Business blues remedied

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 November, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 November, 1993, 12:00am

WHILE sometimes ''three heads are better than one'', groups have their liabilities. If not well developed, even work groups with long and successful histories can malfunction.

Substandard business decisions, poor sales performance, high staff turnover and so forth may all result from a malfunctioning work group.

We have had opportunities to work in several Hong Kong companies with various kinds of work groups (for example, joint consultative committees).

Our experience matches that of well-known professionals such as D. Francis, D. Young, and I. Janis.

A work group goes wrong when one or more of the following problems exist: Inappropriate leadership: the group leader does not have the skills and intention to develop a team approach. He or she does not allocate time to team-building activities, and uses a paternalistic or autocratic management style.

Unsuitable membership: some group members are unable to handle the current requirements of their work. The mix of skills is inappropriate to the work they are doing. Some members are not adapting to the needs of the team, despite efforts to help them.

Lack of commitment to the group: some members do not feel a sense of individual commitment to the aims and purposes of the group. They are not willing to devote personal energy to building the team, and are not ready to support other members. They do not feel that they belong to the team. Many are committed to individual goals at the expense of the team.

Unconstructive group climate: group members are not frank and open with each other. There is too much stress placed on conformity. Members do not get to know each other as people. Individual viewpoints are not fully heard. People do not feel relaxed andprepared to take risks.

Lack of concern to achieve: the team is unclear about its objectives, or the objectives are not seen to be worthwhile. Members are given few incentives to stretch themselves. Sometimes the team sets targets that are too easy. Energy is absorbed in an unproductive manner rather than channelled into getting results. There is no periodic review of performance to see where improvements are needed.

Unclear corporate role: group members are unsure about the team's role in and contribution to the wider organisation. There is confusion between the work of this team and the work of others. The organisation does not use the vision and skills that the team has to offer.

Ineffective work methods: the work group progresses slowly. In meetings, members seldom listen to each other and the team does not have lively, systematic and effective ways to solve problems together.

Disorganised team procedures: members are uncertain about their individual roles in relation to the team. The work group does not have adequate administrative resources and procedures, and the use of such resources within the group is inflexible. The team members do not communicate.

Inadequate constructive criticism: the group is not good at learning from its mistakes. Members often refrain from critical remarks. When they are criticised, they often feel they have lost face. Attempts to review events critically are seen as negativeand harmful.

Underdeveloped individuals: new members are often left to find their own place in the team. The potential of some members is not developed. Some of them do not show initiative in developing themselves.

Lack of creative strength: Some members are unwilling or incapable to suggest new ideas, nor do they want to accept new ideas from outside. Good ideas are not followed through to definite action. Innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking are not encouraged.

Negative inter-group relations: the group has constructive relationships with very few other teams within the organisation. It does not respond sufficiently to the needs of other teams, and relationships with other teams have not been developed to provide open personal contact and co-operation.

Inability to detect faults: when making decisions, group members are unlikely to perceive any blind spots in their plans, and some develop a sense of self-righteousness. This belief dulls members' sensitivity to the ethical and moral consequences of their actions.

Fortunately, the above problems are not without remedy. A simple team-review questionnaire can be used to help your company or your department to diagnose which of the above problems, if any, is being encountered by a work group.

After identifying the problem or problems, you can develop plans to help your group to overcome them and emerge as a more effective team.

D. J. Lam and C. H. Hui are principals in the Assessment & Development Centre, a consultancy specialising in human resources management psychology. Enquiries may be directed to 810-0181 (tel) or 524-1128 (fax).

You can choose from many structured experiences and games to develop your own in-house team-building programme.

For a free bibliography, drop a note at the fax number below.