Observation Project: Process and Management

Introduction

Our observation was meant to explore the impact of group leadership, problem-solving, and conflict management. We identified a group to observe, and this was a team of engineers in as constructing a firm ready to begin working on a project. The team comprised of an Architect (Mohamed), a Structural Engineer (Tamer), a Building contractor (Ramesh) and workers. Engineering projects are generally thought to be purely technical especially construction work which of characterized any scheduling, biding, main estimates, designing bar charts, etc. whereas these tools are able to guide the constructing company through a project, the management skills and styles applied are generally not enough for successful and optimal construction project. This paper seeks to describe the leadership, conflict management skills, and group productivity process in the process of completing the project as observed. The events and the information or any communication in the group was not known to us beforehand. Our role was to observe, listen, and make notes of whatever happened in the group.

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The Context Studied

We clearly observed and understood from the first meeting of the team of the engineers that Mohamed, the architect was the project manager. He was assisted by the structural engineer, Tamer, while the rest of the crew was relatively new. The company has just employed a new building contractor, Rameesh, and some new employees. This means that according to the company’s norms and way of working, only Mohamed and Tamer were experienced in working in that company. The rest of the members were not family with the organization of the company and its way of operation even though they were very enthusiastic about being members of the engineering team.

Issues of operating procedures, communication patterns, reporting requirements, and other organizational activities had to be discussed and explained to them for familiarization. We observed that Mohamed wanted to be the kind of the chairperson who would encourage member participation in the process of decision making and work on tasks collectively as a group, however, he seemed to understand that that would probably take months before the new members learned their roles. The team did not have time to waste, and they went straight to work.

Mohamed was forced to work against his inclination in that he and Tamer decided to offer strong direction for the group at the beginning. In the first meeting, they had to develop agenda and give assignments to the workers. Mohamed and Tamer had to follow up on assign roles in between the initial meetings to find out whether members needed assistance, clarification, or more information. After a very short time, we noted that the members had understood their responsibilities, and Mohamed encouraged them to assume more duties for the group, and gradually, they became full decision-makers in the group.

In a very short time, the role of Mohamed had changed his from directing to coordinating. Eventually, he became less involved in the small details of the teamwork and put more concentration on discussion and problem solving and general group productivity. Because of the great improvement by the team members in participation in the group’s activities, we noted that they had become competent enough to handle the group’s issues, and anyone of them could lead the team in certain tasks. We realized that Mohamed’s leadership style had developed potential future leaders in the team.

The role of the architect was basically a design framework giving details of how the structure would develop and solving complex issues related to the same. He worked in close collaboration with the structural engineer and building contractor. The architect basically gave the structural engineer and building contractor a simulated version of the project. The initial model was a conceptualization of the project design with floors, walls, roofs, proposed vertical reinforcements and structural bays, fenestrations, and the quality of materials to be used. This was to enable commencement of structural and building services

Leadership Behavior and Attitude

First student’s observation

This team’s behavior was ideal in illustrating a number of significant points that the study sought to address. First, I deduced that there is no single correct manner of behavior for leaders. Leaders need to be able to interpret the group’s situation so as to be able to offer relevant leadership skills for that particular group (Sendjaya et al., 2008, p. 403). I observed that Mohamed was flexible and adjusted her behavior to accommodate the growing competence of the members.

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Second, I was able to assert that leadership was all about behavior. His evaluation of the needs of the group in terms of leadership had to be translated into communicative behavior where he knew that the new members needed strong guidance. He and Tamer offered proper direction, gave assignments, and vetoed decision they perceived would not work out. Later on, as the workers developed confidence and leadership skills, he involved them in decision making, took in their thoughts, backed their decisions, and provided them with authority to act.

In such groups, there are two types of leaders that are identified through studies and they are; the emergent leaders and designated leaders. Mohamed was a designated leader because he was appointed to his position. An emergent leader on the other hand is that individual who develops to become an informal leader because of charisma and influence towards others to achieve the goals of the organization (Raven et al., 2006, p. 309). Any member of the group can offer this type of leadership and the leader ensured that the members had developed skills to lead and they were able to work best as they all contributed skills to the group.

Sources of Influence

No matter whether the leader is a designated one or an emergent leader, they all need to have the ability to influence others. French and Raven conducted an archetypal study and identified five interpersonal authority types; there is power by reward (Laios et al., 2003, p. 151), referent influence, punishment, expert, and legitimate authority. Reward is demonstrated when the leader gives others valuable things like personal favors, money or material things, or acknowledging and complimenting them.

In contrast to this, leaders can exercise punishment including withholding certain items like deny internet access to members who fail in their duties. Coercion is a kind of punishment that tries to use force to acquire compliance or use other hostile means. Good leaders should not use force since this would cause resentment (Raven, 2010, p. 229). Legitimate power comes automatically by the fact virtue of holding a leadership position in a team. Mohamed had such power because of being appointed to the chairperson’s position and this gave her the right to direct the groups work, checking on the members and giving assignments.

Referent power is evident when an individual has a personality that is likeable, respected and admired (Bass & Bass 2008, p. 271; Laios et al., 2003, p. 151). Charisma is excessive referent power where people are drawn to pay strong loyalty and devotion to a leader. Expert power is exercised when other people value what a certain individual can do in terms of job ability. All the members can be of influence to others since they can reward or offer privileges, withhold certain benefits or posses some level of expertise.

The designated leader may use other sources of power like referent, expertise, coercion or reward besides legitimate power (Bass & Bass 2008, p. 271). In case the designated leader has legitimate power only, then any other person from the groups with a wider source base of power may have greater influence than the designated leader (Raven, 2010, p. 232).

Theoretical Approaches to Leadership

Trait Approaches

This approach is based on the assertion that “leaders are not made but they are born”. Originally, people believed that leaders had inborn characteristics like intelligences and attractiveness which qualify them as leaders (Martin & Fallen, 2008, p. 220). Researchers have found significance relationships between particular individual traits and leadership. Good leaders often tend to be of higher intelligence quotient, were bigger in size and were generally attractive (Fairholm & Fairholm, 2008, p. 11). Nonetheless, the rest of the group members do have same traits as leaders and therefore current theorists disregard this idea that leadership is described solely based on personal traits.

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Style Approaches

These approaches concentrate on the patterns of conduct exhibited by leaders of certain groups. Significant studies have assessed three main styles of designated leaders; the democratic, autocratic and laissez-faire and give conclusion that leaders behave in these manners (Fairholm & Fairholm, 2008, p. 11). Democratic leaders influence members to participate in group decisions even when they are big decision and problem solving. The laissez-faire leaders are not authoritative and do not take much initiative to structure the group though they could respond to questions (Martin & Fallen, 2008, p. 220). Autocratic leaders have total and strict control on the members and they give tasks and orders. They make little effort to have others participate.

Contingency Approaches

This model assumes that the group condition is variable depending on situations and therefore need different leadership approach (Martin & Fallen, 2008, p. 220). Additionally, a single group’s situation can change with time just as Mohamed was flexible to change. Issues like tasks, available time and abilities of the members determine the kind of leadership appropriate for certain circumstances. Functional approach is part of the contingency model and offers two major types of functions that have to be performed by the group in order for it to be efficient (Martin & Fallen, 2008, p. 220); they are interpersonal function and task function.

Situational Models

This approach gives leaders ability to concentrate on particular aspects of a group’s situation so as to determine the best leadership style and then integrate and adjust to it accordingly (Fairholm & Fairholm, 2008, p. 11). A group matures differently and this is evident in this the leader who was a directional leader when most of the members were still new and changes to a coordinator as they became experienced in their roles.

Communicative Competencies Approach

This approach focuses on the way behavior of leaders especially communication influences interpersonal relationship. Leaders under this model assist the group to achieve their goals via communicating and this helps builds relationships that help cohesiveness of the team (Martin & Fellenz, 2008, p. 221).

Distributed leadership

Members and leaders take responsibilities collectively as a group (Martin & Fellenz, 2008, p. 221). This approach acknowledges the fact that every member is expected to carry out the roles communicated so as to enable the group meet its goals. Though this is rare, the group can survive without a designated leader.

Conclusion

Therefore I concluded that successful leadership was all about communication and influence. I observed that, the flow of information among the leaders that is Mohamed, Tamer and the new contractor Rameesh was very important for them finding an agreement and faster progress over issues. This respect for authority and good communication helped to build a cohesive team of workers as well.

From my observation, it was clear that there was a strong connection between group leadership and efficient problem solving ability of the team. The measures that Mohamed took were very appropriate for the group and the situation at the moment and these measures helped in making the team effective in execution of tasks. Due to the early strong guidance of the group, it became productive right from the beginning and maintained productivity having potential leaders in it (Sendjaya et al., 2008, p. 403).

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Group Conflict

Second student’s observation

Failing to express disagreement is referred to as groupthink concept and this type of thinking can gravely harm the ability of solving problems by a team (Carsten & Laurie, 2003, p. 743). Nonetheless, conflict should be properly managed to be able to attain the intended benefits.

As the team leader, Mohamed initially assumed a very directive role and as a result he made several assumption and suppositions he said were educated guesses concerning disciplines that were beyond his scope of expertise and responsibility. When the designs were give to consultant to help work on and this brought in very expensive changes in terms of finances and time wasting. The rest of the team was not happy with him and this lead to a conflict as Tamer confronted him. However, he was sensible enough to accept his mistake feeling poorly about his management style and direction of the project and therefore decided to involve Tamer and Rameesh and sometimes the workers in decisions he made.

This observation helped me identify Substantive Conflict. This is recognized by scholars as intrinsic conflict and it is the dispute that comes when people disagree based on ideas, issues, means and matters that are of great importance to the tasks of the group. The basis of efficient decision making is to draw insights from this concept since its in this way that people critically examine opinions, evidences, proposals, and thoughts and challenge them to come up with a agreement (Carsten & Laurie, 2003, p. 743). Mohamed and Tamer were able to reach an agreement through this process. If the substantive evidence is well managed, the group is able to function efficiently. Affective conflict, or extrinsic conflict, comes from interpersonal influence clashing with personality which is not related to the responsibility of the group.

Using Conflict to the Group’s Benefit

Even though affective conflict may be better left unexpressed, substantive conflict would not benefit the group save it be available to the group. The following guidelines are very beneficial in making sure that conflicts benefit the group rather than break it (Carsten & Laurie, 2003, p. 743).

The members should express their disagreements just like Tamer did as failure to do so, decreases the amount of satisfaction with the group and evades the genuine process of decision-making and consequently affects problem-solving ability of the group. When members do not speak up their minds, the group is deprived of potentially precious information (Carsten & Laurie, 2003, p. 745). It is important that the members keep to the matters at hand and deal directly with issues being discussed and do not bring up side issues or permit other matters to be the motivation of the discussion.

The members should express their disagreements sensitively and should not attempt pushing other people’s emotional buttons just as the structural engineer (Tamer) confronted the architect (Mohamed) with professional facts concerning the decisions he had made (Leslie et al., 2001, p. 6). The members should monitor the impact of their own expression and the impact they have on other people and then adjust communication properly. It is important that when a person disagrees with the ideas of another person, he/he not criticize him/her (Skipton, 2003, p. 5). Otherwise the group is at risk of developing defensive atmosphere where members cannot hold honest discussions.

Disagreement should be based mainly on reasoning and evidence rather than on emotions, insinuations, and rumors and this is what helped Mohamed and Tamer to resolve the problem easily. Therefore, when a person reacts to disagreement, he/he should do so with spirit of inquest and not being defensive (Skipton, 2003, p. 5). The response should not be as if one has been personally attacked but instead one should listen keenly to the remarks of the fellow member. This will enable an individual to clarify some misunderstandings and eventually work together to establish a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution (Leslie et al., 2001, p. 6). This way, the conflict works to improve the function of the group not to break it.

In the event a member feels that the other person is persistently attacking, then it’s better to stay calm though this is a very big challenge (Skipton, 2003, p. 9). First, one should not be intimidated by another into being quiet but confront the attacking member calmly given rational explanation of personal feeling and what was intended. For instance one could say “am resentful of your personal attack and I feel they are inapt. I am ready to listen to what you have to say but stop attacking me personally”. This could make the attacker apologize and become polite. In case this fails to work, then group’s intervention can be sought where others are asked whether they considered that personal attack, their thought on that (Leslie et al., 2001, p. 8). Their reaction is likely to mediate the situation.

Managing Conflict

Determining whether conflict assists or damages the process of problem solving of and team is dependent on how the conflict was managed (Jehn et al., 1999, p. 742). There are three styles of managing conflicts;

  1. Non-confrontational
  2. Control and
  3. Solution-oriented

Non-confrontational

This approach entails accommodation and avoidance and it passive in nature. This is where the disagreeing member says nothing or quickly concedes to the other. This approach has been determined to be appropriate only when dealing with unimportant issues and when the prevailing risks of bad decision are minimal (Avolio, 2007, p. 27). This can also work when the group considers the relationship among the team members to be indisputably more important than the issue at hand.

Control

This approach involves competition, dominance and win-lose situations. The approach is slightly aggressive where an individual or some individuals try to win the rest into their view points (Leslie et al., 2001, p. 7). In could cause serious heart feelings and hence inappropriate when the disagreeing parties strongly feel that their thoughts, opinions, or needs will not be acknowledged, appreciated or accommodated in the decisions.

Solution Oriented

This is a cooperative and assertive approach where the disagreeing members are brought together to work for common solutions so that their thoughts and needs are accommodated as much as possible (Jehn et al., 1999, p. 742). The approach encompasses issues of compromise, collaboration and negotiation as basic elements of solving disputes (Avolio, 2007, p. 28). This makes the approach very appropriate though takes a long time.

Solutions obtained from this approach often last since all of the members thoughts and needs are accommodated. However, sometimes it is very difficult to reach ideal solutions that meet everyone’s needs and such cases call for compromise and every member gives up something (Jehn et al., 1999, p. 742). This is effective when members perceive that what they gave up was fair compared to what the rest of the team members gave up.

Conclusion

Conflict is the differences that exist between the group parties where there is mutual opposition or contest. Conflict emerges when perceived opinions and interests of the parties or the group clash with each other and in a well performing group, this is often inevitable. This is because individuals always have differences in objectives and goals at personal level. Sometimes the conflict can be as a result of other factors beside goals like the way communication is done. Conflict can cause major in groups for this care the members used it to their advantage tapping out the positive outcomes of conflict.

The conflicts experienced here helped to stimulate new ideas and inspire creativity following the members’ attempt to find solutions. Conflict also held the group leader to reconsider his perception of the problem decision allowing opinions from all members to guide his decision. Peaceful resolution helped ease tension in the group and the argument provided necessary challenge leading to necessary change and therefore the group considered conflict as a catalyst for better job.

Group Productivity

Third student observation: I observed that based on the company norms and traditions, productivity was basically defined as doing the correct thing and doing t correctly. This is what Mohamed, Tamer and Rameesh insisted for the workers. The team was required to offer professional service and apply expertise to the project they were doing. The leadership emphasized on specific skills that were necessary for the team’s productivity.

Specific Skills

The following skills will enable the team to function well as the leaders purported.

Teamwork skills: Mohamed emphasized that whereas individuals would perform very well on their assigned individual responsibilities, working as a cohesive is very imperative in a construction project (Morse & Babcock, 2009, p. 169). Such projects entail coordination and integration of the employee activities that no one individual can do every task. This requires that there is constant exchange of information and this can only be achieved by a team without which the project can fail.

Specific technical skills: this includes the professional skills that each member has. The architect was expected to be competent in architecture and the construction engineer was expected to be competent in constructing engineering and so on. This formed the basis of competitive recruitment so that the company could have competent employees (Morse & Babcock, 2009, p. 169).

Situational skills: the employee should possess specific skills to help them adapt to the changing environment. The leader emphasized on this because every project is usually unique and also the environment where it will be done. As the world continues developing in the new market economy, these skills could as well be prerequisite for survival.

Strategic Alignment and Environmentally Adaptive

I observed that the leaders had defined culture and policies for the team. The vision and mission of the company defined what they wanted to do and who they wanted to be in the modern world. Mohamed always ensured that the decisions of the organization were aligned to the mission and vision of the company. This way, he says that the organization was able to turn the wider policy statements into actual processes and activities (Morse & Babcock, 2009, p. 170). There were also some measurements systems to monitor the execution of the plans with constant feedback to allow mid-process corrections.

To survive in the changing world has been a very crucial thing for the world today and the social, technological changes have been the social hallmark for this 21st century. Mohamed and his leadership team understood well that the reaction to change today meant a lot to their tomorrow’s survival. As customers needs shift, the organization has to change its processes so as to meet the customer requirements.

Innovative Intelligence

This is very important in making sure that the workforce is able to invent new processes and ways of doing projects. The workforce would depend on their creativity as a team. This cannot be just the work of the architect or the structural engineers but all the workers of the organization. The leader has to be very knowledgeable in responding to the employees’ creativity (Morse & Babcock, 2009, p. 170).

Mohamed has adapted a process where there is faster response to issues and opportunities. By giving the workers the autonomy to work, and freedom of creativity, the workers are empowered to know their processes and to relate with the rest of the team members. The teams are self directed with the leaders offering only coordination of the activities.

Cohesivenes

This basically refers to the forces that keep the members in the group like common goals, friendship, and match in their person needs etc. this can have some interference on the performance of the group when the members spend much time socializing then doing their jobs. Newcomers can have a rough time trying to adapt into a very cohesive group. However it is the role of the leader to assist in welcoming new members and making them adapt faster.

Finally, communication, participation and decision making became a collective role of the group as Mohamed assumed a coordinator type of leadership. The group employed open communication, equal participation and collective decision making.

Conclusion

An Effective leader must be able to know what is happening in the group, just as Mohamed knew that the new members were less skilled in the committee at the beginning but later he could trust them to do their jobs well as he only assume the role of coordinator. The right leadership and efficient project management are crucial issues to explore the most out of the employees. It’s also pertinent to manage the team as a collective resource not to waste any skills or expertise. Emphasis need to be put on the need for a cohesive team but most importantly is that the employees need to be adequately trained for their tasks.

Conclusion

Personal Reflection

Student 1

Leadership is human communication strategy that is used to influence attitude and behavior of other people so that they can function to achieve group goals and objectives. Good Leadership is the enacted via communication and influence and not forcefully pushing the members to work, just the ways we agreed to split out group work, Just as I did as the group leader. Moreover, only influence that is tailored to benefit the group can be appreciated as leadership by team members similar to the way I suggested that we split this for easy observation and inference of result and we agreed that that would give us the best outcome. This means that when a group member tries to influence others to sabotage the objectives of the group it is not considered leadership. A good leader is an individual who is able to influence others to behave or act in a better or responsible manner like doing this assignment autonomously but as a group as well.

Student 2

Conflict is described as an expressed dispute among people that have to work together like this study group, at some point we because of different opinions, goals and approach of how to do the assignment. Conflicts in any group are inevitable and they are also desirable. Disputes are natural events that happen when members have different points of view, values and objects yet they try to reach a consensus concerning a certain matter. This was evident in our group as we initially had different opinions on how we should conduct this study. We finally reached an agreement after discussion. This means conflict forms the core of effective problem solving the process of making decisions since this improves the team’s creativity and critical thinking. There is an adage that says when two people view issues in exactly the same manner, then one the individuals is unnecessary, this underscores the quality of disagreement. Group members who are going their job well have to disagree.

Student 3

Group productivity is very crucial in managing of teams so that there is flexibility. The leader can conduct tests for the team members who would like to enhance their skills and this will effectively identify hardworking employees. Besides, the leaders themselves need to have better skills in order to lead the group. This is why out group leader has to do extra work of finding out how the final report would be compiled to reflect the group’s conclusion. It is very important to understand how participation of members in teamwork, the team’s morale, the process of decisions making and cohesiveness is influenced by the group process.

This is why we were able to agree that the final decision would have to reflect everyone’s opinions. The group process evaluates how members of a team work together to meet their targets. Essentially, teams spend a lot of time and energy struggling to attain goals and give little consideration to the group’s most precious resource, the individual members. For this cause we conducted a SWOT analysis and then addressed each other’s weaknesses like presentation skills, report writing skills, observations skills, note taking and how to avoid biasness. This is because it is the individual contribution that brings about group outcomes.

Reference List

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Jehn, K.A., Northcraft, G.B., & Neale, M.A., (1999). ‘Why Differences Make a Difference: A Field Study Of Diversity, Conflict, and Performance in Workgroups, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. p. 741-763.

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Martin, J., & Fellenz. M. (2008). Organizational Behavior & Management, New York: Cengage Learning EMEA, Pp. 220.

Morse, L.C & Babcock, D. (2009). Managing Engineering and Technology: An Introduction to Management for Engineers, New York: Prentice Hall, p. 169.

Raven, B., (2010). ‘The Bases Of Power: Origins and Recent Developments,’ Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 49, Issue 4, Pp. 227-251.

Raven, B., Schwarzward, J., Koslowsky, M., (2006). ‘Conceptualizing and Measuring a Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence,’ Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 28, Issue 4, Pp. 307 – 332.

Sendjaya, S., Sarros, J.C., & Santora, J.C., (2008). ‘Defining And Measuring Servant Leadership Behavior in Organizations,’ Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 45, Issue 2, pp. 402-424.

Skipton, L.H., (2003). ‘Leadership Development for the Postindustrial, Postmodern Information Age,’ Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 55 (1), pp. 3-14.

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