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Groups and teamwork
Groups and teamwork

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3.2.3 Managing group membership

The range of people that makes up the membership of a team, and the relationships they have with each other, have great influence on the team's effectiveness. The members should all be able to contribute their skills and expertise to the team's goals to make the best use of the resources. If you are ever in the position of being able to select your own team, you will need to identify your objectives and the methods for achieving your goals. From this will come the competences – the knowledge, understanding, skills and personal qualities – which you need in your team members.

It is important to appraise as systematically as possible the relationship between team functions and required competences in order to identify gaps and begin to allocate responsibilities, organise training and so on. Figure 5 provides a useful way of weighing up the mixture of 'task' and 'people' functions (or 'faces') of a team.

Faces 1 and 2 are external to the team and concern:

  • adapting to the environment and using organisational resources effectively in order to satisfy the requirements of the team's sponsor.

  • relating effectively with people outside the team in order to meet the needs of clients or customers, whether internal or external to the organisation.

Faces 3 and 4 are internal to the team and concern:

  • using systems and procedures appropriately to carry out goal-oriented tasks.

  • working in a way which makes people feel part of a team.

Each face implies different competences.

Figure 5
Figure 5 The four faces of a team (adapted from Lewis and Lawton, 1992)

We may find that when we are setting up a team we have to guess a little about the competences that are required. We may also find that as the team develops and gets on with its work, there are changes in everyone's perception of the skills and knowledge needed. It is therefore important to keep an eye on changes that affect the expertise needed by the team and actively recruit new members if necessary. It is frequently the case that team members have other work commitments outside the team. The implications of this should be taken into account when recruiting team members and allocating tasks and responsibilities to them. Team loyalties and commitments need to be balanced with other loyalties and commitments. Often we will have limited or no choice about who is recruited to the team. We may find that we just have to make do with the situation and struggle to be effective despite limitations in the competence base.

As well as competencies there are other factors that can influence the working of a team. The balance of men and women and people from different nationalities or cultural backgrounds all play a part. Differences in personality can also have a significant effect. Achieving the best mix in a team invariably involves working on the tensions that surround issues of uniformity and diversity. The pushes and pulls in different directions need to be managed. The dismantling of many of the restrictions in the European labour market supports moves towards recruitment practices which seek team members with proven capabilities to work in other countries. Legislation and social changes make it easier for organisations to develop and train their staff to appreciate ethnic and national differences in values, style, attitudes and performance standards. Nevertheless, there are countervailing tendencies, internally and externally.

Developing openness and trust, for example, can often seem easier in the first instance on the basis of a high degree of homogeneity; strengthening diversity can seem threatening in an established team.