"In Chrysler's meetings of engineers, those who disagree with an idea or an emerging consensus are asked to toss in a quarter before they throw in their two cents" "In my company criticizing brainstorms is strictly forbidden. All team members are armed with water pistols. Those who can't resist their critical impulses get themselves squirted. Other companies use nerfballs"
|Since pushing most of its Lubbock plant's work and accountability to teams in 1990, Frito-Lay has reduced the number of managers from 38 to 13 while its hourly workforce has grown 20%. Despite less supervision this plant has seen its costs cut dramatically and quality jump. Teams are responsible for everything from potato processing to equipment maintenance, cost control, and service performnace. (Wall St. Journal, October 17, 1994)|
A significant shift is taking place in organizations throughout the world-a shift that has important implications for the skills that will be critical to your success both as a member of organizations and as a manager and leader. This shift involves increasing the emphasis on the group or team.
Many factors are driving this shift. Technology is a primary force driving this as tasks have often grown too complex for individuals to tackle alone. In addition competitive forces have compelled many organizations to flatten the organization by dramatically reducing the numbers of levels of middle managers. Shifting authority and responsibility down to the bottom level allows teams to take over functions that used to be done by management. On a more macro scale, as organizations (especially multinational) involve multiple businesses, multiple industries and multiple countries, new and complex are evolving that rely on numerous interdependent groups with decisions made by teams consisting of members of these various groups. Even without these forces, others have found simply that harnessing the potential power of the group can have a dramatic effect on productivity and job satisfaction. The list of companies and units turned around by the work of a small team is fast growing and persuasive.
Today, most organizations embrace the notion of groups. Groups have become the core unit in many organizations. Part of this based on the fact (supported by research) that groups are more effective in solving problems and learn more rapidly than individuals. Yet surveys will find that few organizations and few individuals in them are particularly satisfied with the way their groups are working. Teams may be a necessary component of organizational success but their presence certainly doesn't guarantee success. Few managers have training or knowledge of group dynamics; many are quite apprehensive about groups and pessimistic about their value. Most of us are more comfortable managing individuals than groups and many of us are more comfortable working on our own than in a group.
Our instincts in this area may be quite accurate. Real experience in groups have drawn us to the conclusion groups we have been involved in at work are inefficient, confused, and frustrating. None of this should be particularly surprising since it mirrors our own experience with groups since we were children.
When a group is functioning well (whether it be a work group, a sports team, a friendship group, a chorus or orchestra, a religious group, a voluntary group, etc.) the group dynamics and sense of belongingness and acceptance can bring out the "best" in us. Groups can enhance problem solving and creativity, generate understanding, acceptance, support, and commitment. In addition groups can enhance morale, provide an outlet for affiliation, enhance self esteem, help create consensus and security. We have all had at least a few experiences where participation in an effective group has helped us to "achieve" at levels we never thought possible. Even people who claim a real antipathy towards groups cite some kind of group experience is a high point in their lives.
Definition of a team: A small number of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose, specific performance goals, a common working approach, and mutual accountability
When to Use a Group: There are times when groups should be used and times when they shouldn't. As stated in the introduction, the times when they should be used are increasing. Groups are particularly important when problems and decisions involve very uncertain, complex, and important situations and when the potential for conflict is great. In addition situations where widespread acceptance and commitment are critical will call for groups. Groups are clearly more appropriate when there is not an immediate time pressure. (Ware)
* But groups can also bring about the "worst" in us. Groups can result in a situation where the "whole is less than the sum of its parts." This may be when group pressure smother individual creativity, or when a group is dominated by one or two members and the rest just withdraw. Groups can be a big waste of time and energy; they can enforce norms of low rather than high productivity. They sometimes make notoriously bad decisions. Groups can exploit, stress, and frustrate their members.
Eric Gershman, president and founder of Published Image...organized his small Boston concern into four"self managed" teams, a concept in which workers largely operate without bosses. The firm's 26 employees set their own work schedules, prepare their own budgets and receive group bonuses based on their team's performance. In recent years, self-managed work teams have become very popular among big corporations as a way to eliminate middle managers while improving morale and productivity... (Source: Wall St. Journal, January 11, 1994)
So, groups can be wonderful or terrible, productive or stagnant, imprisoning or freeing, conformist or creative as the chart above highlights. In our personal lives, when a group doesn't satisfy our needs, we can often walk away. But in our work world, this is usually not the case. We must develop the skills to make sure groups we are in are effective; this is true whether we are the "leader" of the group or not. We must develop an understanding of how groups work, what separates effective from ineffective groups. It is important that we develop the tools and skills to know whether a group is effective or not before it is too late and to know how to take corrective action if changes are needed. A Group need some bases for evaluating its processes as it carries out a given task. The group needs to raise such questions as "are we working in the right way?" "Are we avoiding the important issues." "Are we falling into some traps that will cause this group to fail?"
Teams at CBA
You will be involved in a number of group situations during your education at CBA at Northeastern. We intend these
teams to be similar to work teams in business, but not exactly the same. The primary goal at work is likely to be a
quality outcome. While we are concerned here about a quality outcome, learning is actually a more important goal
here. We hope you take advantage of the situation to:
This note is intended as a brief overview of some of the most critical issues relating to team effectiveness. Any real learning will have to occur in the context of your group-while you act, get feedback, experiment, take risks, and observe the results. This note is intended to help you in that learning process.
Most critically, effective groups are characterized by individual and mutual accountability and a sense of common commitment. All members (whether they are "leaders" or not) must take responsibility for the overall group effectiveness and for dealing with the problems that are inevitable. "The best teams invest tremendous amount of time and effort exploring, shaping, and agreeing on a purpose that belongs to them both collectively and individually and then translate this purpose into specific performance goals." (Katzenbach and Smith).
There is no absolute checklist for what makes a group effective. Different situations may call for different approaches. For example, one particular situation may call for one dominant leader while another situation may call for distributed leadership.
Nevertheless, in general, an effective group is likely to have most of these characteristics:
An effective group is characterized by...
A Weak Sense of Direction: Nothing undermines enthusiasm for teams as quickly as the frustration of being an involuntary member of a team with no focus.
Infighting: While team Effective teams don't have to be made up of people who like each other but there must be respect for each other
Shirking of Responsibilities When member avoid taking responsibility for both process or running of a group and for specific assignments a teams becomes a "pseudo team"; i.e., team in name but consistently underperforming
Lack of Trust If trust is lacking, members are unable to depend on each other.
Critical Skill Gaps When skills are lacking, teams flounder, members have trouble communicating with each other, destructive conflicts result, decisions aren't made, and technical problems overcome the group
Lack of External Support: Teams exist in a larger organization and rely on that organization for resources If outside resources like formal rules, regulations, budgeting procedures, compensation systems, selection procedures, and poor leadership, the group may suffer
The Structure and Anatomy of a Group
While groups appear to vary greatly from work and personal situations, there are actually elements that all groups have in common. Understanding these factors helps to understand the dynamics of your groups, why problems might be occurring and what might be done.
Membership factors: Groups are likely to be more effective to the degree that members possess the required knowledge and analytic skills required by the task or are able to develop them. These skills go beyond technical skills of the problem and need to include interpersonal and team skills such as conflict resolution skills. Other membership factors include the extent to which members are already overloaded with other work. Lacking the necessary skills a group may need to try to change membership to include the skills, or to develop the skills of group members.
Individual Needs, "Agendas" and the "Interpersonal Underworld": All people bring their own needs and experiences to the group and these factors may play a major role in the dynamics and outcomes of the group. Some of the more common needs include: finding a place in the group; discovering what the group has to offer and what s/he has to offer the group; resolving power and leadership issues; setting standards on intimacy and trust-how close will we get to each other; mutual acceptance, communication, decision-making, motivation, productivity, control. Together the dynamics generated by these needs create a group level that is separate from the "task" level of the group but can interact with this task level. Often groups try to ignore this "interpersonal underworld" and sometimes this makes sense. More often, it will be necessary to acknowledge this "interpersonal underworld" and possibly spend time dealing with some of the issues that underlie this level. It is important to recognize that power plays a major role in groups; political behavior will be present in any group and the more crucial the stakes, the more political behavior will be present.
Member differentiation in Groups: Roles In virtually all groups, members tend to differentiate among themselves; i.e., people take on different roles and have varying degrees of status in the group. Hierarchies evolve. Over time, people tend to exhibit patterns of behavior called roles. Generally these roles can be grouped into three categories:
Group Norms: Every group will evolve a set of norms; some will be stated, but many will be implicit or will just "come about." These norms will play a major role in how people behave and will have a significant impact on group outcomes. These norms can be positive ("everyone comes to meetings prepared") or negative ("let's just do enough work to get by"; "we don't talk about conflict"). Some of the most crucial norms relate to the quality of work that is expected or accepted, the amount and quality of participation and commitment of group members. Problems in groups often stem from implicit norms and where there are group problems, it is necessary for a group to try to identify the implicit norms that may be at the root of problems and try to change those norms.
Group Cohesiveness: The degree to which members like each other and the group (or cohesiveness) is a crucial characteristic of groups since the more cohesive the group, the more control a group has on its members. Cohesive groups tend to produce more uniform behavior and uniform output. Cohesion can lead to higher productivity if group norms are consistent with organizational norms but will yield lower productivity if group norms are counter to organizational requirements. Group cohesion can be a wonderful source of growth and learning but can be stifling to some individuals.
Life Cycle Every group goes through life stages and life cycles; each stage tends to have its own typical needs and problems and ways of dealing with these. The "Phases" chart later in this note identifies those major phases and issues.
Every work group faces some common general issues:
Climate, Atmosphere and Relationships What kind of relationships should there be among members? Is the climate warm and open? Are people interested and involved? Are tough issues confronted or avoided? How close and friendly; formal or informal? Are disagreements openly discussed or suppressed? Remember that groups are political.
Intervention: Sometimes you might want to direct the discussion to issues that the group is avoiding but are important)
Modes of Conflict Resolution: Groups evolve modes of conflict resolution. Gabarro has suggested there are three basic modes as can be seen in the accompanying chart. There are times when any of the three might be appropriate and there are certainly times when certain modes are not appropriate. A group needs to develop ability to use all three styles and develop norms around appropriate times to use them:
|Smoothing and Avoiding||Confronting and Problem Solving||Bargaining and Forcing|
|Problem||define to minimize differences||define relative to total organization's needs||define in terms of stakes for each subgroup|
|role of conflict||destructive||can be healthy||good to win; bad to lose|
|outcomes||maintain status quo||interdependence||win/lose|
|typical norms||withdraw when attacked; avoid conflict; withdraw||confront differences; be open and fair||push when you have the advantage; compromise when you don't;|
|representative proverbs||"soft words win hard hearts"||"let's reason together"||"might overcomes right"|
Member participation Who participates a lot or a little; why; to what effect? How are silent members treated; Are there shifts in participation? Who keeps discussion going? How much participation should be required of members? Some more than others? All equally? Are some members needed more than others? Is there subgrouping? Are there outsiders? Do some members move in and out of the group? Under what conditions do people seem to be "in" or "out" of the group?
(Intervention for low participators: Reinforce their comments; ask for their opinions)
Member Influence(some people have higher influence than others) Which members are listened to more? Why? Who is ignored? Why? Do influence patterns shift? Are there rivalries? Are there underlying issues affecting influence? Who interrupts whom? How are minority views dealt with?
(Intervention for ignored minority views: Simply support a minority view)
Goal understanding and acceptance How much do members need to understand group goals? How much do they need to accept to be committed to the goals? Some more than others?
Listening and Information Sharing How is information to be shared? Who needs to know what? Who should listen most to whom?
Decision making How should decisions be made? The alternatives range from:
Evaluation of member performance: How is evaluation to be managed? Everyone appraises everyone else?
Expressing Feelings What signs of feelings (anger, frustration, warmth, affection, excitement, boredom, competitiveness, etc.) do you observe? Are group members overly polite; Do people agree to readily? Is the group too intellectual or are people allowed to explore feelings? How should feelings be expressed? Only about the task? Openly and directly?
Division of Labor: How are task assignments to be divided up? Voluntarily? By discussion? Are critical tasks being fulfilled (including the maintenance tasks)?
Leadership Who should lead? How should leadership functions be exercised? Shared? Elected? Appointed from outside?
Emotional Issues Confronting Groups
Intervention: Be aware of people who seem to be "outside" the group and try to pull them in.)
Attention to process How should the group monitor and improve its own process? Ongoing feedback from members? Formal procedures? Avoiding direct discussion?
There are some traps traps that all groups fall into at some points. It is important to recognize these potential problems so they can be identified early and dealt with.
Cosmetic Teamwork: Nadler and Ancona suggest that many so-called teams aren't teams at all. Such groups may engage in some team like rituals but are really collections of individual behavior (often competitive) that leads to little or no synergy. Cosmetic teams are particular common in organizations that want to appear to endorse teams as a concept but don't really know how to work with teams or don't really care.
Inertia: Teams may get too comfortable with their patterns, norms and processes to the point where they become dysfunctional. A typical example is a group that is too cohesive, where noone disagrees for fear of ruining the comraderie and cohesion.
Groupthink: this is a common group disease that drives out critical judgment. The following lists some typical examples of "groupthink." These symptoms pressure groups to reach a consensus and in the process interfere with critical thinking.
Illusion of invulnerability: Members feel assured that the group's past success will continueShared stereotypes Members dismiss disconfirming information by discrediting information by discrediting its source Rationalization Members rationalize away threats to an emerging consensus Illusion of morality Members believe that they, as moral individuals are not likely to make bad decisions Self-censorship Members keep silent about misgivings and try to minimize their doubts Direct Pressure Sanctions are imposed on members who explore deviant viewpoints Mind-Guarding Members protect the group from being exposed to disturbing ideas Illusion of unanimity Members conclude that the group has reached a consensus because the most vocal members are in agreement
Leaders should assign the role of critical evaluator to someone. After formulating a tentative proposal, hold a second-chance meeting, invite all members to express any residual doubts by group member.Leaders should not state their preferences at the beginning of a meetingAssign subgroups to independently develop proposals.Periodically have outside experts review the group's deliberations invite them to sit in on some meetings. uring important deliberations, assign one member to group to play the role of devil's advocate.encourage people to express doubts
Social Loafing: in many groups, the larger the size the less the effort put forth by individual members. This occurs for a number of reasons
Equity of effort ("Nobody is working that hard here, so why should I")Loss of personal accountability ("I'm an insignificant part of the crowd, so who cares")Motivational loss due to sharing of rewards ("Why should I work harder than the others when everyone will get the same reward anyway")Coordination loss as more people perform the task ("Does anyone know what's going on?"
There is a tendency in groups for members to adopt a more extreme position then they held at the beginning; i.e. the more they were either more reckless or conservative than others in the group, they tend to become more so as the discussion progresses.
This can have serious implications. In a number of disastrous business decisions, post-mortems revealed that individuals could not understand how they could "let it happen. They felt "swept along." toward reckless alternatives, ignoring early warning signals and putting faith in unrealistic forecasts.
To counteract this tendency, a number of techniques may be used.
in situations where a risky shift could be disastrous, poll each member individually before the meetingassign someone to be a process observer to monitor a possible shiftuse a structured decision making process that limits discussionassign a "pro" and a "con" side to the discussion so both sides are argued forcefully
Personal Agendas we and others bring to group discussions
People often bring "personal baggage" to meetings. In poorly managed meetings, outspoken individuals can divert discussion from shared purposes to personal concerns. A group that meets frequently becomes a miniature organization and like any organization there will be divisions of labor, and emerging status hierarchies. This is natural, but as in any organization, it can become a problem. There are some general suggestions for dealing with disruptive or inappropriate behaviors. They generally involve supportive listening, avoiding defensiveness, collaborative conflict resolution. In the following chart are some suggestions for dealing with specific disruptive behaviors.
Although most of us have been in various kinds of teams throughout our lives, we seldom take time to systematically observe and analyze how they function. Yet observation and analysis are the first steps in understanding teams, shaping their dynamics, and ultimately, improving their performance. Every team, be it a family, sports team, task force, or platoon, can be characterized as a set of individuals who depend on each other to reach certain goals. Team process observation focuses on these individuals and the ways in which they interact with one another.
1. Membership: It helps to understand something about the individuals who comprise a team. Differences in personality, style, background and gender can affect group dynamics. Within organizations, differences in hierarchical level, functional background, and commitment to team goals can contribute to the level of cohesion and conflict within a team. Some key questions:
The larger organization can affect the group. Groups need organizational direction, information, and resources. Problems occur when the organization's mission is unclear, tasks are poorly defined, teams are not allowed sufficient autonomy, and rewards are granted to individuals rather than to teams. Key questions regarding a team's organizational context include:
how is deviance dealt with; are minority opinions suppressed
8. Task and Maintenance Functions: Effective teams require both task and maintenance functions. . What key task functions and maintenance functions are not being carried out?
9. Decision Making: Groups make decisions all the time, both consciously and unconsciously. Those decisions may concern the task at hand, team procedures, norms, and standards of behavior, or how much work the team will take on. Many key decisions that subsequently shape the team are made early-sometimes at the first meeting- and are notoriously hard to reverse. Therefore, understanding how decisions are made is key to team. Did the group go through all four steps in decision making (see section on decision making below):
Did the group decide how to decide?
The most common is group think or the pressure to conform: it is helpful to have a devil's advocate or appoint one of one doesn't emerge.
10. Conflict: It is important for teams to encourage useful conflict over substantive issues while taking time to improve relations among members when affective (emotional) conflict is apparent. Key questions include:
Meetings can be a waste of time, but with careful planning and preparation, meetings can work well. Here are some tips on improving meetings:
Forming the Team:
Provide suitable physical facilities:adequate space, furniture, equipment, location, refreshments
Conducting the crucial first meeting: You have two major objectives:
2. Analyzing and Clarifying the problem: once the problem is identified, a team must determine its scope, complexity, who is involved, what areas are affected, what contextual factors might affect the problem, what information is missing, what constituencies are involved. This step involves gathering all the relevant information.
3. Proposing and Evaluating Solutions: generate a list of alternative solutions and choosing among them. Often complete information is unavailable and a group must make intelligent guesses about the consequences of each alternative. Brainstorming is critical in this stage. Also in this stage, it may make sense for people to work individually to generate possible solutions before getting together. In a group, individuals tend to self-censor and good ideas may be lost without taking steps to avoid this problem.
4. Implementing the Decision: In this step. members need to identify what needs to be done, what equipment and materials are needed, identify contingency plans if plans don't go as planned, and evaluate the plan throughout the implementation stage. It is important here also to test the consequences of the group's tentative choices
Special Techniques to Improve Team Decision Making
There are no sure fire ways to prevent a group from experiencing the
imprecise, and at times, chaotic process of decision making. There are
some techniques that can help groups.
Getting Started: Before starting a team should get acquainted, express expectations of the group, evolve shared goals. Starting with some "small wins" might help. Make sure adequate time is given to examine the problem. Before carrying out a task, it is helpful to ask, "What's the best way to organize ourselves to gather all of this information?" It can also help to take a little time at the end of each meeting to talk about how effectively the team organized itself.
Mapping the Key Outsiders: Make sure all the critical links to
external contacts are maintained. these may include to management,
other teams, key customers, suppliers, competitors, etc. A group might
create a "map" of these key outsiders
Structuring Decision Making: Several techniques are used here
Brainstorming: this can help generate creative alternatives. In brainstorming, members ar encouraged to spontaneously throw out as many ideas as possible, no matter how wiled, and to suspend criticism and evaluation, opening new avenues of thought.
Consensus Mapping: this technique is used when a team is having difficulty agreeing on the problem. Each member of a team writes down key dimensions of a problem as he or she sees it on individual Post-It notes. Members then cluster and re-cluster the notes on a wall, until there is agreement
Nominal Group Technique:- individuals silently generate ideas in writing and then record ideas round-robin one at a time, adding ideas and building on others; each idea is discussed for clarification and pros and cons; there is preliminary voting and discussion and then final ranking. there are many variations of this method
Overcoming Conformity: Given the many tendencies in a group to conform, a group may appoint a "devil's advocate." This person may probe and question the majority rule, try to find flaws in the team logic, and may champion unpopular views
Making Decisions Fast and Well: Given the time pressures we are under, many teams fail to gather sufficient data
Mixed Scanning: Like in medicine, here a group tries one approach, tests the results, and then revises the analysis
Hedging bets: have other possibilities if the dominant one fails
Scenario construction: generate possible scenarios
Groups need to be aware of these potential blocks and take action to counteract them.
|Issues||I: Membership||II. Subgrouping||III. Confrontation||IV. IndividualDifferentiation||V. Collaboration|
|Atmosphere and relationships||cautionness||greater closeness within subgroups||close within subgroups and hostility between subgroups||confidence and satisfaction||supportive and open|
|participation||superficial and polite||in subgroups by subgroup leaders||heated exchanges||individuals come in and out based on expertise||fluid, people speak freely|
|goal understanding and acceptance||unclear||some greater clarity, but misperceptions likely||fought over||agreed upon||commitment|
|listening and information sharing||intense but high distortion and low sharing||within subgroups, similarities overperceived||poor||fairly good||good|
|disagreement and conflict||not likely to emerge; if it does, angry and chaotic||false unanimity||frequent||based on honest differences||resolved as it occurs|
|decision making||dominated by more active members||fragmented, deadlocks||based on power||based on individual expertise||collective when all resources needed, individual when one expert
performance ||done by all, but not shared ||across subgroups ||highly judgmental ||done as basis for differentiation but with respect ||open shared,
||expression of feeling||avoided, suppressed ||positive only within subgroups ||coming out, anger ||increasingly open
||division of labor ||little, if any ||struggles over jobs ||differentiation resisted ||high differentiation based on expertise
||differentiation and integration, as necessary||leadership ||disjointed ||resisted ||power struggles common ||structured or shared ||shared
||attention to process
||ignored ||noticed but avoided ||used as weapon ||attended to compulsively or too uncritically ||attended to as appropriate|
Managers need to find ways to become facilitators rather than "agenda drivers" or "leader"; we need to focus on the kinds of interactions we need to have at meetings
Behavior.......................................................... Suggested Response
|world of mutual love, affection, tenderness, sympathy||world of conflict, fight, power, assertiveness||world of understanding, logic, systems, knowledge|
|Task Maintenance Behavior|
|Harmonizing, compromising, encouraging, expressing warmth||initiating, coordinating, pressing for results, consensus; exploring differences||Gathering information; clarifying ideas and words; systematizing; procedures; evaluating the logic of proposals|
|Constructs Used in Evaluating Others:|
|Who is warm; who is hostile; who helps; who hurts others||Who is strong, weak, winning, losing||Who is bright, stupid, accurate, wrong,; who thinks clearly|
|Methods of Influence|
|Appeasing; appealing to pity||giving orders; challenging; threatening||appealing to rules, procedures, logic, facts, knowledge|
|That he will not be loved; that he will be overwhelmed by feelings of hostility||That he will lose his ability to fight, become "soft"||That his world isn't ordered; that he will be overcome by emotion|