Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Not another book on teams!When we see that the author is Susan Wheelan, who has been researching and writing on groups and teams for many years, then we sit up and take notice. The opening chapter lays out the focus of the book, which is about how work groups become teams. The chapter gives a good flavour of the author’s approach – no jargon, no silly exercises, no references – only the author’s research based experience. The second chapter explores how teams in organisations need to be supported through creating expectations of success, setting clear expectations, valuing quality and service, attention to detail and valuing team recommendation and rewarding team performance. What teams need – goals and tasks, resources, members trained to be team members, not getting too much help, and the avoidance of unsubstantiated team development and consnltation strategies.
Wheelan presents four stages of team development: dependence and inclusion, counterdependence and fight, trust and structure and work and productivity. Each stage is well described, with useful anecdotal descriptions of each stage. For example, “You know you are in a stage 2 group when you’d rather have your teeth pulled than go to the next meeting” (p. 26). Useful tips on what to expect at each stage and how to work with it are provided. In a chapter on how high performance teams function, ten keys of team performance are outlined: goals, roles, interdependence, leadership, communication and feedback, discussion, decision‐making and planning, implementation and evaluation, norms and individual differences, structure, and cooperation and conflict management. A checklist for evaluating your team’s performance is provided at the end of the chapter.
There are two important chapters in the middle of the book, on effective team membership and effective team leadership respectively. The very important chapter on membership challenges team members not to blame others for team problems, encourage the process of goal, role and task clarification, encourage the adoption of an open communication structure where all members’ input and feedback are heard, promote an appropriate ratio of task and supportive communication, promote effective problem‐solving and decision‐making procedures, establish norms which support productivity, innovation and freedom of expression, promote the use of effective conflict management strategies, go along with norms which promote group effectiveness and productivity, network with other groups, and support the leader’s efforts to facilitate group goal achievement. The chapter on team leadership challenges the domination of the myth of the charismatic team leader and focuses on some of the core activities of leading teams through the different stages of team development. Both the membership and leadership chapters conclude with useful checklists.
The final four chapters address how the stages of team development can be managed. Navigating at Stage 1 explores how the issues of safety and inclusion, dependence on the leader and the wish for order and structure can be managed. In these four chapters Wheelan presents some typical scenarios of these issues and then provides some practical advice in "What you can do" sections. In Surviving Stage 2, issues of creating a unified culture and a unified and effective group structure are explored. The author presents practical “What you can do” sections to deal with norm formation and conflict with the leader. In Reorganising at Stage 3, issues of fine‐tuning roles, organisation and procedures and solidifying positive relations are discussed, again with typical scenarios and “What you can do” sections. In the final chapter, “Sustaining high performance”, getting the work well done, making decisions, cohesion and conflict and maintaining high performance are discussed with illustrative scenarios and “What you can do” sections.
In my view this is the best book on teams I have seen. It is brief, clear, practical and useful. It is based on solid research. It challenges a lot of current mythology about teamwork, and has important messages for team members. Its uses are legion. It is a book that both managers and team members will use. It will be used by consultants and trainers. For academic readers, there is an extensive bibliography. When managers, team members, consultants and trainers implement what is in this book, team performance cannot but be improved.