Cover Image
close this bookDesigning Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe lecture
View the documentVisual aids
View the documentQuestion and answer
View the documentDiscussion
View the documentDemonstration
View the documentSimulation
View the documentThe case method
View the documentCritical incidents
View the documentRole-playing
View the documentInstrumentation
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentNominal group technique (NGT)
View the documentForce field analysis
View the documentAction planning
View the documentOther learning transfer strategies
View the documentPerformance analysis & needs assessment
View the documentTraining impact evaluation
View the documentTraining the staff to train
View the documentCoaching
View the documentTeam development
View the documentRole negotiation
View the documentIntergroup conflict intervention
View the documentOrganizational goal setting
View the documentA closing note

Team development

Learning Emphasis




Organization Focus




Coming together is a beginning, keeping together, is progress, working together is success..

- Arabian Proverb

Teams are groups of individuals who work together to perform tasks and achieve common purposes. In other words, when one person can’t accomplish something that needs to be done and several people must cooperate to get it done, a team is formed. Effective work-teams, as well as project-teams, have several common characteristics. They have a goal or a specific reason for working together. They are interdependent; that is, they depend on each other to attain the team’s goals. By working together, teams are able to accomplish things that would be hard, and maybe impossible, without the team. And they are accountable to management for their actions and results.

Effective teams are not accidental. They are developed. But, before they can be developed, the organizational environment must be supportive of teamwork. There are a number of common characteristics of supportive environments. First, there is an awareness that managers don’t have all the answers. Input is needed from those who are closest to the problems and the opportunities. Secondly, employees have ideas about how their work could be done more productively, no matter what they do or where they work, and they are willing, and even eager, to share what they know with management. Finally, employees who are recognized for their contributions will take more pride in what they do. And those who are involved in making decisions will be more committed to carrying them out.

In organizations, there are many kinds of teams. Until recently, the term meant relatively permanent work groups composed of front-line employees and their immediate supervisors. Also, higher up the organizational ladder, elected councillors in local governments, together with their top administrative staffs, are sometimes referred to as teams, (e.g., municipal leadership teams). With the quality movement in Europe, Japan and the United States, other kinds of teams have begun to appear - more temporary in nature with the goal of coming together to accomplish a particular task and then to disband. Teams might be organized, for example, when funds are received from a donor agency for a new project, when new functional units are formed as the result of a management reorganization decision, or when funding cutbacks make it necessary to merge two or more work units into one.

Team development is an intervention to ensure the effective and efficient functioning of new and existing teams. It is called for only when lack of effective teamwork is experienced or is anticipated, as with new teams. But team development is not the solution to every problem facing work units and teams. It is not, for example, an appropriate way to address intergroup problems (between work units or teams), technical difficulties or administrative foul-ups. Problems like these should be handled in some other way.

Learning-by-doing is emphasised in team development. It is expected that the team and its members will learn to cooperate and solve problems by experiencing themselves cooperating and solving problems, or not doing so, as they go about their team tasks. Generally, a trained facilitator is assigned or employed by the organization to guide the team learning-process. The facilitator’s role in team development is threefold, to serve as:

· A planner who provides a suitable design for learning,

· An initiator who gets things going and helps team members learn all they can from it, and

· A resource who provides information and guidance from other team development experiences when needed by team members.

FORMING A NEW TEAM

For the new team, the task is to establish new work relationships and begin the process of shaping a group of individuals who may not have worked together before into a team with established goals, methods of operation and a strong team spirit. Several initial questions face members of a new team:

· Why have we been assigned to this team?

· What does management expect from us?

· How can we work together as a team to accomplish our goals?

· What authority and resources do we have to carry out our tasks?

· The focus of developing a new team is to help its members answer these and other questions and to help them build constructive relationships and develop effective, problem-solving skills. A format a facilitator might use to assist with the formation of a new team, adapted from a design developed originally by William Dyer, is shown at the end of this section (Dyer, 1977).

STRENGTHENING THE EXISTING TEAM

For the existing team, the development task for both team members and the facilitator is to assess team performance whenever there is a new direction, when new tasks are assigned, or when there is a change in team membership. In other words, any change imposed on the team from outside the team may have consequences for the team’s functioning. Team development also maybe initiated when something going on within the team is interfering with team performance.

Among the symptoms that might indicate a problem and, consequently, the need for team development in an existing work unit or team, are the following:

· Work is behind schedule and no one seems to care,
· Complaints from team members are rising,
· There is evidence of hostility and conflict on the team,
· There is confusion about roles and responsibilities,
· Members of the team are often absent or late to meetings,
· There appears to be a loss of imagination in decision-making, and
· Apathy and lack of interest is common among team members.

Any one of these symptoms or a combination of them can provide a reason for team development. The aim of an intervention when any of these symptoms is experienced is to eliminate the blockage and restore team performance to a satisfactory level. An assessment instrument and a process for using it to verify weaknesses in team performance are shown later in this section.

SUMMARY

Teams are groups of individuals that come together to achieve purposes that would be difficult or even impossible to achieve without the team. To perform effectively, team members must learn how to work together to solve problems, make decisions, share information and help each other make meaningful contributions to the team task. Team development is used to begin the effective performance of new teams and to restore effective performance to existing teams when they experience work relationship difficulties. Team development is a learning by doing process in which team members are coached and guided by a trained facilitator toward improved team performance as they carry out their team tasks.

Notes

Dyer, Wayne G., Team Building: Issues and Alternatives (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1977).

A Design for Developing the New Team

Participants

Members of a newly organized team, a reorganized work unit, or a new structure created from the merger of two or more work units.

Objective:

1. To get team members acquainted with one another and
2. To establish teamwork guidelines and procedures.

Duration and location

From one to two days (six to twelve hours) preferably at a location away from the workplace to minimize distractions and interruptions.

Process

Team development is carried out in four steps with the assistance of a trained facilitator from inside or outside the organization.

Step 1: Sharing expectations

After introductions and a brief review of what is to take place, the facilitator asks members of the team to answer several questions about their expectations for the team and themselves. Generally, participants are asked to write down their answers and then to share what they have written with other participants. A summary of major concerns can be listed by the facilitator on a chart pad to encourage discussion. Among the questions about expectations the facilitator might ask are these:

· What concerns you most about working on this team?
· What would the team be like if everything went right?
· What would it be like if nothing went right?
· What actions do you think are needed to ensure positive results?

Step 2: Sharing levels of commitment

Members of a new team will vary in the amount of time and energy they are individually willing to commit to team activities. These commitments are influenced by how important they view the team’s task, demands made on their time by other work priorities, how personally interested they are in the team assignment, and other considerations.

In order to reveal various levels of individual commitment to the team, the facilitator might draw the following diagram on a chartpad and ask team members to report orally where on the chart they would place themselves in terms of commitment. The facilitator would record individual ratings with check marks above the numbers on the scale.


Figure

When all ratings have been reported and recorded on the chart pad, individual team members are given an opportunity to explain their ratings. The team as a whole, based on the combined levels of commitment shown on the scale, can then decide on an appropriate level of time and commitment from the team as a whole. Individual commitment levels also can be useful in assigning workloads to team members and avoiding feelings of resentment about some members doing more than others.

Step 3: Establishing goals and plans

As a starting point, the facilitator helps the team clarify and state in words the team’s mission - its most fundamental reason for existing. The relevance of all subsequent plans and activities being considered by the team should be justified on the basis of their contribution to the team’s mission. The creation of a written mission statement is followed by the development of specific goals to be achieved by the team on or before a specific date and a detailed work plan for each of the goals. Establishing goals and work plans provides focus and direction for the team and a convenient way of dividing up the work to be done among members of the team. For details on establishing goals and plans, see Organizational Goal Setting presented later in this volume.

Step 4: Developing procedural guidelines

To avoid the confusion about how things are to be done, a primary source of team conflict, the facilitator assists the team to develop guidelines on how various procedural matters are to be handled. Areas where guidelines will be useful to the team are shown as follows:

1. How decisions will be made - majority vote, a team consensus (all decisions made by the total group) or some decisions left to subgroups with specific work assignments.

2. What the basic method of work is to be - everything is done in the total group, individuals do things and submit their results to the total group, or initial work is done by subgroups for ratification by the total group.

3. How to ensure that everyone’s issues are discussed - all members are invited to contribute items to the team’s meeting agenda, open times are provided on the agenda for discussion of any topic, memos on topics of interest can be circulated by team members.

4. How differences are resolved - two-party arguments are resolved outside team meetings to avoid consuming meeting time, a third party is appointed to work out differences between the parties, time limits are set on the open discussion of differences.

5. How to ensure the completion of tasks - setting realistic priorities and timetables, making assignments to people who are certain they have the time and energy to complete them, action summaries that describe progress, reminders of due dates issued by the team leader.

6. How to change things when not getting results - a periodic review and evaluation session focused on team progress, its successes and failures: What actions must we take to make our team more effective?

A Design for Improving the Effectiveness of an Existing Team

Participants

Members of an existing team or work unit that is performing below its own capabilities or below the level of performance of similar teams in the same organization.

Objectives

1. To create conditions that enable the team to function as effectively as possible.

2. To make team members more conscious of their own functioning and the need for corrective action.

Duration and location

From one to two days (six to twelve hours) preferably at a location away from the workplace to minimize distractions and interruptions.

Process

Team development is carried out with the assistance of a trained facilitator from inside or outside the organization. While there is no one best way to initiate team development, most approaches consist of the same four phases: (a) start-up; (b) problem-solving; (c) action-planning; and (d) follow-up. Within each of the four phases there are design variations, and some of these will be pointed out in the following discussion.

Phase 1: Start-up

The start of a team development meeting may be accompanied by anxiety and skepticism. This may be the first time team members have been asked to take an honest look at their own effectiveness. Usually, the meeting is opened by the manager in charge of the team who reviews the meeting’s objectives, shows support for the team, the development activity and the facilitator selected to assist with the process.

After some preliminary remarks, the facilitator asks team members to complete a questionnaire containing questions about team effectiveness and an agree/disagree scale (see the following Team Assessment Scale). Their answers are reported orally and recorded by the facilitator on a chart pad.

These data represent the raw material to be used by the team during the next phase of team development.

One start-up variation is to include a presentation on the nature and value of team development by a recognized authority on the subject. Another is to invite a manager or employee from another part of the organization to share a successful team development experience with the team.

Phase 2: Problem-solving

As pointed out earlier, team development is an exercise in learning-by-doing. During this phase, the facilitator engages the team in problem-solving and helps the team to analyse its own functioning as it works on a problem. In other words, it is the facilitator’s task during this phase to help the team become more aware of what it is doing when it is attempting to solve a problem and to begin the development of greater team skills.

The facilitator might ask the group to analyse the data obtained from the Team Assessment Scale: What do the data mean? Why did we respond to the questions the way we did? What conditions account for the negative responses? What do we need to do to get a more positive response to these questions? If the team is large, the facilitator might divide it into several subunits of three to five team members each. Results of sub-unit activity can then be reported, summarized on a chartpad and compiled into a list of possible change actions (e.g., what we need to start or stop doing is....)

A variation to the use of a questionnaire is for the facilitator to interview members of the team as a way of pinpointing the conditions on the team that need to be changed. The results are summarized and reported to the team as a starting point for team problem solving. Another variation is for the facilitator to engage the team in an open sharing of issues - issues that team members feel comfortable discussing openly with other members of the team

Regardless of which approach is used, the facilitator helps the team select five or six of the most urgent issues on the summary list (e.g., differences of opinion between team members are denied or avoided at all cost) and to begin problem-solving. The team’s objective is to decide what to do about each of these issues. This is done using a classic problem-solving approach - state the problem, brainstorm alternative courses of action, select the most promising action, work out action plans (who, when, and how) and agree on a method for evaluating results. Note: Several problem-solving techniques, including brainstorming, the nominal group technique, and force-field analysis, are described elsewhere in this volume.

While the team is engaged in problem-solving, the facilitator and team members themselves observe to see how effectively team tasks are carried out and how well team members support each other and the team. Signs of strength and weakness in the team’s performance are noted for discussion later.

At the conclusion of the problem-solving task, proposals for resolving each of the problems are reported and recorded on a chart pad. After this, the facilitator and team members share their observations about the team’s performance.

Phase 3: Action planning

All of the activities carried out to this point have been designed to help the team identify conditions that are interfering with team performance and decide on actions to improve team effectiveness. During this phase, problem-resolution actions to be taken are described in detail. This includes giving action assignments to individual team members and setting dates for completion of assignments, progress reports and follow-up meetings. Individual team members may be asked by the facilitator to summarize and confirm what they intend to do as follow-up to the team development meeting.

Phase 4: Follow-up

A follow-up meeting held one month or six weeks after the initial team development meeting is an important step in ensuring that assignments are being carried out and that progress is being made to improve the team’s effectiveness. Without a follow-up meeting, the enthusiasm generated at the initial meeting will fade and hoped-for improvements in team effectiveness will not come about. Follow-up meetings usually focus on reporting of progress since the last meeting, together with statements of support and commitment from management for the team’s self-improvement efforts. In addition, follow-up meetings may focus on:

1. A review of the team-development process - things that went well, things that did not and recommendations for change, and

2. Gathering additional data on team performance and making assignments for the next team-development meeting.

A Team Assessment Scale

Instructions for completing the scale

Read each of the 10 team performance statements below. Circle the number below each statement that is closest to your level of agreement with the statement as it pertains to the performance of your team. For example, if you strongly agree with a statement, circle a 7, if you strongly disagree with it, circle a 1 or, otherwise, circle one of the numbers in between. When you have responded to all 10 statements, sum your scores and enter the result on the last page.

1. Goal clarity. The team is working toward goals that are understandable and clear to them.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

2. Team task performance. The team works efficiently and makes definite goal progress.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

3. Communication. Team members are good listeners and make their points clearly.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

4. Roles. Team members know what they are expected to do and how to do it.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

5. Conflict. The team usually recognizes and works through differences of opinion.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

6. Decision making. Everyone’s ideas and opinions are taken into account before decisions are made.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

7. Participation. Each team member feels personally involved in the work of the team.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

8. Responsibility. Each team member accepts personal responsibility for getting the team’s work done.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

9. Openness. Team members feel comfortable making their reservations and concerns known to other team members.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

10. Leadership. Team members respect the leader and work together as a unified team with no one dominating.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Strongly disagree


Strongly agree

Sum of scores: __________

Interpretation of Results

One way to interpret your team assessment score is to observe its size. A total score of 30 or less is below average and evidence of significant team weaknesses. A score of 50 or above is above average and evidence of team strength.

Another way to interpret your team assessment score is to identify which team performance areas received low ratings and which ones received high ratings. This can be helpful in setting team priorities for corrective action.

Finally, a composite score (combining the assessment scores of all team members) can be useful as a basis for team discussion about team strengths and weaknesses and what to do about them.