My Feedback From Managing Teams (Blog Entry 5)

From the 21st of November to the 25th of November, I have participated to an intensive class. The goal of the class was to understand what makes a team and what the role of the managers and the leaders was. Through this final blog entry, I will talk about my experience as a student and team leader. Before the classes start, I already had the opportunity to be a manager in associations. As I had this 2 years’ experience, I thought I knew enough of the theory and was expecting concrete situations. We will see that not only I have learned a lot of tools for my future career, but also I had the opportunity to be once again, a team leader with a very productive team. 

Everything started on Tuesday morning, I couldn’t come the Monday because I was sick. I was expecting to not be welcomed by my team. However, I was really surprised to see that they didn’t have negative feelings of me. Indeed, we started this class by knowing each other and see how we perceived the others. Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity this day to know one of my team member who couldn’t come. However, thanks to the Belbin’s team role, we found quickly the role of every one in the team. Indeed, we have seen that we all have complementary skills and role. Through the week, we understood the importance of the individual role. I realized that I could have managed my old teams better if I had pay intention to the individual roles. I started to wonder myself what other process I should have implanted to create collaboration and cohesion. I already know that a team must collaborate to achieve something. We had to create a 2 minutes show that was evaluated through originality, collaboration, synchronization, and dynamism. We worked together quickly to find a thematic and a choreography. The goal of this exercise was to collaborate to have the best outcome we could provide. We did these types of exercise all over the week to find our role, our skills, and our abilities to make this team works. Indeed, we tried to respect the process established to avoid phenomenon like Groupthink.

If the second day was focusing on team work and team cohesion, the third day was targeting one of the biggest threat of team cohesion: the communication. Indeed, all researchers would tell us that without effective communication, teams often fail to achieve their goals. On the other hand, conflict is also a threat and a driver of team’s successes. Through this day, we illustrated the difference between a constructive conflict and a destructive conflict. In a role play situation, I had to play a negative person that wanted a totally different project compared to his colleagues’ wishes. In the end, my role was to slow the process, creating communication breakdown and make people focusing on my issues and not on the project. The idea was to show us that frustration and anger creates conflict, and this type of conflict might be destructive. This is something we must fix when we want cohesion and effective communication. Indeed, conflicts often raise from the ashes of frustration and communication breakdown. We have seen that a effective communication is essential to create dynamism and avoid destructive conflicts. To illustrate also how communication can be distorted sometimes, we played a game where someone had to give a message to another one, which also had to give to another one. At the end of the line the last person, must tell the others what he heard. We can see that the more complex the message is the more difficult it is to provide the right information. 

Through this week we learned a lot about teams. And, compared to other theory that I wouldn’t know how to implant it, we had the ability to see how these theories worked, how we could build team and find our place in it. I was the leader of my team but all of them were leading me too. I ensure guideline and help when they provide support and creativity all over the week. I won’t forget what I learned and I regret I couldn’t come the first day. This week was also about knowing who I am, and I think that through the tests we made, I could become a good coordinator and managers. I will have the ability to put these theories into practices in few weeks as I will do an internship. I hope I will be able to find my place in the team. 

Build a tower, Build a team. A TED analysis (Blog Entry 4)

Welcome to a TED experience of Tom Wujec. In 2010, M Wujec made a speech about team building. Through a problematic of creating, as fast as possible, cohesion between members of teams, Tom Wujec was inspired by Peter Skillman’s Challenge. The idea is simple: team of 4 try to build the tallest structure composed by a maximum of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and one marshmallow. In 18 minutes, the 4 people must build the tallest freestanding structure (the marshmallow must be on the top of the structure). If the concept seems to be easy, the reality is quite different. Indeed, the team has to collaborate quickly. For his experiment, Tom Wujec decided to use this experiment and implant it in several situation. From kids to CEO, M Wujec shared his outcome.ls_build_tower_video

The people are globally following a process. During this process they first, oriented their self. Through discussion, people starts to see what each individual can do to achieve the task. Once it is done, they plan the realization. Then, they build the tower during the majority of the time for
finally, admiring the result before the end of the time. However, the “Ta-Da” becomes a “Oh-Oh” when the marshmallow can’t stand on the top of the tower. Who are the people who usually fail? Young graduated  from business schools don’t cooperate, they cheat, they don’t work together. Who are the winners then? The recent graduate Kindergarten school kids. Why then? Business man are looking for the “best” plan without looking for alternatives. On the other hand, the kids build prototypes and see what they can add. Moreover, this experiment shows that only cohesion and collaboration can create the success of the building.

Regarding the team building, we can see that when there are people which are “facilitators”, the tower is higher. Also, the tallest tower created was made by engineers . The conclusion is that a team must include, specialized skills and facilitator skills.

We can wonder what link there is between the marshmallow challenge and team success? We have to think that every project has his marshmallow. This challenge involves shared experience, common language and the concept of prototyping and facilitation. This challenge shows us that a project can be turn into a “Ta-da” and not a “Oh-Oh” by just integrating complementary skills and ideas.

We have seen that Team building is a focus on improving social interactions, through a formal and information team-level interventions, which is made to solve task and interpersonal problems that affect team functioning (Klein et al., 2009). Furthermore Team building will also include, goal setting, and task clarification. From, ‘get to know you’ exercises, to “get your role” in your team, Team building wants to ensure cohesion and mutual collaboration among the team. A recent meta-analysis (Klein et al., 2009) showed that team-building activities were most effective in improving team processes and emotional (and behavioral)  outcomes. Thus, if all of the components are important, goal setting and role clarification seem to have the most impact.

This TED experiment shows us that, Team building involves also trust (with the young graduate student that can’t perform without cohesion), defined roles (the performance of the team is higher with specialized skills and facilitator skills). The marshmallow challenge also shows us that you can’t rely on one plan. However, if there is an ability to create prototypes for some teams, there isn’t the opportunity for all teams. On the other hand, implanting this experiment for Team building is an excellent idea to see how a team can perform in 18 minutes. Finding our role in a team gives us the opportunity to help and to perform together.

This TED speech is really surprising. When you realize that kids can perform better than you because they are not following a specific plan, elaborate without prototypes, you can realize that your could perform better as a team. Furthermore, Team building is a long road, and share the best practices is also a solution to perform together. Thus, we have seen that this experiment revels what is one of the biggest challenge of every individual in a team: collaboration. Collaboration is effective when you know your role and you trust your team.

Swissair collapses, when Groupthink creates poor decision-making (Blog entry 3)

Born in 1933, Swissair used to be called the “flying-bank”. Before his collapse, the company was well-established and seemed to be unstoppable. However, years have passed and more and more poor decisions and failed alliances have impacted the company and ensure his collapse. Before the fiasco, the size of the company board was reduced, subsequently eliminating industrial expertise. With the board members lacking expertise in the field and having somewhat similar background, norms, and values, the pressure to conform may have become more prominent.This phenomenon is called group homogeneity, which is an antecedent to groupthink. Together, these conditions may have contributed to the poor decision-making process that eventually led to Swissair’s collapse. Then, one of the main reason that the company lost his reputation and power started with the apparition of a groupthink phenomenon.

A groupthink is a phenomenon illustrated when people inside a team or a company are making decision leaded by desire for harmony or conformity in the team which results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

According to Hussain and Rammal (2010, for a review), this phenomenon has been the origin of the company’s collapses. Indeed the company suffered with two main symptoms which were:”the belief that the group is invulnerable and the belief in the morality of the group” (Eadman, 2006). These two symptoms are often present in a groupthink phenomenon. However, in order to create a real groupthink, the company had also other issues. The group cohesion was more important than individual point of vue. With the reduction of the board, the lack of leadership started to impact the teams, leading them to groupthink. The failures that appeared just before this phenomenon, amplified the collapse.Alliance failures and poor decision-making were the triggers that have generate this groupthink phenomenon.

With this illusion implanted inside the company, nothing could stop the inevitable and Swissair collapsed.

As astonished as it is, one of the best cure of groupthink is conflict. Indeed, if conflict seems to have a negative effect on the group cohesion. It also has the ability to boost team. In the situation of swissair, the cohesion was blocking any alternatives, the company was eliminating the external environment in this decision-making process. Conflict exists because people have different perceptions, which provide a 360° analysis of the alternatives.

Another way to ensure cohesion without groupthink phenomenon is the implantation of social roles inside the team. Indeed, according to Mumford et al (2008, for a review), the social roles serve to keep efficiency inside a team. There are 3 roles to ensure this results. The cooperator role is the proactive role, his objectives is to support the team with expertise through the team’s goals. The communicator role is to analyze behaviors that are aiming the collaboration, such as practicing good listening skills and appropriately using humor to diffuse tense situations and improve team trust. The calibrator role is to keep the team efficient in terms of applying positive changes to the team’s process. In the case of Swissair, these solutions might have changed the present outcome. However, the company needed also a stronger leadership as the board had been reduced.

The company should have diversified his teams in terms of background, norms, and values. This change would have modified the ancient team’s structure. The results would have been conflicts but also a boost of the teams which would have been dynamic. Furthermore, with more diversified teams, everyone would have developed a role. From these roles, some would have take the social roles which serve to ensure efficiency, cohesion and results among the team.

This case study shows us that even the biggest firms can collapse. The market isn’t the only actor of the company’s success or failure. Teams inside the company are the heart of the company. If teams have a lack of leadership, and no individual roles, a phenomenon such as groupthink will appear. Leading to poor decision-making and failures which will lead to the collapse of the structure.


Managing Teams First Entry

My name is Nicolas Douet. I’m currently following the International Negotiation track and I expect to become a manager during my career. Next semester, I will be working at EY Luxembourg as a trainee in the learning departments. I have always liked to talk and help people to go through their personal challenges. I think that a manager must be able to listen and find concrete solutions to help his team. To create cohesion in a team, the manager must understand the needs of each member of the team. Then, a manager must have concrete negotiation skills to find the issues and create a positive outcome for his team. This is why I think that I already have management skills. Through my experiences as Vice-President in two associations, I have already managed people and we have created strong cohesion inside our team. Today, I want to learn concrete management skills, to be able to be prepared for tomorrow. Each situation is different and I believe that we should be prepared to manage these environments.

I think that during my career I will be a manager. And to be a good manager I must be prepared to find solutions during conflict, to create cohesion, to guide a team to achieve and surpass our objectives. I want to know every aspects of the manager in companies and learn techniques or tools that will help me to be a good manager.

According to the Belbins Team Roles, I am a coordinator. It is true that I like to delegate and coordinate people. Indeed, during my last internship I used to coordinate departments when projects that involved several departments, were released. Moreover, I used to manage the planning and the events of the associations I worked for. A coordinator must be calm and patient but also have to take decisions on the right moment. I think I am a coordinator. Furthermore, the Belbins Team Roles suggest as secondaries traits, that I am a shaper and a team worker. Indeed, I sometime I push my teams to achieve our goals but i’m also a dynamic worker and I know when I have to let the lead to support my team.

During this week, i hope I will be able to learn concrete management skills but also develop a flexible behavior to be able to be a multi-role person. Indeed, I wish to have stronger specialist and implementor skills. However, I will also have to work on my management abilities to be stronger and go through challenges with my future teams.

Then, first of all, I will observe and learn the practices and the management theories. I will met my new coworkers and establish good relationship with them. Then I will find my place in the team and try to take a role without neglecting my other strengths. Finally I will do  my best to be sure that everyone in the team has found his place to avoid conflicts and misunderstanding. Thus, I hope I will be able to use my new knowledge in a concrete situation.