After a short demonstration what I learned in general from Mikes Bikes by going through this simulation, I am going to emphasis more on teams which are of great importance for a company’s performance. Therefore, an introduction will be given about the differences between simple work groups and high-performing teams. Based on this knowledge it will be demonstrated how I as CEO missed out on forming a real team from the beginning and how social loafing and resistance affected our team performance during the simulation. But what is even more important is the group feedback. I am going to show how our group used feedback as an instrument to get one’s act together in order to become a successful team like we became in the end of this simulation while we used the possibility to give constructive feedback and confronted social loafers with their negative behavior.
Each of the five team members in our group specialized in their studies for a certain area. After I finished my bachelor degree in accounting and bank management, I started to specialize in my master in marketing and management. The more I learned and coped with these two subjects the more I forgot about tasks, problems and decision making in other areas of a company. This simulation remembered me that running a company which includes different divisions like HR, Finance, Marketing, Operations and Development requires a lot to consider as they may follow different goals which are often in conflict to each other and have to be managed. To become a successful company everything starts with selecting the right people for certain divisions and their formation from a simple work group to a high-performing team and leads over developing a business and corporate strategy in an early stage of the company’s establishment as well as providing right feedback to one’s own employees and learning out of mistakes that were made. Furthermore, this simulation showed me what are the most important decisions for each department that have to be made and how these decisions should interact with each other in order to move the whole company in the same direction. To name just a few examples, I gained insights into a cash flow statement and its components, which factors are important to increase product quality, the impacts of marketing und PR expenditure on sales or how crucial it is not only to develop but also to adjust a business model and business strategy after a period of activity (Magretta, 2002). But in retrospective, I had in no other course during my study the opportunity to focus on teamwork and its leadership like in this course, where I learned so much about teams. It is this gained knowledge which I am going to present and discuss in the following paragraphs.
Many scholars are of the view that teams are crucial for the success of organizations as they can produce by far the better results than separate individuals or work groups (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). The study from Thrift (2001) demonstrates the present importance of teams in organizations, while he found out that 80% of Fortune 500 companies had more than the half of their workforce working in team-based structures. One important personal finding of this simulation is that there is considerable difference between a work group and a team. Katzenbach und Smith (1993) define work group as ensemble of people where members share information and perspectives in order to perform well as individual. This definition sounds as if a group is only a sum of interdependent individual contributions which want to complete a task. But in contrary a successful team is more than the sum of its parts, it multiples more the contributions of team members while it uses the synergies (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). Team is defined as a small number of interdependent individuals with complementary skills which hold themselves mutually accountable for the collaborative completing of a task. Meanwhile, they are committed to a common performance goal, purpose and approach (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). At the beginning of the simulation we were only a work group as we were put together according to curriculum vitae and our given preferences. To become team in the end was a long process. Everything started at the very first meeting where I as CEO missed out on setting some guidelines which should have provide clear footholds for everyone. This includes taking enough time to discuss with the team about common purpose and goal which fit to every team member (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). This resulted in less clear communication and less constructive discussions between the team members and was probably one of the main reasons why we performed more like a potential team than a high-performing team (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). Then common purpose and goal are exactly things that high-performing teams need besides a strong commitment to try to improve their performance (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993).
Another reason why we did not perform well from the beginning can be find in Tuckman’s (1965) model of teamwork process as we were in the forming stage where individuals start to know each other, understand their activity and task. As has already been described before, our team was assembled of people who never saw or knew each other before. Hence, there were no interpersonal relationships (Gratton & Erickson, 2007), common purpose or trust (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993) which are important for the success of a team. Moreover, I as CEO lacked some interpersonal skills to evolve team members in discussions (Gratton & Erickson, 2007) what opened my eyes for future teamwork. Tuckman (1965) differs in his model between four stages (forming, storming, norming and performing) where every stage needs to be completed before the team can pass on to the next stage. In the storming phase conflicts among people with different ideas and working styles emerge when the tasks become difficult or the team is not successful. This stage is followed by the norming stage where new standards and behavior of conduct get established which are accepted by all members. And last of all the performing stage, where the team members begin to approach the task as a high-performing team. From personal experience, I can say that there is no linear progression to teamwork as there were meetings where we were in all four stages at once. Conflicts among team members about right business model and strategy have resulted unconsciously in an emergence of certain norms, e.g. the decision making which we did from this moment on always in a democratic way. Also in the end, where we performed as a team there was a storming phase as we had heated discussions amongst all team members about our distributor margin policy. Moreover, in an early stage of the simulation a group of two or three people interacted perfectly with each other and were engaged with the task (performing) while I attempted to get other team members to cooperate and participate in discussions (forming) by giving them small tasks to accomplish. My observations are confirmed by Gersick (1988) who challenged Tuckman’s idea of hierarchical and closed stages as he found out that teams do not necessarily follow any specific stages. They focus rather on their task where stable periods are interrupted by a storming phase which shapes new norms (Gersick, 1988).
A further problem why our team had difficulties to get formed was the free-riding tendency (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985). The free-riding is also known as social loafing and means that some team members reduce their contribution and effort while others end up doing everything (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985). From an early moment on, one team member resisted to contribute to discussions as the group did not support its idea about the business model. Moreover, two other team members did not feel comfortable in their roles as well as were not familiar with the simulation and the whole team was affected by the free-riding tendency specifically in practice rollovers. Albanese & van Fleet (1985) recommend managers to decrease the group size, increase monitoring and make members outputs more identifiable. In order to avoid further conflicts, I did not confront anybody directly with this issue but in order to involve team members I started to explain reports more intensively which were relevant for their departments and gave them small tasks which were monitored by me. According to Albanese & van Fleet (1985) this might be one of the reasons what increased significantly the team member’s contribution and led our team to the third best company in class. At the same time, groupthink was not such an issue any more as team members became more familiar with their task and felt free to develop and share their own ideas (Janis, 1982). Kirkman et al. (2000) argue if you want to make teams work and decrease their resistance to teamwork, it is important to consider fairness of treatment and build trust amongst team members what can be done by considering aspects like payment, workload and interpersonal treatment. These are things which were not consciously taken into account by me as CEO but are something that I will remember from now on and use in future teamwork.
Last but not least, in this simulation I have learned to appreciate the power of giving and getting feedback as I noticed that it was an important reason that some team members increased their contributions to the discussions what made our team so successful in the end. Individual team members totally changed with regard to their workload after feedbacks were provided and I myself improved my behavior as CEO by being more considerately by taking myself back with giving solutions but asking more questions. The feedback is defined as “information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behavior to improve learning” and has as main goal to enhance learning and performance (Shute, 2008, p.153). Going through this simulation, I learned that feedback is nothing that someone should be afraid of but it is helpful to improve accurate and targeted individual’s knowledge and skills (Shute, 2008) what can positively affect the company’s outcome (Peiperl, 2001). In order to improve the team members’ performance constructive feedback has to be provided which can be given immediately, following certain behavior and action or after a while (Shute, 2008). To capture the recipient`s involvement the feedback may start with positive aspects, if there are some but should also consider negative aspects of the individual’s performance without being conservative (London, 2003; Peiperl, 2001). Good feedback should be clear, supportive, specific, timely and not judgmental as well as it focuses on the task and not on the learner (Shute, 2008). Simple statements (e.g. “You did a good job”) should be supported by concrete information and provide details as the intent of the feedback is to maintain, correct or improve employees behavior in order to increase performance (London, 2003). Feedbacks are not intended to blame recipient and should take into account his ability to deal with provided information, based on the recipient’s needs and constraints. This implies that feedback should not be complex as it could be misunderstood (London, 2003). Moreover, it should provide explanations so that the recipient understands how to improve his performance (London, 2003). The person who provides feedback should consider that destructive feedback may harm successful teams as frustration and conflicts in team can appear what results in a decrease in productivity (Peiperl, 2001). Furthermore, it can lead to more tension and anger amongst team members who become resistant to future issues (London, 2003).
My main aim as an exchange student at the beginning of this course was not to win this simulation but to learn as much as possible of new business English vocabularies while going through all the recommended readings and writing my weekly assignments. But in retrospective I gained much more than only this as I learned more or less consciously about teams and how to deal within a team in future situations when similar problems occur. Therefore, I presented that you need more than only a group of people with complementary skills to accomplish a task successfully. To become a real team a common goal, purpose and approach for which a team holds itself mutually accountable have to be set and discussed at the beginning when the individuals meet each other for the first time to form a team (Smith & Katzenbach, 1993). It should be noticed that teams do not focus on any hierarchical stages which have to be necessarily achieved and accomplished in order to reach higher stages to become a high-performing team. However, the focus is rather on the common task where stable periods may be disrupted by conflicts which may arise from time to time and form new norms in teams as well as amongst team members (Gersick, 1988). Furthermore, it has been discussed that teams may face social loafing and groupthink as some team members are not familiar with their task or their goals do not match the team goals what results in reducing their contributions and harms the team (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985; Janis, 1982). These problems can be solved by increasing monitoring and making the members’ outputs more identifiable (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985). Moreover, in order to become a high-performing team it is crucial that the team members provide each another constructive and formative feedback what will result in improvement of the recipient’s learning and performance (Shute, 2008; London, 2003).
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