Team Building Research
This document will define teams and team work, look at the history of team work development and the implications of current theory and practice for the work of human resource developers (HRD).
made up of individuals who see themselves and who are seen by others as a social entity, who are interdependent because of the tasks they perform as members of a group, who are embedded in one or more larger social systems (e.g., community, organisation), and who perform tasks that affect others (such as customers or co-workers) (pp.308-309).
These research findings spurred companies to seriously consider the idea of grouping their employees into effective work teams and to this day they are still important considerations for human resource developers (Dyer, 1990).
Psychology and Team Buiding
Unfortunately whereas the T-group method was successful in groups of strangers, who usually disbanded and never met again, they had mixed results when used with groups composed of persons who had worked together for years in the same department and had to continue to be responsible for issues raised in the group. Slowly the methodology shifted from the unstructured T-group to a more focused, defined process of training a group of interdependent people in collaborative work and problem-solving procedures. A more recent view of team development has focused on naturally-occurring, task-driven, organisational work groups. Morgan, Salas, and Glickman (1992) stated that in contrast to the traditional view, these later findings indicate that team development does not necessarily progress gradually, in linear, lock-step fashion, through clearly demarcated phases(p.280).
To effectively help teams make work contributions, HRD professionals need to understand what is meant by performance. For both work teams and organisations, performance can be measured by at least seven causally related criteria: effectiveness, efficiency, quality, productivity, quality of work life, innovation, and profitability/budget ability (Sink, Tuttle, & Devries, 1984). Guzzo and Dickson (1996) state that there is no single, uniform measure of performance effectiveness for groups and instead opt for indicators (a) group-produced outputs (quantity or quality, speed, customer satisfaction, etc.), (b) the consequences a group has for its members, and (c) the enhancement of a team's capability to perform effectively in the future.
Despite this lack of hard evidence, there are plenty of statistics to show how companies have benefited greatly from using teams. Procter & Gamble reduced manufacturing costs by 30 to 50 percent by implementing teams, Aid Association for Lutherans experienced a 20 percent increase in productivity whilst slashing case processing time by 75 percent, and insurance company Shanandoa Life reduced case processing time from 27 to 5 days (Antonioni, 1996). Although there seems to be insufficient research and data to create a coherent model for HRD professionals to follow, there are plenty of variables that have both supported and impeded the formation of successful teams.
Affecting Team Effectiveness
Antonioni (1996) supports the idea that how a team performs depends on the management of two major factors: performance and process. The performance factor focuses on what results are expected of the team. It also deals with the structure of the team's tasks. The process factor focuses on how the team interacts in meetings and focuses on maintenance of the team. Team leadership revolves around team performance, while team synergy arises from team processes.
Affecting Team Failure
Both managers and workers have expressed dissatisfaction, anger and exasperation over a team's frequent inability to generate good decisions. One reason for these frustrations is that people in a team commonly feel that other team members decrease their chances for personal success. This is especially true with high performers who may frown on teams because their individual work ethic is often less noticed in a group. As a result, many team members hold back their effort and instead concentrate their energy on individual goals (Bartol & Hagmann, 1992).
Measuring Team Effectiveness(TE)
These structural features include (a) a task structure that is clear and consistent with a group's purpose and high on what Hackman calls motivating potential...the team has a meaningful piece of work to do, for which members share responsibility, and accountability and that provides opportunities for the team to learn how well it is doing (p.10); (b) group composition that provides an appropriate size and mix of talents and interpersonal skills needed for communication and co-ordination with one another; and (c) core norms that regulate member behaviour and promote co-ordination and continuous scanning of the performance situation and pro-active planning of group performance strategies (p.11). These initial conditions also include an organisational context that supports and reinforces excellence through its system of rewards, education, and information, and makes available expert coaching and consultation assistance regarding effort, knowledge and skills, and performance strategies (pp.11-13).
'They begin in a world of action and contribute to it. Their insights may be directly interpreted and put to use; for staff or individual self-development, for within-institutional feedback; for formative evaluation; and in educational policy making' (p.123).
He goes on to say that by carefully attending to social situations, case studies can represent something of the discrepancies or conflicts between the viewpoints held by participants.
He also states that case studies present research or evaluation data in a more publicly accessible form than other kinds of research reports and that the form of the presentation is usually less dependent on specialised interpretation than in the case of conventional research reports.
When weighing up the issue of qualitative and quantitative research, this research project is primarily concerned with qualitative research, whilst recognising that quantitative research plays a part in relating the extent to which the actual numbers of participants correlate to several issues. Contrasting quantitative with qualitative research, quantitative is described as:
concerned with the collection and analysis of data in numeric form. It tends to emphasize relatively large-scale and representative sets of data, and is often falsely in our view, presented or perceived as being about the gathering of facts. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is concerned with collecting and analysing information in as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible (Blaxter et al., 1996).
"Qualitative" implies a direct concern with experience as it is "lived" or "felt" or "undergone". (In contrast, "quantitative" research, often taken to be the opposite idea, is indirect and abstract and treats experiences as similar, adding or multiplying them together, or "quantifying" them). Qualitative research then, has the aim of understanding experience as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it (Sherman & Webb, 1988, p.7).
We employed new paradigm research and utilised the model of co-operative enquiry. Researchers interacted with the participants so that they could contribute to hypothesis-making, to what went on during the three day training and to formulating the final conclusions. So as researchers, we asked the participants certain questions as laid out by Heron (in Rowan & Reason, 1981) such as:
'Did you in fact construe what was going on from the way that I have interpreted your reaction to the process as expressed in my research conclusions?' And again
'When you produced that piece of behaviour during the research, was your intention in doing it consonant with my interpretation in these conclusions?' (p.22).
The primary strength of new paradigm research and its fundamental claim to being a valid process according to Rowan & Reason (1981) 'lies in its emphasis on personal encounter with experience and encounter with persons' ( p.242).
They go on to say that the two main ways in which the validity of inquiry may be threatened are through unaware projection and through consensus collusion. They offer 8 processes which if used skilfully may be used to increase the validity of an inquiry.
1) Valid research rests above all on high quality awareness on the part of the co-researchers. As qualified therapists we have made high quality awareness an integral and important part of our work.
2) Such high quality awareness can only be maintained if the co-researchers engage in some systematic method of personal and interpersonal development. All Paradox UK facilitators have at least 5 years of personal development through therapeutic training and personal therapy and have had ongoing training for professional development, including working with groups.
3) Valid research cannot be conducted alone. We employed an additional researcher as mentioned above to run the training days, both for the purpose of support and for challenging and confronting issues.
4) The validity of research is much enhanced by the systematic use of feedback loops, and by repeating the research cycle several times. The training days were designed to offer feedback to participants throughout the three days and material which was fed back from participants did influence the direction of training. Due to the psychological nature of this training, evaluation was limited to before and after the training to allow participants to fully enter into the experience.
5) Valid research involves a subtle interplay between different forms of knowing. The training days employed an experiential base combined with practical knowledge, whilst encouraging more subtle processes such as intuition, reflection and creative thinking. Emotional intelligence as well as analytical thinking was supported.
6)Contradiction can be used systematically. We actively and consciously used each other as sounding boards to challenge, contradict and disprove the data in order to see what held up as a result.
7) Convergent and contextual validity can be used to enhance the validity of any particular piece of data. As mentioned earlier, multiple methods and viewpoints were used in the training, and the feedback process was tailored to obtain information on each individual method rather than generalised comments. The extent to which the received feedback from the different methods converged served as a measure of data validation.
8) The research can be replicated in some form. The three day training is a stand-alone module which can be run and re-run and has formed part of a number of modules offered on varied subject areas.
Looking overall at the case study methodology and the use of participant observation, Bailey (1978) identifies some advantages in the participant observation approach. He mentions that observation studies are superior to experiments and surveys when data are being collected on non-verbal behaviour. He also states that in observation studies, investigators are able to discern ongoing behaviour when it occurs and are able to make appropriate notes about its salient features.
Cohen and Manion (1998) mention that the accounts that typically emerge from participant observations are often described as subjective, biased, impressionistic, idiosyncratic and lacking the precise quantifiable measures that are the hallmark of survey research and experimentation. They go on to say that comments about the subjective and idiosyncratic nature of the participant observation study are to do with its external validity and ask the question 'How do we know that the results of this one piece of research represent the real thing, the genuine product?'
We have used new paradigm research to argue that the real thing or the genuine product is neither subject nor object, but rather emerges from the relationship between the subject and object within its surrounding context.
'This means that any notion of validity must concern itself both with the knower and with what is to be known: valid knowledge is a matter of relationship' (Reason & Rowan, 1981,p.241).
Heron (in Rowan & Reason, 1981) uses the model of cooperative enquiry to put forth the idea that 'for an authentic science of persons, true statements about persons rest on a value system explicitly shared by researchers and subjects, and on procedural research norms explicitly agreed by researchers and subjects on the basis of that value system' (p.33).
New paradigm research demands a distinctive training environment with as much dialogue, affirmation of experience, and sharing of responsibility as possible. In the positivist paradigm, people are basically reduced and alienated because they are studied in contrived situations; if studied in their natural settings, then their particularity is eliminated. The trivialisation of people and their subsequent manipulation for the purpose of research designs leads to findings which are themselves trivial and suitable for objects rather than people (Freire, 1994).
In keeping with new paradigm research methods we have employed new paradigm interview techniques. It was found that traditional scientific models of interviewing were inadequate, particularly with respect to the shifting dynamics of power in interview relationships. Fred Massarik (in Rowan & Reason, 1981) proposes a typology of interviews for new paradigm research. Of these, we utilised a mixture of the 'rapport interview' which goes beyond the 'cut-and-dried' approach and tries to create a genuinely human relationship; the 'depth interview' which is characterised by a more intensive process of thorough exploration; and the 'phenomenal interview' which is characterised by mutuality of trust, a commitment to joint search for shared understanding and a readiness to 'actively examine and disclose both remote and accessible aspects of their lives, including experiences, present responses, and imageries' (p.203).
This is in direct contrast to the traditional conceptualisation of the research interview which is grounded in a masculine, positivist paradigm. This paradigm encompasses several assumptions, including a unidirectional flow of information from interviewee to interviewer, the sovereignty of objectivity, and the value of decontextualising and depersonalising the interview relationship. These assumptions deny the agency of interviewees and disempower the research 'subject' (Limerick, Burgess-Limerick, Grace, 1996, p.449).
There are three issues Robson (1997) discusses when sampling in a single case study that I considered: choice of person; linking people, settings, events and processes with research questions; and time.
There is a need to think, in terms of sampling, about why one chooses one kind of person to interview or observe. Why this kind of person and what are the implications for other choices of persons.
The choice was made to select participants who have had previous experience of team building for their ability to compare and contrast between the two methods of training.
One is sampling people, setting, events and processes. So it is important to link these with the research questions to consider how one can sample to get unbiased answers making efficient use of everyone's time.
All participants were asked the same questions in the same format in one to one interviews where possible.
Because time is an issue, one strategy is to start with a 'fall-back' sample; those things which you simply must cover if one is to answer the basic questions.
As well as pre and post interviews there was also a questionnaire evaluation at the end of the three day training session which related both to the evaluation of the training days and to answering the question proposed for the main research.
Having no alternative model to compare current approaches, we devised a 9 stage multi-faceted model which we tested out on 13 participants. By introducing an approach that attempts to appreciate the person as a whole, as opposed to treating individuals in isolation, we attempted to demonstrate that by bringing awareness to the totality of a person's life, a greater understanding of its inter-relatedness could be gained.
The experiential nature of the training days and the variety of approaches used (i.e. self-reflection, pair work, group work, creative expression etc.) addressed the notion that collaborative enquiry spans four different 'territories' of human reality : 1) the outside world 2) one's own behaviour 3) one's own and other's thinking and feeling 4) the dynamics of human attention as it gains, loses or changes focus and as it narrows or widens the number of qualities of which it is aware (Torbet in Rowan & Reason, 1981, p.441).
The three day training days are drawn from the specifically devised model shown below:
This model drew upon the research of new physics, in particular the ideas expressed in systems thinking. The main characteristics of systems thinking emerged simultaneously in several disciplines during the first half of the century, especially during the 1920s. This new paradigm was pioneered by organismic biologists, gestalt psychologists and ecologists who emphasised the view of living organisms as integrated wholes. According to Capra (1997), the systems theory view is that the essential properties of an organism, or living system, are properties of the whole, which none of the parts possess. They arise from the interactions and relationships between the parts. These properties are destroyed when the system is dissected, either physically or theoretically, into isolated elements (p.29).
In the systems approach, the properties of the parts can be understood only from the organisation of the whole, as opposed to analysis which takes a thing apart in order to understand it. In the world of physics, this tendency to dissect is also characterised as discrete entity thinking and belongs to the Cartesian paradigm.
The newly devised model challenges the limitations of current approaches by supporting the totality of the individual, the field they occupy, and the emergence of new patterns. In this way a person can gain an understanding of the interrelationship and inherent connections that may be contributing to dysfuntionality of the group.
Process-orientated psychology has embraced systems thinking and has combined it with gestalt and Jungian psychology (a research-based organisation that examines new methods for treating symptoms) and argues that symptoms are not dysfunctional, but highly functional. Joseph Goddbread (1997) maintains that the system whose functions they promote is simply not always in accord with the way their bearer wants to be able to function. The deadlock that can arise from this disagreement can result in everything coming to a standstill (p.31).
This research has now been incorporated into the Paradox UK Three Act Paradigm and forms the basis of our new and exciting approach. With our new multi-dimensional approach we are able to bring new and profound transformations to group dynamics and create a whole new era in creative group processing. See: Case Studies
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