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Some have argued that teamwork can offer greater creativity and productivity than working as an individual (Salas E, 2000). From my experience, I would agree with this. Combining ideas and experiences from multiple people can greatly increase the success of a project. In recent years, interest in teamwork has increased. A recent review shows that more than 130 frameworks and models of teamwork and team performance have emerged (Salas E, 2005). Amongst these different theories are some key models which many experts in this field would consider to be appropriate.
First, I introduce the concept of teamwork as written in the Tuckman and Jensen’s model. Then I assess how each of the stages of group development relates to our team. Finally, I go on to discuss Belbin’s Team Role concept.
It is hard to expect a team to work in harmony from the outset. It takes time for a team to become a cohesive group.
Members of groups often go through recognizable stages. Here, I will discuss how as a team moves through stages, they are able to be productive to deliver the objective.
Bruce W. Tuckman proposed the “Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing model” of group development in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups”. It was later revised by Tuckman and Mary Ann Conover Jensen in 1977 where a fifth stage was added: Adjourning (Anon., 2019). Tuckman said these phases were all necessary and inevitable in order for a team to grow, face challenges, find solutions, and deliver results (Tuckman, 1965).
The Forming stage is where the team meets and learns about each other’s strengths and weaknesses (Anon., 2019). Clear objectives are established and discussions about the project take place. Our initial challenges centered around coordinating diaries and the inevitable group dynamics as team members were initially reluctant to challenge opinions or risk offending. This initially impacted our productivity and decision making. However, this was resolved as we moved through the next stages of Tuckman and Jensen’s model.
Storming is the second stage of a team’s progression. This stage signifies a time of conflict within the group. A large majority of group projects and teamwork fail at this stage. Tuckman stated that group members become hostile toward one another (Bonebright, 2010). I did not find that we experienced much conflict within our group. We each had differing ideas on what topic we should pick. However, we each put forward suggestions and democratically voted for the one we thought we would be able to perform the most successfully.
Next, the team moves into the Norming phase. During this phase, all members of the group accept each other’s personal characteristics and feel comfortable expressing feelings about the project (Bonebright, 2010). Neuman and Write described this as the stage where group members discover the most effective and efficient ways to work with each other (Neuman G. and Write, 1999). By this point we had all gauged each other’s qualities and traits, therefore the roles we had assigned previously meant everyone was working efficiently. We all felt comfortable to express opinions on each other’s work if we felt our ideas would benefit the overall project.
The final stage in Tuckman’s original proposed model is Performing. This is where the group develops “functional role relatedness” (Tuckman, 1965). The structure that has been set up previously has meant that the hard work taken place leads to the achievement of the team’s goals. Team members are able to handle making decisions without supervision from the managing director (Anon., 2019). We found that once we had had several meetings and everyone was comfortable with their area of research, we were all content on making basic decisions without consulting the rest of the group. This meant everyone was able to carry out research to achieve the aims of the group.
Dr. Meredith Belbin, a UK management psychologist, developed a way to calculate the effectiveness of a team. Belbin identified nine roles that can be recognized within almost every team. He emphasizes that the success of any team effectively lies in understanding that the team is made up of unique individuals, meaning that each member will bring their own traits and strengths to the project. The nine roles were: the implementer, the resource investigator, the plant, the monitor evaluator, the specialist, the completer finisher, the coordinator, the team worker, and the shaper (Halford, 2018). In our team, only six were found to be of relevance.
The coordinator plays a large role in any team. The main characteristic of the coordinator is their ability to make others work well together to achieve a shared goal. They are able to spot talents among their group and use these talents effectively to achieve group objectives (Mackechnie, 2003). Therefore, ensuring the best use of every team member’s potential. I assumed the role of coordinator. Once we had been allocated our groups, we were given each other’s emails in order to contact one another. I started by emailing everyone asking for their phone numbers so we could create a group chat. I then proceeded to find a day that would suit the team to have our first meeting. In meetings, I took on the responsibility to bring people’s ideas together and to delegate roles. I guided the team to achieve our objectives, and when faced with a problem, I pulled everyone together to bring back harmony.
One of my team members took on the role of the plant. Plants are highly creative and provide the seed for most ideas (Mackechnie, 2003). They tend to be good at solving problems in unconventional ways (Anon., 2019). They are independent, clever people who usually have unorthodox ways of working (Mackechnie, 2003). There was a member of our group who planted the seed for most of the concepts. Once we had decided our question, they came up with the main topic focus behind our project, enabling the rest of us to bring their ideas to life. This member produced lots of rewarding ideas and had a major role in leading our team to success.
Implementers are passionate about hard work. They have a great deal of discipline and self-control. Their efficiency leads them and the team to succeed as they understand what is relevant and applicable to the task (Mackechnie, 2003). The implementer in our team was extremely practical and systematic. They had huge amounts of common sense and self-discipline meaning they could get on with things without guidance from other members. They were able to turn basic plans and theoretical ideas into a practical concept.
Shapers are usually described as dynamic and outgoing people. When obstacles arise, they usually find ways around the problem and keep everyone’s spirits up in the process. The main characteristic of the shaper is to give shape to ideas to achieve the best outcome (Slater, 2011). This person in our group was highly motivated and wanted us to achieve the best result. They were great at motivating people and rallying the team together to deliver the objective. The shaper in our team was crucial to our team’s accomplishment.
Another member of our team took on the role of the specialist. Specialists are dedicated individuals who have specialized knowledge in a particular area. They often provide rare skills and know more about the field of expertise than anyone else, therefore, are called on to make decisions based on their experience (Mackechnie, 2003). The specialist in our team brought in-depth knowledge of a key area in our project. They were passionate about their field of knowledge meaning the other members fueled off this. Their only weakness was they only contributed to a very narrow part of the project. However, the other members were able to adapt and compensate for this.
The final role in Belbin’s model is the completer-finisher. These people are known to pay attention to detail. Their main job is to ensure all the team’s efforts and contributions are faultless. (Slater, 2011). Typically, they are introverted people who require little incentive and will get the job done. They would rather not delegate but instead prefer to tackle tasks themselves (Mackechnie, 2003). The completer-finisher in our group was no exception to this. Once everyone had completed their section, they went through everyone’s work. They created the power-point presentation, input all of our information, and made it look professional. Our project was only a success because of their meticulous attention to detail.
In conclusion, my observations are that ‘team working’ consists of three distinct but inseparable parts. These three parts are, firstly, recognizing the unique strengths of each member and being honest about our respective weaknesses. Secondly the importance of timely and constructive communication. Lastly, ensuring tasks and responsibilities are delegated appropriately. It is only the combination of all three that lead to the delivery of the task set, in our case a presentation to our peers. As the philosopher Aristotle said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
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