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Developing High Impact Teams

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1 Teamwork: Developing High Impact Teams1 Tony Lingham, Ph.D. Bonnie A. Richley, Ph.D. December 2013 Organizations are increasingly done through projects involving teams across all levels as they offer greater flexibility, better outcomes and better innovation than individuals. As such, teams permeate all levels in local, national and global organizations. Such a design means that people often have membership in multiple teams resulting in outcomes that are frequently suboptimal and fraught with frustration and inefficiencies. The demand for increased teamwork has created a need for a way to help teams succeed yet most training programs do not take into account the full experience of team life in development efforts. In this entry the authors propose a conceptual framework to develop High Impact Teams. A High Impact Team is one that is: 1. Aware and has the ability to align actual and desired interaction (quality of team interaction); and 2. Has the knowledge and ability to harness the innovative and executional capacities of their team within its embedded organizational or educational contexts. This entry posits that meaningful team development programs must incorporate assessments of both the quality of a team’s interaction (function) and its capacity to innovate and execute (performance). The authors provide a structured methodology involving measures of interaction and capacities together with engaging in well-developed team coaching process so that teams will be able to develop and become high impact teams. Team Life in Organizations and Educational Settings A recent study reported in the Gallup Business Journal that reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries found that only 2.5% of the

This paper has been submitted to an international encyclopedia published by SAGE. The authors were invited to submit a paper to this journal based on the significance and cutting edge nature of their work.

2 teams successfully completed 100% of their projects. Yet most work in organizations continues to be done in teams (e.g., top management, ad hoc, departmental) leading to a critical need for a way to help them to succeed. However, the current landscape of training programs fail to provide a holistic approach to team life centered on learning, guided by a structured methodology, and supported by team-level assessments and coaching. Parallels can be made in education when students report that they understand the need to be able to work in teams but are seldom coached on team issues, which could lead to fractured relationships, continuous frustration, and poor performance. Not infrequently, however, student teams deliver high quality work even with poor team dynamics. In these cases students often “bracket” the dysfunction and divide the work or a strong leader emerges who takes on most of the effort. We cannot ignore the continuum of team experiences ranging from dysfunctional, to average, to the less often reported high performing events. In both scenarios, in the workplace or classroom, a deficit exists in understanding how to help individuals learn about how to survive and thrive in team life usually because of the absence of team expertise and a reliable structured process. Research and practice domestically and internationally and with for-profit and nonprofit organizations over the past 10 years using this structured process has proven that successful high quality teamwork involves a continuous razor-sharp focus on factors associated with relationality, task, and leadership and also involves assessments of both the quality of a team’s interaction (function) and its capacity to innovate and execute (performance). This entry is structured in three sections: 1. A brief discussion of the broad shifts and development in team research followed by the those that begin to explore and promote theoretical approaches to examine the multiple facets of team experience/interaction and highlight a viable theoretical framework; 2. A review of Lingham’s (2005) Team Learning

3 Inventory (TLI) followed by an explanation of how it assesses the different aspects of team interaction, capacity for innovation, and task execution; and 3. An overview of how this structured methodology has been used in research and practice in organizational and educational settings and how such a method could be of value to educational institutions and organizations. The Broad Shifts and Development in Team Research Early team research and leadership studies established that interactions between team members and between leaders and followers exist in a task-relational continuum. As team studies evolved, researchers began to peel apart this continuum and started to focus on the diverse variables embedded in teams from an input-process-output perspective. Such empirical studies, however, have been bifurcated. On the one hand, some researchers argue that team life is complex and can best be understood by zooming in on specific aspects such as decision making, team learning, the effect of time on teams, and leadership in teams. On the other hand, other researchers have also presented the importance of understanding teams as a whole. Such integrative perspectives, though less popular since the 1950s, have been steadily growing in recent years. Some examples are McGrath’s Time, Interaction and Performance (TIP) model published in 1991; change processes in groups; and group communication. However, at the turn of the century, team researchers conceptually converged on a view of teams as complex, adaptive and dynamic systems focusing on the importance of team interaction; that teams experience emergent states; and that these states create the context in which future interactions occur. Assessing and Mapping the Quality of Team Interaction and Team Innovative and Execution Capacities using The Team Learning Inventory (TLI) Based on research conducted over the past 10 years, a high impact team is one that understands the quality of their interaction (functioning), their ability to innovate and implement/execute tasks (performance), and their need for power and influence (i.e., leadership).

4 What follows is a discussion of how the Team Learning Inventory (TLI) helps teams to develop the two aspects of interaction and executional capacities. Quality of Team Interaction. The quality of a team’s interaction is based on its awareness of their actual versus desired experience. Based on previous research done, team interaction is captured in four major dimensions: Diverging, Converging, Power and Influence and Openness. The nontask or Diverging dimension of tem interaction is defined as the extent to which a team is engaged in valuing/connecting with one another and where team members have the freedom to be individuals who can relate to all members. This interaction is driven by the desire to build healthy relationships and includes five aspects of team interaction: Engagement, Active Listening, Individuality, Relationality and Solidarity. The Converging dimension is defined as the extent to which the team engages in decisions and is driven by agendas or directions. This interaction is task or purpose focused. The Converging dimension of team interaction is experienced as those that help the team accomplish a goal or objective and includes: Understanding, Action, and Planning. A team’s Power and Influence dimension of team interaction is defined as the extent to which members of the team have equal ability and opportunity to influence and contribute. Finally, the Openness dimension is defined as the extent to which members focus on issues or ideas that are of interest or concern to individual members or to the group as a whole whether or not if they are related to the task. Figure 1 below illustrates an example of the mapping of one team’s quality of interactions based on the previously explicated dimensions. The blue line represents the team’s actual state and the red line signifies its desired state at that point in time. The overall quality of the team’s interaction is reflected in the alignment between the actual and desired states,

5 meaning the closer they are in all dimensions the better the team experience. Being aware of the quality of a team’s interaction is the first step toward developing a high performing team.

Figure 1. The Mapping of Actual and Desired States Indicating the Quality of Team Interaction of a Team

Innovative and Implementation/Execution Capacities. A team’s innovative capacity is the ability its members have to generate, assess, and build ideas with the goal to craft a feasible design for execution. The ability to generate a high quantity and quality of ideas is labeled as Ideation. This process, though similar to brainstorming, also requires that individuals in the team are open to a wide breadth of ideas while looking for linkages or associations within these thoughts to be able to reach better and more integrative and/or creative solutions. The ability to be able to select and to design projects based on what is expected and by what can be actualized is labeled as Synthesis and Selection. This process requires a team to be able to develop a clear understanding of objectives, constraints, while simultaneously being open to possibilities generated during the

6 ideation process. A team’s execution capacity involves both implementation and a clear appreciation about what needs to be done and why (e.g., goals, tasks, purpose(s), and objectives) as well as the ability to follow through so as to effect the best possible delivery or implementation. This capacity involves both the ability to develop clarity (either given or emergent from team members) around what needs to be done and to also be able to actualize or to deliver outcomes above expectations. This can involve providing feedback as a sounding board to clarify others’ points or reactions as a way to develop precise thoughts while simultaneously engaging in perspective taking. The chart below shows the mapping of a team’s Innovative and Implementation Capacities (both actual and desired).

Figure 2. The Mapping of Actual and Desired Innovative and Implementation (Execution) Capacities of a Team


Using this Structure in Organizational and Educational Environments Educational Setting. With the identification of action learning as a critical part of management education curricula, incorporating effective assessment methods is equally crucial. It can be argued that an action-learning program should also include the assessment of team interactions, team capacities and team coaching with the intent to promote team-directed learning using the TLI. This process has been utilized and tested for a team involved in a semester-long action learning course in a management school at a mid-western university to assess the teams at week three (Time 1) and at week nine (Time 2) during the semester. An example of a team’s evolution using the TLI and team coaching is reflected in Times 1 and 2 is shown below in Figure 3. Time 1 Time 2


The study was done in using a previous labeling system of the TLI. The dimensions are the same but relabeled so as to reflect more accuracy based on the items. We also changed “Conversational Space Mapping” to ‘Team Interaction.” We want to maintain the integrity of the results as reported previously. b Note that the profile of the Actual Interaction (Real Space – shown by the blue line) in Time 2 exceeded the mapping of the Desired Interaction (Ideal Space – Shown by the red line) in Time 1. c The teams were not shown their Time 1 results prior to Time 2. Both Time 1 and Time 2 results were given to the teams at Time 2.

Figure 3. The Evolutiona,b,c of a Team’s Quality of Interaction after going through Team Coaching.

An experiment conducted in 2012 by one of the authors and his colleagues in the nursing school of a mid-western university involved ten teams who underwent team coaching using the

8 TLI compared with another 10 teams that did not have access to the TLI or team coaching. The results showed that the teams that underwent coaching improved from 48% to 191% over the four dimensions when compared to those teams that were not coached (see Table 1). Table 1. Pretest and Posttest Dimension Score Differences in Not Coached and Coached Team, and Percent Improvement in Dimension Scores Between Not Coached and Coached Teams Dimensions of Team Interaction Not Coached Teams Change Score n=10 0.16 0.05 -0.10 Coached Teams Change Score n=10 0.31 0.16 0.11 Percentage Improvement Between Not Coached and Coached Teams 48% 69% 191%

Diverging Converging Power & Influence





The authors have also used the TLI in 2008 to compare team interaction profiles in both Spanish student teams in Barcelona and student teams in an American mid-western university. Interestingly, the findings from the comparative analysis show that the significant difference in these two cultures is in the Diverging dimension, which supports the relational emphasis in the Spanish culture. Organizational Setting. As part of a leadership training initiative, more than 100 teams over the past 7 years from organizations in the mid-west underwent a team development program using the TLI to obtain a baseline evaluation of their experience that included team-level coaching. A second assessment was done using the TLI four months following the initial coaching session.

9 All teams improved significantly in their actual interactions between Times 1 and 2. Of particular note is that team leaders mentioned the vast difference of how the teams functioned after their experience of the team coaching session often highlighting that as the high point experience in their training program. Developing High Impact Teams Using the TLI for the past 10 years in domestic and international organizations as well as educational institutions coupled with team coaching have demonstrated that such a method can help facilitate team learning and development. The interaction and capacity mappings help to provide a roadmap for how they can develop to become a high impact team through a process using the TLI. Through use of the Team Learning Inventory (TLI) a structured, valid, and reliable approach is possible since it provides a: 1) a method to measure and map team interaction in an easily understandable way; 2) a common language to enhance member communication in order to relate to the complexity of team work; 3) immediate (or just-in-time feedback) of the team’s present and ideal future states (i.e., actual and desired); and 4) to generate knowledge and skills for team leadership and membership. Such a structured process involving measures of interaction and capacities while also engaging in well-developed team coaching process could help teams develop and become high impact teams. Summary and Conclusion A major contribution of this entry is the possibility for teams to use a structured methodology as a way to develop to become high performing teams. To date, there are no other empirically tested and validated team-level measures that capture the experience of team interaction (along its four dimensions) and the assessment of team capacities (both innovative

10 and execution). The Team Learning Inventory (TLI) provides the way for teams to engage in team directed learning and development. As teams may undergo changes to its structure (e.g., change in membership) function or purpose and leadership, the TLI can capture interactions at any point in time of a team’s experience. The TLI creates the possibility for a team to capture its actual and desired states at any particular point in time including whenever the team experiences significant changes (such as change of leader or members). Furthermore, empirical tests and practical usage of the TLI has demonstrated its value in educational institutions and organizations. Educational institutions intending to develop skills in teamwork would find such an approach of value when incorporated with the design of using student teams when working on project work or action learning projects. Employing the TLI as part of the design would help students (and faculty) expand their understanding of teamwork with the possibility to measure the lived experience of such teams as well as developing the skills of leadership and membership in teamwork. Finally, as organizations move toward more team oriented designs, using the TLI with team coaching could be of significant value for leaders, managers and consultants in organizations to not only measure the experience of team interaction but to develop the innovative and execution capacities of all types of teams and across all levels of an organization so as to lead, create and sustain teams that have high impact and are able to thrive in all work contexts.

11 Further Readings Colquitt, J.A., & Jackson, C.L. (2006). Justice in teams: The context sensitivity of justice rules across individual and team contexts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38(4): 868899. Hardy-Vallee, B. (2012). The Cost of Bad Project Management. Gallup Business Journal, February 07. Retrieved on February 23, 2014. Hare, A.P. (2003). Roles, relationships, and groups in organizations: Some conclusions and recommendations. Small Group Research, 34(2): 123-154. Katzenback, J.R., & Smith, D.K. (1993). The wisdom of teams. New York: McKinsey & Company. Lingham, T. (2009). An Experiential Approach to Team Interaction: Developing a measure to capture its diverse dimensions and aspects. INGroup Research Conference. Colorado Springs, CO. Lingham, T., Richley, B.A., & Serlavos, S.S. (2008). Measuring and mapping team interaction: A cross-cultural comparison of US and Spanish MBA teams. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 16(1): 5-27. Lingham, T. (2005). The Team Learning Inventory (TLI). Lakewood, OH: Interaction Science. Revans, R.W. (1982). The Origin and Growth of Action Learning. Brickley, UK: ChartwellBratt. Richley, B.A., & Lingham, T. (2007). A Time to Build: Strategically linking positive and conventional change methodologies to develop leadership capacity.…...

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