This case study analysis explores Chris Peterson’s work as a regional team leader at DSS Consulting. Her experience with a team project appeared to be unsuccessful due to several team management mistakes, and her integrated planning and budgeting system project was terminated. Peterson’s achievements as a team leader included building a diversely qualified team and successfully developing a beta-test version of the product. However, during the process, Peterson’s team struggled with the lack of communication with consultants from other departments, disregarded the meetings with the company’s heads, and did not consider product relevance or customers’ demand. Based on these issues, specific criteria were developed for alternative team management strategies that would value team roles, clarity of protocols, effective communication and problem-solving, and regular feedback. Further research showed that the best fitting alternative system would be the Hawkins five discipline model illustrated by Lawrence and Whyte’s (2017) study, which categorizes every stage of teamwork and provides action plans that meet all the set objectives. With this information, the recommendation was given to DSS Consulting to study the model mentioned above and train their executives and employees to adhere to the suggested tactic. The observed strategies were all based on relevant leadership and management theories. The study would be beneficial for organizations and project leaders looking for practical solutions for their management strategies.
DSS is a consulting company that was founded in 1997 and had been providing administrative support to schools in small districts (Ancona and Caldwell, 2010). The organization offers its services primarily in the western regions of the United States and has specified teams for each department. This case study focuses on the work of the Southwest Region team leader Chris Peterson, who joined the company in 2001 and started as an Information Technology specialist. Later, she was promoted to project manager and was allowed to lead a permanent team. Peterson’s team had a total of eight members from various DSS departments with additional cooperation from district representatives, and the project of their development was an integrated system for planning and budgeting (Ancona and Caldwell, 2010). The team has done relatively comprehensive preparatory work, came up with a detailed execution plan, and even presented their product for beta-testing. Unfortunately, after delivering a prototype of their computerized system to the head of the Contract Negotiation group Meg Cooke, DSS decided to terminate the project due to low interest and limited budget. This analysis will explore Peterson’s strategies in team management and evaluate her achievements and mistakes.
The implementation process for Chis Peterson’s project consisted of four parts: team building, product planning, implementation, and presentation. While forming the team, Peterson emphasized consultants’ experience in working with one another and their professional skills. Overall, the first step can be described as somewhat successful since all workers expressed motivation and excitement for their new project. However, during the planning and implementation processes, the team has faced several communication issues. The consultants were mostly isolated from other specialists apart from their team, and Peterson herself spent a relatively short time meeting with Meg Cook. This approach leads to significant delays in combatting major issues, insufficient feedback, and a lack of direct action. When the project was presented to Meg, she addressed the shortage of knowledge about the actual demand for the system in western districts and the general lack of interest in this kind of product. With this information, it is evident that Peterson and her team did not consider the interests of their target customers and did not pay proper attention to communicating with other regional teams. These are the main problems to resolve in the suggested strategies for better team management.
Case Analysis and Solution Criteria
Since the alternative strategies for team leadership aim to resolve the issues of Peterson’s practice, there need to be specific objectives and criteria set to evaluate different solutions. Analytical studies on leadership and management theories, for example, the one by Maduka et al. (2018), state that leaders often struggle in performance because they lack specific competencies required to manage a team effectively. Much of that incompetence comes from the absence of any particular model of behavior and the lack of knowledge on how to build or choose this model. To plan a solution and systemize suggestions, the following criteria were selected, inspired by Maduka et al.’s paper.
- Presence of a defined leader and assigned team positions
- Clear protocols for every stage of the process
- Sufficient methods of communication within and beyond the team
- Well-developed issue resolution tactics
- Means for constant reviewing and receiving feedback
The following section will present three alternative strategies for further team management at DSS Consulting. These criteria will be used for evaluating every solution and choosing the best-recommended option.
Solution 1: Reviewing DSS Experience
Seemingly the most obvious strategy for further team management at DSS Consulting would be to examine and revise their previous cases, keeping the solid components and modifying the weak spots. Regarding regional team management, this method would imply proceeding with a varied team-building model but emphasizing communication with other teams and departments, as well as updating the administration. Additionally, the team leader would pay more attention to studying the market and the target users and prepare a comprehensive report on product relevance.
The approach of correcting mistakes based on experience is relatively relevant and has evidence-based proof of effectiveness. The study by Priest and Seemiller (2018) concludes that leaders who were engaged in the reflection did experience changes in their self-perception and gained knowledge on making their approaches more collaborative and inclusive. Indeed, this strategy theoretically fulfills criteria no. 1, 3, and 5 since it will give more consideration to feedback and communication and keep the team roles appropriately assigned. However, the method of experience will not be sufficient to prepare a clear execution plan and combat various issues due to the constant changeability of the circumstances and possible variety in future projects. Therefore, this approach does not meet criteria no. 2 and 5 and will be rejected due to low feasibility.
Solution 2: Maduka’s Virtual Team Leader Model
As mentioned above, one of the essential qualities of leaders is their competence as a mentor and guides. Maduka et al.’s (2018) research examined leadership practices in an unnamed company and provided a list of advised competencies for leaders to build their team upon. These characteristics include effective communication, cultural intelligence, trust, team cohesion, task clarity, and reliability (Maduka et al., 2018). The study presents these qualities as vital for forming a successful team that would show high-performance levels and mentions that workers can be trained and transformed into influential leaders using them. With this information, one can conclude it is theoretically possible to implement the «competence strategy» even for Peterson in her further projects at DSS.
The qualities described in this approach are indeed suitable for resolving most of the issues with Peterson’s case. Considering the lack of contact and poor connection in the mentioned case study, focusing on team cohesion, trust, communication, and reliability would improve the experience and meet criteria no. 1, 3, and 5. Although the issue with insufficient plans and protocols, stated in criteria no. 4, would be partially resolved with clearer directions, none of the advised competencies describe problem resolution tactics. Knowing that problem solving is critical for team leaders, this solution cannot be accepted without fulfilling criteria no. 5.
Solution 3: The Hawkins Five Discipline Model
To meet the set objectives, the solution should emphasize all five set directions for team-leading practice. Lawrence and Whyte (2017) examine a strategy for collective leadership based on the five-discipline model. It was created by Peter Hawkings and is briefly described as commissioning, clarifying co-creating, connecting, and core-learning (Lawrence and Whyte, 2017). The points of commissioning and clarifying are, presumably, the ones that separate this model from other discussed solutions. According to Lawrence and Whyte (2017), in the very first stages of project development, the leader and company chief together decide on the relevance of the product and lay out all the missions, emergency protocols, team policies, and objectives. The other parts of this model primarily ensure that the process goes according to plan; all the stakeholders are equally involved, and the team holds balance among common protocols and individual contributions.
Generally, this model appears to be the most suitable for team management at DSS since it establishes a dialogic and systemic behavior within teams. The leader in this scheme acts as a connector for the company’s administration and team members. All the stages are categorized and set in order of importance, which allows one to make project development smooth and effective. Additionally, the five disciplines’ points precisely meet the established criteria for leadership strategies. Nevertheless, the whole system seems difficult to adapt for inexperienced leaders and requires a lot of attention from the administration at the start. Despite this inconvenience, the five discipline models would be acceptable for further work at DSS Consulting.
Since the global aim of this analysis was to suggest alternative leadership strategies for DSS Consulting, the recommendation was focused on resolving the existing team management issues based on Chris Peterson’s case. The main identified problems were lack of communication and insufficient problem solving, both of which emerge from unclear strategies. To effectively rebuild team management, the Hawkins five discipline model was suggested based on the study by Lawrence and Whyte (2017). When implemented, it would provide a coherent execution plan for each new team project. The first step for including this method would be studying every point of the method in detail and incorporating it into the company’s policy. The preparatory work for its implementation would require coaching team leaders to value specific qualities and activities, reforming communication systems for team leaders and company administration, and systemizing all protocols for conflict resolution, emergency action, and corporate mission. With due attention, this method can be successfully integrated into DSS’s or other consulting company’s practices and maintain their distributed teams model, ensuring productive work even for remote regional teams.
Ancona, D. and Caldwell, D. (2010). Chris Peterson at DSS Consulting, case study. Web.
Lawrence, P. and Whyte, A. (2017) ‘What do experienced team coaches do? Current practice in Australia and New Zealand’, International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 15(1), pp. 94-113. Web.
Maduka, N. S. et al. (2018). ‘Analysis of competencies for effective virtual team leadership in building successful organisations’, Benchmarking: An International Journal, 25(2), pp. 696–712.
Priest, K.L. and Seemiller, C. (2018). ‘Past Experiences, Present Beliefs, Future Practices: Using Narratives to Re(present) Leadership Educator Identity’, Journal of Leadership Education, 17(1), pp. 93-113.