Analysis and Discussion of the Nature of Team Building Process
I have just been appointed as a Manager of a Department within a new company. My role will be to develop a new work group of twelve into an effective and cohesive business team. The aim of this paper will be to analyse and discuss the nature of the teambuilding process. I will look at the various components involved in this process, from Leadership Styles and communication methods to decision-making, planning, and group dynamics.
Within the context of this framework I will attempt to integrate several academic models and theories in order to clarify my own ideas on the teambuilding process.
Finally, I will focus on my own personal style of leadership and motivational techniques. Would I have been able to lead the team to achieve its maximum potential? Have I achieved a good balance between directing group actions and giving the group the freedom to make their own choices? Ultimately, have I been honest enough with the group to gain their trust and respect?
The most important aspect in the initial teambuilding phase is time spent on planning. Before the team meets as a group it will be necessary to clearly define the reason for the team’s existence. What will be their function within the context of the organisations future strategies? As Coghlan (1994,) states:
” Groups and teams play a key role in the process of planned organisational change. The change process typically involves teams in the organisation’s hierarchy responding to the change agenda and adapting to it in terms of its tasks and processes. ”
I think it is essential at this stage to also consider which leadership style gives me the best opportunity to obtain maximum effectiveness for the group. The previous questions identify several separate issues i.e. what tasks will the group have to perform and how will this affect individuals within the group? John Adair (1985) identifies the relationship between the task, the group and the individual (see fig. 1) and how a balance must be maintained between all three in order to produce the most effective results for the organisation.
Fig.1 Interaction of needs within the group. ( Adair, 1985)
In order to fulfil each of these needs it is necessary to obtain a high degree of information, and to establish lines of communication. My first task will be to identify the companies strategy and what requirements they have for the team. Will the team have to report back specifically to anyone, or will there be a certain level of group autonomy? It will also be necessary to define the boundaries/parameters that the team will be required to work within. I will also establish what resources are available i.e. money, information, time and materials. Will we have use of a secretary for notetaking and access to a suitable room for team meetings?
Once the issues of task have been established I will then explore the expectations and experiences of the individuals who will comprise the group.
Schutz (1958) argues that it is possible to determine how well a group will come together by looking at the compatibility of the individuals within that group. In order to match personality types and balance skill levels it is useful to look at the work of Meredith Belbin (1993) whose research offers a typology of team roles and behaviour (fig. 2). Each team member would be required to complete Belbin’s Self-Perception Inventory before the meeting.
Tyson and Jackson (1992) further categorised Belbin’s original eight roles into subsections of people, task and ideas. They identified the wide range of differences in personality and character those individual team members would bring to a group, this in turn enables predictions to be made about the possible strengths and weaknesses in group dynamics. I think that it would also be a useful tool for team members to understand their own unique attributes that they bring to the team.
These one to one meetings will be a good opportunity to express to team members an outline of the companies objectives and to get a feel for their own expectations and interests. I would also emphasise that within the team a level of parity will exist, irrespective of external hierarchies, and that I would always be available if individual members felt that decisions taken within the group were causing external pressures. My final task before organising the first team meeting would be to get each member to briefly write down what their levels of expertise and experience are and a short outline about themselves, plus relevant e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (if they have access).
This initial pattern of communication is comparable to ‘the wheel’ Mullins (1999) where the leader acts as a central conduit through which all parties communicate and indirectly are all linked. My eventual aim however would be to decentralise this communication method and achieve ‘the all-channel network’ Mullins (1999). The latter system requires that all members of the team interact with each other. I would hope that this system would produce an environment where all members feel comfortable enough to express themselves freely, and that the communication channels promote the free exchange of ideas.
The next stage in the teambuilding cycle is the team meeting. This will require a certain amount of planning and consideration. This preparation will hopefully convey a level of professionalism and intent to each of the team members. Because the team are new to each other, and to me, I will be trying to gain their trust and promote confidence in the project.
It is essential to ensure that everyone will be able to attend the meeting. I would plan for weekly meetings initially on one dedicated afternoon (probably Monday). This would allow the team to clear their schedule well in advance. Regular attendance demonstrates a level of commitment and promotes team unity, which is vitally important at this stage. It is also important to have an agenda with a time-scale built in, meetings can become long and drawn out and members lose interest and focus. Team members should be notified well in advance of the meeting, either by e-mail or memo.
The initial phase of the meeting will allow the team to introduce themselves. This will then be followed by my own introduction, and a presentation which would emphasise the organisations goals and objectives (It might be necessary to invite someone from senior management to give a short introduction to the project, and to stress the importance of the teams involvement). I would then encourage the group to establish a team mission/charter, which would give the team focus, and would also help to develop team identity. It is important that members do not feel alienated because they are unable to link their work with overall organisational goals Maslow (1954).
At the end of this talk I will introduce two more concepts to the group. The idea here is to increase awareness in the teambuilding process, whether through improved decision making or more efficient problem solving.
The first is the observation sheet Mullins (pg.498, 1999). This is a feedback mechanism on individual participation, and could be a useful tool in future weeks. The sheet is a simple method for giving constructive feedback. However, in order to promote a non-judgemental environment it would be necessary to employ an independent assessor to undertake this role. Secondly I would introduce Tuckman’s (1965) ‘Team Development Wheel’. The wheel looks at change in the group process and focuses on the dynamics of a team’s development. Tuckman identifies four different stages that should be accomplished in order to attain group maturity. The stages are:
At stage one, Forming, the team has many questions, concerns. There are certain anxieties like, where do they fit into the group? Why am I here? Who are the other team members? Will I be able to get all my questions answered? It is important at this stage that the Team Leader has prepared well enough to reassure everyone by providing suitable answers and by providing a framework whereby individuals will have a better understanding of what they are expected to contribute. Belbin’s (1993) team analysis could be usefully deployed at this stage.
At stage two, Storming, the group may find difficulties occur as the team attempts to assert identity. Personal differences will emerge on the proposed direction that the group should take. This is a particularly difficult stage as competition and jealousy can cause other members to feel demotivated and to question their need to belong to the team. I would try to foster an open and honest forum. I would attempt to decrease my own influence on the decision making process and encourage the team to work their way through any difficulties, and hope that other leaders may emerge to offer further support.
At stage three, Norming, a more cohesive unit will emerge. Team members will have developed more confidence in the group, there is a greater sense of belonging. Member’s opinions are more readily accepted, and preconceived ideas are diluted in order to achieve common consent. At this point I can act more as a facilitator, providing occasional feedback, but allowing the group to formulate and expedite their own decisions.
Finally at stage four, Performing, the group will have achieved a high state of maturity. A supportive and trust based ethos permeates the group. Tasks are tackled effectively, and the group has a flexible and resourceful approach to decision making and problem solving. My role at this point would still be as a facilitator, able to offer experience and advice when required.
Each stage provides the group with insight into the various mechanisms’ that are required to allow the teambuilding process to progress. By understanding the process the team will perhaps be more adaptable to change and work more fluently towards achieving team goals.
It is vital that team unity is established at the earliest opportunity. It’s important that team members leave this first meeting with a positive attitude to what they are being asked to accomplish. The team mission will outline the team’s objectives, and members will be encouraged to share ideas and communicate with each other or through me.
A further way to improve team unity is through the use of teambuilding exercises and training programs. Teambuilding exercises will give the group a chance to deal with real issues in a safe environment. They encourage the group to respond as a collective unit to achieve results and they assist with team bonding and individual growth. Taking this concept a step further, I would schedule a two to three day weekend away from the company, and invest a portion of the resources (if they are available) in a practical teambuilding exercise program.
This type of weekend would focus on team issues like trust, respect, and empowerment, and would improve interpersonal relationships and promote strong partnerships. I would arrange this time away in the first month of the project. Training would be tailored to reflect my leadership style, whereby, I would empower the team with the freedom to make decisions within defined parameters Murdock (1999). I would arrange training sessions to deal !
with the two complementary key issues required for this process, i.e. communication and decision-making. With empowerment comes a level of responsibility; a responsibility that each team member would have towards each other to listen effectively and give constructive feedback. Team members must provide each other with feedback on whether their performance enhances the team’s performance or impedes it. To do this they need an understanding of non-verbal communication and effective listening skills. Regular training sessions could provide each member with key skills. I would try to initiate some kind of training budget, specifically for the team, in order that this program of improvements could be accomplished.