Why teams work - Staffordshire University

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As such, to be successful you will need to be able to manage three broad sets of ... Efficient teams can lead to greater creativity, improved job satisfaction and ...
Skills at Work |Teamwork | | |Janet Turner – Staffordshire | | |University Careers Service | |

“A team is a small group who have developed to the stage where they are able to perform effectively, each member adopting the role needed to work with others, using complementary skills.” (R.R.Stuart, Pegasus Programme – Developing Team Skills, 1989)

Why is teamwork important?

Whatever career or future you select, you are most likely to be given a position of responsibility for teams, their goals, targets and results. As such, to be successful you will need to be able to manage three broad sets of activities. You will need to achieve whatever task or project you have been entrusted with, you will need to develop individuals and you will need to manage the group so that it grows into a true team.

Why teams work

• Efficient teams can lead to greater creativity, improved job satisfaction and increased energy and excitement. In some cases they can lead to swifter and more effective implementation of ideas and to a better use of individual skills and abilities. There are some tasks which one person simply could not do alone, such as launching a moon probe, designing a new car, or managing a large construction project. • The use of teams opens up a bigger range of experience and abilities. • Teams produce more useable ideas, because the idea once formulated goes through a more thorough process of objective evaluation. • Teams also take more calculated risks, yet they are seldom reckless • People find increased motivation from working within a team.

According to Charles Handy in his book ‘Understanding Organisations’ Other organisational uses of teams might be: • Distribution of work: a bringing together of skills • Problem-solving/decision-making • Information and idea collection/information processing • Co-ordinating and liaising between individuals in groups and between groups • Management and control of work • Testing and ratifying decisions • Increased commitment and involvement

Where people work in teams there tends to be: • Increased productivity • Increased sense of belonging • More sharing and contributing • Mistakes are recognised and tackled • Boss seen more as ‘one of us’ • More methodical approach to tasks

Where people work in groups that are not teams there tends to be: • Increased bureaucracy/paperwork • People confine themselves to defined jobs • The boss rules with a firmer hand • Weaknesses and mistakes are covered up

Some problems with teams

One of the characteristics of teams is that they take time to develop, (see Stages of Team

Development). This can be a disadvantage, if the team is faced with a task or series of tasks, which need to be completed quickly. The individuals in the team do not have time to get to know each other and will concentrate on ‘task language’ – getting things done, co-ordinating effort, checking progress of tasks, and so on. The problems occur because feelings may be kept below the surface, frustrations will build up, and individuals will pay more attention to their own needs, rather than offering support to others.

Other disadvantages to teamworking are when: • Too much time and energy are spent improving communication and interactive skills • Teams begin to feel that they are always right, and stereotype other teams as inferior in the quality of their thinking. • Teams start competing with one another, to the detriment of the organisation as whole. • Particular individuals are embarrassed or marginalised because they find teamworking difficult, and not their natural style. • A team can also stifle change, through ingrained attitudes and norms of behaviour.

What do teams look like when they are not working well?

The Dependant team The Fight team

Wants an identifiable leader, who is in charge Ignore leader

Thinks leader knows best Show hostility towards leader or other team members

The Flight team The Pairing team

Lapses into anecdotes Accepts long interchanges between two

Listen to any contribution rather than get on members with the task Thinks as long as someone is talking then the team is getting somewhere Other team members switch off

Stages of team development

Charles Handy’s theory of team development identifies four main stages: They are: forming, storming, norming and performing. A fifth possible stage is mourning (when the task is complete or the group is no longer required. The characteristics of these stages are as follows:

1. Forming At the formation stage, members are: ➢ Finding their feet; ➢ Identifying the task, the boundaries and the rules; ➢ Trying to find ways of approaching the task; ➢ Identifying what information and resources will be needed; ➢ Getting to know one another; ➢ Looking for guidance from the leader;

Learning what kind of behaviour is appropriate.

2. Storming During the storming stage, the team are trying to establish relationships with one another. There may be: ➢ A flaring up of emotion and conflict; ➢ A reaction against the demands or value of the task; ➢ Conflict between sub-groups; ➢ Challenges to the position of leader; ➢ A reaction against the demands placed on individuals.

3. Norming During this ‘settling-down’ stage, the team is: ➢ Developing cohesiveness as a group; ➢ Co-operating and exchanging ideas and opinions about the task; ➢ Laying down standards and norms; ➢ Encouraging mutual support At this stage, the attention of team members tends to turn to trust, bonding and mutual recognition.

4. Performing This is the stage during which real progress is made, as: ➢ Solutions begin to emerge; ➢ Constructive work forges ahead; ➢ Members take on positive functional roles; ➢ Group energy is directed towards the completion of the task.

It won’t always be obvious when one stage ends and another begins. Some groups may never fully recover from Stage 2, even when progress continues through the last two stages. In other groups, the period of storming may not exist at all.

When you form a new group, or join an existing group as its new leader, you will naturally be anxious to get to the performing stage as quickly as possible. It may not be wise, however, to try to suppress any contentious issues that arise on the way. It is usually best to address the problems, rather than try to pretend they don’t exist. Tackle the problems during team development – or they may reappear. Information taken from Working In Teams – NEBS Management Development workbook

What makes a good team?

Team composition

The effectiveness of a team depends to an extent on the mix of abilities of the various members. Where all members consider themselves the natural leader, and want to give direction to others, the group is less likely to achieve success than when all members have a unique contribution to make. As the team develops, individuals learn where they fit in, the role they can perform within the team, and the behaviour which complements that role.

‘The crunch question in the long run is not …what a prospective employee knows, or what specialist skills are possessed; what matters most, given a fair field of adequately qualified candidates, is how the chosen person is going to behave.’

Meredith Belbin (1993), Team Roles at Work

Team roles The roles that members adopt in the activities of the team will depend on their personalities, their skills and the expectations of colleagues. Some roles will vary according to circumstances and the demands of the task. So personalities may be as important as skills, and thus team roles may be as significant as job-related roles. In the balanced team, every team has ‘planners’, ‘doers’, ‘ideas people’, and so on, so that all the required roles are filled.

This concept has been developed by a number of management writers. Perhaps the best known expert in this field is Dr Meredith Belbin, who identified nine team roles, which he found present in the most successful teams.

• Company-Worker or Implementer – a practical organiser • Chairman or Co-ordinator – co-ordinator of efforts; social leader • Shaper – outgoing and dominant; the task leader • Plant or Innovator – most creative and intelligent but introverted; ideas person • Resource Investigator – the most popular , the sales man, the diplomat; Mr Fix-It • Monitor Evaluator – Analytically rather than creatively intelligent • Team-Worker – Supportive, uncompetitive; mediator • Completer-finisher – checks details, worries about deadlines, chivvies • Specialist - the expert on the team, interest confined to own sphere of knowledge. These are team roles, as distinct from job titles or job-related roles. One person on a project team, for example, might combine the technical role of process engineer, and the team role of monitor/evaluator. In the ideal team, there will be one or more individuals who fit perfectly into each of Belbin’s team roles. However, in most real-life teams, not every role will be matched neatly against the characteristic style of a team member. In small groups members may have to take on several roles. On other occasions, not all roles are essential.

Team building

The main elements of team building, identified by Kiddy and Company, are: • Managing the task – using systematic working methods to get the job done, eg. planning, setting objectives, organising, managing time, problem- solving • Managing process – using interpersonal skills to enable people to contribute to the best of their abilities, eg. listening, summarising, encouraging, resolving conflict. • Managing communications – adopting appropriate managerial behaviour to match the needs of the situation. • Managing contributions – understanding how people differ and making constructive use of individual differences.

For a team to work well -

• All members need to understand its purpose and goals - Initially the team needs to agree common objectives and goals. • The leader should maintain the support and trust of team members; and aim to minimise interpersonal conflict. • All team members have a responsibility to co-operate and communicate with the team leader and other members of the team. • The leader should encourage good communication about tasks and emphasize the value and importance of the task • Everyone should be kept busy, balancing group productivity with individual need. • All members play to their own strengths, acknowledging the value of the skills and experience of individuals and put them to good use in helping others learn. • There should be openness and honesty between members. • The team makes good decisions that all support • It should not be dominated by anyone, including leader - All members of a team must participate, so those who find it easy to air their views should also be sensitive to the non-participation of others and try to encourage them to put forward their opinions. • The team should be able to own up to mistakes and deal with them • Good teams should become self-monitoring and able to review progress for themselves. • All teams also benefit from external feedback. Effectiveness should be defined in terms of contribution to the organisation, but individual satisfaction should not be forgotten. If personal fulfilment is not there, individuals will not ‘buy in’ to the team; the more satisfaction the greater the motivation.

Resources: Belbin, Meredith R. Team Roles at Work, Butterworth-Heinemann (1993) Belbin, Meredith R. Management Teams:Why they succeed or fail (1996) Handy, Charles Understanding Organisations, Penguin (1985)

The following resources are available for information in the Careers Service Library: Hardingham, Alison Working in Teams, CIPD (1995)

Hogg, C (IPM) & McInerney, D (Kiddy & Company) Personnel Management factsheet (1990)

Avery, Christopher M. Teamwork is an individual skill, Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2001) NEBS Management Development Workbook Working in Teams (1997)