Effective Team and Performance Management: A Case Study

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Introduction

Effective team and performance management is a prerequisite to the success of team projects (Kirkman, Jones & Shapiro, 2000). Dealing with specific challenges and problems facing the team requires the contribution of every team member regardless of status within the group. Driskell James, a renowned scholar in human behavior asserts that every member of a group is pivotal to its success. Regardless of the position, Driskell notes, each member has a role to play and that role is important (Driskell, 2006, p 262). Effective group management skills help teams to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in their endeavor. Team management skills and qualities are important for team members if they are to effectively meet their goals. Qualities vital to effectively managing a group includes interpersonal communication skills, commitment to the objective, sincerity, determination, and trust among others. This paper reports on how successfully our group can reach the top of Mt. Everest. The four-step model proposed by Christopher Johns’ is adopted for this paper. The model involves discussion of the experience during the discussion, identification of key factors to the discussion, reflecting on the experiences, highlighting the lessons learned, and proposing an alternative course of action that could have improved the outcome of the discussions (Adair, 2007, p 11).

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The team is made up of four persons and is tasked with coming up with the best approach to reach the top of Mt Everest. It is important to note that the team’s success is entirely premised on the ability of its members to adopt best practices within the duration of the engagement. These include creative problem solving, good interpersonal communication skills, conflict management skills, self-awareness and commitment, and trust amongst the members (Humphrey et al., 2009; Kirkman, Jones, & Shapiro, 2000; Klein et al., 2009).

Disintegrated membership and work approach easily harms operations of a group and hence compromise achievement of the team’s goal. While our group too was not spared such challenges, we managed to successfully circumvent them and achieve our set objective (Svyantek, Goodman, Benz, &Gard, 1999, p, 273).

Experience from the team work

The general experience working in a team was mixed. While presenting lots of interesting moments, some instances were just not the best. However, the most important thing that kept us together was determination and will to work as a group. A key challenge was diversity.Despite bringing in the character combination necessary for successful group engagement, it also brought a baggage of differences. While some members were good communicators and ready to listen and accommodate the opinions of others, some were just too impatient and felt that their previous experiences gave them an overall mandate to make decisions on behalf of the others (Miller, 2007, p 32). They basically wanted everything to go their way. However, the enthusiasm and zeal to achieve success prevailed upon the diverging positions and ultimately members learnt to accommodate each others ideas no matter how divergent their opinions were. This helped us bridge the communication gap which initially impeded any tangible processes (Senécal, Loughead, & Bloom, 2008, p 192). At one point a member commented, “I feel like today we are a team of professionals full of varied and vital ideas.” The statement indicated the overall mood of the group once everyone had learned to not only respect but appreciate the ideas of others. Primarily, reinvention of the team and engagement of on thought flexibility greatly enhanced the team’s dynamics. Problems, though challenging turned out to be a way of learning how to appreciate and accommodate each other.

In general a number of factors played a fundamental role in ensuring that the group did not fall out, both personal and social attributes. As mentioned earlier, while diverging personalities brought in useful divergent opinions and hence alternatives, it also acted as an obstacle in the initial stages of team discussions. However as time went by, members learnt to cope and accommodate each other. Basically, personality stood out as a critical factor towards achieving effective group performance (Salas, Nichols, &Driskell, 2007, p 261). Interestingly,socialtraits played to the positive development of discussions. After building, strong social foundations among members, the group’s performance was rejuvenated, those moments when one felt like walking out were no more and most importantly ideas begun to flow (Driskell, 2006, p 267).

Reflection

Being the team secretary was quite interesting. I willingly took the role as none of the group members was willing to accept it. Basically, I had to take keen interest in everything that was being said and appropriately document it. Often, expression was a problem for some members despite the excellent points they had. This meant that I had to dig deeper, interpret what they said and document it in a manner consistent with our goals (Newstrom & Scannell, 1998, 45). Alongside this role, I was also expected to constructively contribute to the ongoing discussion. Being a leader is challenging, my role required good listening skills, patience and understanding. In additional, excellent analytical skills was a necessity.

Often I had to communicate the meeting time to members. This too was a challenge as some members were simply out of reach. Either their mobile phones were switched off or they simply did not answer. Having to call somebody so many times without any response required a lot of patience and humility. Often I lost composure and felt like not informing such people about our meetings but sense of reason prevailed upon me. However, its fortunate that I didn’t have to this many times as mostly we agreed on next meeting dates prior to closing a meeting. Perhaps my biggest challenge as one of the team leaders came in the initial days when I had to reckon with the disagreements and constant squabbles amongst members. The team leader just didn’t seem to measure up to his role and often I had to intervene on his behalf. I tried to explain to the members the importance of us having a peaceful discussion, accommodate each others views and respect what everyone had to say. However, after bonding and understanding each other, the group was able to work together without many problems.

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During my position as one of the group leaders I learnt some key lessons. Firstly I learnt the importance of remaining neutral. Neutrality offers the point from which conflict resolution begins, whenever a member of a group is deemed to affiliate to ideas of a section, the other section ceases to listen and respect ideas from the other member (Adair, 2007). Anything they say is viewed negatively and often faced with unwarranted criticism. I therefore realized and remained neutral and open to ideas from any member throughout the meeting. Through our discussion, I also realized the importance of good listening skills. As a secretary to the group I had to be a good listener and hence document all the points and issues raised by members., this was more important in the initial stages of our meeting which purely involved collection of ideas from members for future consideration

Alternative courses of action

The experience helped me gain more openness to new ideas and alternatives in life. The importance of each member’s contribution however, remains the most important point of focus tat I believe every meeting should center on (LePine, 2003, p 34). A number of alternative courses of action arose which would be applicable in future scenarios. Firstly is inter-personal bonding at group levels. It is important that every group engages in bonding sessions prior to starting any constructive discussions. This will help the members understand each other, learn to accommodate each others strengths and weaknesses and also learn to respect the opinions of each member. Bonding will also assist group members build trust amongst themselves and avoid misunderstanding., it is key to coming up with a cohesive group capable of focusing on the desired goals rather than on detractions that come along the way (Svyantek, Goodman, Benz, & Gard, 1999)

Effective leadership is critical to success of any group (Salas & Cannon-Bowers, 1997). It enhances efficiency of the group and eases the way in which tasks are handled. Skills help people and organization to improve their own effectiveness and efficiency (Salas & Cannon-Bowers, 1997). When appropriate, it is therefore important to appoint leaders based on capability and interest within the group. Most groups have failed to achieve their objective not because they lacked the capacity but because the person mandated to lead the group lacked the will and commitment to do so (Leonard & Freedman, 2000). A leader should additionally be empowered to take action against errant members who hinder progress of a group. It is not unheard of for a group project to stall just because one member decided to be arrogant and disrespect the rest of the team (Hirschhorn, 1991; Hughes, Ginnett, &Curphy, 2009, p 145).based on the findings during the group discussions, the following model is proposed in group management.

Proposed model for effective group management
Figure 1: Proposed model for effective group management (Source: Klein et al., 2009).

Learning

This experience has enabled me to learn new group management skills. I have been able to understand that divergent interest could be a resource and the same time a disaster if not well managed. Diversity within groups is therefore a critical resource which must be well managed if an organization is to achieve success (LePine, 2003). Additionally, I have learnt the importance of remaining neutral and non-partisan as a leader in group projects. It gives a foundation upon which conflict resolution can be based. Rather than condemn or reprieve any party, it is important to help them understanding the importance of bonding and acting as a team. As it’s usually said, a united team is the pillar of every society (Adair, 2007); this experience has confirmed the same. While initially performance was poor due to non-unity of the group, after bonding was enabled and the group began operating as a single entity, ideas flowed, members accommodated each other and the environment of rebellion ceased to exist. Working as a team allowed the team to critically consider each of the suggestions put forth and hence apply reasoning in coming u with the best course of action.

Emotional control is of great importance to a team leader (Kirkman, Jones, & Shapiro, 2000). One must be able to rein on in his/her emotion and instead act in a rational manner that will not fuel animosity but rather encourage interpersonal interaction. This allows the sense of reason to prevail and hence keep on track towards achieving the set goal (Humphrey et al., 2009). Basically, a group may as well be defined in context of the quality of its leadership. A group lacking in leadership is also lacking in direction and has limited chances of success. However, leadership alone is not enough; members must be encouraged to exhibit high levels of commitment and competency in order to facilitate the activities of the group. Assigning team roles is also a critical aspect of any group project. It eliminates possibility of conflict of interest whereby one group member does exactly what the other has already done (LePine, 2003). This ensures that all areas of interest are covered and chances of conflict are minimized (Klein et al., 2009). Empowerment of members is also a necessity whereby the group members are allowed autonomy to work on their chosen/assigned areas. This builds their confidence, trust and feeling of importance to the group. Excessive interference with a group members work may make them feel unappreciated and of little importance to the group. This could ultimate result into a disjointed approach to solving of the problem at hand (Klein et al., 2009). Significant lessons from this experience basically focused around being an effective leader. As mentioned earlier, the experience reveled that leadership and commitment go hand in hand and non-committal leadership is definitely a bridge to failure. This was an opportunity for me to learn and apply leadership skills form a real case scenario. The experience was basically wonderful.

Additionally, the experience provided me with knowledge on how deal with members who present problems to the group, the first step being identification of the trouble. A simple, honest talk with the member should also be the first course of action aimed at solving the identified problem. In addition, I also realized the importance of having members choose areas that interest them rather than being assigned. Poor performance is normally not a factor of skill inadequacy but at times lack of interest (Leonard & Freedman, 2000). When members choose their own interest they exhibit more commitment and feel secure to communicate on the same based on the confidence they exhibit.

Group models

Lessons learnt from this discussion provided insightful information for comparison to existing group models. Tuckman’s group model is based on four basic phases which include forming, storming, norming, and performing (Blanchard & Parisi-Carew, 2009: 67). The steps involved in the mode are ilustarted by the diagram below;

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Basic steps in Tuckman's model
Figure 2: Basic steps in Tuckman’s model (source: Blanchard & Parisi-Carew, 2009: 69).

Team dynamics approach on other hand takes into consideration the forces behind the seen that influence group behavior and outcomes. It acknowledges that dynamics influence team reaction, behavior, and performance (Rickards & Moger, 2000: 275). An unstructured problem however is basically what may be termed as ‘free style’ (Rickards & Moger, 1999: 87). The discussion is left take any course and no guidelines are provided (Rickards, T., & Moger, 1999: 87). Ultimately though, Tuckman’s model offer an ideal approach with clearly elaborated phases to guide group’s development and topic focus.

Conclusion

Team performance is basically a summation of the contributions, efforts and commitment exhibited by its members. However these are only possible if effective leadership is available to tap the best out of members. Members look up to leaders to carefully guide them and offer direction in management of team projects. It is important that every group leader puts in place mechanism to ensure that those bestowed to his leadership act as a cohesive group specifically intent on achieving its set out objective. Communication is an important tool and hence things that might hinder successful communication amongst group members should be eliminated as soon as they are detected. Importantly, though, a plan of action is necessary if any group is to successfully achieve its objective. Lack of planning opens up avenues for detractions which could harm the performance of the group (Leonard & Freedman, 2000, p 12).

Effective leadership demands self-understanding both in terms of strengths and weakness in addition to understanding and respecting the people around you. Importantly though, every decision must be guided by the objective of forming the group. It is important to build a team of persons with commitment towards achieving the set goals. Lack of commitment is capable of compromising the overall objective. Efficiency and success of a group is therefore dependent on the group’s capability to adapt to the challenges, focus on the set goal and accommodate divergent opinions.

References List

Adair, J. (2007). Leadership for Innovation: How to Organize Team Creativity and Harvest Ideas. London: Kogan Page Publishers.

Blanchard, K. & Parisi-Carew, E. (2009).The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams. London: William Morrow.

Driskell, J. E. (2006). What Makes a Good Team Player? Personality and Team Effectiveness.Group Dynamics.Theory, Research, and Practice, 10, 249-271.

Hirschhorn, Larry. (1991) Managing in the New Team Environment: Skills, Tools, and Methods. Understanding the New Team Environment, 13.

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Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., &Curphy, G.J. (2009).Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Humphrey, S. et al. (2009). Developing a Theory of the Strategic Core of Teams: A Role Composition Model of Team Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 48-61.

Kirkman, B, L., Jones, R. G., & Shapiro, D. L. (2000). Why do employees resist teams? Examining the “resistance barrier” to work team effectiveness.International Journal of Conflict Management, 11, 74-92.

Klein, C. et al. (2009). Does team building work? Small Group Research Journal, 40(2), pp. 181-222.

Leonard, H. S., & Freedman, A. M. (2000). From scientific management through fun and games to high-performing teams: A historical perspective on consulting to team-based organizations. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 52, pp. 3-19.

LePine, J. A. (2003). Team adaptation and post-change performance: Effects of team composition in terms of member’s cognitive abilities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, pp. 27-39.

Miller, B. C. (2007). Quick activities to improve your team: How to run a successful team- building activity. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 34(2), pp. 28-32.

Newstrom, J.W., Scannell E.E., (1998).The big book of team building games: Trust building activities, team spirit exercises, and other fun things to do. Two Penn Plaza, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Rickards, T., & Moger, S. T. (1999). Handbook for creative team leaders. Aldershot, Hants: Gower

Rickards, T., & Moger, S., (2000). ‘Creative leadership processes in project team development: An alternative to Tuckman’s stage model’, British Journal of Management, 4, pp. 273-283

Salas, E., & Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (1997).Methods, tools, and strategies for team training. In M. A. Quinones & A. Ehrenstein (Eds.), Training for a rapidly changing workplace: Applications of psychological research (pp. 249–279). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Salas, E., Nichols, D. R., &Driskell, J. E. (2007).Testing three team training strategies in intact teams: A meta-analysis.Small Group Research, 38, 471-488.

Senécal, J., Loughead, T. M., & Bloom, G. A. (2008). A season-long team-building intervention: Examining the effect of team goal setting on cohesion. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 30.186-199.

Svyantek, D.J., Goodman, S.A., Benz, L.L., &Gard, J.A. (1999).The relationship between organizational characteristics and team building success.Journal of Business and Psychology, 14(2), 265-283.

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