Essay: Managing People. Module

Pages: 11 (3535 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 17  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] These new rules for the work team enabled the leaders to fortunately press the 'reset' button and a clear team vision statement and goal was written out, along with the objectives and the deliverables of the project. There was some continued 'storming' in terms of the prioritization of specific values and ideas over others, but the general goal of creating a feasible and readable layperson's manual was finally at the forefront of the team's agenda.

One problem which exacerbated the conflict between IT and HR is that both departments had not worked together very much in the past. Rather than a coherent, united workplace, this place of employment had a relatively diffused organizational style. IT often operated in a bubble, on its own, without having to deal with the real, persistent challenges of dealing with 'real people.' Avoidance was the usually strategy undertaken when members did not wish to have to deal with confusion or complaints, and there was a general sense of contempt that ordinary workers did not understand the beauty and true nature of the computer system. "Avoidance is a coping strategy when people are uncomfortable and want to distance themselves from others" (MacAdam 2004). Similarly, HR staff tended to get annoyed at IT for making things too complicated when people complained or took too long to train. The vital role computers played in the organization was forgotten, except when something went wrong.

Thus, one of the unexpected benefits of the construction of the work team to create the new manual was a sense of mutual dependency on one another that had not been previously acknowledged before. This enabled the work team to eventually transition into the next, more productive phase of the Tuckman model, the norming phase. During this phase: "agreement and consensus largely forms among the team, who respond well to facilitation by leader. Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted. Big decisions are made by group agreement. Smaller decisions may be delegated to individuals or small teams within group" (Chapman 2013). Above all, there was a true sense of commitment to a higher purpose and genuine interest in the final product (Chapman 2013). Once the common goals were established by the leaders and the leaders were able to see themselves as united in their management of the team, rather than at odds, the group was able to follow. Eventually, team members were more willing to open up outside of meetings, and the email 'list' began to have more productive dialogue rather than stony silence.

In retrospect, 'icebreaking' activities would have been very helpful during the early stages of team development, to more completely set the stage for the norming phase. 'Icebreaking' does not have to be complex or challenging. For example, one popular ice-breaking activity is to instruct team members to find ten things that all of them have in common outside of work (from favorite foods, to owning pets, to television programs they like to watch). The group can 'brainstorm' this activity collectively, eliminating everything but the ones which they all share (Heathfield 2013). As well as getting the group talking to one another, this reinforces the concept that workers share more in common than they might think.

Other, more formal icebreaking activities include taking personality tests such as the Carl Jung's and Isabel Briggs Myers' typology which rates test-takers based upon characteristics such as the degree to which they are introverts or extroverts, are judgers vs. perceivers, feeling or thinking-oriented, or are sensory or intuitive in nature. The members of the group can then discuss their results collectively to understand their differences: as well as appreciating similarities understanding the different personality and worldview orientations of team members can be extremely valuable, because it enables group members to understand such conflicts are not rooted in personal dislike, but rather different backgrounds and approaching problems. For this work team, such an exercise would have been particularly useful, given that the primary conflict was based upon the different worldviews of IT vs. HR

Using such soul-searching personality inventories would also have been useful given it would have created greater self-conscious about the informal as well as the formal roles of all the team members. Of course, all team members had formal roles which they were supposed to play, such as the IT personnel in charge of specific components of the manual, technical writers in charge of creating and refining the prose and members of HR who were supposed to talk about the different needs of various types of classes of personnel. But work teams often exhibit 'role-playing' in a different sense, in which certain group members consciously or unconsciously assume roles that may hamper or facilitate the development of the work team. "One of the most useful insights for doing this is to realize that 'leadership' is not a simple property of one person ('the leader'), but rather it is a rich and diverse series of roles that are frequently shared by many people within a healthy group" (Roles in groups, 2013, Strategies for Cultural Change, 9). For example, one member of the IT staff was very dominant (a 'dominator) in demanding that specific components be included, resulting in a focus more on the 'trees rather than the forest' in terms of the project needs; similarly another member, this time a person from HR, functioned in a 'blocking' role, continually challenging the suggested inclusions of the IT staff as unnecessary (Roles in groups, 2013, Strategies for Cultural Change, 9). It can be difficult for group leaders to thwart the dominance of unproductive personalities: in this instance, a common sense of frustration combined with the reframing of the purpose of the group reduced the power of these individuals in the group's dynamic.

Finally, after much heartache, the team was able to enter the Tuckman 'performing' stage, which cumulated in the production of a final, useful document that could be used by all members of the organization. This stage is characterized by a full, general appreciation for the potential of all group members to make a contribution. "The team is more strategically aware; the team knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing….There is a focus on over-achieving goals…The team has a high degree of autonomy" (Chapman 2013). Success eventually built upon success, and as the final manual began to take shape, the commitment of the group shifted from conflict to pride in the final product (Chapman 2013). The group members had a fuller understanding of the fact that they are a group and the components of the group are larger than the sum of the whole.

There is also a final stage to the Chapman model, that of adjourning, which details how the group eventually must engage in 'adjourning,' or closing. Although the project itself was brought to completion and the team eventually folded, the lessons learned suggested that there needed to be more dialogue between different divisions of the organization. In the modern workplace, IT plays a vital role in every dimension of the company, and it cannot be separated entirely without being involved in the day-to-day operations of how workers function in the 'real world' of the modern office. On the other hand, workers in non-technical functions cannot afford to be ignorant of IT. Larger organizational problems were brought to the forefront, in other words, as a result of this exercise.


Regular team 'diagnostics' should have been created to evaluate team performance at various junctures, most critically including the 'forming,' not simply in terms of the creation of timely project deliverables. At the beginning, every team member should be aware of the project's expectations and be asked to articulate the goal of the group: then, a consensus must be achieved about the deliverables before the minutiae of the project is detailed. Leaders must be firm at the outset about deadlines and reasonable group rules, to minimize other members of the group assuming the agenda. There also must be harmony between the positions of leadership in terms of the final objective and vision for the project. Having the group engage in icebreaking activities and giving the group personality tests to get a better sense of commonalities and differences would have enabled the team to be more mindful and self-conscious of the different processes each felt most comfortable with when working with others.

At the end of the project, group members and leaders should be asked to rate one another and the group as a whole for its effectiveness and to provide input about team performance for the future. "People with high scores for getting along know how to build and maintain relationships, construct social networks -- in short, they are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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