The Team That Wasn’t
Moving from New York City to the Midwest, Eric Holt has recently taken a new job as the director of strategy at a regional glass manufacturer named FireArt Inc. The CEO of the company, Jack Derry, has tasked Eric with developing a comprehensive plan for the company’s strategic realignment which needs to be implemented and working within the next six months. Eric has put together a team of the top six managers, one from each division, to accomplish this task. Unfortunately for Eric and his team, after the first four meetings, there has been little progress towards their goal.
The lack of progress is not due to an insufficient amount of knowledge by each manager, but rather their inability to work together as a cohesive team. The team is dysfunctional, lacking structure from the start. Eric did not implement an organized decision making process. Eric also did not attempt to discuss psychological contracts or meta-contracts with the team in order to lay out expectations. Eric may have falsely presumed that everyone was as experienced as he when it came to teamwork. He became anchored with information Jack gave him prior to the first team meeting.
The Team That Wasn’t Essay Example
Through the first four meetings each team member was focusing solely on the groups he or she directs, and each seemed to be pursuing his or her own agenda; the team has been employing an advocacy approach to their decision making. Eric has attributed much of the problem to Randy Louderback, the director of sales, who has continuously projected negativity to the team process and to other team members. Although valued in his industry knowledge and analytic thinking, he has clearly been a disruptive force. Eric does not effectively communicate with Randy or the team to deal with these issues.
Upon confronting Randy on his actions in the third meeting, team members stormed out of the room angered and frustrated. At the surface of the problem are Randy’s uncooperative actions. However, the contributing and underlying problem lies in the way the team has been guided in the time leading up to, and including, this fourth meeting. Section 2: Problems One of the initial problems in this team dynamic was the anchoring trap. Jack brought Eric into the glass company with beliefs that anchored Eric’s expectations. Before Eric started working with the team, Jack highlighted Randy as having “the best mind” at FireArt.
Randy was identified as the star from which all great ideas would come. Eric’s initial information about Randy was that he would be the “idea guy,” the one with “all the answers. ” When Jack said, “Randy is the future of this company” Eric’s expectations soared. He quickly believed that Randy would be the team player that he was looking for. Eric did not communicate or enforce his decision making process and meeting structure. When the team was brainstorming solutions, Randy interrupted and belittled other team members’ ideas by saying, “Let’s just do everything, why don’t we, including redesign the kitchen sink!
This brought the meeting to an abrupt end. Additionally, competition within the team seemed to exist. Eric’s team used the advocacy approach to decision making. When teams follow the advocacy process, the participants approach decision making as a contest (Garvin and Roberto 2). The director of manufacturing presented a plan that involved how the manufacturing department could expedite its processes while reducing raw materials costs. The distribution director suggested accelerating shipping and delivery times.
The head of the art department pushed for adding more artists and more innovative designs as the solution. Participants were passionate for their position, making it impossible to remain objective, and hence they did not spend time debating or considering all of the ideas. The team also lacks explicit balanced psychological contracts and meta-contracts. One problem for Eric occurred during the creation of the team. He created an explicit psychological contract in which he prepared structure and guidelines for the group’s discussions, disagreements, and decisions.
However, Eric never introduced this contract to the group, preventing the possibility of mutual agreement or voluntary acceptance, which are key elements of psychological contracts (Rousseau 120-121). Most of the team members accepted a non-formal form of a psychological contract, including expectations of being punctual and acting with respect for one another. However there is considerable evidence of the team not abiding by the rules of this contract, or any meta-contract. One instance occurred when the group did not follow any structured plans for resolving disagreement, but instead chose to publicly confront Randy.
Another problem is that this team does not function in the ideal way as depicted in a manner associated with the Model for Managing Psychological Contracts. This team reaches a “pinch point” each time a disruption occurs from Randy. With each disruption, there is anxiety (experienced by Eric), resentment (the team towards Randy), and uncertainty (the entire team not knowing what to expect next from Randy). This process results in a team “crunch point” at which point the team continues to function without addressing the problems (Kolb, Osland and Rubin 9). Eric’s ineffective communication has contributed to the team’s issues as well.
Eric missed timely opportunities to meet with each team member individually before calling everyone together as a group. Eric knew that the managers at FireArt were not accustomed to working in team environments and even anticipated facing some issues when the team met. Despite this foresight, Eric did not make an effort to actively listen to each member in order to find out where he or she was coming from or in order to communicate his expectations for the team process. To further complicate the communication issue, Eric exhibited feedback-avoiding behavior while managing the team as a conflict avoider.
This behavior took effect during the first meeting. Even though he recognized that Randy was inhibiting the team’s progress throughout the first few meetings, Eric delayed giving any sort of negative feedback to Randy, letting the problem go unaddressed into the fourth meeting. In fact, Eric gave Randy the benefit of the doubt throughout the first three meetings, reasoning that Randy’s insightful comments counteracted his negativism. By not addressing Randy’s behavior immediately and privately, the team’s frustration grew. Furthermore, when Eric finally decided to give feedback to Randy, he discussed Randy’s attitude openly with the group.
This decision led other team members to jump in to argue with and attack Randy, and resulted in the abrupt end of yet another chaotic team meeting. Section 3: Recommendations In order to address the anchoring trap into which he has fallen, Eric must avoid giving too much weight to initial information. The key is for him to be aware of the dangers of anchoring. Eric must be open-minded and seek differing viewpoints and opinions in order to break out of the trap. Eric should be patient in forming his opinion on Randy, and not rely solely on his first-impression (Hammond, Keeny and Raiffa 3).
Rather than the advocacy approach that the team is currently following, Eric must promote an inquiry process to decision making. Inquiry decision-making is a team effort as opposed to a contest. The purpose is to engage in healthy debate so as to test and evaluate decisions. The participants are encouraged to actively think and contribute (Garvin and Roberto 2). In order to move quickly from an advocacy approach to one of inquiry, Eric must balance three critical factors within his team: conflict, consideration and closure. Cognitive or substantive conflict is healthy; it involves disagreements over ideas and assumptions.
Eric should structure the team meetings to encourage healthy debates. Each idea presented by the team should be discussed and challenged. This style exposes weaknesses in existing ideas, and helps to develop new ones. This process encourages critical thinking without challenging team members on a personal level. Eric should illustrate consideration by allowing each team member to express his or her ideas with an opportunity for discussion. Doing so will ensure that the team feels all ideas are taken seriously and treated fairly.
Perceived fairness will make the team members feel that they are respected and their ideas are considered equally, resulting in an increase performance and a decrease in barriers. Once Eric creates an environment in which healthy debates occur, he will need to manage closure of that debate, ensuring all team members have had a chance to express their ideas, however not allowing the discussion to hit grid lock. By implementing an inquiry process, the team should be able to successfully come up with multiple strategies that are debated, resulting in a solution for the strategic realignment of FireArt (Garvin and Roberto 2-7).
Another tactic to improve the team’s structure is for Eric to institute an explicit balanced psychological contract with which all team members are in agreement. When involved in the planning and organizing of their functions, there are fewer chances for team members to breach their contracts. This process will ensure that the contracts are voluntary and mutual. Employing agreed upon, explicit, balanced psychological contracts will help to increase the predictability of the team’s interactions, improve the team’s performance, and will specifically increase Randy’s buy-in of the team environment (Rousseau 123).
It is also critical for the team is to create a clear meta-contract. This meta-contract should include the steps to be taken should anyone perceive a violation (Rousseau 125-126). Ideally, each time the team reaches a “pinch point” they will to return to stability and plan a renegotiation of the contract. A well developed, agreed-upon meta-contact will allow the team to proceed more effectively when reaching “pinch points” and thus prevent the problems that arise from hitting “crunch points” (Kolb, Osland and Rubin 9). In order to address the team’s communication issues, it is recommended that Eric seek out each team member individually.
This should have been done prior to the first team meeting. Regardless of this fact, he must sit everyone down to discuss each other’s expectations. He must actively listen during these one-on-one sessions. That is, Eric must maintain eye contact, ask open-ended questions, put each team member at ease, and let them express themselves fully (Culp and Smith 17-21). By actively listening, he can tailor the team meetings to meet each person’s expectations as well as their listening, working, and contribution styles. This is especially important when is comes to addressing Randy.
Furthermore, Eric and Randy’s one-on-one meeting may help curb Randy’s disruptive behavior. Eric may gain insight into what the problem really is and along with Randy, establish a solution. Eric seems to be a conflict avoider. He has avoided directly and individually addressing Randy. This negative feedback avoiding behavior has allowed team meetings to get out of hand. Eric should structure the meetings so that they are not venting sessions. These meetings hold the key to their futures. He must make it clear that they have an overall company realignment goal to accomplish.
Beyond this task-level feedback, Eric must also provide motivational-level feedback. It is pertinent that Eric manage his psychological and physical distance with Randy and the other team members. He must also manage the timing and location of the negative feedback he gives. Instead of calling Randy out in front of the entire team, Eric should sit-down with Randy privately and iron-out the problem. The timing of this discussion, however, needs to correspond with Randy’s negative behavior. Going forward however, Eric needs to set a new precedent by directly and quickly giving negative feedback and exploring ways to orrect and learn from any mistakes.
By following these tactics for improved communication Eric can manage any feedback avoiding behavior and reduce existing feedback gaps (Moss and Sanchez 37-41). In conclusion, Eric’s team is out of control. They have become victims of poor decision making processes and traps, broken psychological contracts, and ineffective communication. It is recommended that Eric take control of the situation by starting new and applying better decision making processes. Psychological contracts and their related meta-contracts must be renegotiated and voluntarily agreed upon.
Eric must communicate his expectations and listen to each team members’ expectations more actively and effectively. Lastly, he must provide feedback that is timely and encourages learning and growth. By redesigning his approach, Eric can make “The Team that Wasn’t,” become “The Team that Is! ”