Effective Group Planning and Management

Introduction

Our group of thirteen members undertook the challenge of climbing Mount Everest. Reaching Mount Everest is very challenging, but we undertook the tour with the aim of bonding and strengthening personal ties amongst us. We had a wonderful experience that helped us learn a lot about each other. Apart from the fun, we also had a number of difficulties, which largely arose due to some dysfunctional ties in our group. The experience was physically very tormenting but, at the same time, very exciting and eye-opening. In line with Christopher John’s four-step model, this report first evaluates the various challenges faced by the group, the different poignant experiences, influences, and reflection that alternative course of action that the group executed.

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The Team Context

The team was composed of people with diverse skills and competencies. As per Belbin Robert, a professor and teamwork specialist’s model, an ideal team is characterized by such diversity. The diagram below shows how the complementary roles of different team members contribute to the success of a team.

Belbin (2010)’s effective team model

Diagram based on Belbin (2010)’s effective team model.

The divergent skills and competencies in the group were due to different professions from which the team drew its members. The wide pool of skills supplied the group with a rich reasoning base. Consequently, the group members had several alternative ways of handling any challenge encountered. McConnell Charles (2005, p. 89), a professor, asserts that a successful team should possess varied skills, experiences, and exposure to ensure the job is done. Similarly, Belbin (2010, p. 23) contends that for each group to be effective, complementary skills but not identical skills are needed. Our group possessed varied skills and dispositions; therefore, the challenge was in harmonizing them for the good of the group. Furthermore, due to diversity in the group composition, team performance was greatly affected; decision-making was a laborious exercise that almost at some point, tore the team apart.

The group composed of members of both gender; therefore, some members, especially the women, required extra motivation to overcome the physical challenge that proved very cumbersome. The success of the group depended on tolerance among members, forbearance, motivation, and good communication skills. As the challenge became tough and tougher, the group had to come up with alternative methods of doing things and encouraging each other. Generally, the team leader was entrusted with the obligation of enhancing cohesion and understanding. My role in the team was to assist the team leader. As the team leader’s assistant, I was to help him in steering the group towards attaining its set objective.

In an attempt to achieve the organization’s goals successfully, our team formulated our mission and objectives. Glenn M. Packer (2008, p. 20), a famous management specialist and writer, argues that teams are bound together by the goals and objectives they develop. The team’s primary goal was to ensure group cohesiveness as well as enhancing mutual understanding as a prerequisite of attaining other goals. The most crucial thing was for the team to understand why it exists and the purpose for which it was formed. For this to be achieved, there was not to harmonize individual goals into a group goal or mission. Davis and Davis (1998) contend that an organization’s staffs require “orienteering” to enhance effective bonding and developing mutual understanding. In addition, effective orienteering provides a platform to enhance belonging and self-appreciations (Packer, 2008).

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Before accomplishing its objectives or task, our team had to deal with issues well captured in Tuckman’s model of group dynamics. According to Tuckman, effective group formation is a four-stage process. The stages are as shown in the graphic below.

Group formation stages as discussed by Chris Martlew an economist (2004)

Diagram Showing group formation stages as discussed by Chris Martlew an economist (2004).

Our group exhibited all the stages shown above. At first, everyone was nice and welcoming. However, as time went by, conflict of roles and interpersonal clashes led to storming. Norming in the group was only possible after interventions to cultivate the team spirit. The team spirit was cultivated due to the group’s understanding as well as effective communication. Though communication is paramount in any teamwork, effective communication is not an easy task (Levi, 2010). The team strived to foster good interpersonal skills as well as mutual understanding to avoid unwanted discords. Belbin (2010, p.48) point out that effective teamwork requires constant interactions to invoke collective participation. The team leader of our group strived to ensure the group remained focused on the teams’ goals and objectives by stimulating effective communication.

Experience

The team had a wonderful experience during mountain climbing. The atmosphere and energy ejected by each member were overwhelming. Since the event separated us from our daily cares, the team cherished every opportunity to relax and refresh before embarking on a rigorous curriculum schedule. However, despite the jubilant mood prevailing, the team experienced a host of challenges that thwarted the team spirit. The main challenging issues that surfaced during the exercise were; lack of motivation or will to keep going, poor leadership, and lack of cohesiveness (Belbin, 2010). Although problems are bound to occur in any organization, the criterion used to solve them determines the success of the organization. In our group, the team leader Mr. Bush was an easygoing person who shied from confronting a problem promptly as it emerges.

The situation festered as several problems went unattended; hence, the team spirit was adversely affected, and it almost tore the group apart. Sometimes the group failed to initiate timely solutions to some personal or interpersonal problems among members. The laxity made it difficult for the team to perform effectively. Despite having binding goals, the team’s dedication to meeting its goals was diminishing with the occurrence of every interpersonal problem.

The escalation of problems made me intervene to help the team back to its course. My intervention was based on the gaps and traps that had emerged in the team. Martlew (2004, p.150) asserts that unless the team closes given gaps, the inherent problem will exacerbate.

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The other problem that threatened to derail the organization from achieving its goals was due to a lack of motivational incentives (Bastiens et al., 2010). The team lacked proper morale to handle the task of climbing the mountain. Even though the team had all the necessary climbing facilities, adequate food, and energy boosters and support, in the face of hardship, the team lacked intrinsic inspiration. Most members lacked confidence, enthusiasm, and motivation to press on. The fact that our team leader failed to motivate the group aggravated the situation. Even before we reached the halfway mark, some members had already despaired and were willing to retreat. This called for quick interventions to avoid the premature ending of our mission.

In some instances, our mission went as planned, we realized our short-term targets with ease as well as maintain the required pace. However, our steady progress was often deterred by conflicts that cropped up. These incidences dissuaded the entire team as alternative approaches were assigned to maintain the team on track. The complementary skill displayed by the team members’ helped the team in devising alternatives mechanism in dealing with challenges.

However, selecting the best alternative became a heinous challenge since each member perceived his or her opinion to be superior and wanted it to be implemented. To contain these differences, Levi (2010, p.152) suggests that alternative opinions should be subjected to a discussion to eliminate the less appropriate methods and only to leave the most viable ones. Although discussions are time-consuming, Levi (2010, p.152) contends that the team should set their priority on which decision to make first and leaving those decision with longer time frames.

To enhance the participation of all members, the team activities were distributed evenly according to the qualifications and skills possessed by each individual. These duties were not distributed according to gender but as per individual capability, interests, and talent (Bastiens et al., 2010). For instance, men were sometimes to organize for meals a role that is traditionally assigned to women. In addition, women were also assigned duties to work jointly with men. Apart from enhancing bonding, the assignment criteria also ensured the team spirit was maintained throughout the project. Lack of gender discrimination encouraged interpersonal skills as well as team bonding. Without making such discrimination, the team spirit was enhanced; participation facilitated the realization of the team’s mission.

Reflection

Owing to the various challenges that were facing the team, I decided to intervene to ensure the team moved on towards realizing set goals and objectives. The first issue that I dealt with was delayed problem resolution. From my analysis, I realized the group was failing due to unattended issues. As problems piled, the team’s spirit withered away. The challenges turned into problems due to lack of proper leadership (Levi, 2010). Our team leader was easy going and did not give due diligent attention to issues. When I intervened, I had to address both the previous and current problems for the group to move on.

This was never to be easy; I opted to engage the entire group in a “clear the air” discussion. I gave a brief introduction before I invited members to air their grievances freely. At first, the team was slow to respond, but later participation was overwhelming. When people are put in a group, they will definitely talk; however, the discussion should be controlled to enhance the achievement of the discussion goals (Davis and Davis, 1990, p. 290).

Due to many conflicts among the group members that had piled without being attended to, it was difficult for the team to achieve its goals speedily. A member suggested that the team utilizes Santrock and Halone’s Peer Assistance Network (PAN). The Peer Assistance Network is a wonderful tool that allows a group to operate in an informal manner that allows each member to portray his or her actual self (Santrock and Halone, 2008, p. 305). This proved vital in inducing each member to participate freely in the group. To handle conflicts in a group, the leader should have the emotional intelligence to discern issues beforehand (Leslie, 2003).

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Since the team was experiencing delays in hitting some targets, it was vital to revisit our goals and objectives to ensure the team internalized them. To achieve this, we broke down our goals into short-term targets, which were independent. As advised by Parker (2008, p. 22), we made SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) goals. Initially, our goals were not tangible, but they were general guidelines that lacked depth and difficult to implement. Martlew (2004, p. 150) describes our kind of scenario as an “alchemist’s trap.” This situation arises when the group strives to attain an impossible venture (Payne, 2001, p.53). However, the intervention meeting elaborated on the objective of our project, and it, in a way, enhanced our interpersonal relationship.

To address the issue of lack of motivation to keep on, even when physically drained, I suggested the group to search within themselves and embrace intrinsic motivation that would increase personal enthusiasm and self-actualization. Belbin, a professor and a management specialist (2010), who argues that intrinsic incentives help any group to develop social ties, echoes similar sentiments.

On the other hand, the other issue that inhibited the overall achievement of group goals is the lack of individual empowerment. Gondal & Khan (2008) argued that group empowerment stimulates not only individual proportionate performance but also the total group performance. Gondal & Khan (2008) further points out that there is a correlation between team empowerment and team performance. However, some aspects of the team performances are immeasurable, and therefore the group should “feel the decision” by infusing additional energy (Martlew, 2004, p. 150).

Conflicting roles

Even though my intervention roles helped to reinstate the group into its rightful direction, my role and those of the team leader conflicted in several instances. In the course of the intervention, my duties as an activity coordinator overlapped with those of the leader as I took charge of controlling the entire group. The indifference nature of the team leader tempted me to control the entire group by addressing the team, a role designated to the chairperson. Sometimes differences arose between the two of us, but we managed to solve them in time. Lack of well-defined and specific group objectives and official mandate provide a conducive environment for such differences to thrive (Levi, 2010).

Overlapping of duties became a course for concern due to a lack of structured guidelines. I was a victim of extending my duties since some officials in the group shied away from achieving their roles. Before the intervention, most officials did not understand their extent of the operation, and they, therefore, exceeded their mandate or underperformed. However, after the intervention, the duties of each leader were clearly elaborated, and each person operated within the stipulated limit.

Alternative course of action

Most challenges that we faced as a team were attributed to a lack of assertive leadership. Mr. Bush was easily manipulated; he was also unable to lead the team forward through his ingenuity and strong will. Assertive leadership offers reliable guideline that quells any disharmony and differences existing in the group (Savage, 2008). Assertive leader stands a chance of addressing any problem before the situation worsens or gets out of hand.

Thus, the team leader needs to utilize participatory leadership. In participatory leadership, the group leader engages the entire group in decision making rather than deciding alone (Doyle & Smith, 2009). Participatory leadership is people-centered, and therefore it boosts members’ satisfaction. Apart from providing motivation, participatory leadership enhanced group performances.

The other alternative that best fits the situation would be the adoption of a collective intelligence approach. This approach ensures the group utilizes the diverse skills portrayed by the group in decision-making. Bastiaens (2010, p. 39), a famous management author, asserts that the collective intelligence approach enhances innovation through a new operating paradigm. Since this approach stimulates member’s creativity, the group performance can be improved a great deal.

Learning

The climbing of Mount Everest has enlightened me on many issues pertaining to group dynamics and team leadership. I have realized that each group needs to be anchored on a foundation of mutual understanding and respect. Failure to integrate interpersonal skills affects the organization’s ability to deal with emerging differences. Therefore, the team leader ought to be assertive and bold enough to govern the operation of the group. However, the leader should avoid any autocratic tendencies but allow participatory leadership. On the same note, the leader should develop a good relationship with team members to enhance support and team cohesion (Doyle & Smith, 2009).

Effective communication should never be underestimated in any group operations. Though all teams and groups are awash in conflicts, the prevalence of good communication skills helps to address the problem. To foster good communication, the team should embrace informal communication to allow each participant to portray his or her inner self. Restricting all group operations in a formal way inhibits members from portraying the true self (Waddell, 2008).

Group performance is seriously affected by a lack of motivation. To ensure continued performance, a group needs to ensure the team is regularly furnished with both hygiene and motivation incentives (Belbin, 2010). The two are key issues identified in Hertzberg’s motivation theory. In an organizational setting, hygiene factors aim at reducing dissatisfaction while motivational incentives enhance group performances. Thus, constant motivation helps the group to remain focused on its goals and objectives.

Conclusion

There are many challenges that a team or group has to contend with. Poor communication, lack of leadership skills, and lack of motivation are the challenges that often derail groups from attaining their goals. Every team leader would prefer having a cohesive and well-motivated team. However, this is never the case, as all teams are awash in challenges and misunderstandings that require prompt attention and adequate attention.

Failure to address the emerging issues aggravates the situation and may eventually disintegrate the team. In our group, we had a leader who did not exercise a hand-on approach. Issues emerged that were never given due attention. It took my timely intervention to reinstate the team to the right track. Unless proper measures are put in place, at the right time, team performance becomes increasingly difficult. The entire experience related in this report has helped improve my understanding of team dynamics and conflict resolution.

References

Bastiaens, T., Baumöl, U., and Krämer, B., J., 2010. On Collective Intelligence. Springer: Berling.

Belbin, R., 2010. Management Teams: Why They Succeed Or Fail. Butterworth- Heinemann: Oxford.

Leslie, J., 2003. Leadership Skills & Emotional Intelligence. Center for Creative Leadership, Web.

Davis, J., R., & Davis, A., B., 1998. Effective Training Strategies: A Comprehensive Guide to Maximizing. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: San Francisco.

Doyle, M., E., & Smith, M., K., 2009. Classical leadership. Web.

Gondal, A., & Khan, A., 2008. Impact of Team Empowerment on Team Performance Case of the Telecommunications Industry in Islamabad. International Review of Business Research Papers, 4 (5) pp. 138-146. Web.

Levi, D. 2010. Group Dynamic for Teams. Sage Publishers: London.

Martlew, C. 2004. Leadership recharged! Business Leadership & Organizational Architecture. Troubadour Publishing: Leicester.

Packer, G., M., 2008. Team Players and Team Work: New Strategies for Developing Successful. John Wiley and Sons: San Francisco.

Payne, V., 2001. The Team-Building Workshop: A Trainer’s Guide. AMACOM: New York.

Santrock, J., W., & Halonen, J., S., 2008. Your Guide To College Success: Strategies For Achieving Your Goals. Cengage Learning: Boston.

Savage, C., 1998. Assertive Leadership and Their Point. The Plain Dealer. Web.

McConnell, C., 2005. Umiker’s Management Skills for New Health Supervisors. Jones & Bartlett Learning: Sudbury.

Waddell, M., 2008. High Performance Management Team Development Programme. Web.

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