The Changing Face of Teams

Faces Sml WebBefore the turn off the 20th Century, work teams and the communication resources available were quite different than today. “Work teams” in almost every nation were farmers. Not only were communication resources nonexistent, because of the physical distance between farms, even face-to-face communication probably only took place during worship events, or other local events. The second largest group, live-in house servants did not have communication opportunities or resources either.

Once the industrial revolution came on the scene, blue collar workers were dominating the work force. Living in densely populated areas, communication became easier and other resources were developing such as newspapers and more social gatherings. Work teams became able to communicate about unfair treatment. New ideas began to circulate. Being high organizable, unions began to form and better treatment for workers came into popularity – at least with the workers.

In 1911, Frederick Taylor gave us the school of thought about Scientific Management. Resulting exercises include the Hawthorne studies by Western Electric. Through observation and experimentation, knowledge about building more effective work teams began to grow. In addition, by this time, the telegraph, telephone, and radio gave communication a huge boost.

Before the 1950s, the idea of paid vacations, overtime pay, health insurance, and unemployment are yet to appear. The idea of team building, or high-performance teams remains a rather loose concept. A study in 1950 by Festinger defines “team cohesiveness” thusly, “the resultant of all the forces acting on the members to remain in the group.” Of course, by the early 1950s, television became a strong impact on communication.

Bruce Tuckman, a scientist, consultant, and Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology, is responsible for creating the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing team development model around 1965. Recently another round of research prompted Tuckman in adding the stage of “adjourning” to his model. Still today, Tuckman’s model has meaning for teams on their road to high performance and better communication.

The journey from farming “teams” to virtual teams and from limited and limiting communication resources to our sometimes seemingly over connectedness makes up a long, yet quick, and fascinating journey. Today we know how to better select teams to ensure greater productivity, creativity, and better communication. We also know how to, at least in most cases, treat each team member with respect. Team members now have benefits to help with life’s expenses and those pesky little surprises like illness and tonsillectomies; and of course, the breaks we need like vacation time. [What’s a vacation?] However, the faces of teams are changing. No, I don’t mean the front of our heads, but the make-up of teams that I’m sure Taylor, Tuckman, and Drucker never saw coming and, how could they?

In her speech at the 2015 Inspire Summit, Erica Dhawan, relays the story of Millennials working at a law firm who are not billing the number of hours usually expected even though they are given extra work. While there are virtual teams that work together on a regular basis, communicate maybe daily, and even occasionally “see” one another via Skype or some other media, these Millennials have their own idea. They have created a “Twitter Team” whereby they ask one another to help solve problems. These young people, don’t know one another, don’t work together regularly, and never see one another unless they look each other up on LinkedIn or a Facebook page. Yet, they get the job done and solve problems for their clients; and there is none of this forming and storming jazz. So even though this team has no real face, these Millennials have given a new face to high-performing future teams. Sounds like fodder for more studies. Where are Taylor, Tuckman, and Drucker when you need them?

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Graphic Credit: Copyright: jemastock

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Drucker, P. (1994, November). The Age of Social Transformation. The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 274, No. 5, Pages 53-80.
Kozlowski, W.J. and Ilgen, D.R. (2006, December). Enhancing the Effectiveness of Work Groups and Teams. Psychological Sciences in the Public Interest, Volume 7, Issue 3, pages. 77-124
Nestor, R. (2013). /Bruce Tuckman’s Team Development Model. Aurora.
Van Vliet, V. (2014). Bruce Tuckman. Retrieved March 11, 2018 from Tools Hero

Teams; Communication, Workforce