Advantages and disadvantages of team based work process

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List of tables and figures

 

Table 1 Task and relationships issues in Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model………..7

Table 2 Newly build China team’s management structure…………………………….8

Table 3 Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model analysis in China team in Scicom (MSC) Berhad………………………………………………………………………………..12

Table 4 Two types of team leadership roles………………………………………….13

Table 5 China team line manager’s actions in the norming stage grouped by two team leadership roles……………………………………………………………………….15

 

Figure 1 Successful and unsuccessful group interaction comparison………………..15

 

 

 

Content page

1.     Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………… 3

2.     Literature review of team development………………………………………………………… 3

3.     Critical stage of team development in Scicom (MSC) Berhad…………………………. 6

4.     Task specialist versus socio-emotional roles in term of effectiveness………………. 12

5.     Relationship between cohesiveness and team performance……………………………. 15

6.     Advantages and disadvantages of team based work process…………………………. 15

7.     Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………………… 16

Reference……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

 

1.        Introduction

 

Team management could be defined as the techniques, processes and tools used for managing and coordinating a group of individuals working towards a common goal (Surhone, Timpledon & Marseken 2010) when a team refers a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common goal for which they are held mutually accountable (Katzenbach & Smith 1993, p45). There are critical and important implications for a manager to manage the team in an appropriate manner that would benefit the company as a whole. According to Cohen, Eimicke & Heikkila (2008), team management change the role of a traditional manager regarding with work focus of organizing, staffing and evaluating to coaching and facilitating. In another word, a team manager leads the team by creating commitment among the subordinates rather than managing by control. And besides the changes of the role of a manager, successful team management is meaningful to a manager fundamentally because of the various benefits that it brings which correspond with the requirement to be fulfilled by a manager in his or her job description. Such benefits include increased performance, improved decision quality, high commitment to group decisions and increased job satisfaction (Hackman 1990). And in the nowadays, as proved by many business practices that effective teamwork is of an increasing importance not only because of these benefits but this is also determined by the trend of labor division as current tasks in the workplace required more differentiated talents to pool their knowledge to achieve the common goal, and in this case teamwork become a must and influential to the effectiveness of work. So the nature of many current jobs also decides that team management is critical to a manager.

 

2.        Literature review of team development

 

Studies on the stages of team development started on research about the stages that small groups would undergo started with group-the therapy groups and human relations training groups (Bales & Strodtbeck 1951). Later Tuckman (1965) based on more than fifty small-team development cases studies development a four-stage team development model which includes: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing; Tuckman’s stage model laid the foundation of team development studies and major relative theories created thereafter (e.g., Lipnack & Stamps 1997). And following study by Tuckman and Jensen (1977) further improve and perfect the model by adding a fifth stage, namely Adjourning, to describe a comprehensive image consists of the whole possible stages that a team may go through. Each stage of the model involves both task and relationship issues regarding team development (Halverson & Tirmizi 2008). The five stage model could be described by both task and relationship problems and the characteristics involved in each stage are stated in the table below:

 

 

 

 

Table 1 Task and relationships issues in Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model

Source: Halverson & Tirmizi 2008

 

One of the question that could be raised from the Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model in team development in the perspective of a line manager is that which stage is more crucial to a manager as a manager need to focus on this stage despite of any other possible tasks that may also need the manager to fix because priority should be given to the team building effort when it comes to the crucial stage that may have significant impact in the development of the team. Below focus will be shift from theoretical analysis to case study regarding Scicom (MSC) Berhad to answer this question in a practical way.

 

3.        Critical stage of team development in Scicom (MSC) Berhad

Position rankingNumber of employees in China teamJob description
Operation manager0In charge of the operation supervision for all the teams (China, French, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Malaysia)
Assistant manager (line manager)2 (Newly transferred assistant manager and recently internally promoted assistant manager)In charge of China team
Backup manager4-6 (depend on line manager’s appointment)With limited authorization to provide support to the agents in usual cases
Agents25Answering calls that assigned to them

Table 2 Newly build China team’s management structure

 

StageCharacteristicsProblems to be resolvedManager’s actions
Forming
  • Ø  Team performance is low
  • Ø  Communications between different cultural groups is limited
  • Ø  Fresh blood focus on their individual job but with low efficiency
  • Ø  Old team members and fresh employees start to know other
Relationship

  • Ø  Who are in this team?
  • Ø  Who could be friends?
  • Ø  Can we accept the cultural differences?
  • Ø  How to build a common communication network?

Task

  • Ø  What are the responsibilities of each backup manager?
  • Ø  Not enough of support and sources given to the agents?
  • Ø  What’s the leadership style of the line manager?

Leadership

  • Ø  Who is higher in position?
  • Ø  Who should be referred to in a particular call situation?
  • Ø  Collect all the team members’ contact detail to make an contact list
  • Ø  Hold weekend gatherings in her own and several agents’ houses
  • Ø  Appoint two backup managers
 
Storming
  • Ø  Performance is improving with agents’ gradual mastering of product knowledge
  • Ø  Agents dispute with backup manager and line manager regarding the term and condition and they are trying to help the customers in the customers’ position
  • Ø  Agents have disputes with HR departments regarding the accommodation arrangements
  • Ø  Agent still focus on individual performance
  • Ø  One of the line manager (most recently promoted) have wide disputes with agents because she is not helpful and negotiable in most cases and leave the agents handling tough cases alone
  • Ø  Several backup managers are not performing and surf internet for fun for most of the time and attract dissatisfactions from new agents
Relationship

  • Ø  Who should we turn to when disputes emerge?
  • Ø  How is the power and influence distributed?
  • Ø  How to rebuild the relationships and trust between the recently promoted line manager and agents involved in the disputes?

Task

  • Ø  How to make the goals and objective of the team acknowledged and accepted to everyone?
  • Ø  How to make the agents accept the way work should be handle in accordance with term & conditions though it is not reasonable?

Leadership

  • Ø  What style of leadership we have?
  • Ø  Is the current leadership we have working well and widely accepted?
  • Ø  The team head (new transferred assistant manager) have long talk with the team member involved in the disputes
  • Ø  Replace one backup manager
  • Ø  The team head encouraged agents to reflect feedback to her
  • Ø  The team head communicated with the HR department regarding the accommodation issues leading to the problem solving and the solution is acceptable to most agents
  • Ø  Regular dinner gatherings are held and all the team members are encouraged to participate
  • Ø  Frequent notice are made to employees regarding the low team performance
 
Norming
  • Ø  Team performance is improved but there is still distance between China team and  other long established matured teams
  • Ø  Agents get familiar with the call process and know who to turn to in a particular situation
  • Ø  Conflicts over the accommodation and bad relationship between line manager and agents are to some extend addressed
  • Ø  Agents start to acknowledge the significant importance of the term and conditions in protecting them in their positions, but norms sometimes are still not strictly followed
  • Ø  The China team identity is more frequently used by the member of team in term of the usage of “we, our, us” rather than “I, my, me”.
  • Ø  Agents start to know each other well and social activities are frequent and are self organized and line managers are invited
Relationship

How close and personal should we need to be?

To what extent we can appreciate and accept each other provided that some members are not very friendly and could not get along with some others?

Task

  • Ø  How clear is the norm to every agent and backup manager?
  • Ø  How flexible we could be and at the same time still act in accordance with the SOP (Standard Operation Process)?
  • Ø  To what extent we should get involved with other members’ work?

Leadership

  • Ø  To what extent we need the line managers’ help in our work?
  • Ø  Are we getting along with the current leadership?
  • Ø  What is the most desired leadership style based on our job and employees’ need?
  • Ø  Team head summoned meetings with all the China team members including another assistant manager, backup managers and agents to confirm and compliment the progress has been made
  • Ø  Smooth the conflicts, problems such as bad management-agent relationships
  • Ø  Warn on the overuse of coffee and lunch and other behaviors which are not in accordance with SOPs have been list out without naming the relative staffs’ name
  • Ø  Important SOPs have been reinstated again with every agent and result and penalty resulted from behaviors not in accordance with SOPs have been clearly indentified
  • Ø  Clear targets and task goals in term of KPIs (Key performance index) such as number of calls to be answered, usage of coffee break time and lunch time
  • Ø  Targets and set goals have been broken down into daily and weekly basis
  • Ø  Encouraging agents by reinstating the rewarding system based on KPIs and sale achieve work performance improvement
 
Performing
  • Ø  Performance is high enough to gain the operations manager’s acknowledgement
  • Ø  Employees are clear about the KPI s(Key performance index) they are required to achieve and they are working hard to fulfill these requirements
  • Ø  Team members are in most of time strictly adhering to the SOPs (standard operation process) and the client’s Term & conditions
  • Ø  Teams members are getting well with other with jokes made now and then
  • Ø  Agents knows exactly in what situations flexibility could be made and they know how to provide flexibility and conveniences to customers by refer to appropriate backup manager and line managers for approval
Relationship

How to deal with the membership changes such as backup managers are reassigned the agent’s job?

How to deal with the still cold relationship between recently promoted line manager and some agents?

Task

  • Ø  How to sustain the high performance in a team basis?
  • Ø  How to incorporate changes required by management and clients?
  • Ø  How to further increase the learning ability of the team member?

Leadership

  • Ø  How can we share the leadership?
  • Ø  Goals are set on an overall team basis rather than individual basis
  • Ø  Supervision is less frequent but major frauds are still considered as critical and could lead to serious consequence (two agents are fired due to the indentified major fraud)
 
Adjourning
  • Ø  Team members are depressed
  • Ø  Work performance is decreasing dramatically
  • Ø  Agents answer calls at their pleasure
  • Ø  There are rumors regarding what will be the next job and how the salary will be changed to
Relationship

How to continue the established relationships?

Tasks

How to keep the staffs to do their job when faced with an unclear future?

  • Ø  Strong warning and notice has been made to keep agents alarm and do their job though with unwillingness

Table 3 Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model analysis in China team in Scicom (MSC) Berhad

 

As stated in the tables above, China team under Airasia Project in Scicom (MSC) Berhad has undergone all the five stages proposed in the Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model from its reestablishment in April 2010 to its ending in December in the same years due to the discontinuation of the contract by the client Airasia with the plan to move the China team customer service to the mainland China. Though the team exist for only about half of a year, its growth and development has been typical and worth studying. Through the careful examination of the five stages of team development, we can see that how the team growth under manager’s action and decision in each phrase to deal with problems raised in three categories: relationships, task and leadership. 

 

With the analysis and statement above, conclusion could be made in term of the importance of the five stages in Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model that norming is the most critical phrase in all the five stages for the following major two reasons:

 

On one hand in term of effort and time consumed, line manager (transferred assistant manager) spend the largest proportion of time in activities in this stage such as counseling, norm setting and execution and dispute resolving. On other hand, norms and standards shared among the team members which lead to and enforce the later “performance stage” could are enacted and finalized in this stage. So the norming stage is the most crucial session among the five stages of team development. Please take notice that other stages are also important such as the storming stage during which major crisis have been avoided with the manager’s effort and thus set the foundations of the team that could move the team to the next stages as not all the teams will go through all this stages because if relative problems are not appropriately solved a team could stop and get failed in any of the stages (Williams 2006, p37).

 

4.        Task specialist versus socio-emotional roles in term of effectiveness

 

As stated above, two major kinds problem could be raised during the five stages of team development are relationship relative and task relative, and there are two corresponding major types of team leadership roles: task-specialist and social-emotional roles for a manager to solve the problems. Task-specialist role could be defined as the team leadership role associated with initiating new ideas, evaluating the team’s effectiveness, seeking to clarity task and responsibilities and stimulate performance; And socio-emotional role refers to the team leadership together with the efforts to show care for other members, meet their emotional demand and facilitating other team members to participate and reminding others of the standard required (Daft 2007, p306). The behaviors of these two team leadership role are illustrated in the table below.

 

Table 4 Two types of team leadership roles (Source: Baron 1986)

 

In order to indentify the more important team leadership role in term to team effectiveness among the two major leadership roles, let’s first define the concept of team leadership. Team leadership effectiveness are desired outcome that could be measured in three dimensions: productive output, personal satisfaction and capacity to adapt and learn (Daft & Marcic 2009). According to this definition, both task specialist versus socio-emotional roles are needed in order to build an effective team. But practically, a manager need to determine role in which he or she will put more effort and emphasis due to the limitation of resources such as time.

 

Below discussion will be focusing on the China team’s growth in Scicom (MSC) Berhad to find out which role has dominate the line manager’s work during the most crucial stage which has been identified as “norming” stage out of the five stages in the Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model.

 

Task specialist activitiesSocio-emotional activities
  • Ø  Warn on the overuse of coffee and lunch and other behaviors which are not in accordance with SOPs have been list out without naming the relative staffs’ name
  • Ø  Important SOPs have been reinstated again with every agent and result and penalty resulted from behaviors not in accordance with SOPs have been clearly indentified
  • Ø  Clear targets and task goals in term of KPIs (Key performance index) such as number of calls to be answered, usage of coffee break time and lunch time
  • Ø  Targets and set goals have been broken down into daily and weekly basis
  • Ø  Team head summoned meetings with all the China team members including another assistant manager, backup managers and agents to confirm and compliment the progress has been made
 

  • Ø  Smooth the conflicts, problems such as bad management-agent relationships
  • Ø  Encouraging agents by reinstating the rewarding system based on KPIs and sale achieve work performance improvement

Table 5 China team line manager’s actions in the norming stage grouped by two team leadership roles

With the analysis we have above complied with the interview with the agents who have worked for the China team through the five stages, conclusion could have been made between these two team leadership roles that task specialist role is more critical to the line manager’s work during the most crucial stage: norming. This conclusion is based on the following reasons: firstly from the line manager’s perspective, she has put more effort on the task relative activities aiming at increasing the team performance rather than the socio-emotional goal; secondly from the agent’s perspective according to the reflections collected through interview with the agents involved in the team development, the majority of agents considered that it is that task specialist activities that majorly contributed to the transformation of China team from a medium performing team to a high performing team. But they also pointed out that the positive encouragement and support of the manager is also a necessity to the success. And the importance of positive communication has been confirmed by studies as shown in figure below.

 

Figure 1 Successful and unsuccessful group interaction comparison (source: Emmitt & Gorse 2007)

 

5.        Relationship between cohesiveness and team performance

 

Team cohesiveness is an emotional experience shared among the team members rather than just a calculation of the employee turnover ratio (McShane & Glinow 2007). Member similarity, team size, member interaction are several factors that have influences over the team cohesiveness. Abundant studies have been done on the relationship between team performance cohesiveness and team performance. Accordance to study done by Slater and Sewell (1994) on three male and female university hockey teams throughout the season using a cross-lagged correlation method to analyze the relationship between cohesiveness and team performance. This study suggested that the strongest positive correlation exists between early cohesiveness and later performance, meaning that early team cohesion would probably lead to team performance.

 

This positive correlation between team cohesiveness could be authenticated again by the case of China team development in Scicom (MSC) Berhad. As mentioned in the beginning during the storming stage of the team development, the recently promoted assistant manager (line manager) have risen a lot of conflicts with a lot of agents due to her leadership style which could be depicted as strict, inflexibility and unfriendly. And another assistant manager in this stage and next stage (norming) had spent a lot of time and effort trying to mediate between the involved line managers and agents. After such efforts, an obvious change in the leadership style an increasing trend of team cohesiveness which led to the later high quality team performance have been witnessed.

 

 

 

6.        Advantages and disadvantages of team based work process

 

There are advantages and disadvantages to building a team to perform certain tasks. In the positive side by building up a team, various necessary sources such as talents could be pool over to achieve a common goal or fulfill certain tasks. As mentioned in the beginning regarding the concept of team which refers to a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common goal for which they are held mutually accountable, this means that there is close tie between the team members as they are mutually accountable and share common goals. This cohesion will increase the cohesion which will theoretically lead to higher and improved team performance level as mentioned in above and this conclusion is also corresponding practically with the case regarding the China team development in Scicom (MSC) Berhad. So basically the advantages of team based work process source greatly from effectiveness of team performance which results from the synergy chemical happens among the team members. And on the negative side, there are also disadvantages of team based work process in many cases due to various reasons. The nature of work could determine that individual based work is more desired rather team based one. For example, for the work of investment in stock market, a lot studies and research have pointed out that besides the fundamental financial knowledge, it seems that individual instinct is more effective in guiding investment activities and this is also corresponding with the fact that some teams consist of mathematicians, economies and other talents also could fail without being noticed in advance. In another case, disadvantages could also outweigh the advantages if uncertainties happen and could not be fixed by the jointly effort by team managers and employees. For example, take the case regarding the China team development in Scicom (MSC) Berhad as an example, in the storming stage in which various conflicts happened and if such conflicts such as bad relationship between line manager and agents could not be fixed and thus team members will work with complains and emotions which will certainly not lead to quality team performance.

7.        Conclusion

 

With the conclusion we have above with the help of case regarding the China team development in Scicom (MSC) Berhad, some questions have been answered with theoretical and practical case evidence. Firstly, it is widely accepted that team management is an important part of a manager’s job; secondly, in the Tuckman (1965)’s five stage model regarding the five possible stages that a team may go through the norming stage has been identified as the most critical stage in this model that would require a manager to focus their effort on. Thirdly, in term of team effectiveness task specialist role should be the major role that a manger should play especially in the norming stage which is critical to the team’s development though socio-emtional role is also needed to build up an effective team. Last but not least, positive correlation between early stage team cohesiveness and later team performance is also indentified by studies and practical cases suggesting that during the team development stages, team cohesiveness should be built early in the early stage in order to improve the team effectiveness in the later stages.

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

 

Bales, R. F. & Strodtbeck, F. L. 1951, Phases in group problem-solving, Journal of Abnormal and social psychology, 46, p485-495

 

Baron, R. A. 1986, Behavior in organization, 2nd edition, Boston: Allyn & Bacon

 

Cohen, S., Eimicke, W. & Heikkila. T. 2008, The Effective Public Manager: Achieving Success in a Changing Government, 4th edition, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

 

Daft, R. L. & Marcic, D, 2009, Understanding Management, 6th edition Mason: South-Western Cengage Learning

 

Daft, R. L. 2007, The leadership experience, 4th edition, Mason: Thomson South-Westerm, p306

 

Emmitt, S. & Gorse, C. A. 2007, Communication in construction teams, New York: Taylor & Francis

 

Halverson, C. B. & Tirmizi, S. A. 2008, Effective multicultural teams: theory and practice, New York: Springer

 

Hackman, J. R. 1990, Groups that work (and those that don’t): creating conditions for effective teamwork, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

 

Katzenbach J. & Smith, D. 1993, The wisdom of teams: creating the high-performance organization. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p45

 

Lipnack, J. & Stamps, J. 1997, Virtual Teams, New York: Wiley

 

McShane, S. L. & Glinow, M. A. Y. V. 2007, Organizational behavior: Essentials, New York: McGraw-Hill, p365

 

Surhone, L. M, Timpledon, M. T. & Marseken, S. F., 2010 Team management, New York: VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller AG & Co. Kg, p84

 

Tuckman, B. W., 1965, Development sequence in small groups, Psychological bulletin, p384-399

 

Tuckman, B. W. & Jensensi M. 1977, Stages of small group development revisited, Group and organizational studies, 2, 410-427

 

 

Williams, J. 2006, CIM Revision Cards Marketing Management in PracticeProfessional diploma in marketing, Burlington: Elsevier

 

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