Building Effective Teams

This essay has a total of 5438 words and 23 pages.

Building Effective Teams

In this age of rapidly changing technology, market-driven decision making, customer
sophistication, and employee restlessness, leaders and managers are faced with new
challenges. Organizations must build new structures and master new skills in order to
compete and survive.

As work settings become more complex and involve increased numbers of interpersonal
interactions, individual effort has less impact. In order to increase efficiency and
effectiveness, a group effort is required. The creation of teams has become a key strategy
in many organizations. Team building is an essential element in supporting and improving
the effectiveness of small groups and task forces and must be a key part of a total
program of organizational change.

Hellriegel, Slocum, & Woodman (1986) state that team building is used to improve the
effectiveness of work groups by focusing on any of the following four purposes: setting
goals and priorities, deciding on means an methods, examining the way in which the group
works, and exploring the quality of working relationships. A cycle then develops; it
begins with the awareness or perception of a problem and is followed sequentially by data
collection, data sharing diagnosis, action planning, action implementation, and behavioral
evaluation. This style is repeated as new problems are identified.

Not all work groups are teams. Reilly and Jones (1974) list four essential elements of
teams: goals, interdependence, commitment, and accountability. The members must have
mutual goals or a reason to work together; there must be an interdependent working
relationship; individuals must be committed to the group effort; and the group must be
accountable to a higher level within the organization. A good example is an athletic team,
whose members share goals and an overall purpose. Individual players have specific
assignments they are responsible for, but each depends on the other team members to
complete their assignments. Lack of commitment to the team effort reduces overall
effectiveness. Finally, the team usually operates within the framework of a higher
organization such a league.

The overall objective of a work team is to exercise control over organizational change
(functionally, this involves increased decision-making and problem-solving efforts),
although a side effect may be to increase the productivity of individual members. A
primary objective of team building is to increase awareness of group process. In essence,
the group members will learn how to control change externally by experimenting internally.
The team-building effort will concentrate on barriers to effective functioning and the
selection of strategies to overcome these barriers.

Organizational failures often are not a result of poor leadership but of poor
followership. Few training programs teach how to be an effective member of a democratic
group. A team member is one of a group of mutual followers. Observation of individuals
functioning within teams leads to the following list of characteristics of an effect team
member. Such a person:

,h Understands and is committed to group goals;
,h Is friendly, concerned, and interested in others;
,h Acknowledges and confronts conflict openly;
,h Listens to others with understanding;
,h Includes others in the decision-making process;
,h Recognizes and respects individual differences;
,h Contributes ideas and solutions;
,h Values the ideas and contributions of others;
,h Recognizes and rewards team efforts; and
,h Encourages and appreciates comments about team performance.

These characteristics are in sequential pattern, alternating task and relationship
behaviors. This pattern of behaviors is the starting point for the development of
effective team building.

Team Building is a planned change intervention that focuses on the dynamics of a team¡¦s
functioning. The purpose of team building is to improve the team¡¦s capacity to adapt,
allow members to function at their most productive resourceful levels, and to achieve the
teams goals. In developing teams there are four different stages that must be fully
accomplished in order to reach its mission through achieving higher quality in the
workplace. These stages in sequence are: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The
first three stages of team development must be completed in order to achieve stage four.
In each stage there are distinct behaviors, feelings and questions which team members can

In stage one, Forming, personal relations are peculiar by strength. Team members depend on
considerate and imitated behavior and look to the team leader for standpoint and guidance.
The conjoint or mutual feelings that are used in forming are:

,h Excitement, expectancy, and uniformed optimism.
,h Happy to be selected as being part of the team.
,h Showing conditional attachment to the team.
,h Having doubts, concerns and uncertainty about the job or the task ahead.

The team members also have questions and remarks that they expect to be answered by team developers, they are:
,h ¡§Who are all these people?¡¨
,h ¡§Why Am I here?¡¨
,h ¡§Everyone is being so polite.¡¨
,h ¡§This might be kind of exciting.¡¨

An effective and efficient behavior is expected from the team leader. A leader should
answer all the questions the team members have. A leader should also guide them through
each step and verify the expected need of each member. A team will be formed efficiently.
All of the teams ideas and goals will have a positive effect in the organization.

The second stage, Norming, is characterized by cohesion within the team. Team members
recognize each other¡¦s positions and benefits and are willing to change their
preconceived ideas to achieve common consent. The common feelings that are used in Norming

,h Team members have the ability to communicate without being afraid of retaliation.
,h Team members accept their membership to the team.
,h Feeling comfort that certain things will go the way they were planned.
,h Team members are friendlier and they share more revealing feelings with each other.

The questions and comments that are stated in Norming are:
,h ¡§How are we going to get along with each other?¡¨
,h ¡§What are the rules of membership?¡¨
,h ¡§Seems like we are all on the same track finally.¡¨
,h ¡§We seem to be operating more unified, and we try to avoid conflict, when possible.¡¨

In Norming, the team members finally put the fear of failure behind them. They are willing
to work out any conflict that may occur. Positive and negative feedback becomes more
accepting within the team. As feedback increase, members have a better understanding of
where they stand and become more involved in decision making.

In stage three, Storming, rivalry, competition and conflict in personal relationships
characterize team members. Roles and goals are questioned and challenged. The common
feelings the team members have are:

,h Resistance to the task and way things is being planned.
,h Major differences in postures about individuals.
,h Responsibilities in the organization.
,h Differences in the project hazards for success and promotion.
,h There is a tremendous amount of competition and jealousy among team members.

The questions and comments that are stated in this stage are:
,h ¡§What is my relationship to these people?¡¨
,h ¡§What do they expect from me?¡¨
,h ¡§What do I want from them?¡¨
,h ¡§There seem to be actions developing over power and who is right and wrong.¡¨
,h ¡§The goals are too ambitious.¡¨

It is natural for team members to question their existence in the team. After all, it
takes a while to get accustomed to the people you work with in an organization. It is
natural for team members to be challenged and compete with each other. One important
aspect in storming is to be open and honest with each team member. That way, members can
learn from each other¡¦s different experiences and perspectives.

In stage four, Performing, people are able to work individually, in either smaller groups
or as whole group. Roles and responsibilities change based on the commitments of the
group. The collective or shared feelings that are used in Performing are:

,h Members have a high degree of trust in each other.
,h Better understanding of each other¡¦s strengths and weaknesses.
,h Overall pride and satisfaction over the teams progress.
,h Members have insights into personal and group processes.

The questions and comments that are stated in Performing are:
,h ¡§Am I a valued contributor to this team?
,h ¡§I¡¦ve learned quite a few things about myself and others while on this team.¡¨
,h ¡§We¡¦re a close team, and we all support each other.¡¨

The team members perform at a very high level of effectiveness and efficiency. They have
already conquered all the obstacles that had to be dealt with in the previous stages. In
order to be successful in stage four, Team members must complete and overcome the first
three stages of team development.

In all the four stages, there are complimentary facilitator approaches that can be applied
in order to make each stage more reliable. In forming, a directing approach is used. This
approach provides clear directions by telling people what to do, when, where, and how to
do it. A coaching approach is used in Storming. This is also a form of directing, but also
includes providing support to reinforce team members willingness and enthusiasm. Goals and
expectations are redefined based on the team¡¦s reactions and training is offered for
tasks and processes. A supporting approach is used in Norming that entails a more
non-directive approach. Leadership shifts more to group members for more self-management
and acknowledgment of the group¡¦s efforts. A delegating approach is used in Performing.
This employs a low profile providing little direction and support. Team members determine
what, when and how to accomplish tasks and processes. Leaders monitor and track
performance goals.

One of the very essential skills that all qualified managers should acquire is being able
to conduct effective team meetings. Meetings occur so frequently in organizations, that
many times managers do not take the time to plan them out. This lack of preparation comes
across to the employees and often is the reason why they do not view meetings with
enthusiasm. Meetings are also very important because through them you convey ideas,
strategies, and desired goals to your employees. Unit efficiency and management
effectiveness is dependent on this ability.

There are four steps that managers should keep in mind when preparing an effective
meeting. The first of these steps is purpose. What is the reason for the meeting? On
occasion, money and time is wasted on meetings, when this same information could have been
circulated in a memo or letter. Sometimes the cost of having the meeting is higher then
the possible outcomes. Other times, key people are not able to attend the meeting, which
would make having one a waste of time. There are four guidelines that can be followed to
determine whether it is necessary to conduct a meeting. They are:

,h When there is more than one person with pertinent information and group ideas and planning is needed,
,h When commitments are required by the team members,
,h When the group requires the same important information and feedback is necessary, and
,h When problem solving and decision making is necessary in a group format.

The second step to planning an effective team meeting is related to the participants. Who
do you want at this meeting? The size of the group depends on what kind of meeting you
plan to have. Certain meetings such as decision making and problem solving meetings should
not have more than five participants. This will insure that tasks get accomplished
effectively. Problem identification and brainstorming meetings can have up to ten
participants. This meeting size should continue to maintain an effective structure,
however, idea stimulation from other group members is also necessary. On the other hand,
informational meetings may have upwards of thirty participants. More over, formal
presentations could have an unlimited number of participants.

The third step in conducting effective team meetings concerns planning. Planning will
allow the manager to successfully convey his/her message or goals to the team members.
Often times when managers to not thoroughly plan a meeting, the participants are
overwhelmed with information and may miss or tune out critical and crucial information. A
manager should follow certain rules and guidelines in order to make each meeting
effective. One of the rules a manager should follow is the rule of halves. This rule
states that all agenda matters pertaining to an upcoming meeting should be given to the
person responsible for drafting the agenda at least half of the time interval between the
last and upcoming meeting. Another rule is the rule of three fourths. This states that
packets of information should be given to the participants at the three-quarter point
between two meetings. The agenda rule states that agendas should always be written with
action words. This will give participants a clear picture of what to expect in the meeting
as well as motivation to attend. The rule of sixths states that two thirds of the meeting
should be focused on current topics. However, the other third should be divided into two
sixths. One of these sixths should be to discuss past meetings and do follow-up. The
second sixth should be used to discuss future agendas. This ensures that current topics
are not forgotten or derailed. The rule of thirds states that meetings should be divided
into thirds. The first third should be a warm-up period, the second should be a heavy work
period and the last third should be a period of winding down. The report rule suggests
that all reports given to meeting participants should contain an executive summary. This
eliminates the need of having to look through the entire report to find information. The
agenda integrity rule states that all agenda items must be discussed. This assures that
all topics are covered. The temporal integrity rule states that all meetings should begin
and end at the scheduled times. The last rule to remember is the minute¡¦s rule. This
rule recommends that the minutes should have the following three characteristics:

,h Minutes are relevant to the agenda
,h Minutes are based on content in the agenda
,h Minutes reflect the decisions, conclusions and actions that were taken during the meeting.

The final step in conducting effective team meetings represents the process meetings
should take. There are seven steps that can be followed to conduct an efficient meeting.
The first step is to review the agenda and tasks that need to be completed as well as
discussing any progress made on previous meetings. The second step is the introductions.
All of the participants should be properly introduced to help everyone feel more
comfortable with each other. The third step involves developing and implementing the
ground rules. The appropriate and inappropriate participation of the group should be
discussed. Participants should also discuss and agree on the manner in which decisions
should be made. This should result from a vote: majority rule, straw vote, consensus, or
ranking among others. The fourth step is listening to reports. These reports should come
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