called parallel teamsThese teams are created externally from the main organization to work on specific objectives..Fisher, D. (2000). Communication in organizations (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Jaico. These are groups that are usually created “outside regular authority and communication structures to identify and work on problems that the formal organization is unwilling or unable to deal with.”Fisher, D. (2000). Communication in organizations (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Jaico, pg. 322. For instance, an organization like a university can hire a parallel team to create better advertising and marketing campaigns and let them focus on educating students. Parallel teams can be very beneficial because it usually happens outside the organization itself.

Project Team

Another type of team is called project teamsSpecific and/or specialized individuals are selected to accomplish a goal in a fixed amount of time.. These are work groups that are created for a particular task.Keller, R. (1994). Technology-information processing fit of contingency theory. Academy of Management, 37(1), 167–179. Project teams often use individuals with specialized skills to achieve a goal in a set predetermined amount of time. Some examples of project teams might include creating a new model or determining the best application for technology. Usually, project team members are selected for their experience and/or expertise in a specific area. Robert Keller discovered that teams with challenging tasks were more likely to process information more resourcefully, in turn creating a better quality outcome. These teams are usually created very quickly with a detailed objective. Often times, these group members do not have time to spend on getting to know the other members.

Project Teams have to work quickly to complete their task.

Management Team

Another type of team is called management teamsThis group is in charge of the daily responsibility of directing the organization..Menz, M. 2012. Functional top management team members: A review, synthesis, and research agenda. Journal of Management, 38(1), 45–80. These teams consist of employees who have the highest organizational management levels and have the duty of maintaining the organization. These members possess leadership and authoritative powers that are given to them by shareholders and/or board of directors. You’ll notice that all of the organizational positions below start with the word “chief.” Because the word “chief” is listed in all of these positions, the group of executives who embody these different roles are often referred to as the “C-suite” in organizational literature. Some of the positions that are part of a management team include:

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)—this person is usually responsible to the entire organization and communicates with the board of directors and/or chairman of the organization. The CEO has to execute the board of directors’ decisions and to preserve the organization’s functions and goals. Sometimes that CEO is president of the organization.

Chief Operations Officer (COO)—this person primarily focuses on sales and production. They typically are more involved that the CEO. Yet, they are in constant communication with the CEO. The COO is sometimes recognized as a vice president of the organization.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)—this person focuses on the financial aspects of the organization. The CFO reviews and evaluates all financial data, budgets, and costs associate with the organization. The CFO often explores the financial stability and uprightness of the organization. The CFO presents this information to the board of directors and governmental regulatory affiliates such as the Securities and Exchange Commission. The CFO is also known as a senior vice present.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)—this person reports to the CEO. This person is mainly accountable for the technological advances and matters in the organization. This can also include any scientific innovations or discoveries.

Chief Learning Officer (CLO)—this person reports to the CEO. This person is accountable for all of the workplace learning and human performance improvement activities within the organization. This individual usually has a background in education, instructional design, and adult learning.

Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)—this person reports to the CEO. This person’s duties include assessing, cultivating, defining, and nurturing cultural diversity as an organizational resource. Other common duties include affirmative action/equal employment opportunity and ensuring the creation of an inclusive climate within the organization itself.

Overall, the organization management team has many key individuals that maintain the organization’s mission and goals. These individuals must communicate with each other so that the organization can run effectively and efficiently. Moreover, they must be able to handle crises and resolve problems successfully for the organization’s prosperity and future success.

Key Takeaways

  • Work teams are integral for an organization because they have the have the objective of completing certain outcomes.
  • Parallel teams are formed externally. Parallel teams look at specific items that the organization might overlook or not perceive accurately.
  • Project teams are composed of specific/specialized members that need to obtain a goal in a set amount of time.
  • Management teams have the responsibility of running and maintaining the organization. There are many different people with specific tasks to keep the organization running in an efficient and effective manner.


  1. Thinking back to your most recent job, what types of groups did you have and what did you do?
  2. Thinking back to your most recent job, what type of communication happens in these groups?
  3. What management team members did you see at the organization that you worked for in the past? If no one, then what management team position do you think is most important at your current organization? Why?