DRAWING UPON EXAMPLES FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE OF TEAM WORKING I

People Leadership and Management Resit Assignment

Task
Drawing upon examples from your experience of team working in organisations or in classroom activities, identify two key theories, concepts or models that have helped you to reflect on your behaviour in group situations.
Demonstrate how these theories, concepts or models have encouraged you to develop an analysis of your own behaviour.
You should illustrate your argument with examples from your observations and experiences. You should not simply describe theory. You should identify relevant concepts and readings and make links with your own experiences and/ or observations of working in groups.

This essay will discover the concept of team working in organisations and will explain this by two key theories, the group polarisation phenomena “risky shift” and interaction exchange theory. Though these theories are not inter-related but I have chosen these two theories as I can relate them with my experience working in groups. These models will be further explained with the help of the writer’s reflection on his behaviour in group situations. the discussion has been presented with an example of a group activity that was conducted at the University of Wales Newport ‘the cave rescue” for MBA students, the observations and experience of the writer will be used to explain the theories in the relevant concepts and various other sources will be used to link experiences and observations of working in groups.
To understand the team working concept several writers have explained and presented various explanations of groups and team work. The concept of teamwork is adopt by most organisations because as it creates an environment where persons can express their concerns and communicate their views. In my experience as a student and employee working in a team gives a feeling of being associated with the same set of goals and visions. According to Ford, J.K & Kozlowski S.W.J. (1997), teamwork improves the quality, flexibility, coordination, productivity, and helps with continuous improvement, diversification of ideas, better decisions and learning. In an perfect working environment a team is all about sharing knowledge through various means, welcoming the new ideas and point of views of other team members in order to achieve the goal.
Robbins and Judge (2007), refers to a set of two or more persons who are interdependent by nature and interact with each other for the competition of certain goals and the authors Sherif and Sherif (1956; cited in Stangor, 2004 p16) suggest that a group is a social unit which consists of several individual members who hold specific role and status to one another in which each individual can share a common set of norms and values which affects their behaviour in respect of matters of importance to the group.
The above mentioned writers have all discussed groups in an ideal environment and groups like each person is matchless with its own experience and expectation. However many commentators studying group development and dynamics have recognised that group development, as a generalisation, is more predictable than individual behaviour. Thus many theories of group stage development have been cultivated, some linear, others more repetitive, and it must be stressed that no definitive model of group stage development exists. Two of the most useful theories of group stage development are those discussed by Tuckman (1965), and Rogers’ paper on encounter groups (1967). These models, like others (for example Heap, 1977) propose that as groups develop and change they pass through stages which may be conceptualised. The individuals in a group have to unite together in order to complete a task and should share the same vision in order to be successful and the association of such groups is possible when they have same social structure. The behaviour of individuals or their actions get influenced by the organisational structure (Robbins,1996, p.573-574) . To evaluate the effectiveness of a team it is important for organisations to design structure which makes a balance of the socio-technical system and to participate members willingly. (Mullins,2005,p.622). If not then it leads to low motivation and morale, wrong and delay in decision making, clash between members and their goals and so on.(Mullins,2005,p.620-621). Power and authority also plays a significant role in the effectiveness of a group. For example, in an activity that was conducted in my MBA class, we were asked to make an outer circle that was not allowed to communicate and an inner circle that was allowed to talk. I observed that since the tutor gave the instruction, the outer circle did not question it and in fact the students shared the same knowledge and were united to see the outcome of the task. However the inner circle consisted of students that had arrived late and were not sure what the activity entailed. Their group was disorganised and seemed disillusioned to the task, instead of uniting together they were unsure of their group and found it difficult to unite together to the same goal, in their case it was to simply put some playing cards in the maximum chaos. Thus the importance of an individual’s behaviour as well as the groups becomes very essential for an organisation to perform at optimal level.
According to Mullins (2007), the words “group” and “team s” can be interchangeable, further adding that group is formed naturally while team is formed with having same goal. Groups can be categorised into formal, informal, long-lasting and short-lived (Raid and Hammersley;2000). A formal group is brought into existence by the structure of an organisation for example my MBA class that is required to follow a time-table and are grouped together formally, on the other hand informal group are formed for satisfying social needs example the friends I have made in the university that share my social activities (Rollinson, 2005). There is also a force which revolves around the group the formal and informal and this is known as behaviour. Forsyth (2009) explains that “the way groups and individual act and react to changing situations, is known as the process of Group Dynamics” (Forsyth, 2009). Thus it can be said that in a formal or informal group a person’s behaviour and interpersonal communication could be formulated as group dynamics. Whilst talking about behaviour, it is also important to look at an equally important part of group dynamic and that is the leadership and the role undertaken by people in a group.
Influence on individuals takes place in a group i.e. norms and values as well as they make their own hierarchies and leaders (Mullins, 2005, P.518). Groups are formed by people of same interests or ideas. For example in my experience as a student at the University of Wales Newport, while doing group presentations or assignments, students tend to stay in the same groups as this makes them feel comfortable and the roles within these groups have already been determined. There have been instances that I’ve seen some groups perform less than others as the roles and the leadership is not well defined. Due to this some groups fail to perform and then blame each other.
In order to prove the fundamentals of group dynamics, I will relate the activity which was conducted in our MBA class by our “People, Leadership and Management’ tutor, Mr Vincenzo Dispenza. The activity was an ice breaker for students in the initial part of the class and the students were able to unite to discuss on a simple goal. The whole batch was divided into six groups and each group consisted of six individuals (students) out of which one was observer. Every individual was given an activity paper and the activity stated each group was as a research management committee which was funding human behaviour in confined spaces. An emergency meeting was called as one of the experiments had failed which left six volunteers stranded in a cave. The volunteers were trapped by fallen rocks and rising water and only one person could be rescued every hour which could result in the fatality of some volunteers. It was the responsibility of the research committee to advice the rescue team, the order in which the volunteers need to be rescued.
The appointed observer was not allowed to converse with any of the group members or take part in any discussion. They had to observe various aspects of the group conversations like the early stage of interaction, the roles within the groups, point or issues being missed and finally the effectiveness of the group.
My experience in my group was that initially everyone put forward and idea on how to choose the volunteers for the rescue and it was decided every member will write the sequence of volunteers to be rescued and support their answers with reasons. I shared my list with the group and explained my personal views on each step for choosing the appropriate volunteer. However, during the discussion there were a few disagreements (conflicts) on the sequence. There were two other individuals who felt strongly about their rescue sequence and the dynamics of the group was forming with everyone taking a role, and even though I was convinced that my sequence was right I decided to listen to everyone first and acted as a mediator and therefore by the end of discussion, my opinion was valued by the team. The final list was made by the groups consent but I noticed that the list made by my personal views and the final draft of the list was the same. In begning I was a quiet member of the group listening to everyone and then as a mediator but in the end I realised that my group saw me as their leader, keeping them focused on their goal. I learnt that I could lead a team without being the loudest.

At the end of the activity the observer gave their views and opinion. According to the observer, I had initiated the group to think and was involving everyone in a discussion. They also noticed that my role within the group as a leader had emerged slowly. However they had noticed that I was gradually forcing my thoughts on the group. The observer further added to the group decision and pointed out various risks the group was taking in making the decision. The risks involved were that we had chosen our rescue sequence according to the swimming skills of the stranded volunteers and the observer stated that being an expert swimmer would not always help surviving in rising water inside a cave. Focusing on other possibilities and dangers such as the lack of air in the cave due to the water, these factors were not considered by the team. The observer concluded by that the argument the team members had presented against the writer was not strong enough to satisfy every individual’s decision in group.
The concept of Group Polarization Phenomena can be used to analyse the above classroom activity in a sociological way. Group Polarization was identified by Mosconvici and Zavalloni (1969), but the concept was derived from Risky Shift which was analyzed by James Stoner (1961). When the activity had been handed over to the students in the group, the individuals were calmly reading and analyzing the activity. As the discussion started, and conflicts of opinion arose I suggested to the groups to write down individual list on their rescue sequence. Rothwell D.J. (1986) explained when an individual in group realizes that his opinion is acknowledged by the subordinates, the individual can become more presumptuous about their views which could lead to extreme views. So as the group accepted this idea, this made me more confident about my views and thus this thought process and confidence became more extreme.
Moorehed (2010) explained when the temperament of a group members changes into extreme state post – discussion then the average pre- discussion attitude, it could be said that group polarization has occurred. Thus, when I started discussions with the group members and started enforcing my extreme views on the group, the state of polarization was thus proved. The argument which was raised against my views was not accepted by the group or myself, but on the other hand the group agreed with my views readily because of my quiet but confident nature. The argument I presented convinced them that I was correct and even if a group member was not convinced they would not have spoken or given an opinion that was against my views.
Clark (2009) explained about ineffective groups; when an individual in a group speaks sometimes other group members formulate those ideas or interrupt the speaker through opposition, but sometimes individuals may believe that they understood even if they do not. According to my analyses the group was turning out to be ineffective and this was confirmed by the individual observing our group. Clark (2009) further added that some members dominate discussions because others are inactive or not participating. This perhaps allowed me to rise to take risk in his decision and indirectly suppress the opinion of the other group members. Stoner’s theory of Risky Shift was cited in Raid and Hammersley (2000) and they said “that groups did not simply reach balanced, cautious decision, but were inclined to make decisions that involved more risk than those made by individuals on their own.” (Raid and Hammersley, 2000). Thus it can be said that the group indirectly took risky decision by acknowledging and agreeing with my views. The risky decision taken by the group were addressed by the observer. The team had taken a risk of rescuing “Paul” a volunteer on the fourth place even though he was a very important person and could contribute to the world. Also, on the other hand, the team was taking risk on keep the swimmers in last place as it would not have guaranteed that they would have survived if the cave was full of water. This however, did not occur to me as I am not a swimmer and perceive this as strength. My own misconceptions led me to misguide the group and can conclude by this concept of Group Polarization that I have a tendency to be more extreme in the group situation and indirectly lead the team as group to be polarized. This polarization made me take risky decisions and this was then shifted on to the group and thus the phenomena of Risky Shift occurred. Risky Shift can sometimes be ethical decision making (Armstrong, Williams and Barrett,. 2004).
This however leads you to also question leadership, and the effectiveness of leaders. Landry. T, stated that leadership could be formulated by influencing other or group members to what one wants to achieve. Landry. T (1991). This statement seems to be paramount to those who want to lead and question whether what one wants to achieve is also the good for the group and the goal of the team. I look back at one of my work experience in a pharmaceutical company . We were organised in small teams in each state and each was supervised by a team leader who was then reporting to a sales manager. Our team had a lot of young and inexperienced members and the team would easily lose the focus and motivation, However, our team leader was always there to enforce the goal of the team and to make us all feel like we had to work towards one single goal and that was only possible by being in a teamand achieve targets .

In order to further observe the behaviour of members in the group for the activity mentioned above “Cave Rescue”, I am going to execute interaction theory of Homans’ in order to analyse the characteristics of members in the group. According to Huczynski and Buchanan (2001), Homans’ theory of interaction is all about activities, interaction and sentiments, which is related to the people in a group. This can be explained as activity being associated with physical movements whereas interaction deals with the communications between group members and those perceptions, faith and the attitude which is held by the group members.
Communication creates understanding among the people in the group and it also creates a strong social connection with others in the group. Chidambaram and Zigurs (2001) describes that communication is all about understanding each other and accomplishing the goal because if there is good communication among group they are able to work together and understand. The activity which I used earlier can be used as an example, before the activity began and on the first stage of ‘forming’ (Tuckman and Jensen stages of develpment) group members introduced themselves and agreed that it was necessary to understand the task requirements. (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001)
When the activity reached its second stage ‘storming phase’ the conflict and disagreement started which I observed was because some of the people in my group did not agree with the other opinions and were not wanted to listen to them or let them explain the logic behind their thinking. Also, other group members were showing their agreement which reflect the behaviour of agreement and disagreement. The group did not formally choose a ‘Team Leader’ however two members in the group were very confident and came up with logical solution and everybody in the group agreed to their view, of writing individually the sequence of the rescue. I observed that the informal leader and their convincing interaction helped to resolve the conflict amongst the group members and people started listening, co-operating and started working on their individual rescue sequence.
However, when the conflict got resolved the group was disaoopinted by the two group members who they perceived as leaders because they were not willing to accept other members’ opinion. Even though they did not openly say this their behaviour indicated this, the members in the group became victim of ‘groupthink’ as they started to stick to one decision. This is unproductive in a group. According to Huczynski and Buchanan (2001), group think occurs when a group composes weak decisions because group agree with each other’s views and they avoid thinking critically. So it should be removed in order to have better performance for the group. However, they also provide the solution to remove the group think by assigning the role of critical evaluator to each member. The group think concept got removed in our task when I acted as a mediator and assigned different task among all of us, that what work needs to be done by us for example, assessing the volunteers on the basis of their age, skills and importance. I was motivating everyone to share the ideas and opinion so that we could have achieved the goal by given time.
Our activity was moving forward as compared to other teams that were still arguing and discussing, hence being ineffective as part of the task was to achieve a decision within a certain time. I had assigned and taken the decision to save people from the cave on the basis of priority. In this way now it was getting very easy to make quick decision and we were close to solve the problem and every individual was feeling that he is playing the key role in the activity. According to Topchik (2007), the team contributes opinion into action and they work jointly together to accomplish objectives and deliberately developing a sense of shared mission. After cooperative efforts of the people in the group, the task was fully achieved and every member in the group was set free from the responsibility. In hindsight it seems that many members were not openly giving their opinion as they were not keen to unbalance the group, so perhaps our decision to save the volunteers according to swimming skills was not effective. As we had gone through conflict I noticed that some group members even though they had other opinions did not wish to upset the group.
It can be concluded that the ‘cave rescue’ activity was full of sentiments, emotions, beliefs and feelings. At the start of the activity the group members’ sentiments were different as compared to when the activity got completed. Their sentiments of the group had changed throughout the exercise and I had noticed that at times sub-groups were also forming. All members earned the values, symbols and behaviours of the group which they belong to and which led to the accomplishment of the task. Buchanan (2001) related to this social accomplishment. Therefore, I concluded that after doing and analysing the activity, I came to know that these sentiments, activities and interactions are important and played a very important role in achieving the objective of the group activity. Thus in future, I will be able to perform better, keeping in mind all the behaviours which I observed during this activity and this will help me in future when performing in such group activities. In practice these two theories can apply to most group exercises and organisations. Where group polarisation phenomena ‘risky shift’ is paramount to one person influence on the group and can lead to failure or success, the interaction exchange theory involves the whole group and is equally applicable to the outcome of the task.

References

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