In order to respond to both change and complexity, most organisations are turning to new, more adaptive ways of doing their work, such as flatter organisational structures, more team orientated environments and greater support from technology. Higher organisational performance is being gained from empowered individuals working together jointly to contribute the best of their knowledge, skills and capabilities.
Work-teams are said to be a defining feature of the post bureaucratic organisation, in which horizontal networks replace vertical hierarchies, and control is vested in groups of employees . The logic of team work is similar to that of Total Quality Management, being based on the belief that employees who are granted some degree of autonomy over their work will use their expertise to devise new and improved ways of producing goods are services, thereby improving organisational efficiency and productivity.
Most businesses are based on hierarchy and individualism; teams, by definition, are based on dynamically shifting leadership and a shared aim.
In a real team, even one where there is a nominated leader, real leadership will shift automatically and dynamically around the group. As particular strengths or attributes - skills, knowledge, relationships or location - become important leadership shifts to where it is most relevant.
In this way a real team has the most appropriate leader for the task most of the time. Conversely in a hierarchy where there is a single leader most of the time the "team" does not have the most appropriate leader.
Extreme hierarchies can be efficient when they do the same things over an over again, but they run into serious problems when the organization's products and responses to customers have to change fairly rapidly. For one thing, the movement of information up and down the hierarchy tends to be slow and distorting. By the time...