Many theories have been published regarding groups and teams and the typically related topics; such as effectiveness, productivity, group behaviour, and group dynamics.
The focus of the content to follow, will be to highlight three such theories and contrast their viewpoints; concluding with a collective perspective on the detail presented.
A meaningful departure point would be to define the terms ‘group’ and ‘team’. The Oxford Dictionary of Human Resource Management (Heery & Noon, 2004: 146-147) provides the following definitions:
- A ‘group’, according to psychologist Edgar Schein is ‘a collection of people who interact with each other, are psychologically aware of each other, and who perceive themselves to be in a group’.
- A ‘workgroup’ meets these criteria, but in addition the members also have task-centred goals. Importantly, whilst group members support each other, they each have their own area of responsibility for which they are individually accountable.
- A ‘work team’ is composed of members with complementary skills who are involved in a common set of goals for which they are collectively accountable.
In addition, the authors note that at times there is an expectation that teams also need to display synergy, but that this is not expected of groups.
3.1.2 Belbin’s Team Role Theory
Meredith Belbin and his team conducted research at Henley Management College in the United Kingdom in the 1970’s (Belbin, no date) – with a focus on management behaviour from all over the world. The participants completed a battery of psychometric tests, after which they participated in a complex management exercise – having formed teams of varying composition, based on their psychometric test outcomes. The fact that this approach was adopted, has been criticised by others – in summary, due to the fact that they felt the observations took place in a controlled environment, as opposed to a natural ‘uncontrolled’ environment.