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Given the rapid rate of globalization, enhancing teamwork has been one of the priorities for modern managers. This is attributed to numerous benefits that come along with teamwork. A team could be simply defined as an organization that is established to allocate certain tasks to its members in a bid to enhance productivity within the organization. A team will normally comprise of members from different sections or departments within the organization. Most teams are normally formed with the aim of achieving both long-term and short-term objectives. Research done has shown that teamwork is bound to demonstrate high degrees of harmonized interaction and individual liability. However, the efforts of each member of the team are what leads to effective teamwork. Apart from the team members, the leaders of a team are also important people in a team (Gratton and Tamara, 2007, p. 104). The team leaders should be people of integrity. According to Belbin, the two most important roles for effective teamwork are strong and decisive leaders as well as a leader with a good sense of humour that would make people laugh in order to reduce tension. This paper is, therefore, a critical analysis of Belbin’s theory and a look at its relevance and application to the modern de-layered UK workplace.
The two most important roles for effective teamwork
The modern business requires the employees to be of good individual performance. In most of the multifaceted organizations and companies, success is not only determined by the good individual factors but also by the team interdependence. Several factors contribute to the success of teamwork. Some of these factors include Team size, Homogeneity, Cohesiveness, Professional development and realistic goals, Communication, Conflict management, and Cooperation just to mention a few (Gratton and Tamara, 2007, p. 108). However, in this paper, the two most important roles for effective teamwork are a strong and decisive leader as well as a leader who has a sense of humour and who will be able to entertain his employees a little in order to reduce tension. Among one of the most important qualities of a leader is an ability to make strong and worthwhile decisions. A team like any other organization of people entails making several decisions that could have a significant impact on the success of the team. For effective teamwork, the leader should be strong enough to authorize, set goals and ensure that these goals are reached. In addition, the leader ought to be strong enough to establish norms for the team. Specific norms and rules are important because they are critical in addressing issues that affect the operations of the team. Therefore, when the leader possesses strong, decisive qualities, the team will experience success in their operations.
Secondly, a team leader should demonstrate a good sense of humour which is one of the good ways to reduce tension. It is evident that too much work can lead to fatigue. As such, it is important that a leader knows how to reduce tension with the help of humour in order to enable the team work efficiently and perform their duties. Humour can be demonstrated by means of telling jokes, organizing games and plays among other ways of reducing tension at the work place (Wong, Ormiston, and Tetlock, 2011, p. 1221). Research done has indicated that when people work for long hours without having breaks, it can lead to poor performance. However, when people take breaks during the working hours, they manage to perform more effectively.
Belbin’s theory of team roles
“Meredith Belbin came up with a theory on the roles of individual team members which states that every team member is unique and possesses unique behavior which might affect the performance of the project as a whole” (Belbin, 1993). Belbin began his work at the Henley Management centre in Cambridge in the year 1981. In his work, he emphasized on having a clear insight in the internal group relationships by classifying and defining the roles of each member of a team. This he noted was the key factor in the effective working of a team. According to Belbin “team role is a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” (Loganathan, n.d, p. 2). As such, it can be further explained as the pattern of behavior that is an indication of an individual’s behavior in teamwork. Belbin emphasized that the roles of every team member ought to be identified. This helps to improve the effectiveness of the team operations. It is from the identification of the team roles that the strength of the team can be measured. For instance, it is agreeable that a team whose members possess diversified personalities will perform better than a team whose members have personalities that are similar or duplicated.
From findings of the study conducted by Belbin, it is clear that the role definition in any teamwork is of great significance. According to Belbin, there was a great possibility of an individual to adopt for about nine roles in the team. Among the nine roles, some of them were natural roles, which could be naturally adopted by an individual. Other roles could be difficult for an individual to adopt. Some of the roles established by Belbin include coordinating, shaping, implementation, monitoring, evaluating, resource investigation and team working among others. The Belbin’s team roles and characteristics can be summarized in the table below
|1||Coordinator||Knows the team and enables agreement in the team.||Runs the risk to decide hastily and no marked creative power|
|2||Shaper||Demanding, dynamic, and outgoing. Highly productive under stress conditions, stimulates actions & progress and strong influence on decisions.||Exerts pressure on others, often pushing and provocative.|
|3||Plant||Highly imaginative with intelligence, inspires the environment, individualistic, unorthodox and serious minded.||Sometimes lacking relevance for reality or practice orientation|
|4||Specialist||Conservative, dutiful and organized. Carries out agreed plans systematically and effectively make clear and realistic plans.||Lack of flexibility, unresponsiveness to new ideas that remains unproven.|
|5||Implementer||Conservative, dutiful and organized. Carries out agreed plans systematically and effectively make clear and realistic plans.||Lack of flexibility, unresponsiveness to new ideas that remains unproven|
|6.||Resource investigator||Extroverted, creating external contacts that may be useful to team, exploring on ideas, resources, and developing team objective from outside the group.||Over enthusiastic, easily involved in discussions.|
|7||Completer||Forces perception and 100% execution of tasks, protects team from mistakes, Focus on guidelines, standards, schedules||Hinders progress because of over anxiety and intolerant.|
|8.||Monitor – evaluator||Accurately judging, strategic oriented, researches all options.||Sometimes forget to include details.|
|9.||Team worker||Socially oriented, supports team members and team communication, forces team spirits and fairness.||Lack of decisiveness, avoids friction and avoids competition.|
Table Source: Inferred from Belbin (1993)
Belbin noted that the aforementioned roles have their own strengths as well as weaknesses. In order to understand the application of Belbin’s team role theory, it is equally important to understand the individual roles as well as their correlation in regards to time and other factors affecting teamwork. In one of the roles established by Belbin, he indicated that an effective team member is the one who comes up with new bright ideas for the team. Such a team member ensures the improvement and progress of the team since they are able to create new developments for the teamwork. On the other hand, it is the role of team members to finalise decisions and complete the tasks allocated to them (Hollenbeck, Beersma, and Maartje, 2012, p. 87).
Concisely, Belbin concluded that the roles that he defined could be applied in all team types regardless of their nature. For instance, the board of governors of a school and golf club committee just to mention a few will require all the aforementioned Belbin’s team roles for effective teamwork. Nevertheless, just like most of the laws and findings of most people, the Belbin’s theory of team roles has received much criticism from critics in different corners of the globe. Among the many criticisms is one that claims that the Belbin’s evolved team roles serve little practical value. It is further said that behaviour does not fit into neat categories hence most of the people do not acknowledge allowable weakness. Earlier in the paper, it was discussed that the Belbin’s theory of team roles allow some degree of weakness amongst the strengths of the individual team members. However, as it is evidenced in most of the teamwork organizations, most of the team members do not acknowledge their own weaknesses since there are always loopholes to put the blame on someone else. From this, it can be noted that applying the Belbin’s theory of team roles in organizations will not be as efficient as it should be given the above reason. Furnham and his co-workers form part of those that have criticized Belbin’s theory of team roles. Nevertheless, they go on to acclaim that it is possible to have the team roles compensated for their weakness. The table below shows some of the compensations.
|S/no||Team roles||Compensated by|
|1||Coordinator||Nominate team member, decisions can be taken by rotating team members.|
|2||Shaper||Substitute by other team members who can make regular process check using checklists.|
|3||Plant||Nominate team members who conduct brainstorming, mind mapping sessions.|
|4||Specialist||Using finisher, including other department members.|
|5||Monitor – evaluator||Using team worker|
|6||Implementer||Splitting the work and by outsourcing|
|7||Resource Investigator||Conducting regular meetings, social events, assigning roles for each team member and rewarding.|
|8||Completer||Assigning clear goals for thinker or shaper along with company man may help.|
|9||Team worker||Substituting with coordinator, employ team member with social skills.|
Table Source: Inferred from Belbin (1993)
The theory’s relevance to the modern, de-layered UK workplace
In the above discussion, it has been noted that the Belbin’s theory of team roles cannot be efficiently applied in most of the organizations that advocate for teamwork. This is because of the fact that some of the individual team members are not in a position to accept their weaknesses and bear responsibility for their actions. Therefore in the modern business world, especially in the United Kingdom where delaying of workers has been taking place in the recent years, it will be difficult to apply and implement Belbin’s theory of team roles. This is because when the employees are few there are no loopholes of having to put the blame on other employees. In addition to this, when the employees are delayred, those that remain in the organization will make sure that they fulfil their duties and roles perfectly in order to evade the next delayering process. Additionally, employees who would wish to overcome their weaknesses they can do so by compensating with their team members. As such, the modern workplace has no room for the Belbin’s theory of team roles given the high competition being experienced by employees because of high unemployment rates.
From the above discussion, it can be clearly concluded that the modern workplace is different from the ancient one, hence leading to the difference in team working. This is attributed to processes such as downsizing and delayering that render some of the employees jobless. As such, those that are left in the workplace put as much efforts in their individual work as well as that of team work hence ensuring effective output. Because of this the Belbin’s theory of team roles is not effectively implemented in the modern team working.
Belbin, M., 1993, Team roles at work, Reed, Oxford.
Gratton, L., and Tamara, E. 2007, ‘8 Ways to Build Collaborative Teams’, Harvard Business Review, vol.85 no.11, pp.100-109.
Hollenbeck, J., Beersma B., and Maartje, S. 2012, ‘Beyond Team Types and Taxonomies: A Dimensional Scaling Conceptualization for Team Description’, Academy Of Management Review, vol.37 no.1, pp. 82-106.
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Loganathan, B. n.d, Using Belbin’s Team Role Theory to Find Relation Between Team Roles and Team Preferences in Order to Improve Team Effectiveness, University of Dundee, Scotland.
Wong, E., Ormiston M., and Tetlock, P. 2011, ‘The Effects Of Top Management Team Integrative Complexity And Decentralized Decision Making On Corporate Social Performance’, Academy Of Management Journal, vol. 54 no.6, pp. 1207-1228.