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The effectiveness of team building

Introduction

From the beginning of time, people have formed groups. Groups provide the basis for family living, protection, waging war and work. Every time you're in a meeting, whether with one other person or twenty, you're in a group. Group behaviour has ranged from total chaos to dramatic change, but it is increasingly evident that groups enjoy their greatest success, but it is increasingly evident that group enjoy their greatest success when they become more productive units called teams.

Today's business environment changes rapidly in financial, technological and social arenas, resulting are greater complexity than a single individual can handle. The pressures of the competitive environment have forced the organizations to change their organizational structure to the team-based organization (Johnson, 1993; Mohram, 1993).

Changes in our world are bringing changes to team. Teams are highly interdependent, engage in complex relationships and work towards common goals with imperfectly matched values and different ideas about how they ought to do things.

Mauritius has been meeting many challenges to have a flourishing economic prospect to attract foreign companies and investors. The country does not have any natural resources to exploit but the main comparative advantage is its Labour Force. Employees are being classified as assets for a company.

The main objectives of Management are to identify and satisfy important issues by improving employees' occupational behaviour. The workplace is location for new experiences, safety, security, income and most important for social needs as stated by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory (Maslow, 1954) which is incorporated into teams.

The First stage of having the right employee starts from the recruitment process. Work will be given but managers have to be able to lead all the staff members to reach a common goal. Due to financial crisis, Doing more with less is becoming alarming creating job insecurity. Employees can bring change if properly managed. Different ways of motivating employees to give in their best potential have been applied over past generations. Financial and non financial rewards, satisfiers and dissatisfiers (Frederick Herzberg's Motivation hygiene factors), training have led to some extent of job enrichment and increased performance among workers.

All benefits contributing to the satisfaction of the employees does not really state that the employees are going towards strategic goals and objectives. In order to make employees work in the direction of the same goals as the company, proper leadership and team building processes have to be applied.

As shown by the above diagram, the difference between a group and a team can be found. Employees have their own goals and objectives when joining a firm. The main aim of management is create a corporate goal among its employees to achieve. This can be dealt with proper team building process by making all employees work towards a specific goal and objective. By proper team building, new ideas and opportunities can be found to increase performance.

History of Team

The purpose of assembling a team is to accomplish bigger goals than any that would be possible for the individual working alone. Teams are viewed as being more suitable for complex tasks because they allow members to share the workload, monitor the work behaviours of other members, and develop and contribute expertise on subtasks. Teams having clear roles and mutual expectations provide a stable internal coordination for the team which leads to improved team performance (e.g. Janis, 1982, Choi 2002).

The emergence of the team idea can be traced back to the late 1920s and early 1930s with the now classic Hawthorne Studies. These involved a series of research activities designed to examine in-depth what happened to a group of workers under various conditions.

Definitions of teams have been influenced by different group concepts in psychology and social psychology (Hackman, 1990). Several concepts with similar meanings are widespread, such as: self-directed work groups, self-regulating work groups, self-managing work groups, semi-autonomous work groups, etc. (Benders and Van Hootegem, 1999; Mueller et al., 2000).

From the wider literature there are three types of teams identified:

  1. Relatively clear team objectives;
  2. Work frequently with others to achieve these;
  3. Members have different roles; and
  4. Team is recognised by others, Borrill et al., 2001).

Castka et al. (2003) the essential factors in teamwork development must incorporate: team assessments; improved communication; knowledge exchange; understanding of organizational vision and reducing the resistance to change.

Recent studies show that the application of work teams in organizations has been increased in the past years (Campion, Papper, & Medsker, 1996; Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Wayne, & Bradway, 1997; DeMatteo, Eby, & Sundstrom, 1998).

Team Work Versus Group Work

Many managers seem satisfied with group performance. Other managers are creating a climate where individuals are willing to give their best and work together in teams with the same number of people doing similar jobs with same technology while improving productivity. For teamwork and group work, the aim is to achieve an outcome that is beyond that which can be successfully attained by an individual member. In spite of these common areas it is difficult to achieve the same level of synergy with group work as occurs with teamwork.

Before going into further discussion, the differential aspect between a group and a team has to be identified to better understand what results are expected from employees. When an employee joins a firm, he/she works in groups to give out expected results at the end of the day. Teams challenges the concept of bounded rationality and make employees think of the box to achieve more than expected and mainly for the achievement of the strategic view of the firm. The difference can be showed in the table (refer to Appendix).

Not all groups in organizations are teams, but all teams are groups. The difference between a team and a group is that a team is interdependent for overall performance. A group qualifies as a team only if its members focus on helping one another to accomplish organizational objectives.

Types of Teams

In recent years, teams have proliferated in a variety of forms and functions. There are problem-solving teams, cross-functional planning teams, self-directed work groups, and empowered teams - to name a few. The purpose of all these teams often centers on the desire to improve cooperation, knowledge, and communication, empower employees, improve creativity and innovation, and cut overhead. The responsibilities of teams are quite comprehensive, and may include distribution of duties, planning and programming of schedules, making decisions about products and services, creating new ideas and solving problems (Kirkman and Shapiro, 1997)

Examples of teams are:

Impact Of Group Dynamics

Groups are developed through the application of group dynamics theory and knowledge in ways that help groups to become more effective, performing and cohesive. The main aim is the minimization of growing pain and maximisation of continual improvement and performance.

Group dynamics is the study of groups, especially of smaller groups (less than 20 people) and also a general term for group processes because people in small groups interact and influence each other in dominant and difficult ways, groups develop many dynamic processes that separate them from a random collection of individuals. These processes include norms, roles, hierarchy, power and authority, need to belong, need for solidarity, group assumptions, boundaries, and social influences. Group dynamics is one of the frontiers of social psychology and seeks new ways to understand group behaviour. The emphasis is on then applying this knowledge to help groups function better.

The main advantage of group-based work to organizations is that it more fully utilizes the workforce. Most people tend to be less productive when working alone. Being in a group, whether loose or controlled, seems to be motivating in and of itself.

Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) also was among the first to focus on small groups and coined the term group dynamics to describe the way groups react to changing circumstances. The Latter had a profound impact on a generation of researchers and thinkers concerned with group dynamics.

All in all, group relationships satisfy our deep social and emotional needs, such as for belonging, recognition, contribution, and influence. Studies show that when work groups constantly are broken up, work-life satisfaction falls and group turnover rises. On the flip side, when time is taken to form, develop, and maintain working groups, job satisfaction, productivity, and retention all improve.

Team Building Process

Whether new or established, teams evolve and organizations can do their bit to help them realize their full potential. One way is through team building process. A team built from scratch needs to bond together and develop shared values and group dynamics. How to create effective teams is a challenge in every organisation.

Team building is an emerging aspect in the economy. The main objective is to make employee rethink their strategies, processes, systems, and the way in which they work together to achieve organizational goals. One of the primary objectives of teambuilding is maximizing performance. The aim and purpose of a team is to perform, get results and achieve victory in the workplace and marketplace.

Porras and Berg (1978) observed that team building was one of the most frequently used organization development interventions. This has lead to a substantial increase in team performance. Furthermore, Shandler and Egan (1996) state that by application of principles of team building, “any group can transform itself...into a high-performing team”. Buller (1986) defined team building as a planned intervention facilitated by a third-party consultant that develops the problem-solving capacity and solves major problems of an intact work group. Woodman and Sherwood (1980) proposed that team building was designed to enhance organizational effectiveness by improving team operation through developing problem-solving procedures and skills and increasing role clarity (cf. Beer, 1976, 1980; DeMeuse & Liebowitz, 1981; Dyer, 1977)

The bottom line is that team building takes time, because a group can only become a team through sustained, disciplined action. So to make teams pay off, the organization needs to support team development on an ongoing basis.

At the end of the day, individual problems become group problems and group goals become individual goals. Team building has to be met through different steps before achieving performance.

Several definitions of team building have been interpreted over the past years. For example, Woodman and Sherwood (1980) proposed that team building was designed to enhance organizational effectiveness by improving team operation through developing problem-solving procedures and skills and increasing role clarity (cf. Beer, 1976, 1980; DeMeuse & Liebowitz, 1981; Dyer, 1977).

Effective teambuilding is the way for success and profitability, leading high performance teams to function effectively in specific corporate culture and maximizing performance: these are the actions and objectives that differentiate the great from the merely good. A further analysis of what team building can produce is as follows:

Drawbacks of Team building

It has been found that team building is not a universal remedy for organisational effectiveness. Management has to provide necessary approaches to encourage teams in all environments. Managers are found to be delegating their power and authority to the team for decision making process. All things considered, the management expect the benefits to outweight the costs been involved.

Ineffective teams cause organizations to waste resources, fall short of performance objectives, revise designs, and extend period to market.

Team building has been proven to be productive for firms in its overall operations. It involves many processes to achieve results. One of the negative aspects after the processes and a successful team build, can be that team closes in on itself and sees its success as beating other teams in the organisation. Such competitive behaviour can have a negative impact on company performance.

The disadvantages of team building are as follows:

Team Building and Performance

Performance is a useful term to denote the capability of a team (for either a comparative or isolated assessment) and the processes that the team undertake. However, the notion of performance can be unrepresentative of how effective the team actually is (in terms of its contribution to the mission). The idea of increasing performance is to harness the ideas and experience of the staff so that they can be a lot more happily engaged in their work through trust in their teamwork

A study may reveal that a team is effective in a particular circumstance or situation. However, this does not mean that the team will always be effective under the various conditions in which it may be required to operate. Therefore, a team must be considered in terms of both performance and effectiveness

According to Henderson and Walkinshaw (2002), the performance and effectiveness of a team is defined as follows:

From the research of Henderson and Walkinshaw, it is evident that effectiveness pertains specifically to the accomplishment of the goals, milestones, and objectives as defined by the requirements of the context or the stakeholders. By contrast, performance pertains more closely to how well the task work and teamwork is carried out.

Team effectiveness means the degree to which the team achieves the expected end result(s) of the teamwork in the available time period.

Performance may be evaluated against a variety of criteria, such as reducing mistakes, continuous improvement in the quality of outputs, increased productivity, or customer satisfaction (Manz and Neck, 1997). Porras and Berg (1978) observed that team building was one of the most frequently used organization development interventions. Team-building interventions are evidently believed to lead to a substantive increase in team performance. Shandler and Egan (1996) claim that by applying principles of team building, “any group can transform itself...into a high-performing team”

On the contrary, some assessors like Buller, 1986; Woodman & Sherwood, 1980 have disapproved the idea between the link with team building and performance as there is no convincing evidence. Smither, Houston, and McIntire (1996) concluded that “Research findings on the effectiveness of team building provide a complex mix of results that make drawing firm conclusions difficult” (p. 324).

For many years there has been a concern with the need to evaluate the effectiveness of teambuilding interventions in organizational development projects. Research has been carried out to evaluate its results. De Meuse and Liebowitz specify a range of data-collection techniques (anecdotal evidence, reactive comments, behavioural changes and organizational changes), used in attempts to prove the effectiveness of team building and highlight problems associated with each of these approaches.

Even though team building brings in more advantages, some criticisms are found based on little evidence. Several reviewers (e.g., Buller, 1986; Woodman & Sherwood, 1980) have observed that there is no conclusive evidence that team building renders an increase in team performance. Druckman and Bjork (1994) noted that the enthusiasm for these approaches among practitioners “is not matched by strong empirical support for their effect on team performance” (p. 125)

Past research work and literature has been interpreted in different ways. There has been no precise validity in identifying the link between team building and performance. Little evidence has been found to create the relationship. Some research carried out by Woodman and Sherwood (1980), DeMeuse and Liebowitz (1981), Buller (1986), Sundstrom, DeMeuse, and Futrell (1990), and Tannenbaum, Beard, and Salas (1992), concluded that that team building was described in encouraging ways by most of the studies reviewed, but there was a general lack of definitive, convincing evidence for the beneficial effects of team building on performance.

It is an unfortunate and unacknowledged fact that so-called team building events don't improve team performance unless they're part of an ongoing team development strategy.

There is no determination of whether there is a beneficial effect of team building on performance based on previous narrative literature of this research. Team building is not necessarily a good fit for all organizations. In fact, studies show that certain organizational structures, cultures, programs, and procedures undermine teams. So no matter how much team-building initiatives are pushed, teams won't be effective in these work settings. These types of organizations include ones with:

Components of Team Building

When assessing the effectiveness of team building, some main factors and variables have to be taken account of. These factors will help in assessing the validity and provide results. Beer (1976, 1980), Dyer (1977), and Buller (1986) have discussed four current models of team building which are goal setting, interpersonal relations, problem solving and role clarification. Subsequently, Adams et al. (p. 4) 2002, further introduced the seven constructs of effective teaming which are clearly defined goals, common purpose, role clarity, psychological safety, mature communication, productive conflict resolution, and accountable interdependence. These components are relevant in measuring the effectiveness of team building. Below is an overview of each element.

Goals and objectives are set from top to operational management levels. These goals contribute to overall achievement of the mission and vision statements of the company to perform effectively and efficiently. Team Building helps in clarifying the team's sense of direction to achieve individual and team goals. They are exposed to a goal setting team building involvement. Goal setting may consist of the team's values, purpose, strategies and vision.

Team members are met to communicate with each other to share their views and ideas. This creates mutual understanding, support and sharing of feelings. Interpersonal relations may include acceptance, individual involvement, conflict resolution and provision of feedback at each stage. Team building process is meant to develop trust and confidence in the team in which members must work together to achieve results.

All teams are formed to work on a specific assignment given by top management. Action plans are done to achieve results. Problems are inevitable to come across. The team building process make employees become involved in action planning for the solution of problems involved and for implementation and evaluation of solutions. The process includes problem solving strategies, decision making processes, performance appraisal and communication.

Team members have their own respective role to play. Team building process gives rise to role clarification in order to create an understanding of what is expected from each team member and others in the accomplishment of goals. Role clarification may involve establishing roles, delegating responsibilities, creation of autonomy and accountability.

Psychological safety is the shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking (Edmondson, 1999). If trust is present in the team, the members will bring in their personal touch. There is confidence of not being embarrassed, rejected or even punished for giving out their views. Questions and suggestions are most welcomed in the discussions and meetings. This fosters creativity among the members to perform better.

Mature communication refers to team members' ability to express ideas clearly and concisely. Additionally, each team member needs to listen without interrupting, clarify what others have said, and provide and receive constructive feedback. Team members need the ability to express compelling reasons for their ideas.

Productive conflict resolution refers to the procedures and actions taken by team members when a conflict arises. When these actions lead to results such as facilitating the solution of the problem, increasing the cohesiveness among team members, exploring alternative positions, increasing the involvement of everyone affected by the conflict, and enhancing the decision-making process (Capozzoli, 1995), the team will have successfully managed the conflict.

Accountable interdependence is the last of the seven constructs. The accountability for the output of the team is the responsibility of each team member. Accountable interdependence refers to each team member's understanding the mutual dependence of all team members' responsibility for the quality and quantity of the team's work.

Rawlings contends that a new team paradigm is rising where management teams at all levels are being asked to work together with more interdependence, with shared accountabilities outside their typical function, and with higher levels of trust and participation (2000). All components discussed above have a direct link between team building and performance. It can be found that these constructs are mainly benefits arising from team building processes which can be further identified in next section.

Bruce Tuckman Model

In order to know what to expect with team building it is prudent to explore a few team building models. Though the models certainly vary they usually agree on two basic pretexts. First, that there are predictable stages every team goes through on its way to becoming a highly productive, efficient team. And second, that leaders and team members who are aware of these stages can improve the quality of their team's interactions during each stage. The arguably most famous and easy model to remember is that of Bruce Tuckman (1965)

Dr Bruce Tuckman published his Forming Storming Norming Performing model in 1965. He added a fifth stage, Adjourning, in the 1970s. The Forming Storming Norming Performing theory is an elegant and helpful explanation of team development and behaviour. Tuckman's model explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships establish, and the leader changes leadership style. Beginning with a directing style, moving through coaching, then participating, finishing delegating and almost detached. This model provides an excellent structure for looking at the process of developing teams and teamwork.

Stages Of Team Development

Forming

The forming stage builds a foundation for the team when teams first get together; members are generally cautious and uncertain about many things. People explore, experiment, and try something. During the forming period everyone tries their best to look ahead and think about all the things that need to be done. Leader must set the focus due to high dependence on leader for guidance and direction. Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear. Leader must be prepared to answer lots of questions about the team's purpose, objectives and external relationships.

Serious issues and feelings are avoided, and people focus on being busy with routines, such as team organisation, who does what, when to meet, etc. But individuals are also gathering information and impressions - about each other, and about the scope of the task and how to approach it.

Some main assumptions for the forming stage are:

Storming

The storming stage is where teams spend most of their energy. Individuals in the group can only remain nice to each other for so long, as important issues start to be addressed. Decisions don't come easily within group. The team needs to be focused on its goals to avoid becoming distracted by relationships and emotional issues. Compromises may be required to enable progress. Some people's patience will break early, and minor confrontations will arise that are quickly dealt with or glossed over.

These may relate to the work of the group itself, or to roles and responsibilities within the group. Some will observe that it's good to be getting into the real issues, whilst others will wish to remain in the comfort and security of stage 1.

Conflicts around the work as well as relationships cause teams to struggle. When conflict goes undetected or is not dealt with, it often gets worse. It can be easy for remote teams to not deal with conflict. Assessing the situation can be difficult due to infrequent conversation and a lack of clues from body language.

Inevitably the process begins to heat up under the pressures of work and conflicting perspectives. People jockey for influence. Patient and impatient people clash. Trust is tested, and confusions around goals and roles begin to surface. If there are heavy deadlines, this stage can be quite tense

Some main assumptions for the storming stage are:

Norming

As Stage 2 evolves, the “rules of engagement” for the group become established, and the scope of the group's tasks or responsibilities is clear and agreed.As people get to know each other, they reconcile and agree on things like decision-making processes, resources, timing, and quality standards. A “norm” is something everyone understands. Norms are the formal and informal rules that make up the operating system of productive work. Norming is a stage of productivity. Having had their arguments, they now understand each other better, and can appreciate each other's skills and experience.

Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted. Big decisions are made by group agreement. Smaller decisions may be delegated to individuals or small teams within group. Commitment and unity is strong. The team may engage in fun and social activities. The team discusses and develops its processes and working style. There is general respect for the leader and some of leadership is more shared by the team.

Individuals listen to each other, appreciate and support each other, and are prepared to change pre-conceived views: they feel they're part of a cohesive, effective group. However, individuals have had to work hard to attain this stage, and may resist any pressure to change - especially from the outside - for fear that the group will break up, or revert to a storm.

Some main assumptions for the norming stage are:

Performing

The final stages of team development involve using all the experience and understanding with each other to get results for each other and the organization. The team is more strategically aware; the team knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing. The team has a shared vision and is able to stand on its own feet with no interference or participation from the leader. There is a focus on over-achieving goals, and the team makes most of the decisions against criteria agreed with the leader. The team has a high degree of autonomy. Disagreements occur but now they are resolved within the team positively and necessary changes to processes and structure are made by the team. The team is able to work towards achieving the goal, and also to attend to relationship, style and process issues along the way.

The team requires delegated tasks and projects from the leader. The team does not need to be instructed or assisted. Team members might ask for assistance from the leader with personal and interpersonal development. Not all groups reach this stage, characterised by a state of interdependence and flexibility. Everyone knows each other well enough to be able to work together, and trusts each other enough to allow independent activity. Roles and responsibilities change according to need in an almost seamless way. Group identity, loyalty and morale are all high, and everyone is equally task-orientated and people-orientated. This high degree of comfort means that all the energy of the group can be directed towards the task(s) in hand.

Some main assumptions for the performing stage are:

Tuckman's fifth stage - Adjourning

Adjourning is the break-up of the group, hopefully when the task is completed successfully, its purpose fulfilled; everyone can move on to new things, feeling good about what's been achieved. From an organizational perspective, recognition of and sensitivity to people's vulnerabilities in Tuckman's fifth stage is helpful, particularly if members of the group have been closely bonded and feel a sense of insecurity or threat from this change. Feelings of insecurity would be natural for people with high ‘steadiness' attributes and with strong routine and empathy style

This is about completion and disengagement, both from the tasks and the group members. Individuals will be proud of having achieved much and glad to have been part of such an enjoyable group. They need to recognise what they've done, and consciously move on. Some authors describe stage 5 as “Deforming and Mourning”, recognising the sense of loss felt by group members.

Conclusion

An organisation is already a team but it is broken down to small units so that job performance is achieved and to enable all employees to share a personal touch in the achievement of goals and objectives of the organisation. Employees work as a group upon joining a firm. It is the role of management to give out a helping hand to make employees feel their own importance in the organisation and among co-workers. This can be done through a team building process. An individual already have its own core competencies and it is through trust in the respective team it can be applied.

Team building creates a sense of belongingness among team members and the organisation as a whole. Team building can bring in more change than expected. It is directly linked with motivation, leadership and performance. However, Team building is being seen as a one event opportunity where the ideal idea is to a continuous one. Thus it is not necessary to find a large extent of team performance being achieved.

External barriers to teamwork (Adapted from Interaction Associates, 2001)

Internal barriers to teamwork (Adapted from Interaction Associates, 2001)

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