Group Dynamics For Construction Project Teams

The interactions and behaviors of people in team dynamics were investigated by variety of researches and numbers of professors recommended their own way to identify the importance of behavior in team. Belbin self perception inventory is one of the useful ways to analyze the team roles. The first part of this report is the evaluation of Belbin model about team roles through result of report conducted by the author. Belbin report identifies the author’s preferred roles, manageable roles as well as the least preferred roles and recommendations about strengths and possible weaknesses as member of a construction team. The second part is the critical analysis of three topics regarding team dynamics: Cooperation, social conflict and decision making. Cooperation is argued as an important factor for team to perform smoothly and effectively. Beside that, many theories agreed that conflict arising in team has both positive and negative effects on team and appropriate disputes are necessary for effective team. Moreover, the ability of making good decision is an essential skill of team to perform successfully and reach team goals. The two above sections are critical evaluated with a case study based on the author’s experience when he worked in a construction company in his country.

2. Introduction:

A majority of people agreed that Belbin model brings a number of benefits when identifying team roles of people and recommending their appropriate behaviour in team. Therefore, this model has been applied considerably in organizations as a phenomenon of examining teamwork behaviour and controlling the way team members interact (Sommerville, 1998). Likewise, many factor of team dynamics were identified for team as well as its members to perform successfully. Lack of understanding of group dynamics could affect detrimentally members and team goals. As a result, the author decided to analyze three topics of team dynamics: cooperation, social conflict and decision making. Throughout this report, an example of a construction team that the author has worked in his country will be discussed to evaluate the Belbin model as well as three factors of group dynamics.

3. Belbin self perception inventory and the author’s team roles:

It is argued that for team performs effectively, individual should know his roles as well as those of other members, which help members to behave appropriately in team. According to Broucek and Randell, substantial theories have been investigated to identify the roles of individual members of teams and to recommend the way teams could work more effectively (Broucek & Randell, 1996). Belbin model is a reliable way to assess the role of team members and their behaviour whilst perform variety of projects. Dr. Meredith Belbin defined the definition of team role as “a characteristic way of behaving and contributing to a team and is very much dependent on the attributes of individual”. (Belbin, 1997, p.88).

When the author undertake Belbin model, there are team roles which is preferred, manageable and least preferred roles. According to the result of Belbin report, the most preferred role is Plant (80%) which is estimated as the team role which generates more ideas than others. Plant contribution is creative, imaginative, unorthodox and those people have ability in solving difficult problems. Nevertheless, Belbin (2010a, p.37) also indicated that when the Plant conducted his team role, he less likely is a manager and he frequently works in his own table, looks every things through and creates new possible ideas. In addition, there are some weaknesses of Plant which is allowable. For example, Plant could ignores incidentals and too preoccupy with own thoughts to communicate effectively. As a result, it is not always good if the team has too many Plants because it is difficult to receive and apply diversity of ideas from them (Belbin, 2010a, p.34). The author agrees with this result because he can generate new ideas but he is sometimes reluctant incidental things can happen and forget other factors.

The second preferred role from my self-perception team role profile is Resource Investigator (70%). This team role is similar to Plant in ability of creating new ideas. However, the Resource Investigator would guarantee that nothing was left unsolved and would use his abilities to find what he want to know by meeting people, using appropriate behaviour and asking opened questions (Belbin, 2010a, pp.37-43). Overall, the Resource Investigator is extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative and always tries to develop contacts with every team members. On the other hand, he could be over-optimistic and lose interest once initial enthusiasm has passed. From the author’s experience, he is very enthusiastic as well as willing to communicate with other members but he has never been over-optimistic.

The proportion of Team worker and Specialist shown in my self-perception team role profile are equally 60% which are higher than other roles. Team worker is known as a person who is cooperative, mild, perceptive and diplomatic. Belbin (2010a, p.66) argued that the Team worker was an extrovert, energetic person who enjoys being with other people. Nevertheless, he sometimes is indecisive, reluctant when making decision in crunch situations. One of the manageable roles of the author is Specialist which was added in the book Team roles at work as the ninth role. The contribution of this team-role is determined, independent, dedicated and sharing knowledge, skills and information in rare supply. However, Belbin also indicated that the people with Specialist role usually contribute on only a limited front and spend too much time thinking about specialised personal interests. The author completely agrees with his team role as a Team worker because he is energetic but he is slow in dealing with difficult situations need to be decisive.

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The other part of Belbin Self-perception inventory is Counseling Report performed from the top two team roles and bottom roles in the profile, which suggests advice on implementing a management style which fits in with the author’s team role strengths and weaknesses.

Furthermore, the Character profile states my strengths and possible weaknesses and proposes recommendations when working in team. It can be seen from this report that the author tends to innovate and needs to work in a mentally challenging environment where he can use his outgoing nature. Moreover, the author is completely enthusiastic in creating and developing new ideas and innovations. Therefore, he needs to work in an environment which provides scope for personal expression. In the past, the author had opportunity to work in challenging job with the environment in which he can freely express his knowledge, feeling and ideas

The profile does not recommend any potential weaknesses but from my point of view, if the weaknesses were controlled carefully, they could become strengths in team behaviour. Meanwhile, some individuals perform better in their businesses than others because they combine their personal characteristics appropriately whereas the others are not successful in combination well their attributes (Belbin, 2010b, p.51).

Critical evaluation of three topics regarding team dynamics in relation to the author’s construction team in his experience.

Cooperation:

It can not be denied that cooperation is an essential factor for teams to perform efficiently and effectively, and teams as well as their members receive many advantages from cooperation (Levi, 2007, p.73). Number of definition of cooperation were presented, but most of researchers agreed that cooperation is process in which people, groups or organisations contact together by sharing skills, knowledge and resources in order to create relationships for mutual benefits (Smith, 1995, cited in René & Petru, 2010, p.454).

Advantages of cooperation:

Cooperation has positive effects on both individuals and team. Motivation in team members is promoted in cooperative team because everyone tries to reach to common goals. The capable members are willing to help lower ones and receive experienced when interacting together. Overall, both team and its members improve performance, better relationships and also better result. Moreover, cooperation does not create winners and losers which have detrimental effects on team performance later. In the author’s construction company, cooperation is one of the most important factors when people conducted in team. In fact, most of the teams the author joined in had effective cooperation and he has learned many experiences during working in team.

Disadvantages of cooperation:

Levi (2007, p.81) argued that high cooperation may affect detrimentally conformity and decision making. However, the team which the author worked in had no problems with performance (conformity) and decision making because of over-cooperation.

How to encourage cooperation within team:

A study by Tanghe et al in 2010 (cited in Aihie, 2010, p.346) found that successful cooperation is based on trust, commitment, and voluntary and mutual agreement in order to achieve common goals. From my experience, before a project which our team performed, the leaders always discuss with team members to reach agreement about the targets which bring benefits for both team and members. Beside that, through good communication and friendly relationship, we create trust environment in team. As a result, most project were very successful.

Social conflict:

Conflict is the process in which people, groups or organisations contact to each other to attain their goal, their relationship could become unable to exist (Osborne, 2004, p.84). Nevertheless, dispute is an inevitable part of human interaction. Aranda and Conlon (1998, p.127) argued that team need to view dispute as a inevitable and necessary part in order to solve problem or make decision. If team has no conflict, there may be problem in team which is not identified. Levi (2007, p.112) also indicated that teams often ignore or avoid disagreement instead of trying to control these disputes. This is true with my group when I conducted in a design construction group. When an experienced member presented his idea for the design, everyone was quiet and no one argued although they knew that this idea was not really good. Team accepted his idea and made decision based on it. This led to problem emerged later when implementing this design.

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Sources of conflict: According to Levi (2007, p.113), there are healthy as well as unhealthy conflict. For instance, healthy disputes include differences of viewing about job, differences in values and perspective, differences expectations about the result of decision whereas unhealthy conflicts are about competition over power, rewards and resources, disputes between members goals and group goals, ineffective team meeting, personal feeling of dislike from the past, misunderstanding of communication.

In my construction team, when the leader retired, one member will be chosen to become manager. A competition arose between the most two influential members for that position. Debates then happened between these members, my team polarised into two opposite sides and this delayed the process of our project for a long time.

However, there is still argument that conflict is not always negative. Many studies found that conflict had both constructive and destructive effects on team performance. For example, a research by Rahim in 1992 (cited in Osborne, 2004, pp.109-110) concluded some advantages of debate such as improving decision making, finding alternative solutions to a problem, requiring members identifying new approaches, generating new ideas and stimulating innovation, creativity. This is absolutely true in my small group in seminar of this module. At that time, everyone argued about topic with an open and friendly discussion. During argument, variety of ideas were presented from diversity knowledge background of members, all aspect of issue were discussed. After that, we reached consensus agreement about issue. On the other hand, there are also a number of negative outcomes of conflict: stressful and exhausted in team members, reducing communication and relationship between members, an environment of distrust, reducing satisfaction and task performance (Osborne, 2004, p.110). In recent study, Levi (2007, p.116) stated that if there is low level of conflict in team, it might be improve the quality of team performance while the destructive effects of conflict arise when it becomes more severe.

From my point of view, the best way to manage effectively dispute is creating trust among team members, constructing an open, cooperative environment where members are willing to express their feeling, opinion as well as knowledge in order to attain common goal.

Decision making:

Advantages and disadvantages of group decision making

Most of researchers agreed that decision making plays an essential role in team performance and decision is at the centre of managing (Syer & Connolly, 1996, p.24; Adair, 2009, p.2). The success or failure of team performance depends on both decision and its impacts in implementing. Obviously, individual can not identify all aspects of task and could miss crucial points that team could discover. During the process of working in team, members provide their knowledge, find out new ideas and make decision based on variety of information (Parks & Sanna, 1999; Levi, 2007, p.148). As a result, teams have ability to make much higher quality judgements than individual can do. In addition, members have opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills from other team members as well as improve team work skills. When the author took part in a construction design team, people who were from variety of subjects such as engineering, architecture, accounting, management gave their ideas about the design. Therefore, we conducted a decision which was combined from many knowledge

One of the largest drawbacks of making decision in group is time consuming. Discussion between team members, especially relationship and social problems takes time to solve. This leads to team is prevented from concentrating on their tasks (Levi, 2007, p.148). Although group decision making process gain many benefits from variety of information and knowledge from members, it is not always true that all information are well obtained or team members focus only on information that majority of members know.

Group decision making approaches:

Levi (2007, p.150) indicated that there are three main methods for group in deciding judgements

Consultative decision making: After discussing with team and obtaining consultation from members, leader makes decision. However, Kerr and Tindale argued that the advisor’s influence to leader depends on his confidence (Tindale & Kerr, 2004, p.635). In fact, this is the most popular way our company uses to make decision. For example, when our team has to decide the best method for constructing the building, our team members discuss, provide and analyse information as well as their knowledge about this task before team leader makes the final decision.

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Democratic decision making: In this approach, the team members vote for decision. However, our company only use this way when team members can not reach agreement. Judgement bases on the opinion of majority of members.

Consensus: The definition of consensus is that a collective opinion given by group members working under conditions that provide open communications, sufficiently supportive for everyone feels that they have a fair chance to present ideas and influence the decision (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p.250). If the decision is made by consensus, every members understand the issues and willing to agree, support and implement the decision. Although this way takes time to reach agreement, it is appreciated as the most effective method of group decision making. Take for example Toyota, the world’s greatest manufacturer, they make decision slowly by acquiring and considering all options until reaching consensus, then they implement as quickly as possible (Liker, 2004, p.237). In my company, this method accounted for a majority of proportion in making decision, especially in complex issues.

There are three criteria to evaluate approaches to decision making: quality, speed and acceptance. One of the valuable theory can be used to choose the best decision making approach is Normative theory which said that the type of approach rely on the nature of issues (how important time, quality and acceptance are) (Levi, 2007, p.153).

The most famous type of group decision making problem is groupthink: happen when members reluctant presenting their ideas in discussion in order to avoid any disagreement and argument and retain good relations within group (Levi, 2007, p.156; Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p.256). As a consequent, team do not identify all aspects of problem leading to bad decision. Group think has ever happened in my team which has negative effect on our team judgement. When a problem was displayed and one individual presented his idea, some other members did not argue with him although that idea is not good for solving this issue because he is experienced engineer and respectable while almost people are new members. Consequently, there were a number of extra problem arose and it tool long time to solve.

Conclusion:

It can not be denied that working in team dynamics is an essential aspect nowadays. Individual might possess a number of team roles but the more appropriately team roles are combined, the more successfully members perform. To achieve the common goals and tasks, the leader and team members must be aware of factors of group dynamics and the different team roles that members play in team

References

Adair, J. E. (2009) Effective decision making: the essential guide to thinking for management success. London: Pan.

Aihie, O. (2010) ‘A coopetition strategy – a study of inter-firm dynamics between competition and cooperation’, Business Strategy Series, 11 (6), pp. 343-362.

Anderson, N. & Sleap, S. (2004) ‘An evaluation of gender differences on the Belbin Team Role Self-Perception Inventory’, JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, 77, pp. 429-437.

Aranda, E. K., Conlon, K. & Aranda, L. (1998) Teams: structure, process, culture, and politics. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Belbin, R. M. (1997) Changing the way we work. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Belbin, R. M. (2000) Beyond the team. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

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Belbin, R. M. (2010b) Team roles at work. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Broucek, W. G. & Randell, G. (1996) ‘An assessment of the construct validity of the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory and Observer’s Assessment from the perspective of the five-factor model’, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 69, pp. 389-405.

Johnson, F. P. & Johnson, D. W. (2009) Joining together: group theory and group skills. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education.

Levi, D. P. D. (2007) Group dynamics for teams. Los Angeles, Calif: Sage Publications.

Liker, J. K. (2004) The Toyota way: 14 management principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Osborne, A. N. (2004) Social conflict in construction-related inter-organizational collectivities: a comparative analysis and structural equation model.

Parks, C. D. & Sanna, L. J. (1999) Group performance and interaction. Boulder, Colo: Westview.

René, S. & Petru, L. C. (2010) ‘Cooperation in organizations’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25 (5), pp. 453-459.

Sommerville, J. (1998) ‘Project teambuilding – the applicability of Belbin’s team-role self-perception inventory’, International Journal of Project Management, 16 (3), pp. 165-171.

Syer, J. D. & Connolly, C. (1996) How teamwork works: the dynamics of effective team development. London: McGraw-Hill.

Tindale, R. S. & Kerr, N. L. (2004) ‘Group performance and decision making’, Annual review of psychology, 55, pp. 623-655.


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