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Frontline Management You have recently accepted the position of 'Team Leader of Distribution and Warehousing' for a large, high turnover assistive device distribution company. Products include wheelchairs, commodes, grab rails, continence aids, adaptive aids for mobility, etc. 


Your team has 12 members from diverse cultural backgrounds and with different skill levels. Some team members have worked with the company and, in this division, for a number of years. Other team members are relatively new. Two have worked in other departments/sections of the company before being transferred to your team. The reason for your appointment to the role is that the departmental productivity (outputs) has been falling significantly short of the company's expectations. The senior managers of the company have identified the following problems with the team. 


• Communication between team members appears to be strained.

• Levels of cooperation are falling.

• Communication with the other teams in the company is last minute and ineffective.

• There is no one currently taking on a leadership role

• Prioritisation of tasks appears to occur on an 'ad hoc' (Only as required, only 'for this') basis. 


Each of the team members was selected on the basis of demonstrated skills and expertise, but they seem to be unable to work together effectively. Your initial role is that of a 'trouble shooter', problem solver and team facilitator and you have been asked to bring these people together in a cohesive, effective and productive team. 

Huszczo Theory

Despite diversity on cultural backgrounds, skill levels and work experience there should always be cohesion in team work. Team cohesion leads to true success because with it comes decreased anxiety, team member self-esteem and work satisfaction. Team cohesion is an attitude of togetherness in any given team. In other words, it is an interpersonal connection that results from strength that exists among group members (McMillan, Morris and Atchley, 2011, p8). The connection the team has, builds a bond amongst the group members such that they are always motivated and ready to participate in accomplishment of goals that have been set (Baker, Day and Salas, 2010, p1577). In order to make this work, there are tools for team excellence according to Professor Gregory Huszczo.

Huszczo holds that, in order to achieve excellence, a team should have active reinforcement system (Huszczo, 2009, p3). This ensures that every member is accountable such that they will all avoid doing what they are not supposed to do to avoid repercussions. Additionally, it puts in place rewards for positive behaviors and outcomes. This serves as a motivation for doing great things in team work hence avoiding all that could lead to negative outcomes. Secondly, there must be clear and enticing responsibilities such that each group member understands what their role is. This ensures that there is no task left unattended to. However, responsibilities are delegated depending on the member’s expertise to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Also, it makes the team be aware of who to report to in case of a problem or consultation so as to avoid confusion. Thirdly, it should have a clear sense of direction in that, all the members have a shared purpose and understand what the outcomes should be hence know how to corporate to achieve the purpose as a team. Most importantly, the team should have interpersonal relationships that are constructive. This results the members to provide support, celebrate diversity, challenge individuals and handle conflict. The team should not only have interpersonal relationships but also external ones. This enables the team to work with other members of the organization to accomplish the set goals. Furthermore, reasonable and efficient operating procedures make the team effective in that, everything is done according to initial plan so as to prevent dysfunction.

Again, according to Belbin, a team is supposed to have nine roles which represent the diverse behaviors in any given team (Aritzeta, Swailes and Senior, 2009, p97). These are, resource investigator, team worker, coordinator, plant, monitor evaluator, specialist, shaper, implementer and completer finisher. The resource investigator is inquisitive in nature and uses that to look for ideas and bring back to the team. Team worker uses his or her versality to gel the team by identifying required work so as to complete it for success of the team. A coordinator focuses on objectives of the team, delegates work and draws out team members. Plant is highly good at problem solving and also creative.  Monitor evaluator is a logical eye of the team who makes judgements and weighs options of the team dispassionately. A specialist gives the team in-depth knowledge to key areas. Shaper ensures that the team does not lose focus by providing it with the necessary drive. The implementer plans a workable strategy and efficiently carries it out. Finally, the completer finisher polishes tasks at the end so as to scrutinize errors.

Belbin's Theory

Most importantly, there are strategies to develop team cohesion. One of the important strategies is valuing everyone’s contribution. Hereby, every team member should participate so as to draw success from everyone’s expertise. Therefore, there should be no discrimination no matter the role one is playing because they are all working for same purpose. For instance, the fact that there are those group members who have worked with the company for some years can share that experience with new members in the company to help them understand more about the group and the company. Likewise, those who have been in a different department can bring in what they have from that other side that can be used in achievement of the set goals. Secondly, team members will be empowered such that there are those who will be delegated authority to bring the feeling of ownership of activities and issues proposed in the team (Mach, Dolan and Tzafrir, 2010, p776). This makes the team members feel that their leader knows that they have a feeling of responsibility. Additionally, they feel good to be trusted in having a leader amongst them. This results them to having more energy in doing what is required of them (Leonard and Frankel, 2011, p820). Again, development of team cohesion will also be achieved through resolution of conflicts that could rise within the group. Clearly, constructive conflicts indicate how healthy a group is hence they should be perceived as a normality. However, conflicts including petty and irrelevant ones need to be solved immediately. In case a solution is not reached when solving it amongst the team members who are in conflict, a third-party should be involved so as to ensure nothing intrigues togetherness which in most cases leads to failures. Cohesion could also be achieved by making the team members understand that attainment of the set goals in not only for the benefit of the organization but also for them. As a result, they will all be working to achieve their own success too. After all, everyone feels good achieving success thus every team member will want to experience that.

Besides cohesion, there is team participation that leads to optimal performance and productivity. Moreover, it makes a team brainstorm strategic decisions, solve problems and complete a project. Therefore, in order to encourage participation to all group members, there should be the right team structure. This consists of team members who are committed and depended on active participation. In addition, the right team structure has members who are purposed for team work. Such a team can alleviate any burdens hence leading to creative solutions and high quality (Leonard, Graham and Bonacum, 2009, p86). This is because, the right team structure consists of members who understand purpose of the group hence aim at attaining it. Again, stage for team participation will be set so as to achieve high participation.  In this case, team members will be informed about the expectations of participation. Most importantly, an open participation foundation will be laid down through various strategies. First and foremost, group members will directly be asked to participate directly through suggestions, memos, and meetings and written comments. This will include ideas, complains and anything else that a team member believes can take the team to a higher limit. Secondly, rules will be set to encourage everyone in the group to participate actively and let them know that their ideas count. For instance, in case of any meeting, every group member will be expected to say something in support attaining the purpose. Thirdly, at the start of every task, active participation will be pushed for. This will ensure that every member not only plays their role but also brings in other ideas required for success of the whole team (Callow, Smith, Hardy, Arthur and Hardy, 2009, p395). Finally, every member will be thanked for the contributions made. Also, all ideas will be respected and considered.

Developing Team Cohesion

In the case study, the group has had problems such as poor communication between members and other teams in the company. Also, cooperation levels have been falling and no one seems to be taking on leadership role. Additionally, task prioritization has got a problem. These problems can be solved distinctively. For instance, the fact that communication in this group is strained could be as a result of conflicts. However, strained communication does not only mean there is conflict among the group members but could also be as a result of poor communication skills. Firstly, in order to achieve communication amongst team members and other groups in the company, there should be open door policy which is meant to prevent secrecy (Pfrimmer, 2009, p294). This means that every group will be encouraging transparency, clarity and credibility amongst the members because when people are communicating nothing can be hidden. Again, feedbacks will be given using the right channel and they will also be meant to create unity not extra boundaries. This is because, the right communication skills will be employed. This will also be expected from all the team members so as to increase motivation, performance and satisfaction (West, 2012, p10). Most importantly, clear instructions will be ensured to avoid miscommunications in the workplace. Thus, roles and responsibilities will be clarified to also increase accountability and prevent confusions and misunderstandings. Again, a good environment will be created to give everyone an opportunity to know each other well thus bring a feeling that everyone has investment in the outcome. As a result, communication channels will be opened in both group members and other members of the company generally. Another way to increase communication in teamwork will be through holding meetings whereby each member will be given time to give their own views (Barker and Gower, 2010, p298). Furthermore, appropriate forms of communication will be used to ensure everyone gets information effectively. For instance, if whatever being communicated needs to be conveyed individually to each group member, that will be the case.

Communication should also be used to give feedback to team members concerning the work done according to their duties (Schartel, 2012, p78). Feedback is helpful despite how positive or negative it could be because it is used in making important decisions. Feedback does not only benefit the organization but also the receiver and giver (London, 2014, p2). It benefits employees in that they get motivated in what they are doing. If it is positive they get to continue doing it better (Wegge, Jeppesen, Weber, Pearce, Silva, Pundt, Jonsson, Wolf, Wassenaar, Unterrainer and Piecha, 2011, p7). On the other hand when the feedback is negative, a team member will work on improving the tasks as per the comments.

Work conflicts affect cooperation levels (CHEN, Zhang and Vogel, 2011, p1009). Work conflict is a disagreement on ideas or interests between people or groups in the work place. It could be between workers and managers, among managers, among workers and between workers and supervisors. According to Thomas Kilmann’s model of conflict resolution, there are 5 options of conflict resolution (Thomas, 2011, p1). The first one is competing, whereby, one has to stand up for their own rights and defend their position which they believe is correct. The second one is accommodating in that, the form of selfless charity or generosity is applied in giving in to orders of another person. The third one is avoiding, whereby, an issue is postponed to a better time in a diplomatic manner so as to withdraw from situations that are threatening. The fourth one is compromising, in that, the differences between the two conflicting positions are split so as to seek for a solution in the middle ground. Lastly, is collaborating basing on willingness to listen to others, mutual respect and creativity in looking for solutions.

Developing Team Participation

Clearly, task prioritization is not dependent on the urgency of the task. However, all the tasks delegated must be worked on so as to achieve success as a team. Besides, tasks will be delegated depending on skills that every member has to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. The problem of task prioritization will be solved through ensuring that every team member understands their role and how significant it is in attainment of the set goals. Moreover, as the team leader, follow ups will be made on how each and every member of the team is doing their work (Nielsen and Munir, 2009, p315). On top of that, there will be rewards for those who do their tasks accordingly. Additionally, there will be promotions for those who will be prioritizing their tasks. These will not be meant to bribe team members to do their tasks but will serve as a motivation. All in all, cooperation is important even in performing the delegated tasks.

References:

Aritzeta, A., Swailes, S. and Senior, B., 2009. Belbin's team role model: Development, validity and applications for team building. Journal of Management Studies, 44(1), pp.96-118. 

Baker, D.P., Day, R. and Salas, E., 2010. Teamwork as an essential component of high?reliability organizations. Health services research, 41(4p2), pp.1576-1598.

Barker, R.T. and Gower, K., 2010. Strategic application of storytelling in organizations: Toward effective communication in a diverse world. The Journal of Business Communication (1973), 47(3), pp.295-312.

Chen, Z.J., Zhang, X. and Vogel, D., 2011. Exploring the Underlying Processes between Conflict and Knowledge Sharing: A Work?Engagement Perspective 1. Journal of applied social psychology, 41(5), pp.1005-1033.

Huszczo, G.E., 2004. Tools for team leadership: Delivering the X-factor in team excellence. Davies-Black Publishing, p1-4.

Leonard, M.W. and Frankel, A.S., 2011. Role of effective teamwork and communication in delivering safe, high?quality care. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine: A Journal of Translational and Personalized Medicine, 78(6), pp.820-826.

London, M., 2014. The power of feedback: Giving, seeking, and using feedback for performance improvement. Routledge, p1-10.

Mach, M., Dolan, S. and Tzafrir, S., 2010. The differential effect of team members' trust on team performance: The mediation role of team cohesion. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(3), pp.771-794.

McMillan, H.S., Morris, M.L. and Atchley, E.K., 2011. Constructs of the work/life interface: A synthesis of the literature and introduction of the concept of work/life harmony. Human Resource Development Review, 10(1), pp.6-25.

Nielsen, K. and Munir, F., 2009. How do transformational leaders influence followers' affective well-being? Exploring the mediating role of self-efficacy. Work & Stress, 23(4), pp.313-329.

Pfrimmer, D., 2009. Teamwork and communication. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 40(7), pp.294-295.

Schartel, S.A., 2012. Giving feedback–An integral part of education. Best practice & research Clinical anesthesiology, 26(1), pp.77-87.

Tekleab, A.G., Quigley, N.R. and Tesluk, P.E., 2009. A longitudinal study of team conflict, conflict management, cohesion, and team effectiveness. Group & Organization Management, 34(2), pp.170-205.

Thomas, K.W., 2011. Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode. TKI Profile and Interpretive Report, pp.1-11.

Wegge, J., Jeppesen, H.J., Weber, W.G., Pearce, C.L., Silva, S.A., Pundt, A., Jonsson, T., Wolf, S., Wassenaar, C.L., Unterrainer, C. and Piecha, A., 2011. Promoting work motivation in organizations. Journal of Personnel Psychology, p5-10.

West, M.A., 2012. Effective teamwork: Practical lessons from organizational research. John Wiley & Sons, p10-20.

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