Case Study: Phil Jone’s Dilemma

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Bruce Tuckman distinguished four basic stages of team development in his model. These phases are testing and dependence, intragroup conflict, development of group cohesion, and functional role relatedness (Tuckman & Jensen 2010, p. 43). Additionally, he labeled various task activity stages as follows: the orientation to operational functions (forming), emotional response to task demands (storming), exchange of relevant interpretations among the team members (norming), and generation of solutions (performing) (Tuckman & Jensen 2010, p. 43). The given four categories demonstrate the interdependence between the group structure and the overall performance and task orientation of the team.

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Phil correctly identified that his employees are currently at the storming stage. After familiarizing ourselves with the project tasks and each other, exploring goals and performance boundaries in the forming phase, Phil’s team is trying to sort out the processes and standards that could be used within the group. It is observed that during the given developmental phase there is likely to be “an increase in the level of interpersonal conflict between the group members,” and employees may start to question the adopted methods of control and guidance (Dennis & Garfield 2006, pp. 3-4). In some cases, negative and even hostile attitudes and emotional responses may occur to particular management requests and task activities. As we may see from the case analysis, there is a significant level of role uncertainty among the group members. Some employees who were given autonomy to make decisions are concerned with Phil’s inconsistency as he tells them to be proactive and then overrules them later. Additionally, there are “undercurrents of tension amongst team members” due to disagreement with the assigned roles and allocated responsibilities. The given problems create barriers to efficient decision-making and the fulfillment of individual and general project objectives and may impede the overall project success.

Currently, Phil’s primary goal is bringing his team to the performing stage where the members will show commitment to and engagement in the work process and assigned tasks, will stay focused on their performance and attaining project objectives, and will have less destructive attitudes towards each other. To achieve this, the group should go through the norming stage associated with settling into the mutually accepted work processes and project standards, the subsiding of the interpersonal conflicts and tensions, and the emergence of agreement in all domains of the team performance (Dennis & Garfield 2006). During this phase, Phil should make efforts to improve employee communication and relationships, as well as create and strengthen group cohesiveness. As Hackman and Katz (2010) mention, a cohesive and highly effective team can generate extraordinary synergetic outcomes and “do so in a way that simultaneously strengthens the group as a performing unit and contributes to the learning and development of individual members” (p. 1214). To create team synergy, Phil should know how to use the competencies, knowledge, and skills of the employees well.

Phil wants to change the level of authority in his team. At the given moment, the decision-making largely depends on the external agent, i.e., senior management, and the employees who have the power to make decisions show a significant degree of hesitation. To improve performance, Phil should increase the group’s self-managing capacity. The researchers identify the following factors that help to avoid risks associated with democratic group behavior models: a sense of continuity and collective self-consciousness; specialization of functions among employees; enhanced cross-sectional and intergroup interactions; and shared habits, values, and customs (Hackman & Katz 2010). It means that along with the group restructuring, the management needs to provide sufficient support and create a working context and culture that would be friendly to collaboration.

As mentioned by Hackman and Katz (2010), all groups are characterized by a high degree of dependence on leaders, and the dominant emotion within each team is the fear of destruction. When these assumptions are not acknowledged, they may significantly impede the group’s performance and provoke conflicts. The identified problems and objectives make it clear that Phil should develop a leadership strategy. While strategic management is mainly concerned with current plans and their delivery, a leadership strategy is meant to deal with change, adaptability, and future challenges (Carnall & Roebuck 2015). Leadership implies motivation and encouragement of the employees for achievements, while the management is focused merely on the fulfillment of the basic working processes. Leadership efficiency depends on the way of communication within the group. Thus, to motivate the subordinates, Phil, as the team leader, should develop the vision of the successful team performance that would contribute to the achievement of positive project outcomes. The vision has to be realistic and inspiring at the same time. It should communicate the values relevant to all team members and emphasize the significance of a creative and friendly working environment. During the period of change and adaptation to new standards of behavior, Phil needs to make reassuring statements to the team members to help them develop a sense of security throughout the process of transition to the performing stage. Therefore, for the successful integration of the values and vision into the working context, Phil should maintain good communication with the employees.

Reference List

Carnall, C & Roebuck, C 2015, Strategic leadership development: Building world-class performance, Palgrave, New York.

Dennis, A & Garfield, M 2006, ‘A script for group development: punctuated equilibrium and the stages model’, Web.

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Hackman, R & Katz, N 2010, ‘Group behavior and performance’, in S Fiske, D Gilbert, & G Lindzey (eds), Handbook of social psychology, vol. 2, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, pp. 1208-1251.

Tuckman, B & Jensen, M, ‘Stages of small-group development’, Group Facilitation, no. 10, pp. 43-48.

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