The scientific research that gave birth to the Belbin Team Role theory started in the 70’s when funds were assigned to researchers from Cambridge and College of Henley to study the use of computer in management. The research started from a recurring phenomenon observed at Henley College that some teams performed better than others despite their homogeneity in terms of qualifications and experience. The problem related was that there seemed not to be a straightforward way to forecast which combinations of managers yielded the best results.
A management exercise was created in a controlled research environment where teams entered a competition under the observation of researchers. There were two innovative points about this approach that were that (1) the outcomes of the exercise, namely the teams’ performances, could be measured and compared on a single axis of success; in this case it was the amount of financial assets1 gathered by each team; and (2) that the ‘input’ of this process was quantitatively measured based on the observation of researchers and on psychological tests that members of the teams had to take beforehand.
In this way they could form different combinations of members based on the tests; check their performance and find causal links between input and output. The research went through five stages in which each member that wished to participate took the tests voluntarily and the financial outcomes were measured as an indicator of success. The stages evolved from observation and learning from the exercises to forming different combinations of teams; from which they could build and test hypothesis and start making forecasts.
Later on team members were allowed to orm their own combinations, which led to further learning and to more sophisticated forecasts. Nine years of research concluded with a very close prediction in a final exercise and a sound and compelling model that could be used in the consultancy world. The Apollo syndrome The first hypothesis to be tested was based purely on mental ability; the starting point was that cleverest people tend to get the best results when solving problems individually, therefore it was reasonable to think that a team formed by highly clever members would obtain better results than a team with a lower average intelligence.
The Critical Thinking Appraisal2 (CTA) was used to measure mental ability and members with the highest CTA scores were grouped together in teams called Apollo teams. The outcomes of the experimentation were quite revealing and contrary to the expected results. The Apollo companies turned out to be a big disappointment; out of twenty-five companies that competed in different exercises, only three came in the first place (i. e. 12%) and the rest felt out of the podium.
Only a small percentage were indeed effective teams, which clearly indicates that collective cleverness on its own was not a sufficient ingredient for success and definitely not an accurate predictive criterion. The results were useful to analyze the flaws in Apollo teams and to draw useful principles in building effective teams. Members of these companies engaged in abortive debate trying to convince other members of their point of view.
Apollo companies usually got involved in open confrontations of ideas and strategies; they tended to act on personal beliefs and maintain their opinions without consideration of what others were doing or thinking. As a result there was a limited constructive debate and teamwork, which neutralized every potential individual contribution. Managers are expected to produce results, and a reasonable way to measure results in companies is in terms of financial outcomes. That’s why financial assets were chosen as the criterion to evaluate team effectiveness.
CTA or Critical Thinking Appraisal measures the mental ability of a person in five areas: inference, assumptions’ recognition, deduction, interpretation and evaluation of arguments. Page 1 of 10 2 1 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 Successful Apollo teams. Occasionally Apollo teams did excel in the exercises. In these cases the Chairman played a decisive role, either by exerting a dominant influence over the rest or by having a special character. Why?
A possible explanation of why these seemingly promising teams were so ineffective is linked with the selection criterion that is the high score in CTA. The word critical has two meanings associated, one is linked to mental acumen and analytical ability, and the other is related to expression of adverse and disapproving judgement. From the PPQ3 it was found that people with high CTA also had high negative constructs ratios, which are related to the second meaning of the word ‘critical’; that is clever people expressed more negative comments and opinions about the world around them, making them appear as having a negative perspective.
Creating high negative constructs is usually detrimental for the social interactions and teamwork. Conclusions. People with high analytical abilities are not necessarily creative. Good ideas need time and especially favourable conditions to develop; which was not the case of Apollo teams. Destructive tendencies would dominate and any potential talent would be brought down, making Apollo teams fail to be creative and effective. “Apollo companies usually had all the talent, at least in a technical sense, that was needed if only they knew how to use it”. Similar Personality Teams
The “Personality” factor was generally difficult to assess per se and it was even more difficult to link with team effectiveness, but still it emerged as being more important as a decisive advantage than pure mental ability. Therefore the next stage in the research study was to form teams with similar personalities. The teams were composed using two scales of personality, that is introversion/extroversion and anxiety/stability; which allowed to create four broad types. – Stable Extroverts. As a team they create bonds, enjoy the teamwork using resources well. Performance was overall good, but dependency among members was at times too strong. Anxious Extroverts. They are good at working under pressure and at a high pace. As a team they were entrepreneurial, with a good eye for opportunities and likely to end up in constructive disagreements. They were good for periods of change but unreliable and distractible otherwise. – Stable Introverts. As a team they were strongly organized but very slow to make progress and displayed a rigid mind to take in new information. – Anxious Introverts. As a team they could produce good ideas, but the lack of cohesion and a tendency for worrying resulted in poor performance.
Lessons learned from Stable Extrovert Teams. Extrovert teams tended to perform better than introverts, and overall Stable Extrovert teams performed better than all the other types, being Anxious Introvert teams usually the last ones. The behaviour of Stable Extrovert teams showed more proposing and less opposing than other companies, with commenting at a high level. Three patterns of effectiveness were devised: (1) good collective work, which allowed individual expression and important issues to be treated by discussions; (2) good internal ommunication, which was achieved by giving direct responsibility in pairs, so no major decisions were left to one member; and (3) excellent use of external resources, establishing good relations with external individuals that would later on turn into their advantage. Company Worker. There was a team member common to all successful teams. Based on the 16PF4 test scores, differentiators were identified and grouped into a cluster of factors. This team member was called Company Worker (CW) and was the first team role to be identified.
This member had the following characteristics: disciplined individual, conscientious and aware of PPQ is a test that stands for Personal Preference Questionnaire, it gives leads on personality and outlook. In other words how people see the world around or ‘construct’ their image of the world and how they are seen by others. 16PF is known as Cattell Personality Inventory and it’s a self-reporting questionnaire which comprises sixteen personality factors, each one described by two opposite words that form a scale; e. g. reserved/outgoing. Page 2 of 10 4 3 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT
ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 external obligations and a sense of self-image with good internal control. Tough-minded, practical, trusting, tolerant towards others and conservative. Validation experiments for CW were conducted during two years. Using both companies high in pure CW and low in CW. The results revealed strong limitations for pure CW companies; even with high mental ability they performed worse than average. Overall lessons. Each combination had certain advantages but faced particular weaknesses.
The main, and probably only, advantage of pure teams is that it’s easier to find a style of operation that fits everyone. Nevertheless pure teams are, in general, not an effective combination of people. The cases of Apollo teams, similar personality and pure CW show and support the fact that lack of diversity and a spreading of characteristics are detrimental for team performance. Creativity in the Team The capacity to innovate and to come up with creative solutions is important for virtually every company and it can be a source of competitive advantage.
Therefore companies have long been interested in how to foster new ideas from their employees. The methods used in those days can be grouped in two types. The first approach was to turn an already established team into an ideamaking team; i. e. everyone becomes creative and contributes with ideas. The problem is that most people are not gifted with highly creative minds; therefore this approach becomes a waste of manpower. The other method was to create two teams; one to generate a large number of ideas, the other to evaluate and select the best ideas.
This is advantageous for a limited number of applications, but in most teams that work with everyday tasks this approach is impractical. The alternative approach proposed and tested by Belbin was to “Induce a team to understand and to make better use of the individual talents of its members”. Identifying inside the team individual(s) that have the potential to contribute with ideas and establishing favourable conditions for them to use their creative minds. In order to identify those individuals with potential for creativity, the Cattell’s formula for Creative Disposition (CD)5 was used together with the CTA.
High scores on both scales indicated individuals with the most potentially creative profile, which was called the Plant6. The results after 38 cases supported the predictions. In 25 companies (out of 38) the predicted ‘Plant’ was identified by observers and other members as the first or second idea-maker inside the team. While conducting the exercises, a new group emerged with different attributes from the ones that Plants (PL) possessed, yet they were seen as idea-makers. While PL had average in negative constructs, with high value given to Brain and Originality; the new group showed instead high scores in Versatility.
PLs had a tendency towards introversion, while this group preferred extroversion and showed high sociability and enthusiasm, and low anxiety. Ideas were still a focus of interest, but they would rather pick up fragments of ideas from others and develop them; at the same time that they were astute at exploring resources outside the group. This new profile was given the name Resource Investigator (RI). Both are seen as innovators in a team. They contribute to the effectiveness of a company in similar yet different and complementary ways. Leadership in the team Leadership is vital for any organization and team leadership is no exception.
To change the direction or even to guarantee survival of a troubled company, the most common strategy is change the head of the firm. This leads to the reflection about the profile of an effective leader in a company or in a team, which this section seeks to answer based on Belbin’s research. According to Cattell’s formula: a creative individual has a distinctive set of personal qualities that lie embedded in his character and which do not depend on intelligence. 6 5 The name Plant was given because this individual was ‘planted’ in the company for experimental purposes. Page 3 of 10 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT
ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 Through observation of the members acting as Chairmen in the exercises, it was possible to identify a cluster that belonged to the most effective chairmen and it was shown that the outcomes of companies depended to a certain degree on the personality attributes of the team member in the Chair. After mapping the CTA scores of different chairmen, one interesting result appeared: cleverest chairmen were less successful than less clever chairmen. The average CTA of all members participating in the exercises was 74 (in a scale of 100).
The most successful chairmen were between 75 and 80, i. e. slightly above average. Less successful Chairmen, yet effective, were between 80 and 85; and all the rest yielded in general poor team performance. Besides being clever slightly above average, successful Chairman (CH) displayed characteristics such as ‘trusting by nature and accepting people’; they exerted a ‘basic dominance and commitment to external goals’; they were ‘calm and unflappable before controversy’; they showed practical realism and were self-discipline; they were ‘enthusiastic towards others and rather extrovert.
From the PPQ tests, the CH appeared as a person who thinks in very positive terms; showing approval for those who accomplish their goals and engage in struggle and effort. Other leadership qualities. From consultancy in industry, significant differences appeared between the profile of successful senior executives and the Chairman formula, which led to identifying the next Belbin team role. From the tests profiles and the behaviour observed, this new type of leaders was ‘extroverts abounding in nervous energy that actuated by the need for achievement’.
They challenged, they disagreed, they argued. They were impatient and easily frustrated and their main focus was on winning. Their capacity to dominate, to shape the way team effort is applied and to impose a course of action, gave them the name of Shapers (SH). Behaviour. In a team SHs can have opposite effects. On the one hand they can galvanize the group into action, any passivity and slow-pace signals would be pushed towards activity. On the other hand they represented a disruptive force in well-balanced teams; especially if the team was led by an effective CH.
As final considerations we can say that the two distinctive approaches to leadership are useful for different teams with different purposes and member composition. SHs are well suited for teams susceptible to stagnation, while CHs is better for well-integrated teams. Key Team Roles Belbin defines functional role as the “role that a member of a team performs in terms of the specifically technical demands placed upon him”. This is determined by the job demands that a member has to fulfil by supplying the requisite technical skills and operational knowledge.
On the other hand team role is defined as a “tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others inside a team in certain distinctive ways”. It describes a pattern of behaviour characteristic of the way in which one team member interacts with another where his performance serves to facilitate the progress of the team as a whole. Each team role is associated with characteristic types of personality measured by psychometric tests. Summary of Key Team roles7 Company Worker (CW). He is conservative, dutiful and predictable. He possesses great organizing ability, practical common sense, hardworking nature and he’s self-discipline.
At times he lacks flexibility and can be rigid towards new ideas. Chairman (CH). A calm, controlled and self-confident individual. They have the ability to welcome all potential contributors on their merits and without prejudice. They display strong sense of objectives, but rather limited in their intellectual and creative abilities. Some names were modified later on to better fit the description of the role. This summary uses the original names. The changes are: Company Worker (CW) became the Implementer (IM), Chairman became the Coordinator (CO) Page 4 of 10 7 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender
Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 Shaper (SH). They are highly strung, dynamic and outgoing. They challenge the inertia, ineffectiveness and complacency of the group by exerting a relentless driving force. They tend to be impatient and easily irritable causing provocation. Plant (PL). They are unorthodox, serious minded and rather individualistic. Their strengths include their genius, knowledge, imagination and intellect. Usually up in the clouds with a tendency to ignore practical details and protocols. Resource-Investigator (RI). They are extroverted, enthusiastic, curious and communicative.
Great capacity to deal with an extensive network of contacts, to explore new things and to respond to challenges. They are prone to lose interest once the initial fascination has passed. Monitor-Evaluator (ME). They are sober, prudent and unemotional. They have good sense of judgment and discretion, and the ability to spot controversial points in arguments. They may show a lack of inspiration and the incapacity to motivate others. Team Worker (TW). They have social skills and are mild and sensitive. They stand out for their ability to deal with conflictive characters and promote team spirits.
Their main weakness is indecisiveness in moments of crisis. Completer-Finisher (CF). They are painstaking, anxious, and conscientious about every task presented. They posses the ability to follow through and finalize tasks, they are perfectionists. They have a tendency to worry too much about small things and to be reluctant to delegate. Specialist (SP). Knowledgeable and technically skilful, usually experienced member. Contributes highly on his area of expertise, and may turn out to be indispensable for certain projects. He doesn’t possess the qualities of other team roles so he contributes on a limited front. Principle of Balance -
Team Roles in Pairs Specific pairs of team roles provide balance to the performance of the team from different viewpoints. They contribute with behaviours that may appear to be complete opposites but that are complementary at the same time, and therefore balancing, if used effectively (e. g. the contrasting leadership styles of CH and SH). This principle of balance is also common in nature and for almost every team role there’s a corresponding counter-balancing role that pushes towards stability. These are examples of the need for complementary behaviours in a team: (1) Providing the team with ideas and resources internally and externally.
This is the case of the PL and the RI in which both provide the group with a considerable flux of ideas. One retrieves to his own thoughts and reflections while the other makes external resources available to the group. (2) Leading the team by coordination against provoking disturbance to defeat stagnation. Both the CH and the SH type of leader offer complementary ways of bringing coherence to the functioning of the team. The CH pulls the group together towards a common goal while the SH pushes the team out of its point of equilibrium challenging them and putting them back to action.
Other cases worth mentioning are: (3) Creation (PL/RI) vs. evaluation of ideas (ME); (4) enthusiasm to jump into action (RI/PL/SH) against the ‘ability to thoroughly finalize anything that was started’ (CF); (5) behaviour that affects team spirit negatively (SHs) vs. the ability to avert potential frictions and enable conflicting member to work cooperatively (TW/CH). Unsuccessful Teams Teams that performed poorly in the management exercises provided very useful lessons on what to avoid when designing effective teams.
These lessons helped to established basic principles as well as to gather valuable information about what can go wrong if teams are badly composed. As it was found from the experimental exercises; morale is just a marginal factor for team performance, there was few evidence that linked them in a cause effect fashion. On the other hand the mental ability can be considered a critical factor. Every team needs at least one member Page 5 of 10 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 with high mental ability in a creative or analytical sense (i. . PL or ME). If this condition is not met, chances are that the team will have serious problems to perform. As previously discussed in the case of the Apollo team, if all members are clever the team will also perform poorly. Unfortunate combination of characters. The drawback of this case is that members are hindered from using their preferred team role. Individuals that have the potential to make a valuable contribution to the team are ‘blocked’ and the group is deprived of benefiting from them. The following table summarizes poor design combinations for each Belbin team role.
Belbin Role Chairman (CH) Plant (PL) MonitorEvaluator (ME) Company Worker (CW) Team Worker (TW) Shaper (SH) Resource Investigator (RI) CompleterFinisher (CF) In combination with: Two dominant SHs, both above average in mental ability Another PL (more dominant but less creative), and no candidate to take the chair. No PL and many TWs and CWs of high mental ability and stable disposition. With other CWs and no PL and no RI. With other TWs, CWs and CFs, but no RI, PL, SH or CH. Another SH (highly dominant but less clever), a super PL and two or more CWs With other RIs and PLs but no TWs, CFs, MEs or CHs With MEs and CWs but no RIs, PL or SH.
Consequence CH will most likely fail to get his job leading the team. PL will be inhibited and his creative contribution reduced or nullified Solid orderly working climate but will fail to consider alternative strategies and ideas. Team will lack direction, and the organisers (CWs) will not have much to organise. Over-conscientious and happy team anxious to reach agreement disregarding critical points. Unbalanced team where any action of the SH will meet provocation and aggravation, disturbing further the group.
An overly talkative group where no one listens, follows up points, or makes decisions. Slow-moving team where any intervention from the CF will further hinder progress. Winning Teams After nine years of extensive study of management teams, the research unit was able to make important discoveries and to make an accurate forecast of the performance of each team in a final management exercise. Probably the most remarkable outcome of this study was that the theory was validated by successful prediction; a quality that is seldom seen in social pursuit science.
These are the characteristics that are often seen in winning teams. The leader (person in the Chair). The person leading a winning team has to meet the attributes and characteristics of the CH profile as identified by the study. A patient yet commanding leader who is skilled to identify and foster the potential abilities of members. One strong Plant in the team. A winning team needs a very creative and clever member; creativity being an essential factor that has to be accompanied by high cleverness in a single person to yield a great advantage for the team.
High creativity with just average cleverness was however not a sufficient condition since the PL tended to lack credibility and respect in the team. A fair spread in mental abilities. As a general rule of thumb it’s a smart decision to avoid intellectually homogeneous combinations and to give priority to a wide spread of scores in mental ability. Best results were seen in teams composed by one very clever PL, another clever member, one CH with slightly above average mental ability and the rest of members with slightly below average cleverness. Wide team-role spread.
Winning teams had members that covered most or all of the Belbin team roles. There were differences between the EME and teamopoly in terms of combinations, but in general terms as expressed by Belbin “a winning company has a wider range of team-roles strengths on which to draw than less successful companies”. Good match between attributes of members and their responsibilities. A winning team has to allow its members to undertake functional roles that match their team role and personal characteristics and abilities (which is not often the case). An example of this is that the person Page 6 of 10 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT
ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 leading a project should have a team role preference for either CH or SH depending on the specific project. Most winning teams were seen to adopt a flexible pairing system, that is a pair of members would take care of specific functions. Thus mismatching was minimized or easily modifiable; allowing members to switch functional roles. Adjustment to the realization of imbalance. Probably the most important feature of winning teams is their ability to compensate weaknesses and to stimulate their strengths by adaptive pursuit.
They consciously take account of their potential team-role strengths, as well as compensate for their team-role weaknesses. These teams are able to see the important tasks, responsibilities and functions in terms of underlying team roles. Firstly they identify areas of weakness team-role-wise and then search for a member to be appointed to cover this area; someone who would represent the closest match for the missing team role. In this way there’s always someone suitable for any job and a fair coverage of team-roles is virtually guaranteed. Team Size
In the discussions of teams it’s worth to consider the implications that the size of the group of members has on the performance of the team. The first consideration to make is that the size of a team will depend on the need of human resources to undertake the workload of a project. Larger projects will naturally require a bigger team and vice versa, however there are limitations to this. The ideal size of a team can be found considering the conflicting forces at stake; the need for more members to keep up the workload against the need to keep the team small to maximize involvement and individual effectiveness.
Smaller teams have the advantage of providing more time for personal interactions and this facilitates bonding among members. A group of ten members might seem full of HR resources that the team can draw utility from upon necessity; but it has limited scope. This size is suitable solely as an efficient decisionmaking body in which everyone reports to a leader on top, which gathers essential information, takes decisions, informs and gives instructions to the subordinates.
Fruitful and dynamic discussions would be hardly possible since it’s difficult to allow a fair-share of talking of each member and there would always be a few members that would dominate the discussions. It might be reasonable to think that a team of eight members is the minimum necessary to cover the eight Belbin team roles. This is not necessarily true because a single member can make use of more than one team role; he can contribute with the strengths of two or even three team roles.
Therefore smaller teams of up to three members can be large enough for a fair spread in team roles; even though teams of five or six seem to be a good compromise between the conflicting forces. After deciding on the team size, the next step is to guarantee a good design of the team. How to design an Effective Team Designing a well integrated and effective team is not an easy task. Compatibility of members of a team is crucial to its effectiveness, which was often ignored for the lack of assessment tools.
After years of research, it was possible to establish five principles to guide the design process of effective teams, as well as to assess team roles and to use this info for the composition of teams. 1 – Members can contribute in two ways. Each members has the potential to contribute in his functional role and team role to the achievement of the team goals. He can draw on his technical background to fulfill the needs linked to his specific job requisites; as well as perform the team role(s) that match his preferred Belbin roles. 2 – Optimum Balance.
A team needs an optimal balance in terms of functional roles and team roles; which depends on the team objectives as illustrated in the example of team composition. 3 – Recognition and Adjustment to Strengths. The ability of a team to recognize the relative strengths in technical expertise and team roles, and to adjust accordingly to the needs of the objectives will improve its effectiveness. Page 7 of 10 COMPLETING ASSIGNMENT ME2305 – Management: Traditioner, teorier och trender Santiago Bravo 830810-3699 4 – Personal qualities. They can help a member fit certain team roles while hindering him from adopting effectively other team roles. – Seizing Technical Resources. Only a team that has a range of team roles to achieve efficient teamwork can take full advantage of the technical resources that its members possess. Team composition. Four steps can be followed when composing effective teams. Step 1: Identify project’s purpose, demands and needs. The purpose of a project will determine which type of team roles combination is the most suitable to obtain the best results. At the same time different projects demand different sets of technical skills and knowledge. Step 2: Find the specialist for the project.
One distinctive, talented, and experienced employee in the specific field of the project is needed to get the best results, this is the specialist (SP). Step 3: Find a suitable project leader. Find someone that can make a good team leader, who is compatible in terms of team roles, and that has affinity with the specialist. Step 4: Compose the rest of the team. According to the team role of the leader and the needs of the project, different compositions for the rest of the group will be possible. The next design cases illustrate the selection sequence and the importance of considering the purpose of the team.
Both teams are composed by five members. One has to design a new model for a prototype; the other one is needed to streamline a production system for that prototype. The focus of Team I is ‘management of innovation’. The critical member to find first is a genius designer that has experience in the field and a strong team role as a PL. This member needs someone of similar mental ability that he can respect. This second member should be a clever ME that can bring the ideas of the PL down to Earth. These two members will focus on the mentioned team roles, so they won’t have time to coordinate the project.
For this a CH of low profile but clever enough to keep up with the discussions would be suitable. In addition, another creative talented member with good external contacts is needed; a RI fits this description. This fourth nominee will have a tendency for weak follow-up, therefore the final member should compensate this weakness; so a CW/CF would be perfect for the job. The purpose of Team II is ‘getting things done’ and it requires a leadership from the front; a leader who can guarantee results and deliver on time, for this a strong SH that is also a CF is suitable.
This team doesn’t need a specialist member for the purpose of the project, so the rest of the members can be seen as a support group around the leader. They are more similar to each other from a team role perspective, with a high concentration of TWs to compensate relentless presence of a SH. Assessment of Belbin team roles in organizations. The approach used by the Belbin research unit and by companies with a well-developed HR system is to use a battery of psychometric tests including the ones developed by Belbin.
This method is well suited to design high performance teams as well as to help in career development. Another approach commonly used is through training courses. Participants can take the Belbin assessment test and learn about the principles and lessons of effective management teams. The last approach doesn’t require the use of sophisticated methods; many managers have an extensive knowledge of their employees and coworkers, so they can apply the principles and fundaments of this theory to figure out their team roles and to form fairly well-integrated teams. Page 8 of 10