Showing posts with label team performance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label team performance. Show all posts

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Does Improper Use of Power Limit Group Performance?

Most people who have been in the working world for sometime have come across a situation where a single person uses power and authority with a dominating communication style to push their will on a corporate board, team, or workplace. Research by Tost, et. al (2013) discusses some of the pitfalls of doing so and the eventual decline of team performance. As performance declines so does the ability of organizations to generate income through collaborative effort and idea generation. 

Politicized workplaces are stressful and generally unproductive. According to Eisenhardt and Bourgeois (1988), when there is power inequality within the workplace political conflict rises and team performance declines. Teams should be well balanced to ensure that there is equity of power and the ability to discuss concepts openly for better idea generation. 

Power should be used to help push good ideas through to create greater productivity. However, when power is used to diminish the brainstorming process the best ideas do not come forward. There is a natural propensity for people to defer all major decisions to those that have the formal power. We all know that those that have the formal power do not always know the right answers or have failed to grasp alternative positions. Power, Leadership and Formal Authority can be summed up as follows:

Power: The ability of a person to control outcomes, how people perceive expenses, or push people in certain behaviors (Keltner, et. al, 2003). 

Leadership: The ability to influence others to work toward group objectives and goals (Bass, 2008). 

Formal Authority: Holding a position that that allows for a specific role within social hierarchy (Peabody, 1962).

Power, leadership, and formal authority maintain the ability to influence the outcomes of the group’s decisions. There are times when this can be beneficial once a final decision has been made and concise action is needed. However, preempting or cutting short the decision process may end up costing the organization later in terms of strategic outcomes as well as future willingness of employees to express themselves fully. 

Open communication within teams is essential in determining of the team’s performance (Dionne et. al, 2004).  Freethinking employees are more likely  to make novel solutions. Strategic decisions require the ability to perceive and understand various outcomes. As thoughts build on each other, open communication affords a better brain storming session. 

The authors conclude that the formalization of power into the hand of an individual limits the overall team performance. The leader’s subjective perspectives of power leads them to seek additional power derailing the performance process. The more power a leader feels the more their behavior changes and the more people defer to their power. Followers must willingly give up the power for the leader to gain additional influence. 

The research is important for avoiding the concepts of “group think” which limits a team’s performance. As leaders become more engrained in the perception of their power gain, the more their behavior prompts team members to give up the authority. The end result of such power deference is poor decisions, poor consequences, and potentially disastrous results. Even though it is possible for a single person to break the cycle by asking the right questions the social structure may try and force adherence leading to a lack of empowerment and performance for the whole group.

Bass, B. M. 2008. The Bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications. New York: Free Press.

Dionne, et. al (2004). Transformational leadership and team performance. Journal of Organizational Management, 17: 177–194.

Eisenhardt, K.  & Bourgeois, L. (1988). Strategic decision making in high-velocity environments: Toward a midrange theory. Academy of Management Journal, 31: 737–770.

Keltner, et. al. (2003). Power, approach, and inhibition. Psychological Review, 110: 265–284.

Peabody, R. (1962). Perceptions of organizational authority: A comparative analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 6: 463–482.

Tost, et. al. (2013). When power makes others speechless: the negative impact of leader power on team performance. Academy of Management Journal, 56 (5).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Managing Teams through Identity-Base and Knowledge-Based Difficulties

What is in a group? Organizations seek to manage the workplace where encampment, us versus them, and self-seeking group formation does not limit the overall functioning of the organization. Such groups can limit the ability to see outside of one’s own perspectives and further encourage poor choice making based upon this limited perspective. Research by Carton & Cummings (2013) discusses the nature of identity-based subgroups and knowledge-based subgroups and how their identities influence the operation of the workplace. 

Work teams are more popular than ever. Over 80% of Fortune 1,000, companies are using work teams to maintain productivity (Garvey, 2002).  In an effort to improve, overall functioning of teams there has been a level of effort to understand how subgroups and group member interaction impact the overall process. When team members function well together, they are more likely to be productive in their approaches.

Subgroups can form based upon fault lines that are based on differing characteristics of the group (Bezrukova, et. al., 2012). Those characteristics could be age, race, ideology, religion or any number of other factors. Each subgroup has their own way of viewing problems and manners of interacting with other groups.

 A team with more fault lines may be better than a group with only two. Two large groups can make decisions ineffective as they protect their turf through in-group and out-group dynamics while a number of different fault lines could improve effectiveness by offering a rounded perspective but ineffective turf protection.  Think of three people making a decision and creating a natural tiebreaker versus two people with completely different vantage points. 

There are two broad categories of sub-groups:

Identity-Based Subgroup:  A group based upon a person’s characteristics or other social defining categorization (Hogg & Terry, 2000). These groups see themselves as similar based on social characteristics and will generally disparage the identities of others.  You may view religion, race or age as a difference that may create a sense of shared identity. 

Knowledge-Base Subgroups:  A group based on how people view and process information (Galbraith, 1974). This group could view and see information through an educational or occupational background and define information based upon this vantage point. For example, engineers and social workers will naturally view information different and therefore break into groups based upon these vantage points. 

The Carton & Cummings (2013) study used teams selected from a multinational firm in the food processing business. Three hundred twenty six teams were formed throughout a number of different locations. Teams were engaged in a tournament that determined how their output met the needs of the organization.  They may work in operational improvement, customer service, or product development. 

The researchers were able to integrate subgroup type with subgroup configuration. Teams should be designed so that identity based teams would be imbalanced and knowledge based teams would be balanced.  Rifts in identity-based groups should be mended by relation development, positive norms, and respect for other subgroups. Knowledge-based rifts can be improved through boundary expanding and finding value in decision-making through acknowledging different perspectives.  Knowledge-based groups outperformed identity based groups in the samples.

The study encourages executives to think about how subgroups are developed and to make better design of group formation. They can encourage imbalance to foster decision-making by not allowing dominance of a single group, encouragement of balanced in-out group mentality, and integrating those who are more identity with those who are more knowledge based. This research seems to indicate that knowledge-base subgroups are ideal performers when compared to identity-based subgroups.

Bezrukova, K., et. al. (2012). The effects of alignments: Examining group faultlines, organizational cultures, and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 77–92.

Carton, A. & Cummings, J. (2013). The impact of subgroup type and subgroup configurational properties on work team performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, doi: 10.1037/a0033593

Garvey, C. (2002, May). Steer teams with the right pay: Team-based pay is a success when it fits corporate goals and culture, and rewards the right behavior. HR Magazine, 34 (5), 33–36.

Galbraith, J. R. (1974). Organization design: An information processing view. Interfaces, 4 (3)
Hogg, M. A., & Terry, D. J. (2000). Social identity and self-categorization processes in organizational contexts. Academy of Management Review, 25, 121–140.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Global Team Performance Improvements through the Development of Trust

Modified from Sarker, et. al (2011)
Business enhancement requires a level of thinking beyond the concrete efficiencies we have enhanced through statistical turnip twisting over the past few decades. Some have argued that future gains from efficiency will be much harder to realize. The next era may possibly be based on the use of virtual networks that enhance the fuzzy nature of human performance to new levels that not only create new layers of efficiency but also higher levels of output. Research conducted by Sarker, et. al (2011) indicates that trust within communication networks can increase team performance.

Trust is an important aspect of business success and social development. People are longing for more trust as a result of an extra emphasis on collaboration and changes in interconnectivity of technology (McEvily, et. al., 2003). As exchanges occur in a virtual world people are seeking higher levels of trust in their cultural exchanges. They want to be sure that people they are communicating with have some level of concern over their needs.

This trust is needed even more so when people do not have a shared history, are geographically separated, do not share a previous social context, and interact primarily through electronic media (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999). As such communication becomes more common across the world and through multinational corporations the development of the trust factor may lead to higher levels of performance.

The ability of trust to impact communication and performance is not well defined. Some believe that trust interacts with communication to enhance performance (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001). Other researchers have put forward the argument that it is more of an additive role alongside communication (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999). Whether trust enhances or simply adds to performance is a significant debate of performance. 

If trust enhances performance, it takes on a more useful role and can be considered a beneficial trait that further develops performance. If trust is more additive, it means that it is a supplemental additive to a communication strategy but is not necessarily a performance enhancer. It is something to use in addition to other activities but doesn’t change, influence, or enhance those factors. 

Performance is a level of motivation and effectiveness that relies in part on other group members. People do not act in isolation but do so in the context of other individuals within their social networks (Wellman, et. al., 2003). They seek to understand the implications of their behavior in relation to others. These implications are based upon cues and the meaning of the performance in relation patterns to others within their networks (Galaskiewicz & Wasserman, 1994). Trust is earned by the leader but also given by others.

The concept of trust in leadership and communication is an important one in order to create influence. Trust can be defined as the “willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party, based upon the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the other party” (Mayer & Davis, 1995).  The parties should feel that their leader will be consistent in his/her patterns and promises regardless of whether or not that leader is being watched.

A trust that they will do what they say they will do as well as what they have done in the past. It is a trust of the future. For example, if a leader has a particular pattern of behavior and people follow that leader based upon their actions they would expect that the leader will continue to do what they say they will do. When the leader professes something different than what they are doing the trust disappears and is slowly replaced by doubt. This doubt can lead to lower performance of team members who may no longer believe their efforts will be fruitful because of hijacked intentions.

Furthermore, such team trust is influenced by the perception that members will not be injured or be taken advantage of. Collective trust is based upon the belief that leaders will continue with commitments, be honest during discussions, and will avoid taking undue advantage of their members (Cummings & Bromiley, 1996). When such elements of trust are together they can influence a higher level of team performance (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001). Such team members do not have a problem putting forward effort if they are relatively sure of the results of such efforts.

The researchers Sarker et. al. (2011) sought to understand the effect of communication and trust on performance within globally distributed teams.  They used data from globally distributed teams working on systems analysis and development projects. The teams included U.S. with Norway and U.S. with Denmark to capture conceptual linkages between communication, trust, and individual performance.


-There were regional differences in performance. Scandinavians had higher performance than U.S. members. U.S. and Norway teams had higher performance than U.S. and Denmark teams.

-Gender had an influence on the success of teams with males performing at a higher level.  

-Trust had a significant impact on performance outcomes. 
-Communication centrality (importance in network) had an impact on trust centrality.

-Communication centrality (importance in communication network) had a significant effect on performance. 

-Trust centrality (center of trust) had an impact on overall performance.

Business Analysis:

Trust is a practical aspect of communication. It is difficult to encourage others to complete tasks and raise themselves to higher levels of performance unless there is a level of trust in relationships with leadership. The gaining of a leadership position rests in the ability to put oneself in the center of importance and information networks. Those leaders who achieve a level of power can either enhance team performance or lower its ability based upon the level of integrity and congruence between words and action. When people believe that these actions and words match together they will be more motivated to complete their work tasks with the knowledge that they are not being taken advantage of and their work is moving in the right direction. The study did not indicate this concept but the cultural factors that allow people to share a level of similarity in perception may influence performance. If the leaders and followers are unable to understand each others perspective that trust will be more difficult to gain and would require more communication, blending of networks, and congruence between action and words. To change patterns means to change perception.

Cummings, L. & Bromiley, P. (1996). The organizational trust inventory (OTI): Development and validation. In R. Kramer and T. Tyler (eds.), Trust in Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Dirks, K. & Ferrin, D. (2001). The role of trust in organizational settings. Organizational Science, 12 (4).

Galaskiewicz, J., & Wasserman, S. (1994).  Introduction advances in the social and behavioral
sciences from social network analysis. In S. Wasserman and J. Galaskiewicz (eds.), Advances in Social Network Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jarvenpass, S. & Leidner, D. (1999). Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Organizational Science, 10 (6).

Mayer, R.,  Davis, J., and Schoorman, D. (1995) An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review, 2, (3)

 McEvily, B., Perrone, V. & Zaheer, A. (2003). Introduction to special issue on trust in an organizational context, Organizational Science, 14 (1).

Wellman, B, et. al. (2003). The social affordances of the Internet for networked individualism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8 ( 3).

Sarker, S., Ahuja, M. Sarker, S. & Kirkeby, S. (2011). The Role of Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams: A Social Network Perspective. Journal of Management Information Systems, 28 (1).