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Teamwork occupies a special place in the operational models of most organizations worldwide. This comes from the realization that it is the most efficient way of achieving the goals of an organization. Globalization is the major force behind the changes seen in workplaces because it is causing inevitable interaction of different cultures.
This realization has been the motivation for learning institutions to adopt the use of group based models of learning to enrich the learning process. This paper relates to the experiences derived from a team-based approach to learning.
It focuses on the formative stages and the operational dynamics of the team. The goal of the team is to analyze the operations of Qantas in order to identify sustainable business practices and the change management process at the airline.
Initial Functioning of the Group
There are two reasons behind the formation of the group. The first reason is that the course under study calls for the analysis of an organization in order to determine elements such as its operations and its change management strategy.
This group is working on Qantas Airlines as the case study. The second goal for the team’s formation is to develop an appreciation of how teams function. In addition to the primary objective of analyzing the operations of Qantas, using a team model to do it promises to provide all the members with an idea of how team function and the dynamics controlling the development process.
Teams tend to develop through certain stages that follow a logical progression. Different scholars refer to these stages using various terms. According to Phillips and McConnell (2005), teams go through five stages in their development process. These stages are, “formation, disequilibrium, role definition, maturity and maintenance”.
They take on a logical progression that follows the dynamic processes at work in the life of the team. However, the more popular way of looking at the team development process is by the model developed by Bruce Tuckman that labeled the stages of team development as Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
Since then different scholars have developed variations to it to accommodate new research and to increase awareness to some of the core issues covered under each of the stages. One of those variations presented by Williams (2006, p. 323) adds three stages to the process titled, “de-norming, de-storming, and deforming” after the performing stage in Tuckman’s model.
The goal for these additions is to show that teams are not permanent but must disintegrate after the attainment of the objectives.
Another example of variations to Tuckman’s model presented by Heldman and Mangano (2009, p. 187) is the addition of a stage called “adjourning”, after Tuckman’s performing stage. These examples show that there is agreement among scholars to the fact that teams go through a logical development cycle.
In order to discuss the development process of the team under discussion, Tuckman’s model will provide the framework. This is because it is simple enough and covers all the key stages of relevance to this discussion. The first stage that the team went through was “forming”, which covered the circumstances that led to its creation.
The members did not have a choice of whether or not to be part of a team because it was a course requirement. The members decided to be part of a team of their choice but they did not have a say as to whether they wanted to be in a team or not.
This brought about a sense of common destiny because the performance of the members in the course depended on their performance as a team.
This situation is not unique but is common especially in the disciplined forces. Soldiers do not have a choice regarding the company they will be in. However, once together, they must put their differences aside and work around their differences to win the war at hand because they all have a common destiny.
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The second stage in the team development process is “storming”. This is the stage where the actual work in the team begins. It is characterized by infighting and jostling for positions because the member are not yet clear what their roles in the team are.
In some cases, some members opt out because they find the jostling unbearable. In the case of the team under review, there was a bit of tension originally as members sought to clarify how the team would operate. Most of the member had other jobs, which made the issue of finding a common time outside of class work very difficult to find.
In addition, there was the challenge of deciding on who would be the team leader. Since the interaction of the members was limited to classroom encounters, member did not have a good appreciation of who had the best skills to lead the team. A vote to decide on the team leader settled the issue.
The next stage that the team passed through was “norming”. After settling down and appointing a leader, the team found it easier to talk and to raise issues related to the project. Some of the issues had a direct impact on the progress of the work while others had to do with the needs of the members.
The team did its best to accommodate the schedules of all the members, especially those who had other jobs. Meeting regularly proved to be a bigger challenge than originally anticipated but the team has worked very hard to settle and get down to business.
The team is currently in the fourth stage of “performing”. There are clear rules guiding the team’s operations and its outcomes. It is clear to all team members that failure to deliver on targets will affect the whole team. The team is working very hard to keep up with the schedule for completion of the work. There are fewer personality related conflicts compared to the initial stages of the teams work.
One of the issues that warrant mention in the whole development process is the goal setting process that the team adopted. In the first meeting, the only thing that was clear was that the team was going to analyze the operation of Qantas. However, the process of doing it remained in the hands of the team. It was up to the team to make up its mind regarding how the project was to proceed.
One definition of a goal is “an end towards which you direct specific effort”. One of the first goals the team had to set and execute was choosing a team leader. The team realized that a team leader would help coordinate the work of the team better than if each member went to work without some form of central control.
After choosing a leader, the team looked at the assignment in detail and developed options for meeting the objectives. At this point, the team identified specific objectives relating to the desired outcome of the process. One of the decisions taken included giving each member a particular department in Qantas as their individual area of focus.
The idea was to develop a comprehensive picture of the company before going on to analyze the trends that showed up based on individual reports. The outcome of the analysis is what will form the core discussion in the final submission of the teams work.
Developed specific goals included the analysis of the operation of specific departments in Qantas, the development of an overall picture of how the airline operates, and the analysis of the change management strategies employed by the airline.
Midstream Changes in Team Dynamics
The critical events that characterized the development of the team related closely to the stage that the team was in. During the forming stage, the critical issue was choosing team members.
As noted earlier, the task for the team was not open for debate hence it was not possible to opt out. After the class to the class to form teams, people grouped themselves based on what they felt was the best arrangement based on the limited interaction with each other in class.
During storming, the team went through a period of distrust and jostling. The members were not sure of whom to trust the responsibilities. Some attempted to take more work to ensure that completion of the assignment, while others took only limited work because of their tight schedules.
Eventually, under the guidance of the team leader, the team rationalized the workload by asking each member to pick a specific aspect of the overall assignment. There was a bit of jostling too because members did not have a good idea of what their role in the team was.
Forming stage gave the team a chance to reconsider its goals, processes, and achievements. The members relaxed and became less formal during meetings. It was in this stage that it became necessary to enforce rules developed earlier because members became relaxed.
Without direction from the chair, the team would have lost time to socialization and to other irrelevancies. However, these activities also helped to build trust.
After the norming stage, the team sorted out many of the issues that came up during storming. The key strengths of different members became apparent during the performing stage. This enabled the team to work better. Some member proved to be more adept at research while others had better analytical skills.
Members collaborated in and out of team meeting to leverage on the strengths available within the team. The key characteristics of the team in this stage were collaboration and high productivity. The team is currently in this stage. Output is satisfactory but there are still problems with meeting the team’s deadlines mainly because of the tight schedules that some team members operate under.
Change Management Process
The characteristics of strong teams include a clear vision, objectives and goals, synergy, flexibility and adaptability, and a strong review mechanism. The team in this report had a very clear objective, which was the analysis of the operations of Qantas. The setting of this objective partly came from the clarity of the course requirements.
In addition to this objective, the team set a number of operational objectives including the number of meetings it needed to have in order to achieve the goals, the targets for each individual member and the quality of work the team wanted to present at the end of the exercise. In as far as strong objectives characterize strong teams, this team met the requirement.
The second characteristic of a strong team is synergy. In other words, it is the working together of the team members by leveraging on the strengths of individual members to create a strong result.
This aspect came into play when the team used its strongest members to validate research and analysis done by the other members. The team members passed on their work to members who were strong in research and analysis for criticism and comment.
This improved the quality of the output that each individual provided and by extension it improved the overall quality of the work the team produced at each stage.
The third aspect of strong teams that this team displayed was flexibility and adaptability. Flexibility showed when team members constantly put effort into adjusting and synchronizing personal schedules to create time for team meetings. As mentioned earlier, some of the team members have demanding jobs and getting time off apart from class time to attend meetings is a major issue for them.
Nonetheless, a lot of effort went into finding a workable time to ensure the meeting of the team’s objectives. On the issue of adaptability, the team worked hard to find ways of remaining in touch outside the meetings and classes. In this sense, the use of email and text messaging made it possible for the team members to keep in touch and to continue with work despite the severe time constraints.
This option was not immediately obvious to the team because the model that the members originally had in mind included meeting together for discussions and compiling parts of the work. The reality however is that it is difficult to meet as often as earlier envisaged. This called for innovation and a flexible attitude to see how to employ electronic means of communication.
The final characteristic of strong teams is that they review progress regularly as a source of learning. On this count the team still has a lot to do. The time constrains associated with this team’s work means that most of the meeting time went into the actual development of the work with very little time left for meaningful review. However, in principle, the team fully appreciates the need for regular review.
The experiences of the team with this project illustrate the practical hurdles teams face in the process of executing their mandate. There are always forces acting to make it difficult for the team to execute its mandate. It also shows that each team must go through the formative processes.
The stages of team development occur concurrently with the team’s efforts to achieve the primary goals. There is always need to balance the needs of the team as a growing unit with the achievement of the objectives set for the team.
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