Team Members at Big Blue

Introduction

The team effectiveness model created by Tannenbaum, Beard, and Salas has three key components; that is, input, throughput, and output. Input consists of individual characteristics, team characteristics, work structure, and task structure. Team processes and team interventions make up the throughput aspect while output consists of team performance, team changes, and individual changes. These aspects are essential in the determination of how the Big Blue team could have avoided its predicament 3 hours before their presentation.

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Some teams are effective at the individual level, but they fail to live up to expectations at the team level. This failure stems from structural and process glitches in the team; such was the case at Big Blue. Anne explains that she was quite impressed with the progress that the South African team had made. However, when they needed to come together as a group, the two groups failed to deliver. It was the team processes and structures that let them down.

Main body

One of the team inputs identified in the Tannenbaum model is task characteristics. The authors state that if a task is complex, then team performances can be affected. Effective teams realize the difficulty of their tasks from the beginning and work towards improving them. They organize themselves on the basis of task types. It appears as though Big Blue’s team did not realize the complexity of their task. If they waited, until the last three hours, to determine who would be making the presentation, then this is indicative of their inability to construe task characteristics. They can work on understanding task complexity the next time they carry out a project.

Team members at Big Blue could have improved their work structure in order to avoid their predicament. Work structure is a highly relevant aspect of team processes. Teams have to decide on how they will approach a given task. The Australian and South African team members needed to decide how they would split roles. It seems as though the members were clear on the theoretical aspects of the presentation because the South African and Australian teams worked on different parts of the assignment as was necessary. However, problems arose when deciding on work structures for the presentation. They would have avoided the predicament if the group clarified this aspect and broke down various elements of the work structure.

In the model, individual traits are a fundamental feature of success. Teams must bring persons with the right skills, abilities, and task proficiencies together. One must thus analyze whether the members of the Big Blue team had the right individual traits. First, their skills and proficiencies in their areas of specialty were quite impressive. James and Eugene had specialized in finance and law respectively. Clearly, these were components that were quite relevant to the project.

However, it is evident that few of the team members had consulting abilities. Their deficiencies in this area might have compromised their outcomes. During team formation, the organization’s leaders should have selected more consultants than specialists. When securing a bid for a consultation role, then consulting skills are vital. Persons who lack these abilities will undermine team effectiveness. Sadly, Big Blue failed to realize the importance of these skills. It could have avoided these challenges if it considered members of this group.

The final component of the inputs in Tannenbaum Beard and Salas’s model is team characteristics. Sometimes, teams may be cohesive or they may not. This quality is highly dependent on whether individuals feel that they belong. This was already a challenge for the members of the Big Blue project because they were in different geographical areas. The institution could have made up for these differences by opening up lines of communication between all members of the South African and Australian teams.

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As a result, they would have known each other and developed some degree of cohesiveness. Additionally, the group could have avoided its problems by allowing for more interactions between the two groups. The Australian team left for South Africa just one week before the presentation. It would have been more productive to do the reverse; dedicate two weeks to South Africa and one week to Australia.

In throughput, team processes allow members to transform resources into products. This encompasses the manner in which communication, conflict resolution, decision-making, and problem-solving takes place. This has a direct effect on team performance. Big Blue appears to have encountered problems in team processes thus explaining why it got frustrated three hours before the Mining Inc. pitch. First, members sought minimal clarification on how to resolve conflict or who would make ultimate decisions when Alex and Anne, as senior consultants, disagreed with one another. If the institution had selected a superior that would always be available at the call of the project team, then the company would have avoided this problem altogether.

Furthermore, the problem-solving process had not been clarified. If all the team members had a defined pathway for handling crises, then they would have dealt with the problem appropriately. Furthermore, communication as a process was not clearly mastered among all the team members. Many of them could not relate to these issues because they had not thought about the relevance of communication.

Team outputs cover performance, individual, and team changes. Perhaps the most critical component of output is team performance. To determine whether a team performed well, one must examine the productivity, costs, errors, time spent, quality, and quantity of services or products made. In this group, individuals could have analyzed performance through the number of services discharged; instead, one must look at the quality of the bid. In this case, the group did not focus on the final and most critical component of the project, which was the presentation. Furthermore, time use was a fundamental part of the output. It seems like Big Blue did not make adequate use of the time that they had to complete the tasks.

Team changes are a vital component of output. The institution can learn many things about conflict resolution and problem-solve in teams. It can also deduce a lot of information from cross-cultural interactions. Team expectations on task management changed dramatically because members of different cultures were working together. Zubair explained that he was not going to make a presentation because that was not the South African way of doing things. Big Blue will probably streamline team processes the next time it has a geographically diverse team. It will also work on communication pathways such that conflicts can be avoided and handled appropriately.

Individual changes are also other critical components of team outputs. This case can serve as feedback for how the company should select team members. It appears that the firm overemphasized specialist skills over consulting skills. Big Blue could use this information to select team members who have consulting skills. Alternatively, it may train its organizational members on those skills. If this takes longer than the company can handle, then it may be prompted to hire more specialists so as to deal with these projects as they come along.

Aside from team input, outputs, and throughput, the team effectiveness model also consists of other components like team intervention. This can occur through team building or training. Training is more specific than team building because it focuses on developing certain skills or attitudes. Conversely, team building is a process intervention that dwells on input from the team members. One of the technical skills that were missing from the Big Blue group was consultation skills.

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The members of the team could be taken through this course; especially those who are specialists. On the other hand, it is not sufficient to focus on technical aspects alone because the gaps existed in the team process aspects, as well. The company could take its members through team-based training. Here, they would learn about communication, problem-solving, and other related aspects. Attention should be given to team processes rather than team characteristics.

Team building is a critical intervention in the creation of effective teams. Big Blue could have considered the goal-setting approach. If this were the chosen approach, then the project team members could have agreed on the goals for the project. They would have known what their outputs were and thus accomplished them more seamlessly. This approach would also assist the team members to change their individual characteristics.

Members of the Big Blue project suffered from a lack of commitment and motivation in the team. By working on common goals, they would have increased their commitment and thus boosted outcomes. Team building through goal setting could also have assisted the institution in revising its team processes or structures.

When carrying out an intervention, a group also has the option of using the interpersonal approach. Big Blue could work on enhancing the way team members perceive each other. One way of achieving this would be to focus on team characteristics. Some of the traits they could work on are cooperation and trust. In Big Blue, it appears that Anne did not trust her colleagues to deliver a consultation pitch without including the firm’s business solutions. Team building in this school of thought would have helped the company to analyze how all the team members, including Anne, could trust each other with this aspect.

Team building can also occur through the role approach at Big Blue. The organization can work on improving its team members’ roles, as well as their work structures. This approach would ensure that the institution clarifies all aspects of a sales pitch prior to team development. In addition, problems of role ambiguity about the final presentation could be eliminated. Team characteristics may also be tackled by dealing with communication and coordination issues.

Conclusion

The problem-solving approach of team building could also have assisted the organization. They would look at all the organizational characteristics that led them to the deadlock. Thereafter, they would establish ways of dealing with it. This approach may encompass taking on team processes as well as dealing with organizational characteristics.

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