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How can managers and team leaders improve poor team results? How can successful teams be even more effective? Dr. Robert Ginnett of the Center for Creative Leadership has developed the Team Effectiveness Leadership Model, which can be used to identify what is required for a team to be effective and point the leader either toward the roadblocks that are hindering the team or toward ways to make the team even more effective. This model (depicted below) uses a systems theory approach with inputs on the left (i.e., individual, team, and organizational factors), processes in the center (i.e., what one can tell about the team by observing team members), and outputs on the right (i.e., how well the team did in accomplishing its objectives). One way to explore the model is to go through it in reverse order looking at outputs first, then the process stage, and then inputs.
Outputs are the results of the team's work. A team is effective if (a) the team's product or service meets its stakeholders' standards for quantity, quality, and timeliness; and (b) if the group process that occurs while the group is performing its task enhances its members' ability to work together as a team in the future. And an equally important result of a team working effectively is the satisfaction its members derive from that work as individuals. Those team results depend on the group process and the inputs available to the team.
The model identifies four Process Criteria yardsticks managers can use to examine the ways in which teams work. If a team is to perform effectively, it must:
Research has shown consistently that effective group dynamics are the foundation upon which other team work proceeds. If the team is ultimately to achieve the valued outcome measures of effectiveness, a firm foundation of effective group process is critical. (Note that Group Dynamics is depicted as the foundation of Process Criteria. This "foundation" concept appears in other sections of the model as well.)
Inputs are what is available to teams as they go about their work. The model shows multiple levels in the input stage. Input factors at both the individual and organizational levels affect the team design level as indicated by the direction of the arrows between these levels.
The best way to understand how this model can help managers analyze team performance is to run through an example. Suppose a manager discovers that a team's members are not working very hard. Looking at the model's Process Criteria, an initial diagnosis would suggest a problem of effort P-1). Instead of either encouraging or threatening the team members to get them to work harder, the manager could first consider the model's inputs to see if an underlying problem can be identified. The component in each input section with the number that correspond to the initial problem offers a natural starting point because the items have been numbered systematically to align related concepts.
The Individual Inputs piece of the model asks managers to look at the interests and motivations of the individual team members (Level I-1, corresponding to a P-1 diagnosis), because team members who are interested in the group's task will be more likely to succeed at it. If the manager finds that the team members do in fact have an interest in the task, the model then leads the manager to consider another possibility.
The model emphasizes the way teams are influenced by both individual and organizational level inputs. So the next step is to look at the Organizational Input level. At the organization level, the model suggests the manager examine the system of rewards (or disincentives) (O-1) that may be impacting the team. If the individuals have no incentives provided by the organization for putting forth effort, they might not be very inclined to work hard, or at all. Or the reward system may be structured to promote only individual performance. Such reward structures are inconsistent with team tasks where interdependence and cooperation among members is necessary.
If the manager concludes that both the individual and organizational level factors do support the team's ability to perform the task, the model offers yet another area to explore. Problems can also occur at the Team Design level. Here, it is likely a poorly designed task (T-1) is the culprit. If a job is meaningless, lacks sufficient autonomy, or provides no knowledge of results, team members may not put forth much effort.
Using this model, a manager can find key points at various levels of the input stage that would impact the way the team went about its work. In this example, a process level problem with effort was diagnosed and the model led the manager to examine the "1" level factors at the individual, organizational, and team levels as the most likely locations for finding input problems.
Of course, additional factors impact teams and team effectiveness, including complex interactions among the variables described in this model. Even so, this model can be useful for understanding how teams operate and can help managers analyze problems and lead more effectively.