Managing Team Performance: Unrealistic Vision or Attainable Reality?
This article was presented in September at the 1997 International Conference on Work Teams in Dallas, Texas and has been reprinted from the Team Management Systems website.
This paper outlines the work and research we have been involved in and associated with (Margerison and McCann, 1995). It can be used to help teams in trouble and to fine tune teams that are already performing well. It is based on a new model of teamwork and an instrument which can measure team performance.
The Types of Work Wheel
The work and research we have been involved and associated with (Margerison and McCann, 1995), has focused on understanding the key work elements that have proved to be a reliable and valid focus in explaining why it is that some work teams work effectively and achieve their objectives while others fail.
The research has supported an understanding of team performance in terms of nine team performance factors, summarized as the Types of Work Wheel, shown below in Figure 1.
Effective teams continually demonstrate a focus on all nine performance factors.
The eight factors arranged around the spokes of the Wheel are known as the teamwork functions and show relative statistical independence. The ninth activity, Linking, is placed in the center of the Wheel as it is a characteristic shared with the eight work functions. For example, Inspecting work must be done in a Linking way if it is to be shared with all the other functions.
The importance of each work function to teamwork is described in more detail below:
Advising work is concerned with giving and gathering information. It involves finding out what others are doing in your area of work and ensuring that you are following best practices. Information may need to be gathered from articles, reports, or books, or by meeting and talking with people. It means ensuring that you have all the information available for the team to make the best decisions and deliver results.
Innovating is a key aspect of teamwork and involves challenging the way things are currently being done. Technology is changing so quickly that the way you are currently performing tasks may no longer be the best way. If you are not up-to-date in your practices, your cost structure may be too high or you may no longer be delivering competitive service. Innovating is essential for all work teams. There are always better ways of doing things if you only take time to discover them.
To obtain the resources – people, money, and equipment – to carry out your work, you have to 'sell' what you are doing to other people. Resources to implement new ideas will only be given if your team can persuade and influence people higher in the organization. Promoting to customers or clients both inside or outside the organization is also important if you are to continually deliver what people want.
Many ideas don't see the light of day because they are impractical. The Developing activity ensures that your ideas are molded and shaped to meet the needs of your customers, clients, or users. It involves listening to their needs and incorporating these in your plans. Developing will ensure that what you are trying to do is possible, given the resource constraints of your organization.
Here the emphasis is on getting into action and making things happen. It involves organizing the team so that everyone knows what they have to do, how, and when. Clear goals have to be established and action taken to ensure that results are delivered on time and to budget.
Once plans are set up and everyone knows what has to be done, the team can concentrate on Producing. This activity focuses on delivering the product or service on a regular basis to high standards of effectiveness and efficiency. It is the Producing function that ensures the team keeps on delivering the required outputs.
Regular checks on work activities are essential to ensure that mistakes are not made. Quality audits of your products or services will ensure that your customers or clients will remain satisfied. Inspecting also covers the financial aspect of work in your team, as well as the security aspects, the safety aspects and the legal aspects.
All teams need to uphold standards and maintain effective work processes. Your car will fail if it does not have its regular service. Teams can fail too, if the team processes are not regularly checked and maintained. Maintaining ensures that quality standards are upheld and that regular reviews of team effectiveness take place.
Linking is the activity that ensures all team members pull together, and makes the difference between a group of individuals and a highly effective and efficient team. It covers the linking of people, linking of tasks and leadership linking.
There are several implications to the Types of Work model.
First, the model suggests that work functions adjacent to each other on the Wheel are more similar than those nonadjacent, and opposed to those opposite. For example, to do "promoting" work effectively may require skills, abilities, and preferences that are significantly different from those required to do "inspecting" work effectively.
Second, it suggests that all teamwork can be classified into a combination of key areas. Comments from teams who have been exposed to the model seem to confirm this, confirming high face validity.
In addition, the Types of Work model seems to comply with the generally accepted criteria of a good theory, i.e. generalizability, comprehensiveness, and parsimony.
In developing this model, a 64-item profile questionnaire known as the Types of Work Profile Questionnaire (TWPQ) was devised with eight items defining each of eight work functions. This instrument was then administered to individuals who were asked to rate those activities in their job which were critical to success. The data were then checked for internal consistency and scale intercorrelations and various items added or deleted until a satisfactory instrument was produced. Tables 1 and 2 summarize the results of this research.
Cronbach alpha coefficients (Table 1) are a way of determining whether all questions formulated to measure a particular scale, say Organizing for example, make a consistent contribution to determining that scale. If the coefficient is greater than 0.75 then the questions are internally consistent. If the alpha coefficient is below 0.7 then there are likely to be some questions in the item pool not associated with the scale being determined. Table 1 shows that the 64 questions in the pool have high internal reliability.
|Cronbach Alpha Coefficients|
Intercorrelations of scales enable relationships between the scales to be measured. Generally if the intercorrelation coefficient is less than 0.35 we can say that two scales are relatively independent i.e. they are measuring different things. If the coefficient is between 0.35 and 0.6 then the scales are moderately correlated. If the coefficient is over 0.6 the scales are highly correlated.
This table explains the structural rationale for the Types of Work model, based on an interpretation of the intercorrelation coefficients. Opposite work functions, say Organizing and Advising have a coefficient of 0.14 whereas adjacent work functions, say Advising and Innovating have a coefficient of 0.44.
It is perhaps easier to understand if we transpose just one set of data onto the Types of Work Wheel, as shown below. This data is obtained by drawing horizontal and vertical lines through the Promoting function in Table 2. The intercorrelation coefficients of all the scales against Promoting can then be arranged in a visual format.
As can be seen, the results dramatically confirm the validity of the model; the closer a certain type of work is to Promoting, the closer the relationship as indicated by the correlation coefficients. Inspecting, according to this sample, has no relationship to Promoting (-0.15), while Innovating (0.60) and Developing (0.56) have a much closer relationship. The same exercise can be completed for the other seven types of work, returning similar results.
Measuring Team Performance
Understanding and subsequently discussing a team's performance is central to managing team performance. To work effectively, teams must regularly and objectively review their "teamwork". In addition to concentrating on their short-term outputs, team members must examine work processes to ensure that the team is working creatively, that the team is effectively promoting itself to others, and so on.
Too often in managing team performance the team review focuses on subjective individual evaluation, as opposed to an objective team assessment.
Based on the Types of Work Wheel and the Types of Work Profile Questionnaire, a further profile questionnaire was developed specifically to measure team performance. This questionnaire is known as the Team Performance Profile Questionnaire (TPPQ) and is a 54-item multi-rater assessment which focuses objectively on assessing a team's performance in terms of the nine team performance factors associated with high-performing teams.
The resulting Team Performance Profile then
- Provides an ideal entry point to an assessment of team performance by offering a common language and shared understanding of critical factors for high performance.
- Acts as a catalyst for team development and improved effectiveness by enabling team members to focus on areas requiring action.
- Is an ideal tool in any ongoing team development process … initial profiling of the team can be repeated at a later point to assess how team performance has improved.
Managing Team Performance
A major benefit of the common language provided by the Types of Work Wheel is the shared understanding it gives to team members and the process it offers for developing action plans for improved team performance.
Improving Team Performance in a Chemical Factory
Recently a team in a specialty chemicals factory completed a 360 degree survey of the nine team success factors. All of the team members were very satisfied with the team's performance on Organizing, Producing and Inspecting but there were some differences in their views on Innovating and Promoting. Carlos Martinez had rated the team at 45% on Innovating and 36% on Promoting, whereas most of the other team members had been generous, giving ratings over 75%. The differences sparked off a detailed discussion on how well the team actually generated ideas and promoted them to other teams in the organization.
When the results of clients and members of other teams were compared, the team was surprised to find that the ratings of the outsiders were much lower than the team's, particularly on Producing and Inspecting. Follow-up investigation by team members identified some quality problems in the intermediate chemicals they were producing, of which they had been unaware.
The measurement of team performance was instrumental in changing the way the team worked and caused them to develop new vision and purpose statements.
With the review of teamwork that the Types of Work Wheel supports, managing team performance is simplified to focusing on the nine key success factors that lead to high performance. These can be addressed through an informal process of questioning at various stages during a project, using the nine factors posed as questions:
- What information do we need?
- Is this the best way of doing it?
- Who are the stakeholders we need to influence?
- Is this what the stakeholders want?
- How should we organize ourselves?
- Are our products/services clearly defined in terms of outputs and outcomes?
- What details need checking?
- Are we maintaining the best standards and procedures?
- How well are we linked, both internally and externally?
The hallmark of successful work teams is not the answers they give, but the questions they ask.
Managing Team Performance: A Conclusion
Successfully managing team performance starts by identifying where the team is performing well and where it needs further development. The Team Performance Profile Questionnaire and associated analysis gives team members an objective assessment of how the team is doing. It provides opportunities to compare the various viewpoints of team members and outsiders and relate them to the team vision and purpose. The common language ensures that everyone is focusing on the critical team performance factors and the measured gaps can then be translated into action plans for improved performance. It is the diagnosis of the problems that is essential. Once we know what is wrong, it is usually easy to fix it!
Tuckman (1965) presented the four stages of teamwork which are now widely used by work teams throughout the world to assess their progress. The model describes the stages as follows:
Once teams are formed, they go through an unpleasant storming stage before ground rules and norms are established. Eventually the performing stage is reached. In the 1980s it was acceptable to take maybe six months or so to reach the performing stage. However, in the '90s, such is the speed of change and the intensity of competition that some teams have to get to good performance levels in six weeks or even six days!
Models such as the Types of Work Wheel give a reliable and valid way of measuring and managing team performance, by generating qualitative and quantitative feedback data both from team members and outsiders. Problems can be diagnosed or even predicted before they happen. In managing team performance, clever work teams will use this information to bypass the storming stage and move quickly to the norming stage by generating ground rules which will prevent major problems from occurring. The team can then accelerate its progress to the performing stage.
- Margerison, C.J. and McCann, D.J., Team Management: Practical New Approaches, Management Books 2000, London
- Tuckman, B.W. Development Sequence in Small Groups, Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 1965
Please visit http://www.TMS.com.au for further information or to contact the authors direct.
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