What Inhibits Teamworking in Safety Critical Organisations?

  • Gary Fuller

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Teamworking is far from an exclusively modern method of workplace management, humans have been arranged into teams for over two-hundred thousand years (West, Tjosvold and Smith, 2005). Its application in the private, public and third sectors has however experienced huge growth during recent decades and it is considered one of the most significant management fashions (Hayes, 2008), with most if not all organisations now operating some form of teamworking (Morgeson, DeRue and Karam, 2010).

    Due to their popularity teams, it seems are here to stay (Van Hootegem et al., 2005), they are considered by some to be the building blocks of contemporary organisations (Stewert and Barrick, 2000; Kozolowski and Ilgen, 2006) and “central to organisational success” (Martin and Bal, 2006). Many report substantial benefits by empowering individuals and giving them greater control (Hyden, 1994). This is achieved by gaining the maximum out of employees (Kinlaw, 1998), following the rationale that “if an organisation is to perform it must be organised as a team” (Drucker, 1992, p. 102).

    When work is arranged in teams it displays many advantageous characteristics, it is considered dynamic, flexible and the core of modern day, lean institutions (Womack, Jones and Roos, 1990), the primary ingredient for prosperous future organisational performance (Katzenbach and Smith, 2003). Teams enable autonomous employees to control their own jobs and use their skills and abilities to benefit both themselves and their organisations (Heathfield, 2000). Other advantages include improvements in quality (Parker, 1990; Wellins, Dyham and Wilson, 1990; Cohen, Ledford and Spreitzer 1996; Oakland, 1996), productivity (Goodman, Devades and Griffith-Hughson, 1988; Parker, 1990; Cohen, Ledford and Spreitzer 1996; Kirkman and Rosen, 1996), more effective use of resources, better decision-making and problem-solving skills (Parker, 1990). Additionally, team-based employees illustrate increased devotion and accountability (Katzenbach and Smith, 2003), improved morale (Hayes, 2005) and greater commitment and safer working (Parker, Axtell and Turner, 2001). They also offer more complex, innovative and comprehensive solutions to organisational problems (Sundstrom, DeMeuse and Futrell, 1990).

    The research arena itself is a highly skilled aircraft engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider and major employer based in South Wales, UK. The company has been practicing teamworking for over twenty years and is therefore considered mature in team terms. Presently the management technique is subject to re-invigoration and considerable attention is being dedicated to improving the performance of teams. This is due to the intense pressure the organisation is experiencing from several low-cost competitors that are extremely aggressive in pursuing business from more mature western based MRO providers. Consequently, the company is experiencing cost-out demands from its current business model, this has created a need for innovation as well as diversity in the workplace (French and Bell, 2000; De Dreu, 2007). All realistic efficiency measures must be carefully considered to maintain competitive edge and preserve market share.

    The following research involved investigation of the perception of production-based team members on the teamworking method to evaluate what they think about various aspects of the practice. Such an inquiry conducted within a highly skilled production environment with mature teams is a relatively understudied area; hence, there was significant opportunity to gain an increased understanding on this rather complicated matter.
    Date of AwardJul 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorHefin Rowlands (Supervisor) & Simon Thomas (Supervisor)


    • aviation
    • employee perception of management practices
    • self-directed teams
    • teams
    • teamworking
    • team-based organisations
    • technical environment
    • MRO

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