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CHAPTER 3 

EFFECTIVE TEAMS

 

 

Much of the work that has been written about teams and teamwork focus on the assumption that some teams are more effective than others.  While team effectiveness can be judged by measuring the productive output of the team, many authors have attempted a more holistic approach the analysis of team effectiveness.

 

I.  Historical Look at Team Effectiveness.

In the 1930's Kurt Lewin focused on work groups and what forces made them effective.  His research produced force field analysis, in which the forces that help and impair groups are studied.

There have been literally hundreds of articles about effective teamwork.  Rather than creating an exhaustive but incomplete list of what authors today feel are important, I will list what pioneers of teamwork wrote.

 

McGregor (1960, 232) created a list of eleven important elements of effective groups. These are presented in such a way that a consultant could identify each aspect from observations of the groups:

1) informal, relaxed atmosphere

2) a lot of discussion

3) task or objective is well understood

4) members will listen to each other

5) there is disagreement

6) decision making by consensus

7) criticism is frequent, frank, and relatively comfortable

8) people are free to express their feelings and ideas

9) clear assignments are made and accepted (roles)

10) little evidence of a struggle for power. Leadership shifts from time to time

11) self-conscious and self-examining

 

Likert, Rensis' New Patterns of Managment 1961, gives 24 Characteristics of an Effective Team:

1. Skilled Members and Leaders

2.  Group  has been in existence sufficiently long to have developed a well-established, relaxed working relationship among all its members.

3. Members are attracted and loyal to the team, its members, and the leader.

4. A high degree of confidence and trust

5.  Values and goals reflect needs of members

6. Harmony

7.  Values are seen as important

8.  Values and goals motivate members

9. Supportive atmosphere.

10.  Leadership adheres to principles that support members, create cooperation

11.  Helps members develop

12.  Members accept willingly and without resentment the goals and expectations.

13.  Leader and members believe that each member can accomplish the "impossible."

14.  Mutual help

15. Supportive atmosphere stimulates creativity.

16. "Constructive conformity" to mechanical and administrative matters

18. Motivation to communicate

19.  Motivation to receive communications

20.  Motivation to influence other members and to be influenced

21.  Communications with the leader

22.  Flexibility and adaptability

23. Goals and philosophy of operation are clearly understood, and provide a solid base for making decisions.

24. Careful selection of leader.

 

 

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, (2002) Lencioni presents a pyramid model with the five dysfunctions of a team (from the bottom, up):
 

  1. Absence of trust: stemming from an unwillingness in the team members to be vulnerable and genuinely open up with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.

  2. Fear of conflict: inability to engage in unfiltered, passionate (yet constructive, though it may strike you as odd) debate.

  3. Lack of commitment: no buy in and commitment can be expected when ideas and opinions have not been aired and genuinely taken into consideration prior to a decision.

  4. Avoidance of accountability: without commitment to a clearly defined set of goals, team members will hesitate to call their colleagues on their actions and behaviors that are counterproductive for the team.

  5. Inattention to results: Lencioni brings it all home through the realization that avoidance of accountability leads to a state where team members tend to put their individual needs above the team's collective goals.

 

In 1972, Beckman wrote of four "Important Areas for Team Effectiveness:"  1) goals, 2) Roles, 3) Processes, and 4) Relationships (152).  These broad areas are similar to many of the characteristics of effective teams given by authors today.

 

In 1986, Goodman, Ravlin, and Argote did an empirical study of group effectiveness.  In this study they  compiled findings about group effectiveness which were published between 1979 and 1986.  General themes focused on the following:

1. Group Composition

        heterogeneity and homogeneity of traits, abilities, and             attitudes

2. Size - performance relationships

3. Leadership - Situational and participative

4. Group Cohesiveness

5.  Communication

6. Group decision making techniques

7. Coordination

 

     Gladstein created a model to confirm that group structures effect process relationships and group effectiveness (1984).  The Gladstein Model of Task Group Effectiveness  was been formally tested using a sample of one hundred sales groups (499):

1. Inputs - Group Level

1A. Group Composition

a) adequate skills

b) Heterogeneity

c) Organizational tenure

d) Job tenure

1B. Group Structure

a) Role and goal clarity

b) Specific work norms

c) Task control

d) Size

e) Formal Leadership

2. Inputs - Organizational Level

2A. Resources Available

a) Training and technical consultation

b) Markets served

2B. Organizational Structure

a) Rewards for group performance

b) Supervisory control

3.  Group Process

a) Open Communication

b) Supportiveness

c) Conflict

d) Discussion of strategy

e) Weighting individual inputs

f)  Boundary management

4. Group Task

a) task complexity

b) environmental uncertainty

c) interdependence

 

    Peter Scholtes' The Team Handbook is an excellent book about teams and creating increased quality through teamwork.  Scholtes gives ten  "Ingredients for a Successful Team":

1.  Clarity in team goals

2.  Improvement Plan

3.  Clearly defined roles

4.  Clear communication

5.  Beneficial team behaviors

6.  Well defined decisions about procedures

7.  Balanced participation

8.  Established ground rules

9.  Awareness of group process

10. Use of the scientific approach

 

Parker's twelve "Characteristics of a Good Team"  includes both task and behavior characteristics:

1.  Clearly defined goal accepted by all members and a plan for reaching it

2.  Informal climate - not tense nor boring

3.  Encourages participation of all members

4.  Good listeners

5.  Members disagree in civilized manner

6.  Open communication

7.  Roles - distributed, defined, well executed

8.  Leadership shifts depending on the needs of the team.

9.  Decisions are reached by consensus

10.  Team takes time to build relationships and trust

11.  All four team member styles on the team

12.  Team periodically examines itself.

     Hackman writes that effective teams meet three criteria:  1) the productive output meets standards; 2) the team helps people to work together on future projects, and 3) the team contributes to growth and personal well being of team members (6).

 

II.  Survey Instruments for the Measurement of Team Effectiveness.

   There are numerous instruments to measure the effectiveness of teams by surveying the members and leaders of teams.  These surveys are sometimes used for self-analysis by the team.  Goodman's exhaustive study of team surveys found that historically these surveys assessed the following (Goodman 244): 

a.  type of group -- college students

b.  type of questions -- does A cause B? Does ABC cause D?

c.  specific types of methods -- attitude questionnaires

d.  type of data collected -- quantified and subjected to statistical analysis

e.  presentation of suggestions for future research -- need for more refined tests

f.  types of interventions suggested -- team development, nominal group techniques, quality circles

g.  standard used to judge proper and improper research -- does it use experimental model? (control groups, random sample, etc.)

 

In Parker's Team Development Survey, team members are asked to rank their team on a scale from one to eight (seldom to very frequently) on the following areas.  After completing the questionnaire they are asked about the strengths, areas for improvement, and action steps for improving the team (33):

1. Clear Purpose

2. Informality

3. Participation

4. Listening

5. Civilized disagreement

6. Consensus Decisions

7. Open Communications

8. Clear roles and work assignments

9. Shared leadership

10. External relations

11.  Style diversity

12. Self-assessment

 

Francis and Young's Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building provides a look at the team building process.  It then presents a "team-review survey" which points out areas that are important for teams and team development (48). The questions on this survey revolve around these points:

1. Appropriate leadership

2. Suitable membership

3. Commitment to the team

4. Constructive climate

5. Desire to achieve

6. Clear corporate role

7. Effective work methods

8. Role clarity

9. Critique without rancor

10. Well-developed individuals

11. Creative Strength

12. Positive intergroup relations

 

Blockages to team development are discussed, and team activities are detailed which are meant to overcome these blockages.  Francis and Young also present the characteristics of an effective team according to survey they conducted of 2,000 managers (Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building 10).  The managers gave these as the most important characteristics of teams:

1. Conflict - challenge, openness, and veracity

2. Discipline

3. Energy - "synergy"

4. Learning - continually learn better ways of working together

5. Methodology - solve problems, make decisions

6. Objectives - mission or purpose

7. Output - the "acid test" - can achieve more than members working alone

8. Structure - flexible, responsive, orderly, directed

9. Mutual Support - respect, support, enjoyment

10. Team-Member Fulfillment - growth and higher potential

 

 

"The Team Audit" by Francis and Young appears in The Encyclopedia of Team Development Activities edited by Pfeiffer (40).  This survey of eighteen questions is useful because it is short and it can be legally copied and distributed to teams.  This questionnaire is different from others in that there is no assumption that the team needs a score of 100%.  This survey is meant to audit which areas the team members feel are important for the success of the team, and not how effective the team is at achieving success in those areas.

 

Francis and Young include a comprehensive guide to presenting and scoring this instrument. Items are score from 0 (irrelevant to the success of the team) to 3 (vital to the success of the team).  A personal score is noted for each member, and a team score (average) is also filled in.  This is meant to induce productive communications within the team.  The questions probe these characteristics:

1.  Skillful and positive leadership

2.  Clear identification of objectives

3. Creative and innovative ideas

4. Realistic planning

5. Ability to accomplish things

6.  Good conceptual and theoretical ability

7.  Effective troubleshooting

8.  Persuasive communication

9.  Imaginative design skills

10.  Technical expertise

11.  Financial expertise

12.  Production expertise

13.  Personal expertise

14.  Marketing expertise

15.  Editorial Expertise

16. Problem-solving abilities

17. Diplomacy

18. Human relations skills

 

"The Team-Development Needs Questionnaire" by Francis and Young also appears in The Encyclopedia of Team Development Activities edited by Pfeiffer (40).  This questionnaire has 108 "yes or no" questions relating to team development needs.   The authors include a comprehensive guide to presenting and scoring this instrument. The answers are recorded on a matrix, which is then totaled to give total scores in twelve areas:

1. Inappropriate leadership

2. Unqualified membership

3. Insufficient team commitment

4. Non constructive climate

5. Low achievement orientation

6. Undeveloped corporate role

7. Ineffective work methods

8. Inadequate team organization

9. Soft-critiquing (unwilling/unable to identify, discuss, and resolve errors)

10. Stunted individual development

11. Lack of creative capacity

12. Negative intergroup relations

 

Team Assessment survey by Hitchcock and Willard  is used to measure teams based on "The 8 Team S's" (13):

  1. Strategy  - ability to set and commit to clearly defined, achievable goals

2. Structure - clear roles, communications, decision making, performance assessments

3. Skills - technical and interpersonal

4. Staff - commitment of members to participate and work together toward goals

5. Style - open, collaborative climate, accepting of conflict, demonstrative trust and respect

6. Shared Values - High standards and commitment to excellence.

7. Symbols - leaders provide meaningful support and inspiration

8. Systems - business and human resource systems support team behaviors

 

Shonk's  "Analyzing Team Effectiveness" survey questionnaire was presented with a scale of  one to five (Schonk 1982: 102) .  The research subjects (team members) mark on the scale where they feel that they fall, and a space is given for comments:

I. Task

1. Goals/Objectives established and met.

2. Planning and Organizing as preparation for accomplishing goals

3.  Problem Definition

4. Controls the team establishes to insure results are achieved as planned.

5.  Follow-up  -  Team takes corrective action when needed

II.  Process

1.  Listening

2. Communications

3.  Attitudes toward differences within group

4. Involvement/Participation

5. Commitment

6.  Mutual Support

7.  Flexibility

 

 

"Team-Effectiveness Inventory" by  Hoevemeyer  has questions rated by the subject on a scale of one to five.  The subject circles the correct number.  When results are tallied the members are urged to compare their answers with the leader's answer.  Hoevemeyer gives a brief explanation of each of the areas surveyed. The highest possible score is 100, and the author calls this 100% effectiveness.  The author notes that it is practically impossible to achieve 100% effectiveness, but that a team "that can consistently, over the long-run, function at 95 percent effectiveness is doing well."  Hoevemeyer's survey areas are:

 

Team Mission:

Q1.  Clear roles, purpose .

Q6.  Priorities are clear and understood .

Q11. Team understands where it fits in organization.

Q16. All members work toward accomplishing the same thing.

 

Goal Achievement:

Q2.  Feedback.

Q7. Work together to set clear, achievable, appropriate goals.

Q12.  "If my team doesn't reach a goal, I'm more interested in finding out why we have failed to meet the goal than I am in reprimanding the team members."

Q17.  Support and resources to meet customer needs.

 

Empowerment:

Q3.  Participative decision making.

Q8.  Team prefers to make decisions rather than autocratic decision-making.

Q13.  Dedication, ownership of problems.

Q18.  Team leader keeps members up to date.

 

Open, Honest Communications:

Q4.  Open, honest, timely, two-way.

Q9.  Constructive conflict resolutions.

Q14. Open and honest communication.

Q19.  Team leader seeks contributions such as knowledge, skills, abilities and information.

 

Positive Roles and Norms:

Q5. Team member have needed skills.

Q10.  Individuals roles make sense to all team members.

Q15.  Good match of team members' capabilities and responsibilities.

Q20.  Unwritten rules and norms are understood by all.

 

"The Team Effectiveness Critique"  by Mark Alexander as it appears in The Encyclopedia of Team Development Activities edited by Pfeiffer (235), measures "the factors that lead to team development and effectiveness."  These nine dimensions are rated from one to seven, and descriptors are given at each end of a continuum:  for example, the first question has at one end of the scale "there is a lack of commonly understood goals and objectives" and at the opposite end "the team members understand and agree on goals and objectives."

1. Goals and Objectives

2. Utilization of resources

3. Trust and conflict resolution

4. Leadership

5. Control and procedures

6.  Interpersonal communications

7.  Problem solving/decision making

8.  Experimentation and creativity

9. Self- evaluation

 

 

     "The Instant Survey"   from Pheiffer (The Encyclopedia of Team-Building Activities 13) is unique in that it is created by the team and used immediately.  In this activity the team members each record issues which they feel are important to the team and to themselves as members of the team.  Cards with the issues written on them are distributed to arbitrarily chosen small groups of three team members.  The groups discuss the issues on the cards, recording their thoughts on flip-charts.  The larger team then discusses the findings.

 

    "Images: Envisioning the Ideal Team"  from Pheiffer (The Encyclopedia of Team-Building Activities, 1991, 29) is similar to the Instant Survey described above, as it is created by the team itself to be used immediately.  The team members are asked to give descriptors by which he or she would like the team to be known.  Examples could be "effective," "dynamic," "open," or "skillful."  After approximately five descriptors have been chosen, a continuum is created for each descriptor.  An example might be "ineffective --- effective."  This continuum is labeled with five levels.  A survey is thus created which the team members individually score.  Members are then asked to show on the survey where they would consider the ideal score to occur, and steps that might lead to that ideal.  This leads to discussion by the team.

 

     "The Team Profile Questionnaire",  by Glen Varney,  from Pheiffer (The Encyclopedia of Team-Building Activities  245) gives eleven aspects of teamwork.  It is similar to many other team assessment questionnaires, and has the team members rate themselves on these areas:

1.  Goal Clarity

2.  Roles

3.  Decision Making

4.  Communication

5.  Reward/punishment

6.  Leadership

7.  Collaboration

8.  Interdependencies

9.  Creativity

10.  Conflict

11.  Trust

 

 

 

III.  Barriers to Effective Teamwork

 

    Because team building and development are difficult, team leaders and managers are interested in what factors hinder teamwork.  This is in line with Larson and LaFasto's subtitle phrase - "What can go wrong."  This paper will speak more on this subject  in the section titled "Struggling through the Stages" in Chapter 4.

Koze and Masciale conducted interviews with business leaders and a survey of 4,500 teams in 500 Canadian organizations concerning barriers to teamwork.  They found two main factors influencing team effectiveness: 1) organizational factors, and 2) individual factors. The highest ranking organizational factors were 1) inadequate rewards and 2) compensation for team achievements.  The highest ranking individual factor was the "personal mind shift" of team members (Koze and Masciale 8)

Scholtes lists ten barriers to teamwork (The Team Handbook 6):

1.  Floundering

2.  Overbearing participants

3.  Dominating participants

4.  Reluctant participation

5.  Unquestioned acceptance of opinions as facts

6.  Rush to accomplishment

7.  Attrition

8.  Discounts and "plops"

9.  Wanderlust:  digression and tangents

10.  Feuding members

 

Woodcock and Francis defined the stages of teamwork and barriers at each stage (10):

Stage:                                                                           Barrier:

ritual sniffing (immature/uncertain)                                                     excessive domination

infighting (struggles for influence and position)                                unresolved conflict

experimentation (committed but ineffective)                                    apathy

effective (competent procedures for problem solving)                   low management skills

maturity (close and resourceful)                                                          insularity

 

Hackman calls barriers to teamwork "trip wires."  Hackman gives five barriers to teamwork:  1) to call the unit a team but really manage members as individuals; 2) balance of team and managerial authority; 3) let groups work out the details is a problem - not enabling, not supporting; 4) skimpy organizational support; 5) an assumption of competence (493).

Resistance to teamwork may arrise because of a natural aversion to change.  Osborne suggests several tips to overcome resistance to teambuilding:  1) define mutual needs, 2) elect a gatekeeper, 3) promote participation, 4) discuss both sides of an issue, 5) explore alternatives, 6) turn rhetoric into reality, 7) monitor progress, 8) recognize and reward results (Osborne 2).


 

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