The Role of Supervisors in a South African Team-based

Deysel, Jacob Johannes
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The importance of teamwork in facilitating workplace change and increasing productivity is widely recognised. While the benefits of teamwork are often overpromoted, the difficulties of implementation are likewise often underestimated. The supervisor is a key driver and enabler of the development of learning within an organisation; however, the importance of the role of the supervisor in teamwork implementation has tended, in the past, to be overlooked, so that only limited research has so far been undertaken in this regard. This study aims to identify both barriers encountered by, and presented by, supervisors to the successful implementation of teamwork and to promote a better understanding of the role of supervisors in teamwork implementation. The research methodology applied in this study, which forms part of the interpretive paradigm of the social sciences, employs the case study methodology. The qualitative case study investigated the implementation of a workplace organisation initiative consisting of teamwork at Consolidated Minerals Limited (CML), a large South African mining operation. The researcher utilised participative observation, semi-structured interviews and documentary investigation to construct a rich database in order to provide a holistic view of the barriers to teamwork implementation both as encountered by, and presented by, supervisors. Three key themes, consisting of institutional culture, the motives of senior management and the changing role of the supervisor, emerged during the analysis of the research findings. Institutional culture was seen to impact significantly on teamwork, since such culture plays a key role in establishing the foundation on which teamwork initiatives are rolled out. The institutional culture was further recognised as impacting on the preparation of the organisation for the successful adoption of a teamwork culture, as well as influencing the ability of the organisation to learn from its mistakes. The reason for the implementation of iii teamwork by senior management emerged as a second theme for the study. The underlying motivation behind its implementation needs to be clearly communicated to, and understood by, both management and employees and must result in benefits for both parties. The research indicates that, where the reason for the implementation of teamwork is questionable, its implementation will continuously encounter resistance from the workforce. The changing role of the supervisor is a third issue that had a significant impact on the ability of supervisors to adapt their managerial style to teamwork requirements. By considering these underlying themes during the implementation process, the research should assist companies to focus their attention on the importance of institutional culture, as well as allowing management to rethink why they want to implement teamwork. Companies should also be encouraged to take another look at job descriptions, compensation schemes, career pathing and the performance evaluation of supervisors. In so doing, management should more easily be able to stimulate active involvement from a key player, the supervisor, in the teamwork implementation process.
Teams, Productivity, Teamwork, Workplace change