Groups and Teams
This Chapter provides an overview of the core theories and issues surrounding the operation and associated dynamics of teams and groups. An outline of classical, scientific management theory is provided, focussing on the early work of Taylor (1911) and the view that workers would behave in a rational manner and that basic incentivisation approaches were sufficient (e.g. pay). This discussion then provides the basis for a subsequent examination of the behaviourist approach and how greater consideration is now given to the social factors shaping work and the actions/attitudes of employees. Critically, this introduces the challenges presented by some of the more informal structures within organisations and how this can shape group dynamics. A particular finding is how people may often follow group norms rather than take more rational decisions likely to be of greater personal benefit.
A distinction between groups and teams is made, noting that whilst all teams are groups, it does not necessarily follow that all groups are teams. Teams will support each other and are focussed on achieving shared goals whilst group members are independent of each other and work to individual goals.
The Chapter also outlines key theoretical models, such as Tuckman and Jensen’s (1977) views on team formation (forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning) and Gersick’s (1983) views on punctuated equilibrium. The nature and composition of what is likely to be an effective team is discussed, using Belbin’s (2004) framework to highlight the key roles involved (resource investigator, specialist, monitor/evaluator, teamworker, implementer, coordinator, shaper, completer/finisher and plant). In doing so, it is noted how the support and encouragement of other team members delivers what has been described as ‘process gain’.
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However, the Chapter also emphasises how the creation of a balanced and diverse team does not guarantee success. There must also be shared and agreed goals, agreement about how to work together, shared accountability as well as relevant and complementary skills. Poor performance can lead to process loss, where team members either cannot be bothered (motivation loss) or don’t make the best use of the skills within the team (co-ordination loss). ‘Social loafing’ can also emerge, where team members do not work as hard as they could as they are content to let other team members carry the load. Other challenges include ‘groupthink’ (collective decisions not reflecting the realities of the situation being faced) and polarisation (the group taking more extreme decisions than expected).
The impact of modern technology on team management approaches is examined, considering the operation of more virtual/remote teams and the mechanisms used to support them. It is emphasised that even with a greater reliance on the use of more dispersed teams, the same basic principles of selection apply. It is necessary to ensure that the team is established for the right reason and the factors essential for success such as shared goals are in place. Effective staff engagement is key as modern workers demand a greater personal return for their efforts and this will shape team/group performance levels.
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