2 years ago, I wrote a paper on management and team dynamics; I believe it to be relevant and useful to this day. I will, in the future make graphics from excerpts, as well as expand upon some core concepts of team dynamics — especially within the realm of startups. Stay tuned.

Teams are important work groups engineered to achieve a specific set of outcome(s). Teams accomplish much of the daily operational and strategic tasks of an organization. Team and group dynamics are relative to the concept of motor oil within an engine in the sense that various extraneous variables, predictable and unpredictable, exist. Motor oil in an internal combustion engine is a lubricant that which allows the mechanical parts to move freely, with minimal friction, in order to achieve a desired goal. That goal and objective is to generate energy in order to move thousands of pounds of metal from one point to another. The importance of team dynamics, especially to management, is crucial towards efficiently and successfully achieving an organization’s vision and endeavors. “Teams of people working together for a common purpose have been a centerpiece of human social organization ever since our ancient ancestors first banded together to hunt game, raise families, and defend their communities (Kozlowski and Illgen, 77).”

As these desired outcomes are often not clearly defined, management teams form and become tasked with defining and developing these parameters which generally encompass purpose, objectives, and goals. These strategically planned objectives and goals are then communicated to organizational members, whom are organized into teams, or work groups engineered to achieve a specifically desired outcome. Various teams exist for various purposes; ranging from labor, to supervisory, middle management, upper management, and executive teams. Teams are everywhere and serve a purpose throughout all faucets of society and are extremely necessary towards achieving specific objectives and goals.

These aforementioned goals and objectives are set forth by those in the leadership role and are typically and are in alignment with the mission of the organization. Leadership is necessary for direction, clarification, and keeping productivity and morale high. Organizations departmentalize in order to efficiently and effectively manage tasks and workloads. They assign management to lead teams in order to properly achieve their mandated goals and objectives. If this is not as such and a department snowballs out of control and budget, there tends to be mass lay-offs. They exist within organizations to achieve specifically desired outcomes effectively.

Opportunities exist for teams to take hold and develop, in generally all organizations regardless of size. This is inevitable whenever people work together.  (Olmstead, 1). People see the various strengths and weaknesses of others, and may reciprocally assist each other so as to achieve the desired outcome effectively. These groups within the organization can go on to becoming unions. “The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) defines the rights of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers through representatives of their own choosing. The Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act provides general principles of NLRA enforcement procedures. The following resources provide information about employer responsibilities under NLRA (“Unions”).”

Not only may employees form groups, as they currently do in various jobs,  formations of groups may be amongst organizations to form associations within the same industry. American Council of Engineering Companies in Pennsylvania, which I am actively a member of their Eastern Chapter, advocates for and lobbies politicians for the advancement of the engineering-related industries within Pennsylvania. “The American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania (ACEC/PA) is devoted exclusively to the promotion and enhancement of the business interests and profitability of the consulting engineering industry in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ACEC/PA is comprised of more than 125 member firms throughout Pennsylvania that offer engineering expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental, industrial, surveying, mining, and construction, and range in size from a single professional engineer to corporations employing thousands of professionals with offices throughout the nation and the world. (“ACEC/PA”).” This allows associations, such as the one I’m involved with, to successfully advocate for policy change in order to benefit a vast group of professionals, as well as for society.

Besides carrying out organizational goals through people, managers are tasked with keeping costs down and are typically pressured by budgetary needs as money is the single most important quantifiable performance measure. “Setting the Stage for Great Performances, J. Richard Hackman lays out five conditions necessary for successful teamwork: The team must be a real team, rather than a team in name only; it has compelling direction for its work; it has an enabling structure that facilitates teamwork; it operates within a supportive organizational context; and it has expert teamwork coaching (Stark).”

Although desired outcomes may be well thought-out, team dynamics dictate the necessity to be re-engineered in order to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency constantly with increasing global competition. Teams and organizations are pressed for efficiency while still maintaining effectiveness. This is where innovation and utilization of technology will allow for organizations to grow by cutting costs and increasing productivity of their teams.

From industrial machinery within a factory, to a collaborative web-based management system, efficiencies are achievable within every faucet of an organization so long as management gives the go-ahead. However, sometimes management will often overlook necessary investments in important fields such as research and development. As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This very backwards-thinking mindset of many of the older and soon-to-be retiring generation of managers kills innovation as they do not see the need to invest in improving the team and its processes.

Innovation is extremely critical towards staying ahead of the curve. Organizations constantly work towards improving efficiencies without sacrificing effectiveness. This is done using various approaches, such as conducting time-studies as part of a process improvement program or objective set forth by management and executive teams. Additionally, management teams focus on increasing efficiencies using emerging and innovative technology. One way is by using process improvement to increase efficiencies and ensure that the team is in fact doing what they were commissioned to do at a more productive pace.

Daily operations rely on teams to work in tandem towards achieving shared goals. Effective management personnel develop teams that perform. Effective team processes involve team-building, clear communication, and trust development in order to successfully achieve the specific performance dictated by the organization and management personnel. The study of how groups and teams function on a day-to-day basis and how they come about are essential focal topic for any organization.

Team and group dynamics are also heavily studied field in psychology. Kozlowski and Illgen  noted that “teams touch our lives every day and their effectiveness is important to well-being across a wide range of societal functions. There is over 50 years of psychological research—literally thousands of studies—focused on understanding and influencing the processes that underlie team effectiveness. By focusing on cognitive, motivational/affective, and behavioral team processes—processes that enable team members to combine their resources to resolve task demands and, in so doing, be effective (77).” Research within this field is still growing on a daily basis as teams are immersed within our society by human nature. Every product or service around us today involved some sort of team to design, test for quality control, manufacture, transport, and sell.

This intrinsically places teams, and their dynamics, or the way they interact, on a high priority. “The degree to which teams are embedded in or tightly linked to the organizational system or a dynamic task environment can vary. Some teams or small units, while part of an organizational system, are more tightly linked to a dynamic task environment that is their dominant embedding context for task activity. As an example, consider a surgical team in the operating room (OR) where what is happening with the patient right now (e.g., dropping blood pressure, respiratory difficulty, erratic heartbeat) defines the task environment, which then drives team task demands and team-member activity. Relative to the broader organizational-system context (e.g., new policies adopted by hospital administration), the task environment is the primary context in which the OR team is embedded. The situation is similar for aircrews or firefighting teams, in which the task environment (i.e., take-offs, storms, and landings, or fire, fuel, wind, and humidity, respectively) is the primary embedding context. For other teams, the broader organizational system is the primary context. A cross-functional project team making a recommendation to management on product development or a top-management team (TMT) revising organizational strategy to meet stiff competition are more tightly included in the organizational system as the primary embedding context (Kozlowski and Illgen, 80).”

Organizational communication of structure, goals, capabilities, and the various other variables, which are defined by top-level management, are essential important towards the success of teams. Communication between team members must be constantly flowing and understood. This involves passing down memos from upper management, to holding periodic staff meetings to stay on top of things. Communication in its simplest form allows for coordination of proposed improvements as managers don’t become privy to issues unless it’s too late and is time for damage control. Rightfully so, many take a proactive approach to issue memos to mitigate future issues and to remediate current situations so as to not single out an employee for an issue which may have arisen.

Management teams are formed out of necessity whereby they are typically responsible for matching qualifications of their personnel with regard to others’ strengths, weaknesses, and requirements. It is considered an art, kind of like fitting together pieces of a puzzle, as it is difficult at times and requires resourceful approaches. This process, which is one of the utmost important processes, is called team-building. Team-building involves the development of a team based on, typically, a set of measurable criterion. Some of these measurable criterions involve education, certifications, experience, skills, capabilities, previous performance reviews, and workload.

Within my job, I am responsible for responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Qualifications (RFQ) advertisements. Some documents involved in the proposal development, or submission process, involves a Statement of Interest (SOI), a several page proposal, an organizational chart which depicts structure and positions of each proposed team member, and resumes. During the entire process of developing a proposal, we focus on creating the most qualified proposed teams. We do this by partnering with other qualified and available consulting companies based on a similar set of criteria. This may involve past rankings, current workload, available personnel, and a need to develop and maintain partners.

The major issues I’ve seen following acquiring a contract due to successful proposal submission, as well as for current contracts and projects, are that people tend to bring their own style of the way they do business. For example, we’ve had to remove a manager on a project because he was overzealous when he attempted to override our client’s demands. In addition, this type of person tried and failed, to rule with an iron-fist, so to speak. This style of management, we’ve noticed, does not fly with anyone on any of our teams. These various interpersonal traits can conflict with members on the team and would effectively reduce effectiveness of the team in relation to mandated tasks. This further would snowball into reduced employee retention and unhappiness as well. Another issue on another project we’ve had involved the denial of a promotion due to lack of communication. Our team member conveyed it to his manager on the project team, but not to me or my boss. Subsequently, the aforementioned young team member left his position within our team to work with another company. This came one year after his friend, a fellow colleague within both his graduating class and a fellow coworker, also left under similar conditions. The lessons we’ve learned is that communication, or lack thereof, is important to monitor and maintain. Additionally, coordination of work and monitoring team performance is essential towards maintaining effective teams. Employee retention and talent acquisition should be of the utmost importance for an organization. For example, our company lost up-and-coming team members which have proved to hurt our ability to provide certain services both now and in the future.

In order to ensure teams are effectively and successfully carrying out their assigned tasks and objectives, management teams which apply due diligence develop performance measures and milestones upfront. Subsequently, they are communicated to the various team members. This effectively allows for management to monitor and indirectly control the team towards achieving desired goals and objectives. Compliance with management’s goals and objectives are of tantamount importance to all levels of managers, especially as they are the one’s responsible for creating and controlling these teams.

Tasks are important and must be defined. They encapsulate the concept of a team and are essentially the life blood of the team’s necessity; to achieve desired outcomes. ” The central focus on what teams have to do—their task—is the key factor that distinguishes a social-psychological perspective on the study of teams, in which the task is merely a means to prompt interpersonal interaction, from an organizational perspective, in which the task is the source of goals, roles, and task-based exchanges. For the latter, interpersonal interaction is relevant, but it is in the background rather than the foreground. The team task determines two critical issues. First, it sets minimum requirements for the resource pool—the constellation of team-member individual differences and capabilities—that is available across team members. If members collectively lack necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, or resources to resolve the team task, the team cannot be effective. Second, the team task determines the primary focus of team-member activities. Our focus is on teams that primarily do things (e.g., action or production teams) and that, in the process of striving toward and accomplishing goals, also have to make decisions (e.g., project teams or TMTs) and create, invent, and adapt solutions to resolve task-driven problems (Kozlowski and Illgen, 80).”

One major issue within teams is that members may be afraid to speak up and voice their opinion for various reasons. I am not one of those members and I often get backlash from my boss for speaking with his boss. The Wharton School of Business notes that “there are several reasons why people are less likely to offer an unbiased opinion in a purely team-based brainstorming process. Employees might censor themselves to go along with the status quo or to avoid angering a superior. Putting several people in a room together is bound to create a lot of conversation; if everyone contributes, there is less time for individuals to share all of their ideas. Some people may think less critically about a problem because they are happy to let others do the heavy lifting (Knowledge@Wharton).”

To conclude, top-level management must ensure that all personnel, especially those in a leadership role, are qualified, communicative, and performing. Teams constantly undergo scrutiny on a micro and macro level based on performance, skills, and capabilities by managers in order to squeeze the lemon to the last drop of its juice. Management also must be dynamic in nature so as to keep up with growing competition and ultimately grow. Issues within teams must be mitigated and controlled as quickly as possible in order to avoid inflating the problem which may evolve into a fiasco. The importance of team dynamics, especially to management, is crucial towards efficiently and successfully achieving an organization’s vision and endeavors. Group dynamics affect both businesses, government, and society-at-large. Performance is of the utmost importance and is affected by both external and internal factors. As society is essentially similar to one massive conglomerate organization, though it may not seem like so at times, people play a big role. How we interact with each other, or the dynamics, is an increasingly growing research field that continues to evolve as we do.


Sources:

“ACEC/PA.” ACEC/PA. American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania (ACEC/PA), n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.acecpa.org/>.
Edmondson, Amy C., James R. Dillon, and Kathryn S. Roloff. Three Perspectives On Team Learning: Outcome Improvement, Task Mastery, And Group Process. Harvard Business School, 20 Oct. 2006. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. <http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/07-029.pdf>.
“Knowledge@Wharton.” How Group Dynamics May Be Killing Innovation. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 12 May 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. <http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2487>.
Kozlowski, Steve W.J., and Daniel R. Illgen. “Enhancing the Effectiveness of Work Groups and Teams.” Sonoma.edu. Association for Psychological Science, 2006. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sonoma.edu/users/s/smithh/psyorg/toc/teamoverview.pdf>.
Olmstead, Joseph A. Leading Groups in Stressful Times: Teams, Work Units, and Task Forces. Westport, CT: Quorum, 2002. Print.
Stark, Mallory. “Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances – The Five Keys to Successful Teams.” HBWWK.HBS.EDU. Harvard Business School (HBS) Working Knowledge, 15 July 2002. Web. 17 May 2013. <http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/2996.html>.
“Unions.” SBA.gov. U.S. Small Business Administration, 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sba.gov/content/unions>.