Magazine article Journal of Services Research

A Critical Analysis of High Performing Teams: A Case Study Based on the British Telecommunication (Bt) PLC

Magazine article Journal of Services Research

A Critical Analysis of High Performing Teams: A Case Study Based on the British Telecommunication (Bt) PLC

Article excerpt

This paper critically discusses the composition and motivation of teams in British Telecom by analysing the results of a research based on company documents and interviews with experienced employees in order to provide a deep insight into the company and to find out if the theories explained in the academic literature are used and how are they implemented in the real business world. The findings ratify the importance of accuracy in the team selection process for reaching high performance but due to barriers in applying theory to practice, BT managers cannot use theoretical models to select team members on a more meticulous basis as much as they would like to. To motivate teams and to encourage performance, BT has built an extensive financial based reward system. The recently introduced payment structure, representing the main part of the reward system and the main point of discussion, intends to provide fairness and to encourage employees' effort by linking salary and bonuses to the external market and the achievement of pre-determined objectives.


Due to organisational change in recent years, as being recognised by the growth of the small firms as well as the growth of professional, high technology and creative economic sectors and the move from bureaucratic to more adaptive structures resulting from changing markets, change of employees' attitudes and technology revolution, one can notice the increased importance of teams in organisations (Thomson, 2003). Teams are a good way of dealing with the challenges in today's complex world (Katzenbach and Smith, 1999). It is not only argued that teamwork leads to higher firm's performance (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993; Weisbord, 1987; Wellins et. al., 1994) and that "teams outperform individuals" (Katzenbach and Smith, 1999; p.1) but also that employees, due to higher education and skill level, become more and more demanding and ask for teamwork as a job design which is especially the case in service sector organisations where the 'intellectual capital is the key asset" (Scase, 2003; p.2) of the company. Apart from team composition, team motivation becomes a fundamental aspect of management in a high performing organisation as it is argued that the degree of motivation is strongly linked with the organisation's success (Scase, 2003), and that motivated employees have fun at work and therefore spend more time in work rather than looking around (Ex-BT Manager, 2004b, interview, see Appendix 1). The difficulty for management, however, lies in identifying what really motivates a team to increase job satisfaction and to encourage performance.

As organising work in teams can lead to greater job satisfaction through increased involvement in the decision-making process (Williams, 1998) resulting in higher company performance, this topic does not only concern the human resource department but also all of the managers in the company. They need to know how to build, motivate and lead a high performing team in order to maximise the team's effectiveness and gain a competitive advantage by using the best human resource strategies to succeed in a fast changing business environment. Globalisation increases the need for creating and sustaining effective teams when multi or transnational corporations have to organise work in multi-cultural and virtual teams. Looking at the issues in a critical way, this study intends to analyse the process of building a high performing team, to evaluate the different motivational theories in this context and to illuminate challenges, problems and restrictions arising from teamwork based on literature and practical examples. Using Telecom (BT), Britain's main and largest telecommunication company operating in the service sector with worldwide activities as an example, the case examines the company's process to find out in the many theories are used how they are implemented in reality.


Teamwork has been discussed a lot in recent years and is still up for actual discussion as more and more companies introduce teamwork as a job design. …

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