“A set of two or more individuals interacting adaptively, interdependently and dynamically towards a common and valued goal – in addition, team members are each assigned specific roles/functions to perform, and a team has a limited life span (Salas et al., 2000).”
We’ve all heard the idiom, “many hands make light work” as well as the contrasting idiom; “too many cooks spoil the broth” – teamwork can be effective in carrying out a task, but used ineffectively, the results can indeed counter the productivity intended.
To explore this, Salas, Burke and Cannon-Bowers performed an integrative review on the understandings of teamwork. They focused on what comprises effective teamwork, and decided that eight skill dimensions can be generalised for any team.
- Shared situational awareness
- Performance monitoring and feedback
- Leadership/team management
- Interpersonal relations
- Decision making
Cannon-Bowers and co were able to extract common definitions (for teamwork from reviews they performed) in order to arrive at seven core principles that characterise effective teamwork
The Principles – teamwork is characterised by:
- Flexibility and adaptation in behaviours, cognitions and attitudes; and require parallel capabilities among team members, a certain measure of knowledge as well as necessary skills and attitudes.
- Observation – for the behaviours and actions of all team members to be monitored by each other, as well as to have the freedom to provide and accept feedback based on the monitoring behaviour; this requires a mutual agreement in the monitoring of performance and that constructive and timely feedback will be given, as well as an overall and shared awareness of the situation.
- Support and understanding during operations, among members in a team to be mutually displayed and agreed upon and requires back-up behaviour (compensatory behaviour) as well as the ability to adapt.
- Communication among all members that is clear and concise; referring to closed-loop communication (where communication has an active feedback system).
- Coordination of every action that is required, where actions will be interdependent, which again requires shared mental models and the development of interpersonal relations.
- Leadership taken on by one of the team members most apt for the role, so that activities can be directed, planned, distributed and coordinated effectively. This requires the development of common problem models, clear directions, an environment where performance can be enabled, decision making and problem solving, and the maintenance of the coherence of the team.
- The context and requirements of the task which influence; all teams are not equal, the contextual factors as well as the task at hand to be carried out by the team must be considered before the importance of various competencies needed within a particular team are decided – the Importance of particular team competencies will vary by the nature of the team.
Each of these skills will vary among each team member and so different roles will be assigned to different members, so that
“a team of experts can become an expert team (Salas et al., 2000).”
With these principles in mind, can you point out which principles may have been overlooked in the following example?
A wedding cake business was to design and create a generic style wedding cake for a number of weddings for one week (a certain promotional offer), but was unsuccessful in meeting the needs of the customers. The couples, for whom the wedding cakes were for, felt neglected because although the business had them complete a market style survey to determine their tastes, the final product did not reflect their tastes. The business owner wondered what the problem was, because each highly skilled individual (chef and those with business roles) on the team was allocated specific tasks based on their expertise.
Answer: Upon investigation, the owner found that there was a breakdown in communication between those in charge of the marketing aspects (surveys) and the team of chefs.
Salas, E., Burke, C.S., & Cannon-Bowers, J.A. (2000). Teamwork: emerging principles. International Journal of Management Reviews, 2(4), 339-356.