In today's work culture and dynamic environment educational institutions and organisations require students and employees to work together in groups at certain tolerant and coordinative levels, thus proving "experience of working in groups or teams" (Blease, 2006 cited Kelly,P. 2007). The group Maslow 2 was created for the purpose of partaking in the Nestle case study. The assignment was to critically analyse the case study and suggest areas of concern or opportunities for improvement and brief the MD and board through the presentation.
This report is prepared by our group as a reflective work on our previous completed assignment. In this report we will be reflecting on the formation of the group, its development and describing the two critical incidents that came about and how we as a group dealt with them. We will also be referring to findings about the differences in personalities of the group members and roles they played in the functioning of our group (Belbin Test, Bortner 1964).
Forming stage (Critical Incident 1)
The first challenge a group faced at the stage of forming (Tuckman B.C., 1965) was cultural and personal diversity. The members of the group were allocated using a pair-mixed approach (Mahenthiran, 2000 cited Kelly, P. 2008). Initially it made inter group interactions more complicated.
Many scholars argue that most homogeneous groups produce average results. In contrast, most diverse groups produce either significantly worse or significantly superior results. Heterogeneity can enhance competitiveness. (Hitt M.A., 2007)
In our small group of 5 (Vibhuti, Mohit, Umang, Mohammed and Natalya) diversity was evident not only from the cultural point of view (such dimensions as Power Distance Index and Uncertainty Avoidance Index in particular), but our approaches to team work, behaviour and ethics. The differences were reflected in the results of Belbin test, Personality Test and Team group survey we undertook and the analysis of Hofstede's Scores of Cultural Dimensions. (Appendix 1, 2). The results helped us to realise our differences in perception of leadership, the way to achieve our objectives and roles in the group to achieve outcomes we expected.
To achieve positive synergy and create effective working environment we set our standards of behaviour and ethics and included them in Group Contract to reinforce them. (Attachment ...)
However, in spite of the analysis undertaken, the first serious issue the group faced was the language matter. Three team mates were occasionally speaking their native language while discussing and negotiating the tasks. According to Hofstede G. 'language is the most clearly recognizable part of culture' and it was natural for 3 members of the group to speak their native language to express themselves in a better way. But it affected the knowledge transfer in the group, decreased motivation of other 2 members and what is more important significantly delayed the formation of the team hence group dynamics was slowed down.
After the issue was raised, the decision was taken to appreciate the use of a common language at our meetings. This created a positive impact on our group development. We had positive communication climate (Long M.H. and Porter P.A., 1985). Moreover the incident was reflected upon, the contract was revised and new clauses were introduced (Group Contract, p.3). Besides, the members of the group agreed to develop such cultural competences as tolerance to differences, patience as well as interpersonal sensitivity and to improve communication skills. (Kolb D.A., 2001)
Performing stage (Critical Incident 2)
Each member of the group had a pre-assigned task for the presentation due on November the 6th 2008. According to the agenda, Umang, Mohammed, Natalya and Vibhuti were asked to deliver the presentation, while Mohit was the IT incharge. But as luck would have it unfortunately 3 days prior to the date of presentation Vibhuti who was supposed to speak on culture caught flu and lost her voice temporarily. This resulted in confusion and panic at the eleventh hour.
However, as the group had come through all stages and was at the stage of performing characterized by a certain degree of flexibility, openness and helpfulness it was able to solve the problem. Mohit came forward and opted to present instead, thus portraying team work and courtesy. Thus the group delivered excellence in the 'performing stage' of Tuckman and Jensen's theory (1977).
It also proved Pearce and Ravlin's theory (1987) of groups that we as a group co-ordinated in a flexible manner and each member of the group committed in delivering the presentation to the best of their abilities in a challenging situation.
Reflection is a process of re-organising knowledge and emotional orientations in order to achieve further insights (Moon J., 2006) and an expected result of reflection could be the change of behaviour or evidence of learning. It is fundamental to take in-depth analysis towards learning. We all learn from experience and analysing past experience could provide us with deep insight of what was done, why it was a success or a failure and what we could have done differently. Reflection enables groups and individuals to move forward improving their working practices. It reinforces sense of competence and accomplishment while at the same time it helps to recognize areas of weaknesses.
The concept of 'reflective practice' implies the idea that a person is active in reflecting on events and using what he or she can learn from them to improve future action. (Moon J., 2004) Reflective practice is being recognized as an essential skill for learners who are required to analyse and evaluate their personal or professional performance.
According to Grant M.J. (2007), we can reflect in action and on action. In our group we mostly practiced reflection on action - the process of thinking after the event has been completed. We did it in short brain storming sessions as well as more thorough discussions as it was important for us to analyse and appreciate the value of our common experience and recognize an area of improvement. The result of our reflective practise could be recognised through the descriptions of 2 incidents and further suggestions of the group on changing its behaviour and improved competencies. Thus, reflecting on the incidents that occurred with the team, the group behaved flexibly, understanding the problems and then made decisions knowing and using the best option available.
To reflect on group outcomes we refer to process observation sheets (Attachment ...) demonstrating the progress of the group. Maintaining a record of each meeting shows that coordination, integration and synergy were the qualities that strengthen over time and helped the group to come through four stages of development in relatively short time.
Group structure was a necessary mechanism in the work of the group that allowed group members develop individual strategies, opinions and approaches and at the same time stay as a whole in order to achieve common goals.
Reflecting into the positive outcomes of the group work in terms of integration was an improvement in the cultural competencies of individuals, with an improved ability to deal with different people, respecting their cultural backgrounds as well as personalities, a valuable ability of sharing knowledge and an enhanced ability to solve problems as a team. The group members also mentioned individual time management as well as individual commitments as negative factors affecting the group coordinated work thus defining the areas of improvement for future common projects and common goals.
At the end of the project, what matters the most is what we have learned from our group work experiences. During the tenure of working together, situations cropped up and tested us on the scales of making the decisions and handling the pressures and exceptions.
As per Belbin (1993), "Team performance is influenced by the kinds of people making up a group, and testing indicates that certain combinations of personality-types perform more successfully than others" but the key to its implementation is how the team analyzes its performance and then adapts the situation so as the result can be achieved.
Team work was definitely one of the most important aspects of this project. We would have been unable to accomplish anything if we had not worked together. Even though the design process was broken up into individual pieces, we often consulted with one another when we ran into difficulties with our design. Testing and debugging of the higher-level components were also done as a team. As a result we managed to achieve a strong outcome thus enhancing our knowledge, competencies and empowering group as a whole.
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- Hofstede's Scores of Cultural Dimensions available from: www.geert-hofstede.com