THE TEAM EFFECTIVENESS CRITIQUE Mark Alexander Most groups exist and persist because (a) the purpose of the group cannot be accomplished by individuals working on their own, and (b) certain needs of individual members can be satisfied by belonging to the group. Of course, the mere existence of a group does not ensure that it will operate effectively; a group is effective only to the degree to which it is able to use its individual and collective resources. The measure of the group’s effectiveness is its ability to achieve its objectives and satisfy the needs of the individuals in the group.
An organization is a collection of groups. The success of an organization depends on the ability of the groups within it to work together to attain commonly held objectives. Because organizations are becoming increasingly more complex, their leaders must be concerned with developing more cohesive and cooperative relationships between individuals and groups. Similarly, the development of effective groups or teams within the organization will determine, to a large extent, the ability of the organization to attain its goals.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO TEAM DEVELOPMENT AND EFFECTIVENESS Team development is based on the assumption that any group is able to work more effectively if its members are prepared to confront questions such as: How can this collection of individuals work together more effectively as a team? How can we better use the resources we represent? How can we communicate with one another more effectively to make better decisions? What is impeding our performance? The answers to these questions may be found by examining the factors that lead to team development and effectiveness.
These factors can be measured, or inventoried, by team members with the use of the Team Effectiveness Critique. Before the critique form is administered, however, all team members should understand the terminology used to describe the nine factors. The following descriptions can be presented in a lecturette format to the team members prior to completion of the critique. 1. Shared Goals and Objectives In order for a team to operate effectively, it must have stated goals and objectives.
These goals are not a simple understanding of the immediate task, but an overall understanding of the role of the group in the total organization, its responsibilities, and the things the team wants to accomplish. In addition, the members of the team must be committed to the goals. Such commitment comes from involving all team members in defining the goals and relating the goals to specific problems that are relevant to team members. The time spent on goal definition in the initial stages of a team’s life results in less time needed later to resolve problems and misunderstandings.
Utilization of Resources The ultimate purpose of a team is to do things effectively. In order to accomplish this, the team must use effectively all the resources at its disposal. This means establishing an environment that allows individual resources to be used. Team effectiveness is enhanced when every member has the opportunity to contribute and when all opinions are heard and considered. It is the team’s responsibility to create an atmosphere in which individuals can state their opinions without fear of ridicule or reprisal.
It is each individual’s responsibility to contribute information and ideas and to be prepared to support them with rational arguments. Maximum utilization of team members requires full participation and self-regulation. Trust and Conflict Resolution In any team situation, disagreement is likely to occur. The ability to openly recognize conflict and seek to resolve it through discussion is critical to the team’s success. People do not automatically work well together just because they happen to belong to the same work group or share the same job function.
For a team to become effective, it must deal with the emotional problems and needs of its members and the interpersonal problems that arise in order to build working relationships that are characterized by openness and trust. The creation of a feeling of mutual trust, respect, and understanding and the ability of the team to deal with the inevitable conflicts that occur in any group situation are key factors in team development. Shared Leadership Individuals will not function as a team if they are brought together simply to “rubber stamp” decisions made by their leader or others not in the group.
The development and cohesion of a team occurs only when there is a feeling of shared leadership among all team members. This means that all members accept some responsibility for task functions – those things necessary to do the job – and maintenance functions – those things necessary to keep the group together and interacting effectively. Task functions include: initiating discussions or actions, clarifying issues and goals, summarizing points, testing for concensus or agreement, and seeking or giving information.
Task leadership helps the group to establish its direction and assists the group in moving toward its goals. Maintenance functions include encouraging involvement and participation, sensing and expressing group feelings, harmonizing and facilitating reconciliation of disagreements, setting standards for the group, and “gatekeeping” or bringing people into discussions. No one person can be expected to perform all these required leadership functions effectively all the time.
Groups perform better when all members perform both task and maintenance functions. Control and Procedures A group needs to establish procedures that can be use to guide or regulate its activities. For example, a meeting agenda serves to guide group activities during a meeting. Schedules or when specific actions will be taken also regulate team activities. Team development and team-member commitment is facilitated through maximum involvement in the establishment of agendas, schedules, and other procedures.
Of course, the team should determine how it wishes to maintain control. In meeting situations, control most often is achieved through the appointment of a chairperson whose responsibility is to facilitate the procedure established by the team. Some teams find that they do not need a formal leader; each member regulates his or her own contributions and behavior as well as those of others. Effective Interpersonal Communications Effective team development depends on the ability of team members to communicate with one another in an open and honest manner.
Effective interpersonal communications are apparent when team members listen to one another and attempt to build on one another’s contributions. Effective interpersonal communications are achieved through self-regulation by team members, so that everyone in the group has an equal opportunity to participate in discussions. Approach to Problem Solving and Decision Making Solving problems and making decisions are two critical team functions. If a group is going to improve its ability to function as a team, recognized methods for solving problems and making decisions should be studied and adopted.
The lack of agreed-on approaches to problem solving and decision making can result in wasted time, misunderstandings, frustration, and – more importantly – “bad” decisions. A generally accepted, step-by-step procedure for problem solving and decision making is as follows: Identify the problem (being careful to differentiate between the real problem and symptoms of the problem). Develop criteria (or goals). Gather relevant data. Identify all feasible, alternative solutions or courses of action. Evaluate the alternatives in light of the data and the objectives of action.
Reach a decision. Implement the decision. Needless to say, there are variations of this procedure. However, whatever method is used, an effective team will have an agreed-on approach to problem solving and decision making that is shared and supported by all members. 8. Experimentation/Creativity Just as it is important for a team to have certain structured procedures, it also is important that the team be prepared occasionally to move beyond the boundaries of established procedures and processes in order to experiment with new ways of doing things.
Techniques such as “brainstorming” as a means of increasing creativity should be tried periodically to generate new ways to increase the team’s effectiveness. An experimental attitude should be adopted in order to allow the team greater flexibility in dealing with problems and decision making situations. 9. Evaluation The team periodically should examine its group processes from both task and maintenance aspects. This examination or “critique” requires the team to stop and look at how well it is doing and what, if anything, may be hindering its operation.
Problems may result from procedures or methods, or may be caused by individual team members. Such problems should be resolved through discussion before the team attempts further task accomplishment. Effective self-evaluation is probably one of the most critical factors leading to team development. THE TEAM EFFECTIVENESS CRITIQUE Mark Alexander Instructions: Indicate on the scales that follow your assessment of your team and the way it functions by circling the number on each scale that you feel is most descriptive of your team. Goals and Objectives
There is a lack of commonlyTeam members understand and understood goals and objectives. agree on goals and objectives. Utilization of Resources All member resources are not Member resources are fully recognized and/or utilized. recognized and utilized. Trust and Conflict There is little trust among members, and conflict is evident. Leadership One person dominates, andThere is full participation in leadership roles are not carriedleadership; leadership roles out or shared. are shared by members. Control and Procedures
There is little control, and there is a lack of procedures o guide team functioning. Interpersonal Communications Communications betweenCommunications between members are closedmembers are open and and guarded. participative. Problem Solving/Decision Making The team has not agreed on approaches to problem solving and decision making. Experimentation/Creativity The team is rigid and doesThe team experiments with not experiment with howdifferent ways of doing things things are done. and is creative in its approach. Evaluation The group never evaluates its The group often evaluates its functioning or process. functioning and process.