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Journal of Management
Volume 23, 1994

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Team Building: Quo Vadis?
Poonam Mital
Research Associate, IISc, Bangalore,
K B Akhilesh
Chairman and Prof., Dept. of Management Studies, IISc, Bangalore

The present study conducted on 60 managers of multinationals, public and private sectors, attempts to find out the self-related issues and concerns of senior and middle-level managers regarding team building in their organisations.  Open-ended interviews were conducted and content analysed.  In this article, the setf-related issues of the individual in the team is analysed under the four headings: (a) Belongingness, (b) authority, (c) distribution of resources, and (d) identity.

The importance of industry-wise team building and its relevance is growing in the present industrial scenario, yet only some efforts have been made to adopt it by the organisations on a continuing basis.  The challenge of team work enables not only developing effective cohesive teams, but also maintaining the existing teams by giving them a fresh impetus for more effective performance.  As such, a number of alternatives are practised by managers on an ad-hoc basis, and practice has taken precedence over theory.  The present study is only exploratory in nature and attempts to find out about the existing practices, and the individual's feelings as a team member when confronted by such practices.

Teamwork is the quintessential contradiction of the Indian society grounded in individual achievement.  In the Indian ethos, psychological equation with peers does not happen though psychological equation with father or mother can happen.  In organisations where there is a predictable

carryover of such attitudes, and colleagues are seen as threats and peer interactions are usually comfortable in task irrelevant situations, teams do not develop automatically but have to be developed by the management through purposeful action.  Teams do form spontaneously in the face of a common threat or through exceptional leadership qualities of the team leader.

Thus, both team processes and team acts or tasks become integral for effective team building.  By team acts are meant the structurally induced procedures of team building as initiated by a team leader or a consultant to harness a group into a team.  Team acts have been identified as role definition, task definition, decision-making, communication, implementation, and renewal.  Team processes refer to those self related issues that the individual team member faces while performing various team building acts initiated by the system.  Four team processes have been identified: Belongingness, authority, distribution of resources, and identity (See Fig 1).

Figure 1: Team Building as a Function of Team Processes

The focus of team processes is the self orientation of the individual in a particular team.  Self-orientation refers to the individual's identity and the relationship of this identity to the role he is occupying in the system.  It also relates to the values, beliefs, and goals of the individual and the congruence/in congruence he experiences with systemic values, beliefs, and goals.  A mismatch of the individuals identity to the role thus would result in apathy, resentment, and lack of personal satisfaction, that is, if prefers to do the same role and not switch over either in the same Organisation or any other Organisation.  A mismatch of individual-organisational values, beliefs, and goals would presumably result in conflicts over authority, distribution of resources and role-taking.

Literature Review
The self-related issues of the individual manager in a team - the team processes - which are discussed in the present paper integrate the work of Jack R Gibb (Bradford, Gibb, Benne, 1964) with the process theories of Arthur Young (1976 a,b) a cosmologist who devised a comprehensive system for understanding the relationship between physical law and human experience.  Gibb's four fundamental concerns (acceptance, data, goal formation, and control) that influence the formative processes of all groups, and Young's complementary notions that all process is movement from freedom to constraint have resulted in the formulation of four basic managerial team issues - Belongingness, Authority, Distribution, and Identity, all of which are discussed in the present paper.

In its initial processes of identity formation, boundaries are created as a team defines its work and makes choices.  The individual team members concerns and acceptance in the group which are fundamentally rooted in the person's own sense of self (Drexler, Sibbet, Forester, 1988) are essentially the belongingness concern of the team processes.

The authority dimension division of team processes deals with issues of power, control, and influence in the work group, while in the distribution of resources dimension, the individual is concerned about how his own and other team member's skills and resources are going to be utilised effectively for team functioning to which end he is either a resource controller or a resource contributor interacting with the structure and infrastructure of the system. (Pulin Garg, 1981).

The identity dimension implies the relational orientation of the individual and arises from the theoretical concept of identification (Indira d Parikh, 1978).  Sushant Banerjee (1991) defines identity as a dynamic set of processes characterised by the equation I = PSye, where identity (I) is the interaction of the set of processes characterising the personalised context of an individual (Pc) and the systemic context (Sye) of his environment.  The latter stage of groups formation results in group identification (a sense of belonging in which group membership is related to self-definition).  For the purpose of this study, we talk basically of two kinds of identity - the micro identity or the autonomous working definition of the individual, and the macro-identity or the team identity of the individual.

A series of studies on R&D engineers and scientists (Sinha, Misra, 1961; Kakar, 1971) have shown that they operate mainly from micro-identity.  Specifically, they show characteristics like autonomy in task preference for low task control, high affiliation and support from the team leader, moderate risk-taking, non-conformist attitude, and a tendency to socialise with people of the same background.

The Indian authors hitherto have focused on leadership style (Tarun Seth, 1988; Menon, 1988), team building acts like goal (clarity, communication), and task roles or like Gouranga Chattopadhyay (1968) discuss the social, cultural barriers to team building.  The significance of the present study thus lies in its attempt to study the team member-orientation and its recording of the team building processes.


The study is based on the critical review of the opinions of 60 senior and middle-level managers from the public sector, private sector, and multinational organisations.  The sample was chosen by means of random stratified sampling in order to get a proportionate representation.  As many as 25 managers were from the private sector, 15 from multinationals, and 20 from the public sector organisations.

Open-ended interviews were done in order to generate qualitative data about the team building issues and concerns of the Indian managers.  The time taken for the interviews ranged between 30 and 45 minutes.  The respondents were assured of the confidentiality of the interviews and were open and comfortable in stating their views.  The mode of questioning was semi structured.  Respondents were asked to state their (a) attitudes as a member of the particular team in which they were working, and (b) their attitudes towards the kind of team building action taken by their team leader.  The first set of attitudes are discussed in the present paper, while the latter are presented in another paper Group Related Issues and Concerns of the Indian Managers on Team Building (to be published in Organisational Management).  During the course of the interview, the interviewer sought clarifications, elaborations of any point barring which no negative or positive comments were given which might interrupt the flow of the respondent's ideas and thoughts.  Annexure I provides an interview guide and gives a sample of the questions asked to the respondents.

The interviews helped in exploring ideas and views to get relevant insights and were planned essentially to develop an instrument for measuring team functioning.  Data were basically analysed to examine the dominant tendencies and priorities of thought and not to give precise numbers meant for any statistical analysis.  The next phase of the study is being designed based on the insights obtained in this paper.  The paper highlights tentative ideas for further conceptual exploration, design of appropriate measure, and empirical validation.

The major themes which emerged during the discussion with the 60 managers centered around: (a) Individual identity/ orientation, and (b) beliefs and goals in deployment - issues dealing with authority, distribution of resources, and role taking (problem-solving and conflict management)
None of the managers voiced concerns or raised any points regarding the history and tradition of the Organisation which is an invisible guide to collective deployment, and which require institution building as an important tool to design effective teams at a macro level.

These two major themes were further categorised as belonging to identity (individual identity and orientation theme), and belongingness, authority, and distribution of resources (beliefs and goals in deployment theme) of the team processes dimension of the team building model discussed earlier.  Since the focus of team processes is the self-orientation of the individual in a particular team, self-orientation has been discussed under a separate heading which gives a total flavour of the values and beliefs of the individual vis-a-vis those of the Organisation.

Table I gives a list of the 'categorisation of responses.

Table 1: Categorisation of Responses

Business orientation  vs  emotional togetherness

Corporate goal ambiguity   vs  corporate goal clarity

Role ambiguity   vs  role clarity

Task responsibility  vs  link responsibility

Direct exclusion task authourity  vs  distributed authourity

Resource controller  vs  resource contributor

Individual orientation  vs  collaborative orientation

Activity orientation  vs  result orientation

By and large, the Indian managers show a strong need for team building activities which are more structured and consistent than the ones followed at present.  At the macro-level, this need is felt as an establishment of institution building efforts, especially among organisations with high growth and turbulent environments.  At the micro-level, team formation is ad hoc the more the pressure of the task, the more strong the threat from the environment, the more cohesive the team.  Though professionally every Organisation has teams marketing, production, etc. - team cohesiveness is purely business-oriented with little or no emotional togetherness.

Belongingness refers to the individual team member's concerns of being accepted in the group and whether he is "in" or "out" of a group as a team member.  To answer this question affirmatively, the team must be doing something that one wishes to be a part of and where one can contribute something worthwhile.  This can be initiated at three levels - the system, the team leader, and the individual.  The responses of our sample of managers show that very little system related action is generated to make the individual feel a sense of "belongingness".  The managers generally voiced the concern that they felt as though they were "outsiders" in goal-setting at the corporate level, and felt that role clarity was very often not present.  As one manager had put it: "The job is very loosely defined ... objective-setting is an exception, not a rule .... I can shirk or take on as much responsibility as I like" or that "there are no ,written objective... objectives should be defined every six months".

At the managerial or team leader's level, the sense of belongingness is high on decision-making for the task under the manager's direct control, implementation and, to some extent, renewal.  Obviously, belongingness cannot be driven by such macro practices.  In this context, the managers felt that the task driven is essentially intiated by the leader depending upon the situation.  In the absence of a leader-driven action to increase belongingness, the individual's reaction could be seen in the lack of belongingness in communication.  For example: "I rarely ask for help.  I am convinced of my capability" or "there is little or no sharing about how well team members are working together or how they affect task performance".

Authority refers to the influences and controls that converge on the individual which, in turn, depends upon where he is placed in the system.  These can be hierarchical (superior-subordinate) or multiple (lateral, environmental, functional, etc.).

While all managers have sufficient control and influence over their performance and their subordinate's performance, the very organisational objective of insulating accountability goes against team building and creates islands.  As one manager had put it: "Here, everybody is a surgeon, you really do not have the authority... you have to carry a lot of people... I feel powerless to do certain things in the head office.  In a lot of ways, I can plan, stretch, and devise, but what I devise, I am not in control".  In broad isssues of the job, especially cross-department goal-setting, the individual feels powerless.  Similarly, where important decisions are to be taken which involve a fair degree of risk and financial implementation, powerlessness is more acute.  Endorsement   of important decisions becomes an important part of the superiors or team leaders role where the final authority is vested in his status - power - as the leader of the team.  One manager said: "if I fail to convince any boss, it is my failure, if I win them it is to my credit".

It thus appears that authority is seen as hierarchical and single person in specific task-related areas, while systemic constraints are held responsible for lack of multiple authority.  In some public sectors, where there is a clear hierarchy and bureaucracy, powerlessness is usually felt by the leader bypassing the manager to interact with the latter's subordinates, thus leading to role erosion of the manager and his hierarchical authority over his subordinates.

Distribution of resources refers to the systemic distribution of resources to the individual depending upon the role he is expected to perform in the Organisation.  Thus, one can be either a resource controller or a resource contributor.  The respondents of our interviews see resources as mostly being distributed according to relationship.  As such, a conscientious person takes on a lot of pressure due to pooling of resources, for instance, sharing secretaries or computers, while a non-conscientious person plays one person against the other, thus leading to procrastination and prolonging of projects.  There is also too much tight strap for time and resources which prevents effective team functioning.

The resource contributors who interact with the structure of the system - those who are leaders, or in task-related areas like finance, typically voiced: " I do not accept team recommendations till I am thoroughly satisfied".  "I tend to push people to highly stretchable targets".  "Not being a man of detail, changing tracks is difficult for me"; or "I try very hard to convince people to my way of thinking and bring them in line with my views".  Networking thus becomes an effective tool to procure resources especially when it is difficult to reason with the resource contributor and bring them in line with one's views.

Identity, as mentioned earlier, has been classified as micro-identity and macro-identity.  Micro-identity which refers to the individual, autonomous style of functioning, and which requires the least supervision and control over task perfonnance, was found to occur most frequently among R&D personnel.  On the other hand, non R&D personnel, such as people in marketing, production, and sales, who display Microidentity patterns feel that networking is essential to get things done in the present Organisation.  The nitty-gritties of their role not being defined, much of the evolution of the role rests on them.  Most of the time is spent on operations rather than seeing the end result, and many times, the individual has to take on the other team member's role who is unable to fulfill the task.  Because of the individual orientation towards work, there is very little work-related interaction with peers.  According to one manager: "physical proximity forces a relation-
ship among team members".  Teams hardly meet to discuss team issues - they go
straight to business meetings.  There is also a tendency in organisations to be activity oriented rather than result-oriented.

Thus, the Organisation culture, the kind of technology the Organisation is in, the functional diferences, provide a context for effective team building, which can nurture an individual's macro-identity orientation or effectively provide situational stimulators for gearing micro-identity patterns towards macro-identity.  On the other extreme, it can stifle the macro-identity of the individual by promoting an individualised orientation towards work.

Self Orientation
Managers have been broadly classified as belonging to two categories: (a) those who have strong ethical views and the matching of organisational values with personal values, and (b) those who do not give too much importance to the "morality" of the Organisation.  Organisations which are perceived as fair, open, and ethical attract individuals with the same values even though they may not be the best pay-masters.  On the other hand, organisations whose image on these values is not so clear and open to outsiders attract individuals with heterogeneous value, system, and which more often than not, becomes a source of conflict for the individual.  Displacement of such conflicts are then usually on the authority issue, and values and beliefs of the superior.  Understandably, one is faced with the question whether such values should be formalised or "sensitised" in the Organisation.  Some organisations which place a lot of emphasis on credibility, ethics, and morality do have "belief' sessions by the chairmen so that organisational values are permeated in the whole organisations.  But, usually the trend is to "sense" such values and beliefs through interaction with individuals in the Organisation rather than have formalised communication of the same.

The expectations of the Organisation as voiced by some of the managers was that the Organisation should be fair, ethical, consistent, open, and should treat the individual as an important investment - one should get the feeling that one "matters" in the Organisation.  Also, many individuals would not like to associate with an Organisation that is too socialistic - individual differences should be there as seen in the reward system.

There were also functional differences in the self-orientation of the managers.  For people in sales and marketing, credibility seems to be an important value, while for R&D professionals, identification and collegial support are important.

The qualitative data gathered from the interviews are an indicator of the organisational processes and individual orientations in organisations towards team building.  Leadership at the individual level and institution-building at the organisational level are important determinants of effective team building.  Sufficient emphasis thus needs to be laid on the organisational, and group building processes for effective movement of micro-identity orientation towards macro-identity orientations.  This would essentially mean issues of designing (a) Institutional spaces, activities, and mechanisms which are not related to task but to community processes, affiliation management, and learning from collective experiences, and (b) leadership processes and lateral relationships and relatedness.

Banerjee S (I 99 1): Towards a Definition of Organisational Identity.  In.  Organisational Identity, Change, and Adaptation.  Vol. 3. Proceedings of the International Conference.  ISISD.

Bradford L, Gibb J, Benne K (1964): T-Group: Theory and Laboratory Method.  New York, John Wiley and Sons.

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Drexler A B, Sibibbet D, Forrester H (1988): The Team Performance Model in Team Building: Blueprints for Productivity and Satisfaction.  In W Brendan, Reddy, Kaleel, Jamison.  Eds.

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Annexure 1

  1. Listed below are some of the sample questions asked to the respondents of the interviews.
  2. What are your attitudes towards other team members and your team leader?
  3. To what extent do you feel a real part of the team?  If not why?
  4. What are your feelings as a team member towards the kind of task you are involved with?
  5. To what extent do you feel comfortable in speaking out your thoughts and feelings in your particular team?
  6. How effective is your team in issuing ideas, opinions, and information of all team members in making decisions?
  7. What are the specific steps and actions taken by your team leader to make your working group into a cohesive team?
  8. What do you think are your weaknesses and strengths as a team member?
  9. What do you think are the weaknesses and strengths of your team leader?
  10. How do you think your present team can be made into a better team?
  11. How much interaction do the various team members have with the team leader to discuss their task?
  12. Is your role clarified in consultation with your superior or are you left to evolve your own role?
  13. How clear are you about the corporate goals and the goals of the team?
  14. What steps are taken by the team to renew itself once its task is completed?
  15. How much meaning do you find in your present taks?
  16. To what extent do you feel powerless to make decisions and why and when?
  17. How are the resources distributed and to what extent do you feel in control of the resources.
  18. Do you feel more comfortable in doing your task alone or with nteraction / consultation with others?
  19. hat are you ,,r attitudes towards your Organisation and its style of operating ?