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Autonomous and empowered team work in the australian motor vehicle industry
online resourceposted on 06.06.2017, 01:27 by Cooney, Richard
This paper reviews contemporary developments in team work design theory and identifies two distinctive team work design concepts currently in use - those of the autonomous work team and the empowered work team. The paper establishes the critical team work design criteria to be applied to each concept, with autonomous designs focussing upon the development of team self-organization, the development of team member skills and the development of a collective voice in setting goals and targets, and empowered designs focussing upon the expansion of the team member work role and the enhancement of team responsibility for business results. The paper goes on to show how these criteria are applied in practice, by presenting comparative case studies of team work in two automotive body stamping plants in the Australian vehicle industry. The research underlines the value of looking at teams from a work design perspective. By developing this perspective, team work design concepts can clearly distinguished and the outcomes of teamworking for employees can be clearly identified. Employees in autonomous teams exercise some control over the allocation of job assignments, have some collective say in the setting of production goals and targets and they have greater opportunities for skill development. Employees in empowered teams, in comparison, exercise less autonomy but have expanded work roles and are far more accountable for business results. Empowered team work designs would seem to offer employees limited gains compared to those available from autonomous designs.