Friday, 21 October 2011

Organisational Theory - Teamwork and Collaboration

Law and Glover (2000) offer a convincing argument that teams are essential building blocks in developing organisational efficiency. On page 76 of their article they list five benefits of team building:
1.      Managing complexity;
2.      Giving a rapid response;
3.      Achieving high motivation;
4.      Making high quality decisions;
5.      Developing collective strength.
The table on page 81 lists Useful People to Have in Teams. The Typical Characteristics, the Positive Qualities and the Allowable Weaknesses of these nine personality types are described.
Law and Glover’s analysis of the personal qualities of the conformist, the anti-conformist and the independent is accurate and insightful. Their definition of a team is worth recording, “It is a group of people who understand each other, who know individual strengths and weaknesses and who co-operate with one another” (p. 83).
The work in 1984 by Mugatroyd and Gray’s is referred to by the pair on page 84. Law and Glover list four criteria related to effective relationships:
1.      Empathy: the ability to see another problem as if it were one’s own.
2.      Warmth: the ability to share problems.
3.      Genuiness: the ability to develop effective interpersonal relationships.
4.      Concreteness: the ability to recognise the reality of the problem or issue.
Pupil achievement stems from the following personal qualities that are listed on page 84:
1.      The quality of pupil-teacher relationships;
2.      The quality of peer relationships;
3.      The strength of positive self-concept;
4.      The strength of self-control.
The lasting message I will take away from this excellent article is that when effective communication
occurs, cohesion flourishes.
Beck and Yeager (1994) gave me new ideas as my role as leader. I have a reputation within my library team as being an open and clear communicator. They appreciate that I take an interest in their personal and professional lives. I act on their work related requests and grievances.
Prior to reading this article, entitled Making Teams Work, I had not considered the Levelling stage as a reason why high performing teams fail. The remedy is to get refocused on new goals, or new procedures, or new norms for utilizing the groups’ resources. These strategies are a catalyst for change.
At our formal meetings, and during impromptu discussions when matters arise, the group makes decisions after a problem (a SITNA) is shared. I need to remember that in my role as leader, I can steer the conversation in the right direction, and support the team members with their decision making. I now understand how important it is that I do not ask the group to decide, because they have shown that they do not have the leadership skills to do so.
I was very impressed by the following quote, “Groups like to have someone in charge. If no one is, a new leader will emerge or competing leaders will get into conflicts, or the group will start to come apart out of apathy. If you are not leading the group, then an informal leader will take over, and most likely steer the group in a different direction” (p. 194).
The two anecdotes, about Denise and Karen, clearly depicted disaster and success. For me, the greatest learning came out of Karen’s story, where she recognized the approaching  leveling stage, after continued enthusiasm and productivity.
I found the Barnett, McKowen and Bloom (1998) article quite amazing. It stayed with me long after I had read it. In A School Without a Principal they describe Anzar High School in California. At the time that the article was written, it had an enrolment of 450 students, and had been running for four years without a  principal! The article provides a model for problem solving, reflection and genuine communication. The authors had observed that the needs of the school, the needs of the individual teachers, and the need of the teachers as a group were carefully considered, like the vocational attitude of religious orders operate.
By leaving their personal baggage at the door, they collectively own problems and they collectively solve them by taking all responsibility for any problems that arise. I like their ‘fist-o-five consensus model for all important decision making.
They depend on each other’s honesty – there are no weak links. They strive for and maintain high standards for themselves and one another. What an inspiring story…
Jill Davidson (2002) mentions the ‘no principal’ model of the Anzar High School. She proposed that rotating teachers as Head Teacher provides leadership experience to teachers, and allows staff to engage in collaborative decision-making about curriculum. She cited the San Francisco Community School’s conflict resolution policy and collaborative management policy which is addressed on a weekly basis. This keeps these policies at the front of their minds, it “lives in their bones” (no page).
At home, with my husband and two adult (student) daughters, a team approach is practiced. For 10 years, a Sunday night meeting has been held over dinner, to share plans for the week ahead, to determine who cooks, and so on. When problems (SITNA) are presented, discussions are held and I will decide on the most practical solution.
At school, as leader of another part-time teacher-librarian, two audio-visual technicians and a part-time librarian, I communicate daily with each member of my team, on a professional and personal level. I am known for my genuine interest and I am happy to continue that commitment to their well-being. I encourage them to seek solutions and I step in when a decision is difficult, or if consultation with a member of the school’s leadership team is required. Interdependence is also encouraged, This semester has seen an improvement in the communication skills of my teacher-librarian colleague.

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