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Developing High Performance Teamwork:

Implications for Facili-Training and Action Learning Coaching

Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D.

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Dr. Freedman is a consulting organizational psychologist and organization development and change

scholar-practitioner. He is a Partner in the Freedman, Leonard, & Marquardt consultancy and Board

Member in the World Institute for Action Learning. He has extensive domestic experience throughout

North America and international consulting experience in Sweden, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,

Zimbabwe, Singapore, and Germany. He specializes in facilitating complex transformational change,

executive coaching, management training and development, and organizational continuity. He has been an

active member of NTL since 1969 and is a visiting professor and advisor at the Carey Business School,

Johns Hopkins University in the new MBA in OD program. He is a Fellow of Divisions 13 (Consulting

Psychology) and 52 (International Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. He received

the 1994 Perry R. Rohrer Award for excellence in International Consulting and the 2007 Harry and

Miriam Levinson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Organizational Consulting Psychology, both

from Division 13 (Society of Consulting Psychology), American Psychological Association and received

the Most Distinguished Article Award for 1998 (now named for Elliot Jaques) for his article, “Pathways

and Crossroads to Institutional Leadership” in Consulting Psychology Journal (v. 50, n. 3, pp 131-151).

He is a Past-President of the Society of Psychologists in Management (SPIM). Dr. Freedman’s two latest

books are Consulting Psychology: Selected articles of Harry Levinson, co-edited with Ken Bradt, (2008)

and Action Learning for Developing Leaders and Organizations, co-authored with Mike Marquardt, Skip

Leonard, and Cori Hill (2009). Both were published by the American Psychological Association,

Washington, DC.

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Developing High Performance Teamwork:

Core Competencies in Facilitating Four Critical Team Processes

Arthur M. Freedman, MBA, Ph.D.

Summary and Overview. Learning coaches, OD&C consultants, and line managers

must have justified confidence in proposing “effective” action learning, team building or

team development to their client systems’ leaders. In this article, I propose a heuristic

model to enable learning coaches, OD&C consultants, and line managers to engage in

dialogs that may lead to a common, agreed-upon sets of alternative hypotheses to explain

team dynamics and intervention methodologies to enhance team performance.

University-based researchers can generate case studies of successful and unsuccessful

initiatives. These can be analyzed to test the validity of the hypotheses and the

effectiveness of the methodologies, perhaps using case meta-analysis (e.g., Bullock,

1986; Bullock & Tubbs, 1987). This will help us to replace unsubstantiated faith or

beliefs with valid, reliable and replicable research data. I will also describe a number of

indicators of suboptimal team performance and differentiate between “groups” and high

performing teams” (HPTs). I will describe the four process dimensions and their key

elements. I will present an overview of a number of alternative conceptual models of

phases of group development. Then I will describe how I apply this model differentially

– when I train OD consultants in contrast with actually consulting with real teams. I will

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also describe complementary methods of applying this model – verbally and with the aid

of instrumentation.

Action Learning and Facili-Training. It is not unusual, I think, for similar practices to

evolve from disparate origins. This seems to have been the case with action learning and

what I call facili-training. The former is increasingly well known to consultants and

consumers of consultants’ services; the latter is, admittedly, obscure. Action learning

explicitly integrates efforts to develop the skills of potential organizational leaders with

timely, critical organizational change initiatives (Dotlich & Noel, 1998; Gasparski &

Botham, 1998; Marquardt, 1999; and Rothwell, 1999). Simultaneously, action learning

demonstrates the value of focusing on learning at three levels: individual, team, and

organizational.

Facili-training is my attempt to formalize a strategy that I and other OD

consultants (Hornstein & MacKenzie, January 1984) have employed for at least thirty

years (Freedman, 1996). The origins of this approach for me stem from my masters

degree thesis research when I discovered that the effects of human relations training

failed to sustain themselves when participants tried to apply what they had learned in a

residential “cultural island” to their real-life, back-home work situations (Freedman,

1963). My appreciation for attending to multiple process levels, simultaneously, was a

natural consequence of many years of education, training, didactic psychoanalysis,

supervision, and experience in eclectic individual, marital, and group psychotherapy and

in facilitating sensitivity training or T-Groups and OD&C practice since 1961. I began to

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formulate this approach in 1967 when I first participated in the NTL Institute’s

Consultation Skills workshop. This led to my participation in redesigning, staffing, and

deaning that workshop since 1972. Also starting in 1972, I constructed a skeleton for the

approach in the course of 35-years of training assignments with a major labor union’s

organizers and OD&C consultations with a number of the union’s regional, state, local,

and member associations. I refined the facili-training approach during eight intensive

years of consulting with and training nuclear power plant management teams and control

room and floor operator teams to identify and deal with unprecedented issues that

inevitably emerged in that highly regulated environment. I formalized the approach

during a two and one-half year engagement with a large electric and gas utility company

that was attempting to transform itself from a command-control technocratic bureaucracy

to a highly participative, team-oriented organization. Over the past 35 years, I have

tested the credibility and effectiveness of my evolving formulations against the critical

judgement of colleagues and participants in many of my training programs for OD&C

practitioners and ALT coaches in the US, Sweden, Lithuania, and Russia and in the

courses I have taught in various graduate school programs.

Facili-training and action learning team coaching (ALTC) utilize some similar

methods and serve very compatible purposes. That is, both utilize the action research

method as its core technology and attempt to transfer their technologies to and, thus,

empower organizational leaders and members. This transfer of knowledge and skills to

line managers enables both OD&C practitioners and ALT coaches to work themselves

out of a job. Both emphasize a project orientation and contribute to the creation and

growth of learning organizations.

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Personally, I am delighted that action learning is enjoying such popularity. It

should. It seems to make the kinds of contributions to organizational effectiveness that I

believe consultants should make. Action learning is elegant in its simplicity. It has a

compelling, direct and easily comprehended message. It is a powerful, effective, and

useful strategy that may well revolutionize many team building and team development

practices that have been fundamental elements of OD&C since it was named in 1959.

My only reservation about action learning revolves around its rather loose

treatment of group dynamics and processes. It is my contention that, to learn and become

optimally effective, organizational leaders must understand and become proficient in the

proper application of personal, interpersonal, group, task completion, goal achievement,

and intergroup or boundary management skills. There is a considerable body of theory,

research, and experience in each of these areas. There is also considerable evidence that,

while there are many common issues, multifunctional teams -- such as those that are

typically employed in action learning -- are confronted by significant issues that are not

usually present in intact work teams (Colantuno & Schnidman, 1988; Freedman, 1995b).

These issues have to be dealt with methods that are not necessary in intact work teams.

The question about which I am concerned is: To what extent should ALT coaches

balance their efforts to enable learners to learn through their own experiences with

conceptual and instructional interventions that convey to learners what has already been

learned about group dynamics over the last 50 years or so. I believe that a

comprehensive understanding of how ALT coaches – including OD&C practitioners,

trainer-educators, group facilitators, and line managers -- can optimize the development

of high performing teams (HPTs) and enhance the practice of action learning. I hope to

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demonstrate that aspects of facili-training can add to ALT coaches’ repertoires of

interventions and add precision to the ALTC strategy.

My starting point is acknowledging and trying to eliminate several areas of

confusion. “Team building” and “team development” are terms that have found their

way from the jargon of OD&C ptactitiones to their client systems’ leaders and,

ultimately, to the professional, technical, trade, and business media. Unfortunately, there

are no commonly accepted operational definitions for these terms. So, the terms have

come to mean whatever a speaker wants them to mean. Yet, there seems to be

widespread faith in the untested belief that virtually any effort to build or develop teams

will produce HPTs and, in turn, induce an undefined end state referred to as

organizational effectiveness.

This faith may be too optimistic. A missing element is a comprehensive, shared

set of definitions of the key concepts, “team building,” “HP teamwork,” and

“organizational effectiveness.” The ambiguity makes it difficult to measure sub-optimal

team performance, determine when and what kinds of team building or development is

needed, measure a team’s progress as it strives to achieve HPT status, and, thus, enable

collections of individuals to develop into HPTs. The possibilities for confusion and

disagreement over definitions and methodologies are endless.

Further, team-focused interventions should be, but are usually not, substantively

different when applied to permanent, intact work units in contrast with temporary,

multifunctional, global, or multidisciplinary teams. The major differences derive from

the rather different purposes that the two types of groupings are intended to serve.

Permanent intact groups usually focus on evolutionary improvement of existing

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operations and deal with identifying and solving problems, planning, and executing plans

to eliminate or prevent obstacles and impediments. However, temporary multifunctional

teams -- such as teams composed of different kinds and types of specialized consultants,

ERP design-implementation teams, merger/acquisition integration teams and ALTs --

usually focus on enterprise-wide issues and produce creative, radically innovative

proposals for complex systemic change initiatives. Further, interventions for the former

types of teams generally take place under steady-state conditions while interventions for

the latter often occur under urgent, crisis-oriented conditions. Unfortunately, most team-

focused interventions evolved out of experience with the former and are indiscriminately

applied to the latter (Freedman, 1995c). ALT coaches, OD&C practitioners, and line

managers must be attentive to such differences and learn to become sufficiently flexible

and adaptable to deal with both classes of teams and variable environmental conditions.

Part I: How to Recognize Sub-Optimal Team Performance – Indicators

When there are indications that an established intact work unit’s performance falls

below an acceptable level of effectiveness, team development interventions should be

considered. This is also true for action learning teams. Performance could be selected as

a focal issue by determining what is and is not “acceptable” by comparing current

performance against some standards or set of criteria. There are at least two valid

research designs that may be employed (Cook & Campbell, 1979). A self-as-own-control

design where the baseline is established by assessing the team’s current performance and

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reassess it after an intervening variable has been introduced, say six to twelve months

later. Alternatively, an experimental team’s performance is compared with that of a

control team for the same time period. This design may be irrelevant when dissimilar

teams are compared – e.g., comparing a “team” of customer service representatives with

a management team or comparing a well-established, mature team with a new team in

start-up mode.

Multiple criteria are preferable to a single criterion in evaluating a team’s

performance – just as when evaluating an individual contributor. A relevant, measurable

set of criteria may include some combination of the following possibilities:

• Increased or decreased requests for goods or services by a team’s internal or

external customers; sales; or revenues.

• Increased or decreased team profitability or added value.

• Declines or increases in team productivity or output.

• Increased or decreased number of grievances or complaints by team members.

• Persistent, unresolved interpersonal or inter-group conflicts or hostility. Or,

occasional conflicts, differences, or misunderstandings that are quickly identified,

addressed, and managed.

• Action planning. Team members’ clarity or confusion about decisions about

specific actions to be taken; actions are or are not carried out as expected.

Start/completion dates are clear and understood by all involved parties or

timelines are unclear and various team members have different expectations about

deadlines. Team members either agree or disagree about who is responsible for

what.

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• Team complacency, listlessness, and apathy; lack of energy, interest or

involvement (members keep a low profile). Or, enthusiastic activity, energetic

curiosity, interest, and commitment.

• Little or no risk-taking, initiative, creativity, or innovation by team members;

routine or traditional actions are used to solve unprecedented (discontinuous)

problems. Or, the team is engaged in proactive exploration, experimentation,

risk-taking, and creativity or innovativeness.

• High or low levels of participation by team members in meetings; little or active

involvement of the team’s significant stakeholders; little or high commitment to

support decisions by team members who must carry them out, etc.

• High or low levels of conformity and dependency upon -- or fear of and/or anger

toward – team leaders and sponsors.

• Team members’ cynicism or optimism about the significance or effectiveness of

planned organizational changes among team members and their team’s significant

stakeholders.

• Complaints or complements from the team’s customers about the team’s

responsiveness to their needs or preferences about quality and the timely delivery

of the team’s goods and/or service.

• Team members’ malicious or verbatim compliance to instructions, rules,

regulations, policies, or procedures. Or, creative interpretations resulting in

effective performance.

• Increasing or decreasing team member complaints about each other; members

accept or avoid personal responsibility.

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• Increased or decreased team costs.

• Slipped or satisfied team work schedules.

• Duplication and unnecessary member and team activities or elimination or

reduction of duplication of member and team effort and unnecessary activities.

• Increased or decreased waste or environmental contamination.

• Complaints from community leaders or laudatory comments about the team’s

good corporate citizenship.

Part II: “Groups” -- Collections of Individuals

Many line managers believe that building a team is complete once the members'

names are placed in the appropriate boxes on an organizational chart. Further, sponsors,

leaders, and members of “teams” have different understandings of the nature or benefits

of HP teamwork and how to achieve it. Initially, people who are formed into most work

groups are just aggregations or collections of individuals who tend to do what they have

always done as individual contributors, but now do it in a group context. Typically, they

neither do nor know what they must do as a team to create and maintain HP teamwork.

This is true both for permanent intact work units at all organizational levels and for

temporary multifunctional task forces, committees, liaison teams, and action learning

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teams. Therefore, it is critical for all involved parties to understand the differentiating

characteristics of a collection of individuals and a HPT.

Organizational Ghosts. One significant differentiating characteristic between a

group and an HPT is the presence and influence of organizational ghosts. Consider a

group composed of members who are assigned to a multifunctional team of some sort.

Group members are likely to feel more committed and loyal to their respective back-

home subsystems (their stakeholders) than to their designated “team.” This may be due

to their beliefs (or hopes) that their organizational futures will be within their back-home

subsystems rather than in their temporary groups. Therefore, they think they should -- or

may believe they are expected to -- represent what they presume are the interests of their

respective subsystems even as their group works to achieve its own goals (Colantuono &

Schnidman, 1988).

The members’ perceptions of their various back-home subsystems’ needs,

preferences, and expectations are the ghosts that are typically expressed through the

group members’ interpersonal behavior – i.e., the subsystems’ unofficial representatives

or unauthorized agents. This is a covert phenomenon and, therefore, is vulnerable to

many misunderstandings. Members who see themselves as agents or representatives may

but usually do not fully or accurately know what their subsystems’ leaders expect of them

or what is or is not in their subsystems’ immediate or future best interests.

As illustrated by the direction and thickness of the arrows in Figure 1, sometimes

agents exert more influence on their ghost subsystems than is exerted on them. To satisfy

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their own subsystems’ interests, group members may find it easier to pair with and

influence some other members than the entire group. The covert dynamics of

organizational ghosts inevitably haunt the activities of the group. Ghosts are often the

projections or attributions of the group member-agents. So, group members really haunt

themselves with their own hopes, fears, and fantasies. They also subject themselves to

internal role conflict as their loyalty and commitment wavers between their home base

subsystems and their multi-functional group or between the interests of their stakeholder

subsystem and those of their larger organization. A predictable result is that the group’s

potential effectiveness is sub-optimized.

(INSERT “Figure 1. A Collection of Individuals” HERE)

Personal Ghosts. Individual group members also haunt themselves with the

personal issues they bring with them into multifunctional or multidisciplinary groups. As

some pundit once said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Every group member has to

deal with the group task in the context of his or her:

• Sense of identity (e.g., multiple memberships in various referent or

constituency populations related to such dimensions as gender, race, age,

nationality, religion, sexual orientation, education, occupation or profession,

physical characteristics, marital status, and life style)

• Personal aspirations (personal, professional, or organizational)

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• Anxieties or fears and the defense mechanisms they use to protect

themselves

• Habitual work practices and patterns

• Sense of urgency or complacency

• Unresolved issues (e.g., with authority figures)

• Mental models about how people and things should be

• Perspectives (cultural, hierarchical position, occupational, and location)

• Time orientation (e.g., oriented to the past, present, or future; short, mid,

or long range)

• Information, knowledge, and skill-sets

Group members’ behavior is influenced by these factors. The nature and degree

of influence is generally covert. The degree to which these factors are surfaced and

studied is a major variable that, nevertheless, influences the group’s development and

performance. This kind of diversity can lead to creativity, innovations, and quality

results. On the other hand, if unrecognized and mismanaged, it can result in considerable

disagreement, tension, and conflict.

Pluralistic ignorance. Team members often act as if they were the only persons

who act on behalf of their ghostly stakeholders and/or constituent populations (e.g., union

members, women, or older employees). Perhaps they naively believe that other team

members do not have similar hidden agendas. They do not acknowledge, specify, or

discuss their respective ghosts. Consequently, it is awkward for them to consider how to

publicly acknowledge, discuss, legitimize, and manage the conflicting interests of their

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respective ghosts. More likely, team members implicitly understand that a political

dynamic is at work. Each member probably suspects that every other team member is

trying to protect the interests and optimize the benefits for their respective back-home

subsystems and/or constituencies (or limit their losses) – often by undercutting the

interests of other members’ ghosts. Therefore, while some members get totally immersed

in the group’s goals and tasks and subordinate their back-home subsystems or

constituencies’ interests, others withhold their investment and commitment. They may

appear to cooperate while undermining their colleagues’ stratagems. In other words,

politically-oriented team members compete in a non-distributive zero-sum game.

The process remains covert because member-agents assume that public disclosure

and discussion would adversely affect their ability to safeguard or advance the interests

of their organizational ghosts. Each member assumes that if the team's decisions or

actions favor one constituency or subsystem, the others would be disadvantaged. They

assume that, to be effective, their blocking strategies must be covert. So, agents collude

with each other. Since they do not trust their team to satisfy all of their respective ghosts’

vested interests, they must prevent all other team members from satisfying their ghosts’

interests. This is a lose-lose strategy for managing perfectly legitimate differences.

To become an HPT, whatever organizational ghosts have been avoided or kept

hidden must be made explicit. The legitimately conflicting interests of the various

constituent populations or stakeholder groups must be publicly acknowledged. This

would make it possible for team members to accept the larger, systemic perspective and

deal with the reality that the interests of some involved subsystems must be subordinated,

sacrificed or deferred in the interest of the larger system’s survival and growth. So, team

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members must specify, discuss, and decide which constituent subsystems will gain a

permanent or temporary advantage and which will have to make a sacrifice.

Of course, another element often obscures the issue still further. That is, team

member-agents make these trade-off decisions on their own, without contact or direction

from the leaders of the subsystems or constituencies that they believe they represent.

They are not formally authorized to act as agents. They usually do not know their

subsystem leaders’ goals or objectives, values, beliefs, strategies, and plans. They are

self-authorized ambassadors without portfolios. They do not fully or accurately

understand the true interests of their subsystems or constituencies.

To transcend the real and imagined pressure to remain politicized, unauthorized

individuals operating in a group that is trying to develop into an HPT, the represented

subsystems and constituencies and their agents must tolerate a series of temporary,

shifting set of gains and sacrifices. This is usually essential for the larger organization to

survive and flourish. That is, each subsystem and constituency and their informal agents

must accept the inescapable reality that they are interdependent parts of the whole. They

must accept the concept that win-lose competition and destructive conflict between the

parts results in serious sub-optimal performance – if not failure -- of the larger whole.

They must believe the each part becomes vulnerable and may not survive if the whole is

weakened. So, their goals and strategies must contribute to the larger system’s mission.

That is, the parts must accept their interdependence with each other and their essential

dependence on the larger whole (Colantuno & Schnidman, 1988; Freedman, 1997).

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Part III: What is a "High Performing Team?"

The HPT is exciting for team leaders and members (Vaill, 1982, McGregor,

1985). However, leaders and members of other subsystems – internal suppliers or

customers of the HPT -- often see them as a bunch of unpredictable "mavericks." This

often creates difficulties in intersubsystem relationships. For example, HPTs often

become the target of informal pressure to induce them and their members to conform to

conventional cultural norms. If successful, HPT would become predictable and safe for

the other subsystems. Unfortunately, if they do conform and became non-threatening,

HPTs are likely to sacrifice the very qualities that make them high performing. Action

learning teams may avoid such pressure since they are temporary entities, composed of

members from many different subsystems and organizational levels, and deal with broad,

total system issues rather than transactions between just two or three interdependent

subsystems. Because they typically operate in an atmosphere of considerable urgency, it

is vital that action learning teams to quickly evolve from collections of individuals to

HPTs. HPTs – both permanent intact work units and temporary multifunctional or

multidisciplinary entities -- typically exhibit the following qualities, characteristics and

attributes:

• Leaders are content experts in the team's core technologies and work methods.

• Leaders set the pace and lead by example.

• Leaders often share in the basic work of the team.

• Members create, are aware of, and support their HP traditions and history.

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• Members discover potentialities in their technologies and in themselves that were

not previously recognized.

• Members invent equipment, methods, procedures, and techniques to enhance their

team’s effectiveness.

• Members constantly assess and renew themselves, their work relationships, and

their technologies as a natural part of their way of operating.

• HPTs exhibit a "rhythm" in operating which members feel and which is evident to

outsiders; once achieved, HPTs work at optimal effectiveness.

• Members tinker and experiment a lot; members believe there is "one best way" to

operate an HPT only for short periods of time.

• Members shift roles around among various mental and manual activities.

• Members pay a great deal of attention to making their work environment "just

right" to support their essential work activities.

• Members develop a private, verbal and non-verbal language to effectively

communicate with each other about the team's operation, members' behaviors, and

work issues.

• Members get very upset when the team is not operating up to their expectations;

observers may feel HPT members "take things too seriously".

• There may be a "rule book" about how to do what the HPT does but, in practice,

there are many variations and frequent deviations.

• Hours worked, intensity of effort, and break times are governed by members'

concerns for balancing their team's with their personal needs.

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• Outsiders may be very confused by the HPT’s operating style: observers may

think it is "on" when members know it is "off"; at other times, the HPT looks "off"

when it is "on."

• Technology is an extension of the members and the HPT (like the musician's

instrument or the athlete's equipment); it is not "alien."

[INSERT “Figure 2. A High Performing Team” HERE]

Even teams that operate in highly regulated work environments can function as

HPTs. Regulations merely define the boundaries within which a team's work must be

accomplished. No matter how comprehensive or rigid these regulations may be, a certain

amount of "wiggle room" for innovation can always be created by innovative HPTs

(Colantuno & Schnidman, 1988).

Differentiating Characteristics. People who are not aware of the differences

between collections of individuals and HPTs cannot fully understand why HPTs

consistently out-perform groups. Without knowing there is an alternative, sponsors,

leaders, and members of ordinary intact work groups usually assume they have no choice

but to continue to operate in familiar, traditional ways.

If, on the other hand, they believe that HP teamwork is an achievable option,

leaders and members can make an informed choice whether or not try to transform their

groups. However, knowing how to effect such a transformation is a higher order of

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complexity than simply understanding the differences. Knowing the alternatives and

differences is an appropriate starting place.

I have found that Table 1 (below) can be used as the basis of effective educational

interventions. It displays problematic characteristics of multifunctional or

multidisciplinary groups that are easily recognized by sponsors, leaders, and members of

groups that could become HPTs. (This table can be modified for permanent intact work

units. The focus of the intergroup dynamics would shift to supplier and customer

subsystems.) The table also displays the desirable HPT characteristics that the typical

audience can imagine as achievable. Once I present this information, it is relatively easy

to engage involved parties in a discussion of what it would take for them to transform

their collections of individuals and into HPTs.

Table 1. Differentiating Characteristics of Collections of Individuals and HPTs

Collection of Individuals High Performing Teams


Team members' responsibilities for managing Members negotiate explicit agreements with their

transactions with their respective stakeholder and respective constituents that specify what the

constituents are vague (open to variable stakeholder subsystems and constituents expect of

interpretations of different members). their representatives and what the representative-

members can realistically expect from their

stakeholders or constituents.
Team members feel variable levels of commitment Team members are highly committed to their team,

to the team, its mission, and other team members. to contribute to achieving its mission, and to help

other team members to grow and develop.


Team members exert informal social pressure on Prevailing organizational norms are made explicit

each other to conform to covert, unchallenged and challenged and tested to determine whether

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prevailing organizational norms. they add to or detract from the team's effectiveness.
Indirect political (win-lose) tactics are commonly Attempts to influence others are transparent,

employed between perceived adversaries. straightforward, and characterized by integrity.


Differences of opinion are frequently dealt with Differences are dealt with assertively by loyal

through direct and indirect forms of coercion opponents in a joint problem-solving process.

aimed at undermining adversaries' positions.


Team members' loyalty and commitment to their Team members acknowledge their commitments to

respective stakeholders or constituents is assumed their respective stakeholders and constituents and

but ignored (a public secret or pluralistic agree to explicitly discuss role conflicts as they

ignorance). emerge -- and how to manage these conflicts.


Team members may take it upon themselves to As issues emerge that may adversely affect their

advocate what they believe are the "best interests" stakeholders’ or constituents’ interests, team

or preferences of their stakeholder or constituents members abstain until they caucus with their

-- without asking or being asked. respective stakeholders or constituents.


Team members tell some members of their Team members explicitly discuss among

stakeholder or constituent subsystems about the themselves what each will say to the leaders of

team's goals, issues, and strategies -- without their respective stakeholder or constituent

informing the team or the subsystems’ leaders. subsystems and agree to provide feedback to their

teams with their stakeholders’ or constituents'

leaders’ reactions and responses.


Participation among team members is highly Processes are agreed to, in advance, for accessing

variable -- the group accepts the fact that some less active team members’ concerns, information,

members prefer to be very active while others ideas, opinions, preferences, and priorities.

prefer to be very passive.

Part IV: Developing HP Teamwork -- Sponsorship

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HPTs require highly visible, firm, unwavering, and continuous support from

powerful sponsorship. Sponsors of the effort to create, deploy, and sustain HPTs must be

influential members of the organization’s highest executive management team. They,

and the HPT leaders, must fully understand, accept, and support:

• The need for HPT leaders and members to develop competence in each of the four

essential team process dimensions.

• The complex, often time-consuming process of acquiring proficiency in and

learning to apply these competencies.

• The need to support the anticipated developmental costs and to test the validity of

the hypothesis that the value of expected benefits will exceed the costs.

In determining whether or not HPTs are needed, sponsors should consider two

questions. First, to what extent are you concerned that the team or teams in question will

produce results characterized by quality, accuracy, and precision? Second, to what extent

are you concerned with involved parties’ commitment to and support for the

implementation of consequential decisions? As illustrated below (Table 2), if the

sponsors are concerned with neither issue, the work to be done should be included as part

of routine operations, deferred, or delegated to new employees as a developmental

exercise. If sponsors are concerned with quality, accuracy and precision but not with

engendering commitment and support, the work should be delegated to appropriate,

qualified techsperts. If quality, accuracy, and precision are not needed but commitment

and support are, sponsors should create and charter temporary teams composed of

representatives of all significant stakeholders and constituents. If they are concerned

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with both dimensions, sponsors should create and charter teams composed techsperts and

representatives of involved subsystems.

INSERT “Table 1. Why High Performance Teams?” HERE

As HPTs are created and deployed, their mode of operating will create

disruptions, ambiguity, and/or confusion in their transactions with the more traditional

subsystems with which the HPTs are interdependent. Subsystem leaders will attempt to

protect their traditional organizational culture, territories, control, power, prerogatives,

and people from the perceived threats created by introducing HPTs. Action learning

teams are likely to be perceived as greater threats to the total system’s status quo than

intact work units and lesser threats to subsystems whose operations are less central to the

focus of the action learning team. The most frequent initial tactic employed by anxious

subsystem leaders (to reduce their anxiety) is to influence the organization's executive

management to eliminate the source of the threat. Most frequently, they complain about

such screen issues as:

• The developmental time required. (“We don’t want to pay you to build a

methodology for us; we’d rather buy one, off-the-shelf” or "It will take too long.")

• The required developmental costs. ("We should use this money for more urgent

purposes" or "You’re burning budgets that should be going into our profit centers

and that impacts our quarterly results and, ultimately, reduce our bonuses.")

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• The "bottom-line value" of the HPT effort ("What are we really trying to fix with

these HPTs? Nothing important is broken!").

HPT sponsors must be clear about the basis of their persistent support in the face

of these powerful and generally honest expressions of concern and skepticism.

Resistance always emerge – often with considerable intensity -- whenever an

organization tries to transform itself. This is particularly true if an organization initiates

radical, unprecedented changes to exploit significant improvement opportunities in the

absence of a visible, credible threat that the organization's survival is in doubt unless the

radical changes are made (the “burning platform” theory).

A thorough front-end analysis and discussion of the anticipated disadvantages or

costs and advantages or benefits of an HPT initiative can be very useful. All executive

management team members must agree that the effort is essential, either as a corrective

or a preventive measure. Their residual doubts, concerns, and reservations must be

surfaced and addressed. Without the assurance of active executive sponsorship and

support, the organization is best advised to defer an HPT initiative. This is particularly

important when the deployment of action learning teams is being considered.

Once a critical mass of executive management is convinced that an HPT initiative

has value, the education-analysis-discussion process should be repeated with subsystem

leaders whose intact work groups are candidates for the HPT initiative. Pulling effective

people out of their subsystems to assign them to action learning teams, even temporarily,

may become an issue. Subsystem leaders’ doubts, concerns, and reservations must be

taken very, very seriously. Senior management should collect these issues and give rapid

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feedback on their intentions: they will either act on these issues immediately, defer

action, or explain why no action will be taken. Recognized executive management

sponsors must play a highly visible, very active role during these second- and third-wave

processes. This is a reiterative process that should not be taken lightly.

My advice? Don't pull the pin if you are not ready to throw the grenade!

Part V: The Four Process Dimensions of High Performance Teamwork:

Most often, leaders and members of groups who aspire to develop and maintain

HPTs must learn about the nature and the appropriate utilization of each of the four

process dimensions of HP teamwork. These are: (1) personal dynamics and interpersonal

relationships; (2) group dynamics; (3) task accomplishment and goal achievement; and

(4) boundary management and inter-group relationships. The major component elements

of each process dimension are listed and illustrated below.

Process Dimension 1. Personal Dynamics and Interpersonal Relationships.

Communications and participation. This dynamic activity encompasses

encoding, transmitting, and decoding both objective and subjective information; effective

communications serve such purposes as influencing others (Cohen & Bradford, 1990;

Hanson, 1973; Katz & Kahn, 1978). It requires skills in: (a) self-disclosing (Jourard,

1971; Jung, et al, 1972); (b) active listening (Burley-Allen, 1982; Jung, et al, 1972;

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Shepard, 1961); (c) giving, receiving, and using feedback (Jung, et al, 1972; Katz &

Kahn, 1978, 427-473; Luft, 1969, 1971); (d) taking ownership for one’s perceptions,

thoughts, and feelings (Weir & Weir, 1978).

Interpersonal style preferences. This involves skills to: (a) recognize one’s own

personal style preferences for processing information and communicating; (b) recognize

others' preferences for processing information and relating to others; and (c) vary style

with appropriate flexibility and adaptability to deal effectively with people whose

preferences are markedly different. (See: Byrum, 1986; Costa & Widiger, 1994; Hanson,

1973; Kroeger & Thuesen, 1992; Myers, 1980; Schutz, 1994.)

Conflict management and utilization. This calls for skills in: (a) recognizing

the sources of interpersonal differences; (b) understanding one’s own preferred mode for

managing conflicts – its strengths and weaknesses; (c) applying a range of effective

modes of managing conflicts; and (d) using good judgment to determine which modes

best match different situations and conditions. (See: Bramson, 1981; Brown, 1983;

Harrison, 1963; Johnson, 1992; Rahim, 1983; Rothman, 1997; Thomas & Kilmann,

1974; Thomas & Kilmann, 1978; Walton, 1982.)

Assertiveness and influence. This involves skills in: (a) understanding one’s

habitual responses to situations in which one’s point of view is either not heard or is

opposed by others; (b) recognizing differences in the effects of aggressive, passive, and

assertive styles of dealing with these situations; and (c) employing the assertive style as

necessary. (See: Alberti & Emmons, 1986; Burley-Allen, 1995; Dyer, 1996; Smith,

1975; Zander, 1982, 148-158.)

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Risk-taking. This requires skills in: (a) recognizing one’s personal preference for

dealing with the world through either a conservative and experimental orientation; (b)

recognizing the consequences of both orientations in terms of creativity and innovation;

and (c) creating conditions under which the experimental orientation is appropriate. (See:

Calvert, 1993; Guntern, 1998; Harrison, 1972; Matson & Bruins, 1997; MacCrimmon

with Stanbury & Wehrung, 1990; Shapira, 1994.)

Role clarification and role renegotiation. This requires skills in: (a)

understanding how expectations of others develop; (b) understanding why and how

expectations of others that, initially, are mutually understood and accepted deteriorate

over time; (c) confronting discrepancies between expected and perceived performance of

others; and (d) renegotiating role relationships as they evolve and change over time.

(See: Harrison, 1972; Jaques, 1989; Katz & Kahn, 1978, 185-221; Keller, 1875;

Nicholas, 1990, 171-194; Sherwood & Glidewell, 1973; Wolfe & Snoek, 1964.)

[INSET “Figure 3. Process Dimension 1:

Personal Dynamics and Interpersonal Relationships” HERE]

Process Dimension 2. Group Dynamics.

Defining the team: its mission, structure, boundaries, prerogatives and

obligations. Particularly for action learning teams, leaders and members must have

clarity for several pertinent questions. For example: Who has the authority to set

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direction and define the team’s goals? To what extent are these goals aligned with the

larger organization’s strategic goals or business plan? For what results is the team

accountable? Who is the “customer” or “end-user” of these results? What do these

customers expect from the team? (See the Boundary Management dimension, below.)

To whom is the team accountable? To what extent is the team manager controlled or

self-directed? To what extent does the team have the authority to determine how it will

organize itself and select the means to achieve its goals? That is, who (management or

the team) will have authority for what? Is this intended to be a temporary task force or

project team? Or, is this supposed to be a permanent intact work team? If the former:

What expectations do subsystem leaders have for their informal representatives? How

are representative team members supposed to exchange information with their own

permanent subsystems? What is the substantive content of the team’s work and how does

that shape the team values and practices? To what specific, mandated regulations,

standards, or procedures must this team conform – if any? To what extent do prevailing

organizational rules, regulations, policies, procedures, or practices enhance or obstruct

effective teamwork? Who sponsors this team? Who supports this team by providing the

resources this team needs to perform its responsibilities? Are these resources

predetermined and finite or sufficiently expandable to enable the team to deal with

unexpected complications or difficulties? Will the team’s size expand or shrink over

time to accommodate changes in demand for its results? How will such changes in

composition be handled? Will both individual team members and the team be recognized

and rewarded for high performance? Will individuals be enabled -- by training,

coaching, or consultation – to perform effectively as team members? (See: Blanchard,

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Carlos & Randolph, 1996; Freedman, 1996a, 2000a; Hackman, 1990; Marquardt, 1999;

Nicholas, 1990, 139-170; Osburn, Moran, Musselwhite & Zenger, 1990; Zander, 1982

[109-118], 1985.)

Developmental phases: From groups to HPTs. This calls for skills in: (a)

recognizing the distinctive issues that must be resolved at each phase of a team’s

evolution; (b) recognizing indications that specific developmental issues must be

addressed at different stages of development; and (c) confronting and addressing these

issues. (This is discussed in greater detail, below.)

Team decision-making procedures. This requires skills in: (a) understanding

the implications of each of a range of procedures that groups can use to make decisions of

any sort – extending from low to high levels of involvement and participation; (b) using

each procedure appropriately and effectively; and (c) using good judgment to match

specific procedures with various situations and conditions. (See: Delbecq, Van de Ven &

Gustafson, 1975; Drucker, 1986; Freedman, 1989a; Glidewell, 1970; Greenwald, 1973;

Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, 1999; Hanson, 1973, 1981; Janis & Mann, 1977;

Janis,1989; Russo & Schoemaker, 1990; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Zander, 1982, 12-29.)

Identifying and utilizing team members' resources. This involves skills in: (a)

recognizing that the most senior, verbal, or influential team members are not always the

most knowledgeable or skillful; and (b) using methods that enable all members to

contribute to team goals. (See: Freedman, 1989b; Hall & O'Leary, circa 1963; Hanson,

1973, 1981; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Sherwood & Hoylman, 1978.)

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Management and utilization of conflict. This requires skills in: (a) recognizing

when exploration of the basis of differences among team members may yield creative

alternatives or innovations rather than merely satisfy narrow individual interests; and (b)

applying processes and procedures to facilitate that exploration. (See: Hanson, 1973;

Harrison & Kouzes, 1980; Johnson, B. 1992; Katz & Kahn, 1978, 611-651; Nicholas,

1990, 216-234; Rahim, 1983; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Thomas & Kilmann, 1974; Thomas

& Kilmann, 1978; Walton, 1995.)

Leadership and leadership functions. This involves skills in: (a) understanding

the nature and purposes served by a range of both task and maintenance leadership

functions; (b) performing each function appropriately and effectively; (c) applying good

judgment as to when and how each function is effectively performed; and (d) enabling

team members to accept the notion that the proper person to perform a function is the

person who first recognizes the need. (See: Bales & Strodbeck, 1951; Bass, 1998; Bennis

& Nanus, 1985; Bennis, 1998; Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi, 1985; Freedman, 1998;

Hanson, 1973, 1981; Katz & Kahn, 1978, 525-576; Kotter, 1999; Kouzes & Posner,

1995; Lawler, 1988; Nanus, 1992; Nicholas, 1990, 195-215; Reddy, 1994, 27-41; Schein,

1988a, 1988b; Tichy, 1991.)

Process analysis. This relies on skills in: (a) explicitly reviewing what the team

does effectively and what needs to be improved; (b) identifying and modifying team

atmosphere and norms (Hanson, 1973, 1981; Schein, 1988a, 1988b); and, (c) facilitating

the continuous improvement in team effectiveness. (See: Freedman, 1995a, 1997;

Hackman, 1990; Hanson, 1973, 1981; Hanson & Lubin, 1985; Schein, 1988a, 1988b.)

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[INSERT “Figure 4. Process Dimension 2: Group Dynamics” HERE]

Process Dimension 3. Task Accomplishment and Goal Achievement.

Stakeholder analysis. This calls for skills in: (a) identifying those stakeholder

groups and constituent populations who believe they have legitimate interests in the

team’s activities -- including the team's sponsors, suppliers, customers (and their end-

users), senior management, and the managers of subsystems from which members of

multifunctional or multidisciplinary team originate; (b) determining the concerns, needs,

preferences and priorities of these groups or populations; and (c) negotiating mutually

acceptable agreements that will govern future transactions. (See: Dick, 1997; Jayaram,

1976; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Wright, Geroy and Nasierowski, 1994.)

Identifying issues. This requires skills in: (a) recognizing the variety of

predictable or unexpected, nascent or emergent problems-to- solve, opportunities-to-

exploit or to capitalize upon, and dilemmas-to-manage by which the team is likely to be

confronted; and (b) continuously and actively scanning internal and external

environments to identify and specify the team’s emerging or surfacing issues. (See:

Freedman, 1994, 1996b; Schein, 1988a, 1988b.)

Establishing criteria-based priorities. This requires skills in: (a) identifying

relevant criteria; (b) applying mutually acceptable criteria to the team’s issues utilizing

high involvement methods; (c) assuring that team members and the team’s significant

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stakeholders and constituents accept the resulting high priority issues; and (d) assuring

that the team’s high priorities are congruent with the larger subsystem and organizational

mission, business plan, goals, strategies, and philosophy. (See: Freedman, 1990.)

Setting goals or objectives. Focusing on each high priority issues, this calls for

skills in: (a) defining an alternative or "desired state" for each issue that assures that the

goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound; (b) assuring that team

members, senior management, and other stakeholders or constituents accept these goals;

and (c) assuring that these goals are aligned with the mission, business plan, goals,

strategies, and philosophy of the team’s larger subsystem and organization. In this

category, we also include (d) setting goals for team development and individual member

growth. (See: Bennis, 1964; Collins, 1999; Jung, Howard, Emory, & Pino, 1972; Mager,

1972; Mali, 1972; Ordione, 1979; Raia, 1974; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Schindler-Rainman

& Lippitt, 1972.)

Decision-making or choosing. This involves skills in using participative, team

methods to: (a) identify two or more clear alternatives; (b) make sure that the alternatives

represent a real choice rather than a dilemma (Johnson, 1992); (c) apply participative

methods or processes to identify the potential advantages and disadvantages of each set

of alternatives (Janis & Mann, 1977; Janis, 1989); (d) make difficult choices; and (e)

recognize the need to monitor and scan relevant internal and external environments for

future occurrence of any of the disadvantages (Freedman, 1997, 1989b).

Problem analysis and problem solving. This requires skills in using highly

participative team methods when applying such tools as force field analysis and root-

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cause analysis in: (a) determining why it is important to achieve the desired state; (b)

determining why it is difficult to achieve the desired state; and (c) identifying and

selecting the critical and sufficient driving and restraining forces that must be addressed

in order to realize or achieve the desired state. (See: Adams, 1974; Davis, 1973; de

Bono, 1973, 1999, 2000; Fobes, 1996; Frieze, Bar-Tal & Carroll, 1979; Hall, 1995;

Higgins, 1994; Jung, Howard, Emory, & Pino, 1972; Kaufman, 1976; Lewin, 1947;

Nadler & Hibino, 1990; Osborn, 1963; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Spencer, 1989; VanGundy,

1995; Varela, 1971; Watzlawick, 1988.)

Action planning. This involves skills in using highly participative team methods

in: (a) identifying the specific action steps necessary to complete each implementation

plan; (b) specifying individuals who will assume responsibility for executing each step;

(c) establishing a schedule for the completion of each step and for the overall plan; (d)

identifying and assuring the accessibility of all requisite resources for implementing each

step and for the overall plan; (e) developing a budget to support the plan and schedule,

including a contingency line item to cover unexpected activities; and (f) if necessary,

designing, staffing, and resourcing a temporary, parallel organization to lead and/or

monitor the execution of the plan. (See: Jung, Howard, Emory, & Pino, 1972; Schein,

1988a, 1988b.)

Implementation. As implementation plans are executed, skills in actively

involving all relevant stakeholders are required for: (a) monitoring or scanning the

internal and external environments to assure the early identification of unanticipated,

nascent or emerging issues, side effects, and other complications; (b) analyzing and

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planning to deal with these issues – paying particular attention to the possibility that

emerging issues may require the reconsideration of the goals, strategies, and related

implementation plans; and (c) making mid-course adjustments. (See: Freedman, 1997,

2000; Nicholas, 1990.)

Evaluation. Using multi-source, multi-method approaches (preferably by

dispassionate third parties who are not directly involved in the team or with the team’s

managers), this involves skills in: (a) assessing progress as well as intended and

unintended results and side-effects (Schindler-Rainman & Lippitt, 1972; Schein, 1988a,

1988b); (b) measuring consequences (Kirkpatrick, 1994; Bernthal, 1995); (c) conducting

celebrations and wakes; and (d) documenting and archiving "lessons learned" for future

dissemination (Schein, 1993a, 1993b; Senge, 1990; Senge, Roberts, Ross, Smith &

Kleiner, 1994).

[INSET “Figure 5. Process Dimension 3:

Task Accomplishment and Goal Achievement” HERE]

Process Dimension 4. Boundary Management and Inter-Group Relationships.

This calls for skills in:

(a) Defining the team’s boundaries by determining who is "in" the team and who is

external (or "out") – based on specific criteria or standards for membership;

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(b) Identifying significant stakeholder groups (suppliers, customers, senior management,

etc. which are parts of the team’s value, delivery, or supply chains or business

process) and constituent populations (people whose primary sense of identity is based

in some demographic, status, or occupational groupings that is relevant to the team’s

purposes or the composition of the team’s membership).

(c) Proactive assessment of customers' concerns, demands, expectations, priorities, and

preferences in order to analyze their value constellations and identify issues that,

when properly addressed, may improve the team’s effectiveness.

(d) Proactive collaboration (strategic partnerships) with suppliers to ensure they

understand, accept, and respond appropriately to the team's concerns, needs,

preferences, and priorities.

(e) Reconciling the mutually exclusive claims of diverse but relevant, significant

stakeholder groups and constituent populations. This may require considerable

negotiations involving trade-offs and compromises.

(f) Receiving and accepting deliverables from suppliers. Assuring that the suppliers’

end-products or services satisfy the team’s expectations, preferences, and

requirements.

(g) Delivering outputs to customers. Assuring that the team’s products or services satisfy

its customers’ expectations, preferences, and requirements.

(h) Soliciting, obtaining, and using feedback from customers and any relevant

stakeholder groups and constituent populations to determine their satisfaction with the

team’s performance.

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Effectiveness in boundary management also requires considerable integrity, character and

the mastery of a unique and varied skill-set. This includes:

• Proactive scanning or scouting the environment for early indications of trends or

events that may impact the organization and its subsystems (Holder & McKinney,

1993; Zander, 1982, 68-84).

• Tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, composure during crisis conditions

(Drucker, 1980).

• Maze-brightness (Freedman, 1998).

• Managing and utilizing intersubsystem and organization-environment dynamics and

conflict (see Brown, 1983; Johnson, 1992; Rahim, 1986; Rice, 1969, 1976; Zander,

1982, 85-108).

• Appreciation and utilization of organizational politics (Block, 1988; Harvey, 1989;

Pfeffer, 1992; Schein, 1988a, 1988b; Zander, 1982, 159-167).

• Thick skins and tolerance for frustration.

• Humility.

• Assertiveness.

• Endurance, persistence.

• Integrity.

• Curiosity -- an intense interest in understanding different organizational and societal

cultures.

• Capacity to influence others without having positional authority over them (Cohen &

Bradford, 1990; Hanson, 1973).

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[INSERT “Figure 6. Process Dimension IV:

Boundary Management and Inter-Group Relationships” HERE]

The Team Development Process

Teams evolve as their members and leaders develop proficiency in the appropriate and

timely application of the elements of all four process dimensions to their work. This

proficiency may develop spontaneously among team members or as a function of the

guidance provided by skilled learning coaches, OD consultants, or line managers. There

are at least 16 reasonably well-articulated theoretical or hypothetical models that describe

the stages or phases through which groups evolve and develop from an aggregate or

collection of individuals into a high-performing team (see below).

Without delving too deeply into the definitions of each stage or phase it is

evident, by inspection, that there is considerable consistency in the specification of

developmental behavior by a wide range of observer-researchers. Further, the span of

time over which these theories or hypotheses were developed – i.e., from 1951 to 1989 –

suggests that we are dealing with a reasonably reliable phenomena. However, the

meanings the authors attribute to the observed behavior varies.

There are at least four purposes served by these models:

1. To enable learning coaches or facilitators to monitor teams’ progress and

plan interventions to enable teams to progress to the next phase.

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2. To provide a common concept and language that facilitates team

members’ communication about their team’s development.

3. To enable team members to visualize and set goals for their team’s

evolution. (This is best done only when they achieve the third

developmental phase.)

4. To enable team members to develop team strategies and steps each

member can take to contribute to achieving those team developmental

goals.

As team members and their leaders experience substantive developmental

progress and learn how to contribute to and enhance that development, their relationships

to one another and to their team changes. For example, they may learn it is safe to rely

upon one another in the service of their team’s development and in performing their

collective responsibilities (i.e., their tasks, activities, and functions). On other words,

they develop a sense of realistic trust in one another; trust in combination with a sense of

achievement of meaningful results (in terms of both performance and team development)

evokes members’ commitment and loyalty to their team. (See: Dyer, 1987; Zander, 1982,

1985.)

AUTHOR(S): PHASES OR STAGES:


Bales & Orientation Evaluation Control

Strodb

eck

(1951)
Bennis & Shepard Dependence - Power Relations Interdependence - Personal Relations

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(1956)
Dependence- Counter- Resolution Enchantment Disenchant- Consensual

Submission dependence ment Validation


Bradford & Membership Subgrouping Confrontation Differentiatio Shared

Cohen (1984) n Responsibility

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Charrier (1973) Polite Why We’re Bid for Power Constructive Esprit

Here
Cooke & Widdis Polite Purpose Power Positive Proficient

(1988)
Drexler, Sibbert Creating Stages Sustaining Stages

& Forrester

(1988)
Orienta- Trust Goal Decision Implementa- High Renewal

tion Building Clarifica- Making tion Performance

tion
Gibb, Drexler, Knowing "Why Am Understanding Being Clear About Discovering "How?"

I Here?" "Who Are You?" "What Shall We


Weisbord
Do?"
(unknown)
Fisher (1970) Orientation Conflict Emergence Reinforcement
Jones (1974) Task: Orientation Organization Data Flow Problem Solving
Interpersonal: Dependence Conflict Cohesion Interdependence
Lacoursiere Orientation Dissatisfaction Resolution Production

(1980)
Mann (1967) Nurturance Control Sexuality Competence
Moosbruker Orientation To Group Conflict Over Control Group Formation & Differentiation &

And Task Among Members & Solidarity Productivity


(1989)
With The Leader
Napier & The Beginning Movement toward Compromise and Reassessment: Resolution and

Confrontation Harmony Union of Recycling


Gershenfeld
Emotional and

(1973) Task Components


Nielson (1984) Dependence Similarity vs. Support vs. Panic Concern vs. Independence vs.

Dissimilarity Isolation Withdrawal


Obert (1979) Membership Subgrouping Confrontation Individual Collaboration

Differentiatio

n
Schutz (1958) Inclusion Control Openness

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Tuckman (1965); Forming Storming Norming Performing Adjourning

Tuckman &

Jensen

(1977)

Part VI: Using the Four Process Dimensions

When consulting with a group that aspires to become an HPT, I initially focus the

attention of the leader and members on the elements of the third dimension – Task

Accomplishment and Goal Achievement -- and, especially in the latter phases of the

team's work on any given issue, on the elements of the fourth dimension – Boundary

Management. The group’s developmental efforts revolve around both how effectively it

performs its current work responsibilities while also enhancing the gratification team

members derive from their relationships with one another. Thus, most team members

readily understand and accept the third and fourth process dimensions as these are most

obviously relevant, practical, and useful. This tends to enhance my credibility.

They also come to see that their team’s development and task accomplishment

efforts become increasingly effective, aligned with and contributing to achieving their

team's mission, goals, strategy, and responsibilities (and to their larger organization’s

mission and business plan). Further, they increasingly see that their participation in their

team’s work helps them to realize their own individual and collective potential. Thus,

team membership becomes increasingly valuable to them. So, as they run into personal,

interpersonal and group issues that clearly impede or obstruct their progress, they become

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increasingly open to and appreciative of interventions that focus on elements of the first

and second dimensions – that is, Personal Dynamics and Interpersonal Relations and

Group Dynamics.

Front-End Loaded Training. Many HRM trainers and OD consultants think of

team building as an up-front, preparatory training program. They recommend an initial

focus on the first and second dimensions while ignoring much of the third dimension and

just about all of the fourth dimension. Typically, they offer a two-to-three-day training

session for all team members, often in an off-site retreat setting. They claim this is

relevant either to accelerate start-ups for new teams or when existing teams run into

difficulties.

Trainers generally use pre-packaged, off-the-shelf simulations, skill development

exercises, and/or case studies as the vehicles for displaying everything that they believe

that any team may ever need to know about personal, interpersonal, and group dynamics.

However, it is also typical that little time or attention is devoted to allowing team

members to practice and develop proficiencies in applying those demonstrated concepts,

methods, and skills. In large part this omission is due to the impossibility of determining

which of many possibilities will prove to be relevant for any given team. So, trainers try

to give them everything they know. Therefore, trainers pack the schedule with as many

events as possible. Thus, the focus is on rapid exposure to a series of potentially relevant

experiences to illuminate the widest possible range of issues and dynamics.

Unfortunately, the most likely results produced by this strategy are entertaining or

interesting experiences for team members. Upon reflection, when they return to their

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back-home settings, participating team members come to realize that such activities were

idealistic (or “academic”) rather than practical. Alternatively, when the time comes for

the team to apply what they may have learned, a lot of time will have passed and team

leaders and members will no longer remember what to do or how to do it.

When and as needed Facili-Training. Team members most appreciate the

relevance of the first and second dimensions’ elements when they encounter difficulties

in working on their third and fourth dimension tasks, activities, and functions. It is at

these moments that team members become "ready to learn." They become motivated to

master obviously relevant first and second dimension skills when they realize that their

ineffective use of themselves as individuals and/or their inattention to their teams’ group

dynamics are neutralizing or negating their otherwise effective task-oriented, goal-

achievement activities. They also learn that they must add to – not replace -- their

existing repertoire by becoming sufficiently proficient in applying these new skills to

real team issues. They become increasingly enthusiastic about acquiring additional

competencies when they see their value in helping them to realize their potential,

accomplish their tasks, and achieve their goals.

When facili-trainers and learning coaches avoid the temptation to display

everything they think they know all at once, they also protect team members from getting

overloaded with excessive, tangential, and artificial training experiences. Instead, they

can provide effective "just-in-time" and "just enough" skill development experiences.

Thus, team members incrementally acquire those essential competencies that they

recognize will enable them to develop as a team.

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[INSERT “Figure 7. Summary: Developing High Performance Teamwork by

Acquiring Competence in Four Process Dimensions” HERE]

When I train HR trainers, facilitators and OD or other consultants, I start with the

first process dimension and work my way through to the fourth. However, I repetitively

advise them that, when they facilitate the development of intact work teams, the

appropriate sequence is to start with the third process dimension and to be prepared to

deal with whatever parts of the fourth process dimension may become relevant for a

specific team. I believe this admonition is also relevant – but probably not necessary --

for competent learning coaches and action learning teams.

The “Just-In-Time” principle. I advise participants in my training programs to

let their client teams determine when and how they should intervene. That is, I tell them

to hold back on intervening around first and second process dimensions until team

members or leaders run into the consequences of those kinds of unmanaged issues.

Facilitators should wait for first and second dimension issues to emerge and to become

manifestly evident to team leaders and members as dilemmas that are disrupting the team

and impairing team performance. For example, the need to learn how to manage and

utilize conflict may not become evident until the team members see how their work is

being disrupted or obstructed when two or more members, each advocating equally

legitimate but opposing priorities, engage in dysfunctional, personal attacks on one

another. These emergent issues are undeniable signals to the team of the need for

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attending to these first and second process dimension elements – not just for the facili-

trainer (or learning coach) who, after all, has been waiting for this kind of evidence to

emerge. It is desirable for the team to ask for their facili-trainer’s (or learning coach’s)

assistance; this allows the team to manage their consultants rather than the reverse).

The “Just Enough” principle: I also advise my facili-trainers-in-training to use

the least intrusive interventions, providing only that amount of guidance or skill

development experience necessary to enable their client team members to deal effectively

with the specific process issue by which they are confronted. I remind them that, in

addition to their beneficial contributions, “interventions” are interruptions that require

team members and leaders to stop whatever they are doing in order to learn new concepts

or gain proficiency with new methods and how to apply them. The longer it takes for

members and leaders to acquire sufficient proficiency to help them do their work, the

more impatient and frustrated they become. (They often see interventions as non-

productive down time, regardless of their usefulness.) Their impatience interferes with

making progress in their work, their personal and team learning, and their trusting

relationships with facilitators – especially if they are working within an “ambitious”

schedule or under crisis conditions. It is most functional for facilitators to provide just

enough assistance to enable some of the team’s members to get a new perspective or to

learn a new process to increase their effectiveness in dealing with their issues than to

extend the intervention until everyone is completely ready to continue.

By intervening and getting out quickly, facili-trainers and learning coaches make

minimally disruptive interventions, allow team leaders and members to quickly apply

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what they have learned. Brief interventions also enable facilitators to assess the team’s

cultural norms – specifically, whether it is customary or acceptable for team members to

coach and help each other to acquire proficiency. If team members run into difficulties in

applying their newly acquired concepts or methods and are not effective in helping each

other to deal with these difficulties, facili-trainers can coach and shape team members’ or

leaders’ behavior or clarify why a specific concept or method is or is not appropriate.

Part VII: Methods for Applying the Model

In addition to lecture-discussion approaches, there are a number of alternative

ways through which individuals and teams can learn about group and organizational

dynamics and change. For example, the Harvard case method, the MIT-Pigors incident

process method, roleplaying or sociodrama, or unstructured human interaction laboratory

training (Benne, 1961, 631-636). This sample of educational or training methods actually

represent a continuum along which we can see a transition from the instructor-as-leader

who is in control of what is learned (the content), when, and how learning takes place (the

process) to learners who are in control of their own learning.

Both action learning and facili-training generate many opportunities for team

members to choose what, when, and how they learn. When process issues emerge within

a team, both learning coaches and facili-trainers intervene in order to focus participants’

attention on particular individual, interpersonal, or team learning and enhance their skills

in self-evaluation (Jenkins, 1961, 756-764). Both are experiential in style and select their

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interventions by comparing their observations of what is going on in the team with their

own theories and conceptual mental models (Bennis & Shepard, 1961, 743-756). Both

wait until team members generate a considerable amount of information that

incontrovertibly illuminate their team’s process issues. However, there are differences.

Learning coaches are more likely than OD consultants or facili-trainers to ask

questions that stimulate team member-learners to examine and understand their teams’

dynamics. This is very challenging for people like myself. In a learning coach training

program conducted by Michael Marquardt, instead of telling or explaining, I had to

reformulate my theory-based observations into succinct, open-ended questions that

enabled learners to focus in on their own unrecognized issues by themselves. I found this

to be a difficult task at times because I occasionally like to show off my process

expertise. But I was immensely gratified when learners used my -- and especially

Marquardt’s -- questions to explore, understand, and deal with their own process issues

by themselves – without my process expert input.

The downside risk is that learners may not learn some important lessons in group

dynamics and processes.

However, facili-trainers are likely to be more active. They take the initiative to

clarify murky issues more quickly. They are more directive in utilizing resources such as

flip-charts to list and keep track of multiple issues that threaten to overwhelm a team or to

suggest the team use a tool like force-field analysis before leaping into an action planning

process. And, they are more likely to deliver brief lecturettes or theoretical inputs that

provide participants with conceptual “handles” to better understand their own processes

and to illuminate the options available to them to manage their process issues (Semrad &

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Arsenian, 1961, 737-743), alternatives that participants may not otherwise recognize or

generate on their own.

Facili-trainers are also use a variety of brief questionnaires (three to five items) to

enable team member-participants to focus on how they are handling various team

dynamics and processes and to keep track of changes in their own self evaluations over

time. Thus, they learn to study their own team issues and to take personal responsibility

for planning and taking corrective and preventive action.

The downside risk is that facili-trainers may act too quickly and inadvertently

preempt participants, denying them opportunities to learn how well they can learn by

themselves -- with less direction from their consultants.

Which is the best approach? My answer is, “Yes!” Through my reading and

participation in Marquardt’s learning coach training, I learned a great deal about process

consulting -- which I thought I knew better than I did. I am now assimilating the action

learning approach. But I will not throw out my facili-training methodology. I shall,

instead, synthesize.

Perhaps my humbling experience proves the validity of something I have been

telling participants in my OD consultant training programs for decades: “Experience is

the test that is followed by the lesson.”

Conclusion

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It seems to me that what I refer to as facili-training has much in common with

action learning and the functions of the learning coach. The major difference may be the

extent to which in situ training and education is used in intervening. That is, as a facili-

trainer I train or educate almost every time I intervene; so in a sense I am directing my

client teams. I give them learnings to apply directly to the work that is directly in front of

them. As a learning coach, I rarely if ever train or educate. Rather, through the use of

carefully constructed questions, I guide or nudge team members, incrementally, toward

enhanced effectiveness. They generate or create and apply virtually all of their own

learnings. At this juncture, I believe that these two approaches are complementary.

Perhaps, with more experience as a learning coach, I will change my opinion.

I also believe that learning coaches can enhance their effectiveness in developing

HP action learning teams by borrowing my facili-training approach to managing the four

process dimensions.

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