An introduction to public leadership
An introduction to public leadership

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An introduction to public leadership

3.1.1 Team reflexivity: A way of understanding how teams function

In his book Effective Teamwork (2004), Michael West provides a useful framework for understanding how a team is functioning and how this may be improved. The animation below explores some aspects of his framework.

‘Reflexivity’ refers to the ability of a team to review how it works and adapt to what is required. West identifies and discusses these two separate elements.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_police_vid_1044.mp4
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Michael West's framework for improving team functioning is based on two main dimensions.
The first dimension is task reflexivity. How well does the team reflect on and adapt or improve its objectives, its work processes and methods, responding and adapting to changing conditions?
The second dimension is social reflexivity. How well do people in the team work on their relationships, identifying and resolving points of tension, and building a sense of belonging and cohesion?
A team demonstrates task reflexivity by reviewing its objectives often, discussing whether the team is working effectively together, regular discussion about the methods used to get the job done, modifying objectives in light of changing circumstances, changing team strategies often, discussing how well the team communicates information, reviewing its approach to getting the job done, reviewing the way decisions are made in the team.
A team demonstrates social reflexivity by providing each other with support when times are difficult, being supportive when times are stressful, not allowing conflict to linger, teaching each other new skills, pulling together as a team when times are stressful, always being friendly, dealing with conflicts constructively, resolving arguments quickly.
It is part of the job of leadership to pay attention to both of these aspects of reflexivity because they each can influence how well a team performs. An effective leader keeps checking if the team is on track, and whether the context is changing so the task needs adapting or modifying. An effective team leader also notices the dynamics in the team, supports respect and appreciation, and aims to either reduce tensions or use them constructively for the task in hand.
The combination of these two dimensions of reflexivity indicates how viable or effective the team can be.
Encouraging and modelling team reflexivity at the appropriate time is also associated with greater creativity and innovation. West identifies four team types.
The type A fully functioning team represents a team that reflects on and modifies its objectives, processes, tasks and social support strategies appropriately in changing circumstances.
The type B cosy team has a good deal of warmth, support and cohesion amongst team members, but the organisation's satisfaction with team members is low. Staying in a poorly functioning team will corrode job satisfaction.
The type C dysfunctional team has low viability since team members are dissatisfied with both interpersonal relationships and with their sense of achievement and quality of work.
The type D cold efficiency team's task performance is generally good, but poor social functioning damages team viability and the mental health of members.
End transcript
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Activity 1

Think of a team you are part of. Using the idea of team reflexivity, how well do you think the team functions?

Do you agree that teams should always aspire to the ideal of a fully functioning type A team? Why/why not? Do you, for example, think that it is important that more people feel they are working in a ‘fully functioning’ type A team?

Perhaps you have good reasons for disagreeing with this norm implied in West’s (2004) model. Do you, for example, want to make a case that ‘cold efficiency’ is preferable in certain contexts?

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