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Teamwork, the Key Competence of the 21st Century

21. november 2017
Teamwork has become an indispensable component of business processes in almost every company and organisation.

Experts from different professional fields join in teams so as to be more effective in the solving of problems and more successful in the implementation of exacting projects.

A survey, which was conducted within the framework of the international Destiny project, indicates that employers wish that their employees were better prepared for the challenges posed by teamwork, while managers believe teamwork to be one of the most important key job competencies.

Virtual teams are the present and the future

Globalisation and the expansion of multinational corporations have resulted in a larger number of virtual teams (where team members communicate in a virtual environment with the help of ICT tools), which are often multicultural. Both aspects, virtuality and multiculturalism, bring certain specifics to teamwork, which have to be considered in team management or leadership.

Are you really a true team player?

Today, teamwork skills are a desired asset, perhaps even more so by job seekers than by employers. The majority of job seekers tend to boast that they “love working with people” and are “excellent team players”. But is this actually always the case? Do we say this also because we wish to present ourselves to our best advantage and then have problems coping with colleagues who are not on par with their tasks?

Teamwork is undoubtedly a difficult task. To simply call a group a team does not make them a team and wishing for them to work as a team of course also doesn’t work either. Furthermore, we need to be aware that every team needs time before it develops its full potential and reaches a point where we can say that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. This basically means that the team is able to produce a solution of a better quality than we would get if we merely combined the contributions of individual members (Brounstein, 2016).  

Elements of successful teams

The criteria for designing teams are different. Teams are usually still designed predominantly based on know-how and teamwork skills and competencies and the complementary nature of different team roles are still not sufficiently considered. Belbin, one of the most renowned experts in the field of team development and management, says that an optimal team should include all nine team roles (e.g. shaper, resource investigator, co-ordinator), whereby individual team members can have several different team roles (Belbin Team Roles).

Successful team management

As we often cannot influence team composition, it is that much more important to know and master successful team management skills, especially if we find ourselves in the role of the team leader.  Even though team management is usually characterised by participatory management (based on participatory decision-making of all members, no explicit hierarchy), the role of the team leader is still very important.

Among the most important tasks of the team leader are:

  • motivating team members,
  • facilitating communication (including informal) between team members and
  • providing feedback.

At the start of each new project or when a new team is being designed, an introductory meeting has to be organised, where the team leader, in close cooperation with team members, makes sure that:

  • the objectives of teamwork are clearly defined, so that all team members understand them in the same manner;
  • a discussion takes place and all team members agree on complementary team roles (they all know their tasks or what is expected of them);
  • a detailed project plan is prepared (division and harmonisation of roles, completion deadlines, schedule of joint meetings, etc.);
  • the main rules of teamwork are prepared (the main rules for communication, discussion of opposing opinions, the solving of conflicts, etc. are determined).

DOBA Business School places great emphasis on the development of teamwork competencies, as teamwork is included practically in all courses, both at undergraduate and master’s level. Furthermore, we are currently developing a massive open online course (MOOC) on the subject of teamwork, which will primarily be intended for our students as preparation for a successful inclusion in the study process.   


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