Team Performance Management: 20 years old and growing fast!

Team Performance Management

ISSN: 1352-7592

Article publication date: 5 August 2014

1652

Citation

Curşeu, P.L. (2014), "Team Performance Management: 20 years old and growing fast!", Team Performance Management, Vol. 20 No. 5/6. https://doi.org/10.1108/TPM-06-2014-0034

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Team Performance Management: 20 years old and growing fast!

Article Type: Editorial From: Team Performance Management, Volume 20, Issue 5/6

Team Performance Management (TPM) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year! The aim of this editorial is to reflect on journal’s original mission and the way it developed during the last years. It is not my intention to perform a systematic analysis of the topics published in the journal, as previous papers addressed this issue extensively (#B33; #B41). I intend to recap and reflect on some of the core beliefs that made the journal possible. I analyzed the papers published in the first volume of the journal, under the assumption that the topics published then are illustrative for the intended vision and the strategic orientation of the journal. I will then try to explore whether some of the topics high on the TPM research agenda in 1995 are reiterated later on and reflected in the publication trends of the journal and whether these topics are still fashionable today.

The journal was launched in 1995 and originally was devoted to publishing short papers on teamwork and team management with clear practical orientation and straightforward managerial insights. As mentioned in one of the editorials, the journal was expected to be “an outlet for accessible and managerially relevant writing on teams and other collaborative work groups”. The appearance of the journal coincides with an increased scholarly interest in studying organizational teams and teamworking (#B35), and its main aim was to inform managers on ways in which this ubiquitous form of organizing work could effectively be used in organizations. In one of the first papers published in the journal, #B36 prophesized “By the year 2000, success will come to those companies which put innovation and team spirit back in the workplace” (#B36, p. 6) – fact most certainly supported by recent systematic analyses on the use of teamworking and organizational performance (#B20). Therefore, the journal emerged in a context in which teams were seen as the new organizational hype, a flexible and versatile way of organizing work and, at the same time, small groups and teams received increasing attention in the scientific literature. The original aims of the journal were therefore to:

  • provide a forum for debate and exploration of ideas related to the implementation and development of organizational teams; and

  • publish empirically supported insights with direct practical application on the management of organizational teams.

A large number of papers published in the first volume were case studies or technical papers with clear managerial implications. As illustrated by the systematic analysis reported in #B41, the percentage of case studies published in the journal decreased in time, and the vast majority of papers published in recent issues are labelled as research papers. In its first volume of 1995, however, TPM published seven research papers, six case studies, five technical papers and three general reviews. Therefore, in this first volume, the number of case studies reporting organizational experiences with teams and teamworking was very similar with the number of research papers. The number of case studies published in subsequent years varied greatly (#B41) and never reached the yearly number published in 1995. The first volume is also particular with respect to the authorship of the papers, as the vast majority of the papers were published by practitioners and only small fraction were published by academics. Starting with 1996, the authors with an academic background dominate, and the gap between the academics and practitioners constantly widens towards 2006 (#B33). Thus, in many respects, the first volume of TPM is not typical for the current profile of the journal, but I would say it is illustrative in terms of topics and themes addressed in the papers. I will back up this claim, by summarizing one paper from each category represented in this first volume and build connections with more recent research published in the journal. For this analysis, I selected the research paper of #B6, the case study of #B48, the technical paper of #B34 and the general review of #B42.

An illustrative research paper from the first issue addresses the most important antecedents of team performance (#B6). The paper points towards the key role of leadership, reward structure, autonomy, shared understanding of goals and mission, feedback and team composition as key antecedents of performance, claiming that all these factors in interaction shape team effectiveness, and therefore the interpretation of survey results should take this fact into account. Another important contribution of the paper is a team taxonomy that uses two dimensions, formal–informal structure and the degree of permanence to distinguish between project, work, alliance and network-based teams. Recent research on team diversity (#B5; #B47; #B43), integrative models of team effectiveness (#B38) and team-based survey methodology (#B10) further extend the insights of this paper. The interest in integrative models of team effectiveness is also illustrated by the fact that the review paper published by #B38 is systematically among the most downloaded papers in TPM.

As argued before, a substantial number of papers published in the first volume of TPM reported case studies. An illustrative example is the paper authored by Ian Brooks that reports the experience of a large Swedish multi-national company implementing team-based work in a French subsidiary. The author structures the paper around cultural differences (Swedish versus French cultures) and argues that the team-based organizational culture is of critical importance in dealing with the problems associated with these cultural differences. One of the key managerial insights is “that teamwork does not come naturally to culture-bound individuals from either France or Sweden” (#B48, p. 16); teamwork needs to be “cultivated”, and teams as work systems need to be properly managed. It takes more than a team-centred philosophy to make this type of work arrangement functional and effective as illustrated in a special issue published in 2013, devoted to the use of teams and teamworking in Scandinavian countries. Extensive empirical evidence published in the journal comes to support these claims. Research on conflict and conflict management is central among the topics published in TPM (#B46; #B19). Moreover, research on cooperation and teamwork (#B28; #B47; #B32), group development (#B30) and team interventions and training (#B21; #B23; #B24; #B27) are among the key interest areas represented in the journal.

The technical paper authored by Logan and entitled “A natural synergy” tackles several relevant issues. The first concerns the need to bridge the gap between theory and application, and the paper advocates for bridging the gap between team science and practice. She talks both about the need to achieve some sort of synergy between theory and practice but also about the synergetic forces that bind people together in teams. The author advocates the need for change from a paradigm of competition to one of cooperation in organizations, and she concludes: “new ideas become building blocks and not replacement blocks” (#B34, p. 14). The need to inform managers working with teams in organizational settings was repeatedly mentioned in editorials, and several papers addressed highly practical issues in an attempt to bridge the gap between theory and practice (#B8; #B22; #B45). Moreover, the idea of synergetic interactions in teams is a trend oftentimes present in the papers published in the journal. In one of her editorials, #B44 argues:

[…] most of the high-performance teams I have coached over the years exhibit this kind of deep listening characteristic. It allows a high-performance team to discuss undiscussables, handle conflict and bring forth wisdom from the individuals in the team in ways that traditional task-oriented methods cannot achieve (#B44).

The performance benefits resulting from synergetic interpersonal interaction are at the basis of recent research on collective cognitive competencies (#B25; #B31; #B16).

Finally, in their general review published in the second issue of the first volume, #B42 emphasize the role of leadership in the effective management of teams. They distinguish between the managerial functions (focused on role definition, goal setting and generating a team structure) and leadership functions (focused on motivating the team, providing a long-term vision), distinction now emphasized in most Organizational Behaviour handbooks. The authors also raise awareness of another highly relevant issue, namely, that “teamworking abilities and team leadership skills are unlikely to abound naturally, they need to be developed and managed” (#B42, p. 29). Next to its practical relevance, this claim is also linked with recent developments in team research, emphasizing the role of teamwork skills and person-team fit in team design (#B9; #B26). Team leadership remained an influential topic published in TPM (#B4; #B23; #B24), also illustrated by the fact that the paper authored by #B29, a comprehensive summary of the literature on leadership in teams, is the most often cited paper from TPM. A list of top five most cited papers from TPM is presented in #T1.

Table I.

Five most cited papers in team performance management (1995-2014)

Paper

Citations in Google Scholar

Summary

#B29

230

The paper summarizes the role of leadership and leadership functions in teams

#B28

199

The paper explores the emergence and development of trust and cooperation in teams using virtual communication

#B1

156

Using a media richness framework, the paper compares effect of virtual and face-to-face communication on team performance and process satisfaction

#B39

124

The paper explores the effects of personal social network on team performance in a large manufacturing company

#B21

113

The paper reviews the use of crew resource management training (originally developed in aviation industry) for teams working in high reliability industries

Source: The results reported are based on a Google Scholar search that was performed on 23 June 2014

After its first volume, and especially in the last decade, the journal became more academic in nature, adopted first the single and, as of 2008, the double-blind peer review system and adhered to the norms of scientific publications (#B41). The aim, reiterated in various circumstances (#B33; #B41), was to bridge the theory practice divide and to contribute to the translation of empirical results and theoretical developments in the field of team research into usable managerial insights. Therefore, the original idea of informing team development interventions and offering managerial insights is still alive and well in the journal’s vision and strategic orientation (#B33; #B41; #B13). To conclude, during its 20-year-old history, TPM evolved from an outlet that originally served the purpose of popularizing team science and informing managers on effective ways of managing teams into an academic journal that publishes state-of-the-art research on teams and teamworking and at the same time preserves its original aim of emphasizing practical implications for the management of organizational teams. The journal is growing in its international orientation, its inclusiveness with respect to methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the previous editors Higgs (1995-1996), Beyerlein (1997-1999), Wing (2000-2006), Lettice and McCracken (2007-2009) and again Lettice (2010-2013) for their hard work and dedication that made this journal possible!

In this anniversary issue, we put together a number of papers that reflect some of the most popular topics addressed in the journal during the last two decades. In the first paper of this issue, Aubé and Rousseau tackle the issue of counterproductive work behaviours in teams (parasitism, interpersonal aggression, boastfulness and misuse of resources). The paper entitled “Counterproductive behaviors: group phenomena with team-level consequences” reports the results of a field study carried out in a Canadian public safety organization showing that collaboration mediates the negative effect of counterproductive behaviours in teams on team performance. The paper has important implications for the management of organizational teams, as counterproductive work behaviours are closely associated with process losses with detrimental effects on team performance. This research extends the insights on the relevance of interpersonal relations in groups (#B3; #B12; #B14; #B39), in particular the research emphasizing the disproportionate effects of negative interpersonal relations on team performance. Previous research shows that even a single negative interpersonal relation in a team has a detrimental effect on team cohesion and ultimately team performance (#B18). In a similar vein, #B2 show that although relatively infrequent, counterproductive work behaviours in teams have a strong negative influence on collaboration and ultimately group performance.

The second paper co-authored by Eric Stark, Paul Bierly and Steven Harper and entitled “The interactive influences of conflict, task interdependence and cooperation on perceptions of virtualness in co-located teams” addresses the way in which the interplay between conflict, cooperation and task interdependence influences the perception of team virtualness. The authors build a provocative argument around the fact that interpersonal interactions in teams influence the team members’ perceptions of the extent to which they use virtual communication. Most literature to date argued and to a certain extent found that virtual communication impacts (negatively) on the quality of interpersonal interactions in teams and ultimately team performance (#B1; #B28; #B27; #B3; #B19). Therefore, the current paper extends the research on virtual communication by exploring the reversed link between teamwork quality (as illustrated by cooperation and conflict) and task interdependence on the one hand and perceptions of virtualness on the other hand. As most teams are nowadays engaged, at least to some extent in virtual communication, the paper opens new venues for research, investigating the extent to which the quality of interpersonal interactions actually drives the use of virtual communication tools.

The third paper entitled “Team learning and service improvements in healthcare” and authored by George Boak takes a cognitive view on teams and explores the factors and processes that enable team learning in healthcare organizations. The author uses an in-depth qualitative approach and disentangles four key processes underlying team learning in healthcare, namely, communication, analysis, experimentation and the improvement of knowledge and skills. The fine-grained analysis of the qualitative material reveals seven learning actions that underline these above-mentioned processes, and in this way, the paper contributes to the advancement of team learning literature. The results reported by George Boak complement the substantial amount of papers addressing team learning (more than 200 papers published in TPM address either directly or indirectly team learning and adaptation) and answer the call for more fine-grained analysis of learning processes in teams (#B40) and organizations (#B4). The paper has important practical implications, as it addresses learning and adaptation in a healthcare context in which teams and teamwork are critical elements for organizational performance (#B42).

Finally, in their paper entitled “Transactive memory systems and team innovation: a curvilinear approach”, Vesa Peltokorpi and Mervi Hasu test the non-linear association between transactive memory systems and team innovation. They use objective patent data to evaluate team innovation and show that transactive memory systems (defined as diversified task-related information and the awareness of who knows what in the team) have an inverted U-shaped relationship with team innovation. In other words, transactive memory systems are beneficial for team innovation up to a point and then as team specialization increases further from average to high, the association between transactive memory systems and innovation decreases. This paper extends recent calls for exploring non-linear association between team design features and performance (#B11; #B15; #B17; #B32; #B37).

The selected papers represent a good mix of methods and theoretical perspectives and are also reflective of the international character of the journal. I hope you will enjoy reading these papers and you will continue to support the journal!

Petru L. Curşeu

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Further reading

Brotheridge, C.M. and Keup, L. (2005), “Barnyard democracy in the workplace”, Team Performance Management, Vol. 11 Nos 3/4, pp. 125-132.

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