12. Team Development
Let’s look at two practical tools that can underpin team development. The first of these is a way of looking at communication processes.
Developing a small task group involves using a wide range of communicating behaviours. One way of looking at this is the TORI model developed by J. William Pfeiffer1. This involves four factors, each of which is a function of communication:
- Trust - confidence in other team members’ ability and attitude. Key questions: Do the other team members do what they say they are going to? Can you believe in them?
- Openness - the free flow of information, ideas, perceptions and feelings. Key questions: Do we share information about the task? Do we share information about our own feelings? This factor involves self-disclosure.
- Realisation - self-determination, role freedom. Key questions: What choice do I have in this group or task? How much freedom do I have to develop? This factor impacts upon the nature of the relationship in which the communication takes place.
- Interdependence - shared responsibility, reciprocal influence. Key questions: How much does my job depend on others in the team? How much do others depend on me? This factor also impacts upon the nature of the relationships.
You can use these four factors to build your own team within the vision you have developed and shared. Trust will come about when you yourself demonstrate your own trustworthiness and trust others. Openness will develop as you share information and feelings in a positive way. Realisation is about the amount of choice that you give to other team members and interdependence is about a shared vision of a common future.
Another way of considering the process of team communication involves the channels through which communication takes place. Whilst the TORI model assumes that everyone can 'talk' to each other, this may not be so. In the diagram below, we can see five methods in which a team can communicate information.
You should devise a suitable communication structure to meet the needs of your business. Consider the following:
- A one-boss structure will involve the manager dealing with lots of issues, which can be time-consuming. Where tasks are complex and open to interpretation, this load can be too heavy.
- A second way of looking at the communication process would be to introduce 'middle managers' who would filter the information to and from the boss. This could reduce the load on the boss (although it may not), but it will also increase the amount of time it takes to get things done. Team performance could be dependent upon the skills of your 'middle managers'.
- A third option is to put one 'manager' between the boss and the rest of the team. This design tends to be more efficient than the previous one, but fewer team members will have access to the team leader and the power invested in the one manager may be considerable, leading to confusion about who is the 'boss'.
- A fourth option is to pass information sequentially around the network. This has advantages in that it involves all team members, but again, information passage is slow. In fast-moving business situations, this may not be helpful.
- A final option is to consider a 'star' or all-channel network that allows each member to talk to everyone else. This design is useful where tasks are complicated and ambiguous, but bears the risk that people may get left out of the information loop. If your team members are good at communication, enjoy participation, can tolerate uncertainty and do not have too many conflicts, this may be the model to use.
Responsibility charting is a way of formally structuring roles so that no time needs to be lost negotiating or 'storming'. Responsibility charting assigns:
- R - Responsibility given to an individual in a group and outlines how that person will relate to others.
- A - Do some people in the team need to have their actions approved?
- C - Are there individuals who need to be consulted?
- I - Are there people whom the responsible persons need to keep informed?
For example, the roles and responsibilities of four people who work within a retail clothing shop might be:
||Sam - Assistant
||Jill - Display
||Jean - Display
||Joanne - Manager|
It is important to remember that whilst the internal mechanisms of a team are important - roles, relationships, etc, so is a team's relationship with its task. Teams will need tasks that suit their abilities; teams tend to work more effectively when involved in finite, measurable projects that involve the whole team and which they have the opportunity to complete.
Developing teams can be very useful. Teams tend to get things done. Team building is not, however, a partial process. Done properly, team building can release much of the energy locked within an organisation. A partial process can either not release the energy, in which case you’ve wasted your own time and effort, or release it in ways which you find hard to control.
It may help you to consider your own attitudes to teams by completing the exercise below: How do I feel about teams?
1 J. William Pfeiffer, 'A Handbook of Structured Experiences', University Associates, 1985.