This of team formation, structure, and performance. From

 

This paper attempts to show the extent to which theories of team
formation, structure and performance match the reality of team work. The literature
and theories on these topics are very important and relevant in the real-world,
as a lot of managers and firms will use these when it comes to their employees
working in conjunction to achieve a certain goal. ‘Effective team working
has become a basic concern for most organizations’ (Aritzeta,
Swailes, and Senior, 2007).
The
evidence that theories of team formation, structure and performance match the
reality of team work is, for the most part, inadequate. One reason for this is
that a lot of the research that has been done is qualitative and subject to
bias, for instance, Tuckman’s model. Another reason is the differing results
from the research that have been carried out. An example of this is when Ingham
et al., (1974) tried to repeat the effect from Ringelmann’s (1913) experiment. According
to Scholtes (1988), the team leader can be defined as: ‘the person who manages
the team’. ‘Calling and facilitating meetings, handling or assigning
administrative details, orchestrating all team activities, and overseeing
preparations for reports and presentations’ (Scholtes, 1988) are some of the
responsibilities of the team leader. From my experience of working in teams I
can say that I agree with Scholtes on these responsibilities as the team leader
has always called and facilitated meetings, handled administrative details,
orchestrated all team activities and overseen preparations for the task at
hand. It is my experience of working in teams that have driven this research to
find out exactly how the theories I have studied on the formation, structure
and performance of teams actually match with the reality of working in a team. Having
stated and discussed the purpose of this writing, the background and importance
of the topic and problems in the field of study. The section below looks at the
strengths and weaknesses of some literature on this topic as well as my
position and literature-based thoughts on this topic and writing.

There have been many pieces of literature discussing topics of team formation, structure, and performance.
From Tuckman’s (1965) model of small-group development, Naylor and Dickinson’s
(1969) peer-reviewed journal on task structure, work structure, and team
performance to more recently, Salmon’s (2002) E-tivities book on online
learning and virtual teams and Alsharo, Gregg, and Ramirez’s (2016)
research on the effectiveness of virtual teams. From a search I carried out
in December 2016 on Google Scholar; I found that the literature citing
Tuckman’s models is wide-ranging. Tuckman (1965) was cited by 6202 articles
plus Tuckman and Jensen (1977) were cited by 2537. Tuckman’s
theory is ‘the most predominantly referred to and most widely
recognized in organizational literature.’ (Miller, 2003)

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Ingham et al., (1974) attempted to replicate the effect
from Ringelmann’s (1913) original findings that the addition of team members in
a rope-pulling task leads to a decrease in the individual team member’s average
performance. ‘Using groups of subjects ranging in size from 1 to 6’, they saw
that ‘performance dropped significantly as group size was increased from one
individual to two or three, but the addition of a fourth, fifth or sixth member
produced insignificant additional decrements’ (Ingham et al., 1974). From this
experiment, they learned that the effect was not linear but curvilinear. As the
architects of this study Ingham et al. looked at the problem of Ringelmann’s
original research being outdated as his findings were published in 1913.
Contrary to expectations, the study showed them that the effect was curvilinear
and not linear as previously thought from Ringelmann’s original findings. A
problem with this was that Ringelmann a French agricultural engineer designed
the experiments to investigate the efficiency of various pulling techniques
used in farming. The
analysis of the data was precise and are the conclusions seem valid and
logical. However, they could have approached this a little differently in that
instead of just looking to replicate the original findings, they could have
attempted to build on the research by carrying out different experiments for a
new audience; to see how individual and team performance would be affected in
different situations as the purpose of the original was to investigate the
efficiency of pulling techniques used in farming.

One theory which looks at team performance is Maslow’s (1943)
‘hierarchy of needs’. Maslow claims that individuals are driven to achieve
certain needs and some needs take precedence over others. An advantage of this
theory is how well it helps to understand human behavior and what motivates
them. It has a strong importance in the real-world, particularly in the world
of business. Managers, for instance, can profit from gaining an understanding of
their worker’s fundamental human needs (such as friendship, job security, plus acknowledgment
for a job well done). Forming a setting which meets these needs will lead to employees
functioning at their highest potential for the business. A disadvantage of
Maslow’s theory, nevertheless, is that in inventing his ‘hierarchy of needs’, he
only reviewed a small section of the human population. Different terms that are
used (for example, “self-esteem” and “security”) have diverse
meanings in different cultures around the world. For this reason, it can be difficult
for anyone to measure these needs or to generalize them for everyone around the
world. (Publishing, 2016).

 

Tuckman’s
research looked at stages of group development over time. When critiquing
literature on group development in their paper; Crosta and McConnell (2010)
argued that a ‘step cannot be
reached if the previous one is not accomplished’ as Tuckman’s model is
hierarchical. Tuckman (1965) came up with a few limitations to
his original model of group development. The first point he made was that the
literature could not exemplify a representative sample of settings where
small-group developments are likely to arise. Some settings (mainly the
therapy-group setting) were overrepresented, and others underrepresented. This
has been addressed to a limited amount by additional research nevertheless, it
remains mostly unrecognized that the model has been generalized well beyond its
original framework (Bonebright, 2010). Tuckman concluded that generalization must be limited to the fact
that what was presented is largely research dealing with sequential development
in therapy groups. A second limitation was that the studies carried out were
based on (qualitative rather than quantitative) observations of single groups,
subject to the biases of the observer. A final limitation concerns the
description and control of independent variables. As most of the studies used a
lone group, the control and methodical influence of independent variables
wasn’t possible (Tuckman, 1965). The key strength of this study is that after such
a long period it is still relevant in a very different social, political and
economic landscape.

Alsharo, Gregg, and Ramirez’s research looked at the role
of knowledge sharing and trust on the effectiveness/performance of virtual teams
(2016). The reason behind the research was that they saw that organizations were
increasingly using virtual teams to take advantage of the skills and knowledge
of their workers. Virtual teams use a very different team formation and
structure. Linking this with other theories, such as Tuckman’s stages of group
development or Belbin’s team roles, we can see that they will not be as relevant
to these virtual teams. For example, Tuckman’s research was only carried out on
groups which were co-located. So, we cannot say that a virtual team will go
through the same stages of group development as a co-located team. New
technology which didn’t exist at the time of Tuckman’s research aids virtual
teams in interacting and collaborating to achieve their goals. There has been a
lot of research on different theories relating to team work, but there has
been no study exploring how these theories work with virtual teams.

‘The
advantage of the team structure is that it integrates the knowledge that is
distributed among team members, which facilitates synergies and the achievement
of more effective outcomes’ (Alsharo, Gregg, and Ramirez, 2016). One
of the most familiar theories on team structure is Belbin’s team roles. In
their research into the development,
validity and application of the team role model developed by Belbin, Aritzeta, Swailes and Senior
claimed that

The team role model is
widely used in practice and has featured extensively in research on teams at
work. The model is used by many organizations including FTSE-100 companies,
multinational agencies, government bodies and consultants and has been
translated into 16 languages. (2007)

One limitation of Belbin’s team role model is the cultural bias. It ‘mainly
focused on upper-management level executives in Britain. In Britain in the
’70s, when Dr. Meredith Belbin was doing his foundational research, these
executives would be middle-class white men.’  (Partners and
America, 2016). From experience of working in teams I can say that this
theory doesn’t match the reality of team work as sometimes, there are not
enough people in a team with these different roles and skills but still, the
team has been able to accomplish the goal set. Another problem with this is
that it could be hard to measure which roles are filled by the members of a
virtual team. The main weakness with this theory is that originally an eight role
model was introduced. The eight roles were named and described, however, in
1993 a ninth role was added and some roles were renamed (Aritzeta, Swailes,
and Senior, 2007). This means that it could change again in future which means the
current nine team roles in place may not be relevant in the future. Yet still,
according to Aritzeta, Swailes, and Senior

The team role model has been associated with both teamworking
and the prediction of team performance. The
‘team role balance hypothesis’ states that high performing
teams need to display all the functions represented by the nine team roles, acknowledging
that an individual may display two or three natural roles. Thus, balanced teams
are those where all team roles are present. Other studies have observed the
team role model in relation to the role
preferences of women and men, type of organization, the
cognitive styles of team members and links between team roles and conflict management.
(2007)

 

Scholtes (1988) used Tuckman’s distinctive stages (forming, storming,
norming and performing) in his team handbook, labeling them as ‘fairly
predictable stages’ that the team will go through as it matures and individuals
progressively understand to manage with the emotional and group pressures they
face. The model has a unique history in that it was originally popular among
human resource development experts and later became common in academic
literature as well. (Bonebright, 2010)

 

Somewhat more recently, literature has emerged that offers findings on
the topic virtual teams and interaction. The model was
‘researched and developed from scratch based on the experience of early
participants but subsequently applied to corporate training and many learning
disciplines’ (Salmon, 2002). The model looks at the amount of interactivity at
different levels in virtual teams. The criticism with this was that the framework may seem inflexible and
deficient if we consider that each step can be the effect of a combination of
different elements and that it is not determined by just one factor (Crosta and
McConnell, 2010).

Some ‘assert that the
developmental stages of online groups are significantly different from that of
traditional face-to-face ones and suggest new theorization about group
development in virtual learning settings’ (Crosta and McConnell, 2010). Brown
(2000) asks the question ‘whether the mere presence of others has any effect on
performance’. From his research Ringelmann discovered that when there were more people
who pulled, the force applied was greater. However, the force did not increase
proportionately with the size of the group. ‘Pulling on their own, the students
managed to pull around 85 kg but when pulling in groups of seven they did not
achieve anything like seven times that figure.’ (Brown, 2000). In
their study on the effectiveness of virtual teams Furst,
Blackburn, and Rosen ask if ‘virtual teams go through the same
four-stage development process that Tuckman (1965) proposed
for co-located teams?’ (1999). In
their paper (Furst, Blackburn, and Rosen, 1999) used
a model of group effectiveness to examine sources of virtual team
effectiveness. They thought that the model offered a relevant insight into the
virtual environment, however, variances between teams and environments
suggested that changes and additions to the model may be necessary.

 

This paper has looked at different theories on the formation of teams as
well as theories on the structure and performance of teams and how all these
match the reality of team work. Having looked more deeply into these theories,
I still feel that the evidence presented is not enough to suggest that they
truly match the reality of team work. As
discussed earlier, some theories are very relevant to the real-world however, this study has
found that a lot of the archaic theories and literature which exist in this
topic, are short-term studies (which do not necessarily show subtle changes
over time) and only use a small sample size for the research which couldn’t
possibly fairly represent the entire human population. In her review of
Tuckman’s model, Bonebright claims that ‘the significance of
Tuckman’s model was a reflection of its time, responding both to the increasing
importance of groups in the workplace and to the lack of applicable research’
(2010). Besides cultural differences,
Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs also doesn’t take into account
individual differences. There is no evidence signifying every human being
experiences the needs in the order Maslow specified. Moreover, there is not
much empirical evidence that supports the theory at all. (Publishing, 2016). Another point is
that these theories of team formation, structure and performance may not match
the reality of team work in a virtual team; as they might with a co-located or
face-to-face team. Although Belbin’s original research focused on a specific
demographic (middle-class white men), this does not necessarily mean that it
cannot be applied to other cultures as there is still evidence that if more
roles are filled in a team then this can lead to an improvement in the
performance of a team. One final point is that a lot of the studies on
these theories have not dealt with virtual teams (presumably because of
differences in technology at the time of the research).