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Human Resource Management in the New Age


  • pg 1
									An Instructional White paper:

This paper is intended for instructional use in connection with Northeastern
University’s courses.

              Working in Teams: The Basics

                         Craig W. Fontaine
                      Northeastern University
                 College of Business Administration
                Human Resource Management Group


1.0    Why we use teams at Northeastern University

2.0    Why so many Organizations use Teamwork

3.0    Other Benefits Students get form Teamwork

4.0    Team Dynamics

5.0    Stages of Team Development

6.0    Basic Teamwork Skills

       6.1   Communication Tips

       6.2   Organizational Tips

7.0    Why Some Student Dislike Teamwork?

8.0    Conflict and Conflict Resolution Tips

       8.1   Clarify Expectation

       8.2   Identify the Type of Team Conflict

       8.3   Identify Team Needs

       8.4   Depersonalize Team-Internal Conflict

       8.5   Structuring Discussion

       8.6   Key Questions

9.0    What is “Unproductive Behavior”?

10.0   Getting Started – The First Meeting

11.0   References

                            Working in Teams: The Basics
                                 Craig W. Fontaine
                              Northeastern University

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a
common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually

                                            - Katzenbach and Smith, 1993

1.0      Why we use Teams at Northeastern University

Teams are found throughout the modern workplace, so much so that
Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration has identified
teamwork as a necessary component of the undergraduate educational
experience. Furthermore, research in instruction design has shown great benefit
when students become involved in a significant part of their own learning.
Through the use of such “active learning” assignments, students become
engaged participants in the particular course's content and, simultaneously, build
competencies, skills, and abilities that are necessary to be successful in their
future careers (Angelo and Cross,1993).

2.0      Why so many Organizations use Teamwork

Teams are found in many workplace environments, including corporate,
government and education, because they allow the organization to:

      1. Accomplish projects an individual cannot do - Many projects in the
         workplace are too large or too complex for one individual to complete
         alone. Imagine trying to build the Golden Gate Bridge all by yourself!

      2. Brainstorm More Solution Options - Different people looking at the
         same problem will find different solutions. A team can review ideas and
         put together a final solution which incorporates the best individual ideas.

      3. Detect Flaws in Solutions - A team looking at different proposed
         solutions may also spot pitfalls that an individual might miss. The final
         solution is that much stronger for having been through a serious critique.

      4. Build a Workplace Community - Members of effective teams can form
         personal bonds which are good for individual and workplace morale. In the
         university setting, students on teams may form bonds which extend
         beyond the classroom.

3.9      Other Benefits Students get from Teamwork

In addition to preparing for their future careers, students also benefit from
teamwork in the following ways: (Jacques,1984)

      1. Exposure to different points of view - As students are exposed to
         methods and ideas that other students have, they learn different ways of
         approaching a problem.

      2. Communication Skills - A team relies on communication among
         members. Through teamwork training and practice, students can learn to:
           a. Actively and effectively listen to their team members to understand
              their ideas and concerns.
           b. Effectively articulate their ideas or their concerns to others.
           c. Provide genuinely constructive feedback to team members.

      3. Critical Thinking and Evaluation Skills - Students must use these skills
         to evaluate the complex issues of team project goals and to formulate
         appropriate solutions and plans.

      4. Conflict Resolution Skills - Yes, teams have conflicts, but, with the right
         support and training in communication skills, students can learn the skills
         to facilitate solutions to conflicts so that the team remains functional.

      5. Students may do more academic work - Some students may
         accomplish more in order to keep up with the rest of the team. This can be
         a combination of not wanting to let the team down or not wanting to look

4.0      Team Dynamics

Although team dynamics can differ from team to team, effective teams share
these characteristics (Bodwell 1996, 1999):

      1. Full Participation - All team members contribute their time and energy to
         the project. More importantly, all team members participate in the decision
         making process. Having a dominant leader may work for the very short
         term, but will eventually lead to morale problems later on.

      2. Trust - Members trust that each member will add value to the project, and
         members work to ensure that everybody does contribute and that
         appreciation is expressed for different contributions.

      3. Open Communication - The main glue that holds a team together.
         Communication is effective when all members:
         3.1. Contribute ideas
         3.2. Provide feedback constructively
         3.3. Ask for clarification on anything that might be confusing
         3.4. Provide frequent updates

         3.5.   Listen to each other carefully

      4. Clear Roles - Teams tend to function better if member roles are defined.
         There are several ways "roles" can be defined, and they need not be
         mutually exclusive.
                    By work function - Most teams assign roles by work
                      function. For instance, an online newsletter may require an
                      editor, a reporter/writer, a graphic artist and a Web master.
                    By meeting function - Many sources also suggest
                      assigning some or all the following roles for projects which
                      require significant brainstorming:
                          A. Initiator - Puts ideas on the table.
                          B. Facilitator/Leader - Defines problem and sets
                          C. Recorder/"Secretary"- Records all ideas with no
                              other comment. Can also act as a timekeeper.
                          D. Devil's Advocate/Skeptic- Reviews ideas for
                              potential problems.
                          E. Optimist - Person who keeps a positive frame of
                              mind and facilitates search for solutions.
                          F. Summarizer/Clarifier - Summarizes and clarifies
                              results. Is often the same as the facilitator.
                          G. Liaison/Spokesperson - Maintains contact with the
                              instructor on behalf of the group. Could be the same
                              as the recorder or the facilitator.
                          H. Reflector - Does not participate in the group
                              activities, but observes process and reports results to
                              the group.
                          I. Quality Control - Successful teams are willing to
                              collectively review their output and processes to
                              ensure that the final product or solution meets or
                              exceeds the team goal.
                          J. Risk-taking - A successful team will also be willing to
                              take creative chances or experiment. That could
                              mean that a team may do something not within the
                              stated project guidelines.
                          K. Social/Business Balance - Although teams shouldn't
                              socialize 100% of the time, it shouldn't be all business
                              either. A dose of chit-chat allows members to know
                              each other better, leading to better working relations.

                                Note: Roles can be assigned by instructors, coaches or by the
                                team. One warning is that members should not become "stuck"
                                in their roles. For instance, a "graphics" person should be able to
                                accept constructive feedback from a "writer," and vice-versa.
                                You can require teams to rotate roles throughout the semester,
                                so each member can experience all functions of the team.

5.0      Stages of Team Development

Teams are not instantly functional. Team members need time to get acquainted
and to become familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The
following stages have been identified in team building (Tuckman, 1965):

      1) Forming - The "honeymoon" stage where team members are just
         becoming acquainted. Typically there is harmony at this time, but too
         much harmony too soon may mean that the team may not accomplish
         much later.
      2) Storming - This is when conflicts begin as team members negotiate work
         assignments and express disagreement on what to do. Frustratingly, this
         process can take some time, but it is vital for the team to learn to function.
      3) Norming - After a period of negotiation and discussion, the team reaches
         a stage where ground rules of conduct are established and members learn
         to work together. This is when teams begin to be productive, and a sense
         of team pride develops.
      4) Performing - The group has settled down into a functional team and most
         of the work gets done. This stage can actually be relatively short in terms
         of a project life cycle - as little as 25% of the total time.

6.0      Basic Teamwork Skills

Effective team members need the following three basic skills:

      1. Communication and Negotiation - Team members need the ability to
         state ideas or questions clearly, listen to others attentively, and to resolve
         disagreements in a non-confrontational manner. This is a skill that many
         students may lack.

      2. Analytic and Creative Skills - Team members need to evaluate
         information and propose creative solutions. Many students have these
         skills, but may not be able to effectively communicate their views or

      3. Organization - The team needs to be able to track and complete all its
         tasks on time. Tensions can often arise if deadlines are missed.

6.1      Communication Tips

Here are some tips that can help students communicate more effectively

         1. Active Listening - Communication is a two-way street, so it is
            important that you listen carefully to your team mates when they are
            speaking. Don't tune speakers out or get caught in the trap of planning
            ahead what you want to say next. You may miss an important detail,
            and in the worst case, you repeat the detail you missed because you
            were not listening.
         2. Ask Questions - If you hear something that sounding confusing to
            you, you should ask about it. Maybe you missed a detail or maybe you
     remembered something others forgot. In any case, it's important that
     everyone understand exactly what's going on. Chances are that if
     you're confused, then others are too. Conversely, if a team member
     asks you a question, you should answer it courteously. The team
     member may be bringing up a crucial detail that could make or break
     the team's plans.
3.   Constructive Feedback - Although it is important to evaluate
     proposed ideas and suggestions, critiques need to be presented with
     tact. Some tips that may help:
         a. Don't express an opinion as a fact - You may hate orange text
             on green, but that is an opinion unless you can cite a legitimate
             reason for your concern (such as that this color combination
             may be harder to read).
         b. Explain your reasons - If you do have an strong opinion, explain
             why you feel that way. This will allow others to evaluate your
             comments more effectively.
         c. Restate the original idea - To be sure you have correctly
             understood someone else's idea before you respond to it.
         d. Compliment another's idea - Even if you do not think it would
             work, some part of it may be valid and could be usable in
             another form.
         e. Respond, don't react - If you feel like you're ready to explode,
             give yourself a few seconds before speaking.
         f. Don't interrupt – the end of a person’s statement may clarify.
             your point. Wait until the speaker is finished before responding.
         g. Critique the idea, not the person
         h. Be courteous
         i. Avoid using jargon
4.   Chat a Little - A meeting does not have to be 100% business. It is
     perfectly fine to ask team members how they are doing or what they
     are planning next weekend. This can really help ease tension when
     disagreements occur later. Of course, you should not socialize for the
     entire meeting. Exchanging greeting and goodbyes are a nice touch.
5.   Body Language Awareness - If you are having a bad day or are
     feeling unhappy with the team project, you could be giving off negative
     signals with body language or a harsh tone of voice. Even if you are
     saying the right thing, team members may still react negatively if you
     send the wrong body language signals.
6.   Appropriate Humor – While you would not want to make fun of your
     classmates or tell jokes that may offend others, there are plenty of
     topics that your teammates may find humorous – some of them may
     even be project related.
7.   Patience – Your may have the best idea, but not everyone may
     understand it the first time you present it. The same question may be
     asked more than once. A member may forget a deadline unless
     reminded. Disagreements may occur over small details. Conversely,
     team members may decide an issue too hastily, and may backtrack
     later. Hang in there - in most cases it will all work out.

6.2      Organizational Tips

Here are some tips that can help student teams organize themselves. This is one
area where technology options for organization can be very beneficial for student
teams. (Verzuh,1999)

      1. Define the goal for the project - Be as specific as you can. What needs
         to be covered in the assignment (read any material from your instructor
         carefully)? What options are allowed? What format is the best? How will it
         be delivered to the instructor? What else does the team want to add?
      2. List tasks to be completed - List out all tasks in reasonable chunks. For
         instance, don't just say "graphics," but list how many graphs, photos, or
         logos may be needed for a project. Don't forget to include "project
         management" tasks such as taking meeting notes.
      3. Assign responsibility for all tasks - Tasks should be divided so that all
         members receive a significant portion of the tasks. You should also ensure
         that all team members are satisfied with the tasks the team has assigned
         to them.
      4. Develop a timeline and checklist - Start from the deadline and work your
         way backwards. Make sure the timeline has some cushion built into it.
         Make sure the entire team understands and agrees to it.
      5. Post a timeline and checklist - Once the timeline has been finalized, it
         should either be posted somewhere or sent or given to everyone
         electronically. Use team meetings to get timeline updates, then post or
         send updated versions. As items get checked off, the team will feel a
         sense of progress.
      6. Set up a central repository for all electronic files - If you are working
         with electronic files, try to find a common area which the entire team can
      7. Post or send all team meeting notes - Sending out team meeting notes
         electronically can ensure that everyone understood what the team
         decided. If someone asks for clarification or says that's not what he or she
         remembered, then double-check that item with the team and send a new
      8. Maintain a central archive for all communications - If possible,
         maintain an archive of all electronic communications in case questions
         arise later.

      9. Send reminders when deadlines approach - As crucial deadlines
          approach, it can be beneficial to send reminders of what needs to be done
          to the appropriate team members. This could be something that the team
          agrees to as part of the ground rules.
      10. Send confirmation when tasks are completed - If you have finished a
          task, it is also a good practice to send a note to the team that you have, in
          fact, completed it.

7.0      Why some Student Dislike Teams

Despite the many benefits of team work, some students can be resistant to them.
Here are some reasons why. (Michaelson,1999)

         1. Students do not know what to expect.

         Teamwork, especially for coursework, may not be an environment many
         students are familiar with. Teamwork requires some special skills,
         especially in the areas of negotiation and communication.

         2. Decisions do take more time

         Unlike individual work where a student can quickly decide, then implement
         a course of action, team work needs consensus from a group, all of whom
         may have different view points. The payoff, though, is that the group can
         review different options, have different eyes look for potential pitfalls, then
         choose a solution which incorporates the best features proposed.

         3. There are disagreements

         Putting together groups of people with different ideas will inevitably lead to
         disagreements and conflict. However, most students are not comfortable
         with handling disagreement, especially without "adult supervision."
         One way to help students is to demonstrate that some disagreement in
         teams is normal and actually productive.

         4. Not all students fully participate

         There are, unfortunately, students who do not attend meetings, miss
         deadlines, never participate and do not get in touch with other team
         members, leaving all the other team members to carry the slack. It is
         important to set up some sort of accountability for team participation

         5. Scheduling conflicts

         Although students are expected to work outside of class, teamwork adds
         the burden that students must be free outside of class at the same time.

         6. Tension of individual versus group accountability

         Students are very anxious about being in a situation where their individual
         grade (and hence their G.P.A.) depends on the performance of other

   8.0      Conflict and Conflict Resolution Tips

         1. Having people with different opinions is one of the essential benefits of

      2. Team members have strong feelings and emotions. A team cannot
         achieve its full potential if all that is allowed is logic or information.
         Varied experience, talent, and energy count, too.

Fortunately, it is possible to take steps to minimize disagreement and conflict
and to resolve those disagreements that may be dangerously escalating.
(Bens,1999). This way the whole team benefits firm the positive value of
diverse opinions.

8.1        Clarify Expectations

Stating expectations clearly will give the team a common ground to begin any
discussion. Some ways to clarifying expectations include:

      1.   Developing a clear statement of team mission or purpose
      2.   Ground rules governing participation, sharing of responsibilities
      3.   Agreement to depersonalize conflicts and focus on substance
      4.   Team recognition that team process, including discussion and
           brainstorming, is important to results and needs regular attention
      5.   Use of structured processes for problem solving and conflict resolution
      6.   Awareness of stages of project development and maintenance
           priorities of each stage
      7.   Clearly and appropriately defined individual responsibilities for real
           work for each other; clear linkage between individual responsibilities
           and the team mission
      8.   Clearly defined project standards and time lines
           If conflict escalates, the following tips may help the team resolve
           disagreements in a step-by-step manner

8.2        Identify the Type of Team Conflict

           Generally, team conflict can be categorized as one of the following:

      1. Internal conflict - An individual or team member is experiencing a
             personal conflict that may or may not be related to the team, but
             which is interfering with the person's ability to perform.
      2. Individual conflict with one other team member - One team
             member is in conflict with another
      3. Individual conflict with the entire team - One team member is
             experiencing conflict with the entire team
      4. Conflict between several team members - The entire team is
             experiencing conflict with several other team members

8.3        Identify Team Needs

Define the team's problem as a shared need. As a group:

      1. Identify the causes.
      2.   Determine the criteria for a solution.
      3.   Generate options.
      4.   Determine possible solutions.
      5.   Develop implementation plans.
      6.   Review results later on a regular basis. At this step, it is especially
           critical that every member of the team provide his or her view.

8.4 Depersonalize Team-Internal Conflict

During the problem-solving phase, focus on issues, not personalities. Use
these guidelines to help depersonalize conflicts.

      1. Encourage each side to objectively explain his or her “bottom line”
         requirements. When the team is determining a solution, each person's
         criteria should be evaluated.
      2. Remind the team of ground rules such as "no criticizing statements by
         other people until all ideas are posted."
      3. Encourage everyone to listen to other points of view.
      4. During the process, keep encouraging points of agreement.
      5. Don't stifle new anger, but also don't dwell on it.

           Another set of steps to consider as a team:

      1.   Acknowledge that the conflict exists.
      2.   Gain common ground.
      3.   Seek to understand all angles.
      4.   Attack the issue, not each other.
      5.   Develop an action plan.

8.5        Structuring Discussion

Here is a structured way to handle conflicts:

      1. Let each person state his or her view briefly.
      2. Have neutral team members reflect on areas of agreement or
      3. Explore areas of disagreement for specific issues.
      4. Have opponents suggest modifications to their own points of view as
         well as others.
      5. If consensus is blocked, ask opponents if they can accept the team's

8.6        Key Questions

Questions that can help teams work through conflict:

      1. What are we supposed to accomplish as a team?
      2. What are each of our roles and responsibilities in accomplishing that
      3. From whom and when do each of us need to get information from
      4. If we get into trouble, whom can we ask for help?
      5. How will we arrive at decisions?
      6. What strengths do each of us bring in accomplishing our goals?
      7. How are we going to make ourselves more accessible to one another?
      8. What are we doing that is blocking the resolution of this problem?
      9. How can we express differences without blaming others?
      10. Which behaviors are unproductive? How can we help individuals take
          ownership of their unproductive behavior? Don't excuse a team
          member when he or she behaves badly.

9.0        What is “Unproductive Behavior”?

Some behaviors are clearly detrimental to the functioning of the team. These

      1.   Consistently missing meetings
      2.   Consistently missing deadlines
      3.   Never coming prepared to meetings
      4.   Not answering e-mail or messages in a reasonable time
      5.   Discourteous or disrespectful language, for example:

            Normal/Productive                    Extreme/Unproductive
                                           Nitpicking – Questioning or
Raising a Concern                          objecting to every possible detail on
                                           the project

                                           Missing Details – Constantly
Asking Questions                           asking questions because you were
                                           not paying attention the first time

                                           Possessiveness – Refusal to
Ownership/Responsibility                   allow anyone to alter or critique the
                                           work you have done for the project

                                           Uncompromising – Never
Principled                                 accepting any proposed

                                           Lurking – Never contributing in
                                           team meetings or other
Listening & Reflecting
                                           communications or only speaking
                                           up at the end, when it’s too late

                                          Nudging – Always sending
                                          reminders and not allowing
Staying in Touch                          members a reasonable interval
                                          before responding before sending
                                          out more notes

                                          Inflexible – Not allowing for
Follows Procedure
                                          changes in a plan or agenda

                                          Doing Everything – Not allowing
On top of things                          other members to make

                                          Personalizing Issues – Attacking
Respectful of Others                      people instead of problems or

Generally, it is best to make a significant effort to resolve problems within the
team before contacting your coach or the instructor. If one or more people are
showing unproductive behavior, try these steps:

       1. First, the team should decide if the behavior in question is really
          unproductive or just a part of the team process. Does the behavior?
              a. Interfere with the team’s ability to complete project work?
              b. Interfere with the team’s ability to reach true consensus?
              c. Significantly interfere with team morale? Morale may not be
                  perfect all the time, but people should be able to work
       2. Make sure a specific behavior has been identified as unproductive.
          The problem is with the behavior not with the person.
       3. When discussing the behavior with a person, try to frame the issue
          as: “I/We feel (frustrated/concerned) when you (fill in behavior)
          because it (explain how it affects the team).”
       4. When appropriate, acknowledge that the person may be acting with
          the best of intentions.
       5. Allow the person to express his or her side of the issue, but make
          sure he or she understands why the team is concerned.
       6. If necessary, attempt to reach a compromise so that both the
          individual and the person are satisfied.

In some cases, a team member may be “missing in action.” If that person has
not responded to the team’s repeated attempts to get in touch or never
appears to meet with the team, it may be best to inform the instructor. They
can work on a solution agreeable to the team.

10.0   Getting Started – The First Meeting

A suggested goal of the first meeting is to establish ground rules for how the
team should operate and what the intended goals are. Some suggestions
    1. Restate project goals - Even if your instructor has given you the goal
       already, it is important to make sure everyone has the same
       understanding of the assignment. One way to do that could be to have
       everyone write down or state five goals for the project, then compare
    2. Name your team - This may sound very trivial but having a common
       name is a good way to feel closer to the project. Team names could be
       a number, a project name or something more lighthearted.
    3. Share contact information - You will probably want to share e-mail
       addresses, but phone numbers or AOL Instant Messenger usernames
       could also be valuable depending on the project. You should also
       establish when and how different tools should be used.
    4. Establish a timeline and assign tasks - For longer team projects,
       you may need to establish an initial work plan and decide who will do
       each task.
    5. Set etiquette ground rules - Although disagreements will arise, it is
       possible to voice opinions in such a way that conflicts do not escalate.
       Typically, it is advised that personal attacks be avoided.

   Remember each team will be assigned a “coach” – so there will be a
   student experienced in teamwork and trained as a coach to guide you!

11.0   References

Angelo, T. A. and Cross. K. P. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook
for College Teachers, 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Bens, I. (1999). Keeping your teams out of trouble. Journal of Quality and
Participation, 22 (4), 45-47.

Bodwell, Donald J. (1996, 1999) "High Performance Team Essential Elements"

Jacques, David (1984) Learning in Groups, Second Edition. London: Croom

Katzenbach, J.R. & Smith, D.K. (1993). The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the
High-performance Organization. Boston: Harvard Business School.

Michaelson, Larry K. (1999) "Myths And Methods In Successful Small Group
Work." National Teaching and Leaning Forum, Vol. 8, #6

Tuckman, B.W. (1965) "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups,"
Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 63, pp. 384-399.

Verzuh, Eric (1999) The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. New York:
John Wiley and Sons.


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