Teamwork Diversity

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:00 AM
Room: 415
Oral Presentation
Paul-André LAPOINTE , Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada
The study of teamwork is  facing two opposite traditions – sociotechnical  approach, which is more developed in Scandinavian countries, and lean production, which first appeared in Japan’s industry. Within the first tradition, the implementation of teamwork is associated with the quality of working life and industrial democracy improvement. On the other hand, lean production management strives to improve organizational performance with the help of teamwork, increasing peer pressure and work intensity. Strengthening democracy or renewing forms of control at work – what is the real meaning of teamwork in today’s workplaces?

Does teamwork represent a breakthrough from taylorism or a strengthening of taylorism? Does it rather represent both depending on the type of teamwork? Far from constituting a single homogeneous entity, teamwork takes diverse forms and can be distinguished depending on the autonomy workers have and the duties they are responsible for. On the basis of a survey conducted in the Quebec manufacturing sector (Canada), two types of teamwork – lean teams and semi-autonomous teams – are examined in this paper. These will be compared with a focus on autonomy, work intensity, task complexity, problem-solving activities and task rotation.

Two logics of teamwork adoption are also contrasted. Lean team adoption rests upon a logic of standardization, labour cost reduction and incentive pay, without employment security guarantees, representation and partnership. On the other hand, semi-autonomous team adoption is based on employment security guarantees, representation and partnership. Finally, semi-autonomous teams represent an improvement of working conditions compared with both taylorism and lean teams. They also constitute an improvement of democracy at work. However, they require an appropriate institutional context, difficult to implement or to develop in this era of finance-led capitalism. Consequently, it is easy to understand why they are much less diffused than lean teams.