Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail

Judy Bullock (University of Phoenix, Alpharetta, Georgia, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 July 2004




Bullock, J. (2004), "Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 477-479.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Belbin's classic Management Teams, originally published in 1981, is enhanced in its second edition release through the addition of a concluding chapter that provides statistical information validating the team‐role theory and describes key learning gleaned in years following the original research study. This study, referred to as the Henley experiment, was conducted at Henley Management College in England and utilized a business game – Teamopoly – to examine the interplay between team member combinations and financial outcomes in a controlled environment. Academic in nature, the research was continued for almost a decade following the original study to allow further examination of the team‐role theory in the context of the business world. The new second edition shares the insights gleaned through this extended examination, confirming the relevance and applicability of this important theory to business success. It includes 11 case studies highlighting real‐world application of the theory, demonstrating its viability across national cultures, opening the door to possibilities for enhancing business results through team‐based approaches around the globe.

Management Teams explores important elements ranging from team composition, member roles, and performance. It explores the “Apollo Syndrome” in teams comprised individuals who possess highly developed critical thinking skills that often results in destructive patterns of behavior that inhibit creativity and diminish performance. Teams made up of individuals with similar personality types are discussed, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages, as well as exploring the relationship between personality and team‐member effectiveness. Various operational constructs of team design are examined including leadership, member attributes and roles, and ideal size, as well as characteristics of winning and unsuccessful teams. Eight common member types are summarized in a table that outlines typical attributes as well as strengths and weaknesses in a team environment (the final chapter adds the ninth member type added through subsequent research). Teams possessing a balance of member types were found to be successful. However, Belbin notes “But to put such a team together must be an intricate operation demanding high skills from the selector. Any disturbance of the team can easily upset the balance”. Imbalance was the hallmark of unsuccessful teams. Belbin remarks that teams that were less than effective “usually featured team‐role clashes, overlaps or voids”. The concluding chapter brings fresh insights to bear, addressing common misconceptions and exploring issues and concerns coming to the fore in recent years. The case studies appearing at the end of this chapter demonstrate the practical application and positive outcomes of team‐role theory in a variety of business settings. Overall, the book provides tremendous insight into the complex dynamics of teams and their members, providing salient descriptions to aid recognition of various member and team types, as well as sage advice on how to achieve optimal performance.

The book is extremely well written and appeals to a wide array of audiences interested in high performance teams. As such, it is equally suitable for scholars and business people. Thorough and fully supported, the concepts and narratives are richly descriptive to facilitate ready access and utilization. The scholar will appreciate the academic rigor of the study, thoroughness of the text, and the mention of books considered during the development of the original study. However, they may desire more depth in the statistical information presented. Business readers will appreciate the cogent narratives arranged in a logical manner and the case studies reflecting actual business application of the theory, as well as the self‐perception inventory that invites reader engagement. Concern that readers may have regardeding the relevance of an inventory created more than two decades ago in today's environment is allayed through an attached reply card granting the reader free online access to an updated version of the inventory that is fully normed and computerized, with a £25 value. The essential constructs of the book are also supported by a companion Web site located at that further enhances the ability to leverage the team‐role theory in business applications.

Management Teams is an excellent resource that is equally suited for individuals who wish to enhance their contributions as a team member as well as those tasked with designing teams in today's fast‐paced business environment. Belbin's findings may help companies doing business globally bridge the cultural divide through effective teaming. As one executive notes in the final case study, “Fifteen years on I can say that I have had a great deal of success in applying the Belbin methodology in over 20 countries around the world with organizations covering both the public and private sectors and ranging in size from less than 50 to over 200,000 employees”.

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