Surviving the Group Project: A Note on Working in Teams

Table of Contents

"I could have done this project by myself in a third of the time"---an exasperated Northeastern student

"The only committee that got anything done was a committee of one." a professor about a University task force

"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)

Strengths of Groups as Problem Solvers

  • diversity of problem solving styles, skills
  • more knowledge and information
  • greater understanding and commitment
  • tends to be focused
Weaknesses of Groups as Problem Solvers

  • use (sometimes waste) of organization resources
  • pressure to conform
  • individual domination; chance to "score points"
  • diffusion of responsibility
  • diversity of views, goals, loyalties
  • too quick to "solve" (not analyze) problem

* 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.

When to Use Groups

Given the strengths and weaknesses, we should use groups only in situations where the strengths are critical. In general, a group problem-solving process is called for when:
Case Study

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:

It is inevitable that you will experience problems, the same problems you will have with task teams in your work life. It is our goal that you use this opportunity to develop your skills in identifying and dealing with problems during the life of the group while there is still time to take meaningful action. Use this as a chance to develop and practice your skills, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, get feedback from others and ultimately to take from this experience some knowledge and skills that you can take with you to your future work.

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.

What makes a group effective?

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...

Another "cute" list of characteristics has items whose first letter forms the word PERFORM

Keys to creating effective teams:

  • Create clear goals: Members must understand what their goals are and believe they are important; these goals must be important enough to cause members to sublimate their own personal concerns. Members need to know what they expect to accomplish, and understand how they will work together to achieve those goals.
  • Encourage Teams to Go for Small Wins: Building effective teams takes time and teams should aim for small victories before the big ones. This can be done by setting attainable goals and using these short term goals to build cohesiveness, confidence
  • Build Mutual Trust: Trust is a fragile thing in a group; it takes a long time to build up and can be destroyed very quickly. To build trust it is important to keep team members informed. Try to create a climate of openness where people feel free to discuss problems without fear of retaliation. Be candid about your own problems and limitations. Be available and appropachable; be respectful and listen to team members' ideas. Be fair. objective, consistent, and dependable.
  • Ensure Mutual Accountability and a sense of common purpose: For a team to be a real team, all members must feel accountability-for both successes and failures. There must be mutual accountability.
  • Provide the Necessary External Support: If team success is dependent on resources from the greater organization, it is important to make sure those resources are there.
  • Training: Team members and the team itself may need some training to build skills. The training may be in problem solving, communication, negotiation skills, conflict-resolution skills, and group processing skills.
  • Change the Team's Membership: At times it may be necessary to change the composition of a group if that is possible.

An ineffective group is characterized by...

There are a number of obstacles to effective Teams

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.

  • when members aren't sure of their purpose, goals, and approach
  • weak leadership

    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

  • misdirected energy to mickering and undermining colleagues
  • members must be willing to set aside petty differences

    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 Basics Elements of Groups

    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:

    Task Roles( behaviors that help accomplish the group task)

    • initating,
    • brainstorming
    • seeking information
    • giving information
    • seeking opinions
    • giving opinions
    • clarifying,
    • elaborating,
    • summarizing
    • Maintenance/socio-emotional Roles (activities that keep the group harmonious)

    • harmonizing
    • gate-keeping: (eg. keeping communiation channels open)
    • consensus testing
    • encouraging
    • compromising
    Personal roles (totally self-serving activities)
    • group clown
    • nitpicker, blocker
    • recognition-seeker
    • topic jumper
    • dominator
    • bragger
    • aggressor
    • playboy
    To be successful, both task and social-emotional roles have to be filled, but many people can help fill these leadership positions; in fact many groups will be more effective if leadership is spread around. It is important to think about whether the task and maintenance roles are being filled and if necessary you may have to "take on" a role just to make sure the role is filled.

    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.

  • Phase 1: Orientation:Group is mildly eager and somewhat apprehensive; dependent on authority; focus on defining task and responsibliities.
  • Phase 2:Dissatisfaction: some disillusion, frustration with leadership or lack of it; dip in morale
  • Phase 3:Resolution: less dissatisfaction as group learns to work together; resolve differences
  • Phase 4:Production: group has positive feelings, feel confident, pride
  • Phase 5: Termination
    Other factors will affect the group: these include the size of the work group:(the smaller the group the fewer the resources but the easier it is to gain full participation and coordination); Time pressure: the greater the time pressure, the less appropriate it is to work on process issues; the greater will be pressure to make decisions by voting or unilaterally rather than by consensus. Rewards: if the "rewards" for a group are distributed unequally among group members, a "zero-sum" or competitive mentality may occur

    Issues Facing Every Work Group

    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
    participants accommodators collaborators adversaries
    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?

    Some Group Diseases

    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
    Avoiding Groupthink

    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?"

    "Risky Shift"

    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.

    What to Observe in a Group

    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:

    2. Organizational Context

    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:

    3. Communication and participation

    4. Influence and Control

    5. Climate and "Interpersonal Underworld"

    6. Minority Opinions

    how is deviance dealt with; are minority opinions suppressed

    7. Leadership

    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?

    Groups seldom run sequentially through these steps; they often cycle back a number of times. Many factors can obstruct an effective decision making process. It is important to be aware of these factors.

    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:

    11. Atmosphere We differ on our attitudes about how teams should function; some prefer "only business"; others want more of a friendly, social atmosphere. Some prefer a single leader; others prefer more shared leadership
    12. Emotional Issues: We all come to a group with some personal needs and issues that get played out in the group. Some of these issues are:

    Groups respond to these issues differently; they can result in disruptive behaviors such as: fighting and controlling: asserting personal dominance; attempting to get their own way regardless of othersreduce discomfort by psychologically leaving the teamdependency and counterdependency: waiting passively for a leader to emerge who will solve the problem or the opposite-opposing and resisting anyone in the team who represents authority

    Appendix 1: Influence Tactics

    Appendix 2: Functions Required for effective Groups

    Task Functions

    Maintenance Functions:Functions that build and maintain a group

    Appendix 3: Running Your Meetings Effectively

    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:

    Plan for the meeting: Facilitate attendee preparation:provide sufficient notice and directions on time and place; circulate agenda, background materials; contact people before to cultivate preparation, interest; use preassignments

    Provide suitable physical facilities:adequate space, furniture, equipment, location, refreshments

    Conducting the crucial first meeting: You have two major objectives:

    1. Reach a common understanding of the group's tasks-this is one of the most difficult tasks a group has; each person in the group may represent his or her own department's interests, may be defensive; it is crucial that a general consensus that a problem exists be agreed on; it is also crucial here that some sense of joint responsibilities evolve here
    2. Define working procedures and relationships
    Some key issues here: Conducting the Meeting in general: Actively manage the process by being firm and taking control Be a Good Group Member: Tips:use techniques such as brainstorming (unevaluated free flowing ideas), taking breaks Concluding the Meeting:summarize decisions reached; review responsibilities and assignments and clarify next steps; take time to assess the meeting's process, if necessary, schedule next meeting
    Follow-up:prepare and distribute notes; follow up on carrying out of assignments
    Be willing to confront problems: Be constantly aware of the barriers to working together:

    Appendix 4. Group Decision Making

    Basic Steps in Group Decision Making
    1. Identifying the problem or opportunity. problems are often ambiguous or hidden behind symptoms, so understanding the problem is more difficult than we often think.

    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
    Some Guidelines for Group Discussion
    • avoid arguing for your own position; present your position and consider other points
    • avoid "win-lose" stalemates; when impasses occur, look for compromises
    • avoid conflict resolution techniques like majority rules, averaging, bargaining
    • view differences of opinion as both natural and helpful; try to understand others' views whether you agree with them or not
    • say what you like about an idea before criticizing
    • view conflict as natural
    • encourage minority views; don't pin people down forcing them to agree or disagree
    • don't vote; this doesn't reduce conflict; it creates winners and losers
    • View initial agreement as suspect
    • Don't assume silence means agreement
    Blocks to Decision Making

    Groups need to be aware of these potential blocks and take action to counteract them.
    • lack of clarity in stating the problem
    • premature testing of alternatives or making of choices; insufficient data, no testing
    • lack of decision making procedures and skills
    • lack of leadership (not necessarily individual-all members can be leaders)
    • self-oriented behavior (lack of commitment to group)
    • poor working climate-too much agreement or disagreement

    Appendix 5: Five Phases of Group Development

    Effective groups develop over time; groups can't be instantly effective. Groups go through phases during which different issues may be more salient than others. Each phase has its own needs and problems so it helps to know what phase a particular group is in in order to better diagnose the problems. Also, group members might be chosen based on a variety of skills across phases. The chart below summarizes the issues relevant to each phase.

    IssuesI: MembershipII. Subgrouping III. ConfrontationIV. IndividualDifferentiation V. Collaboration
    Atmosphere and relationshipscautionness greater closeness within subgroupsclose within subgroups and hostility between subgroups confidence and satisfactionsupportive and open
    participationsuperficial and politein subgroups by subgroup leadersheated exchanges individuals come in and out based on expertise fluid, people speak freely
    goal understanding and acceptanceunclear 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
    evaluation of performance done by all, but not shared across subgroups highly judgmental done as basis for differentiation but with respect open shared, developmental
    expression of feelingavoided, suppressed positive only within subgroups coming out, anger increasingly open expressed openly
    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

    Appendix 6: Meetings Don't have to be Dull

    While most of us consider meetings a major waste of time, a number of companies have devised techniques to keep meetings effective. These include:
    • At Chrysler each designer is asked to toss in a quarter before they throw in their "two cents"; this is an effort to get people to think before they talk; one manager tossed in a credit card.
    • At P. F. Magic, a software house, people at brainstorming meetings are armed with water pistols. This is because criticizing brainstorms is strictly forbidden and those who can't resist their critical imuplses get squirted; other companies use Nerf balls for offenders
    • At Allstate, group members all have computers at meetings and ideas get projected on a screen; people see themselves being heard.
    • Some companies use anonymity to solicit thoughts and find that public comments and anonymous comments can differ greatly-for example, when a product might be delivered
    • Role playing is used in sales situations asking sales managers to play customer services supervisors and asking people to play roles opposite their real ones

    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

    Appendix 7: Dealing with Disruptive Behavior

    Behavior.......................................................... Suggested Response

    • Hostile ("it'll never work) "How do you feel about this? or "Let's review the facts and evidence"
    • Know-it-all ("I've done this many times") "Let's review the facts"
    • Loudmouth "Can you summarize your main points?" "Let's hear from others."
    • Interrupter "Wait a minute. Let's let Sarah finish what she was saying."
    • Interpreter ("What Jay really means...") "Let's let Jay speak for himself."
    • Gossiper ("I thought I heard the VP say....") "Can anyone here verify this?"
    • Whisperer (side conversations) (Make eye contat with this person; stop talking and let silence take over)
    • Silent Distractor (reads papers, rolls eyes) Ask questions to determine their level of interest; support, build alliance
    • Busy (keeps leaving meetings, takes messages Schedule the meeting away from distractions; agree to minimize them
    • Latecomer Make it inconvenient for them to come in; stop talking while they come in
    • Early Departure Before starting, ask if anyone has a scheduling conflict.
    • whiner 1("I don't understand why we are doing this"); Explain and if it persists, ask to take it private
    • whiner 1 (This is a waste of time...") You might try sympathy and suggesting that since they are there, they might try to get something out of the time; you might think about saying they can leave if they wish

    Appendix 8: Ten Commandments of Teams

    1. Thou shalt understand the nature of teams, their strengths, weaknesses and structures
    2. Thou shalt not wander in the desert for 40 years without knowing where your team is going; you must develop performance goals, and team operating rules and stay focused on them
    3. Thou shalt communicate and have no hidden agendas
    4. Thou shalt be patient, but thou better do something-you must deliver meaningful results
    5. Keep Thy meetings meaningful; make sure people have a reason to show up
    6. Let thy meetings be fruitful and multiply but use sub-committees if appropriate
    7. Thou shalt make sure all members share a common sense of accountability and responsibility for the project
    8. Thou shalt know each other and understand each other's point of view and practice good communication skills
    9. Thou shalt know thyselves and periodically ask "How am I doing?
    10. Thou shalt love they team with all Thine Heart: commitment is the most critical element in a successful team; forget the first nine commandments if commitment from all members is missing
      Source: Unknown

    Appendix 9: Is Our Team Effective: A Checklist

    • Have we defined our team objective clearly?
    • Have we done planning? Have we created a Team Contract?
    • Have we practiced effective decision making skills
    • Have we done periodic critiques of our group's processes
    • Have we used time effectively?
    • Have we followed the norms contained in our team contract?
    • Are we aware of the resources each of us has and have we used those resources?
    • Does our group have problems with hidden agendas?

    Appendix 10: How to State "the problem"

    The process of stating the problem is too often ignored; failure can doom a group no matter how effective are its other practices. Too often, halfway through a discussion, someone will say, "I think we're talking about different problemls." Little can happen until the true problem is understood. To make an effective problem statement, the following steps can help:
    • What is the problem area:
    • what are the symptoms of the problem and where is it located(individual, group, or situation)
    • How can it be pinpointed and problem statement generated
    • Problems should be stated situationally (not behaviorally which can indicate distrust)-this is because changing situations are easier than changing people
    • Problem statements should encourage freedom of thought, not restrict it (implied solutions in stating problems inhibit creative discussion)
    • Problem statements should contain mutual interests ("how can travel costs be reduced to respond to declining budget lines?")

    Appendix 11: These are three "stereotypical" styles of group behavior.

    Friendly Helper

    Tough Battler

    Logical Thinker

    world of mutual love, affection, tenderness, sympathyworld of conflict, fight, power, assertiveness world of understanding, logic, systems, knowledge
    Task Maintenance Behavior
    Harmonizing, compromising, encouraging, expressing warmthinitiating, coordinating, pressing for results, consensus; exploring differencesGathering 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 othersWho is strong, weak, winning, losingWho is bright, stupid, accurate, wrong,; who thinks clearly
    Methods of Influence
    Appeasing; appealing to pitygiving orders; challenging; threateningappealing to rules, procedures, logic, facts, knowledge
    Personal Threats
    That he will not be loved; that he will be overwhelmed by feelings of hostilityThat he will lose his ability to fight, become "soft"That his world isn't ordered; that he will be overcome by emotion

    Appendix 12: The Role of a Coach in a Team

    (thanks to Prof. L. J. Glick, NU, CBA)
    • provide direction and vision
    • increase the capabilities of the team and team members
    • help with problems and breakdowns
    • create a supportive and results oriented climate
    • provide resources and information
    • manage boundaries
    • remove barriers
    • challenge: push members out of their comfort zone
    • do what the team is not ready and able to do


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