This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.
‘What makes a good team and how can I construct one?’
…are questions every manager, supervisor and team leader asks themselves at some stage.
They are also questions that many researchers, thinkers and management commentators have tried to answer in their own way. Two sources of particularly valuable insights that you can read about on the Pocketblog are:
However, one of the most successful researchers into team dynamics was Meredith Belbin. His work has produced a widely used and very helpful set of diagnostic and training tools, that are also reasonably priced.
No interest to declare here; I have just been a user of Belbin tools for many years, since I first encountered them on a training course in the mid 1990s. I have used the tools in my own training and find that participants get a lot from them. Find out more at www.belbin.com
Belbin’s website and books tell the story well, but here it is in a nutshell.
The Origins of the Belbin model.
Belbin and his co-workers observed a great many management teams doing standardised tasks, to try to find what might predict success or failure. Their findings included:
- Teams that were too small or too large were less likely to succeed. Five was a good number.
- In teams, people seem to play a variety of different roles.
- Teams where all of the roles were represented were more likely to succeed than ones with noticeable gaps. (One person could play more than one role).
- Teams where two or more people competed to play certain roles were less likely to succeed.
The Team Roles Model
Out of this work came Belbin’s Team Roles Model – a set of identifiable roles that the researchers saw people playing. In the initial research, eight roles emerged. Later, Belbin added a ninth role and changed some of the titles he used.
Belbin observed that we each have preferences for one or more different roles and team success comes when members contribute the full range of roles, without clashes and competition to fulfil some of them. Here are the nine roles, with the names Belbin currently assigns.
In the illustration of the nine team roles, we can see three families of Roles:
Socially Adept Roles
The Co-ordinator, Team Worker and Resource Investigator roles are all favoured by people with strong social instincts and require good interpersonal skills to deliver effectively. The Co-ordinator seeks the best contributions from the team, while the Team Worker promotes good working relationships, and the Resource Investigator looks outwards to a network of contacts beyond the team.
The Shaper, Implementer and Completer Finisher roles are all strongly focused on getting the job done: the Shaper on getting it started, the Implementer on making progress, and the Completer Finisher on tying up loose ends.
More Cerebral Roles
The Plant, Monitor Evaluator and Specialist all prize thinking carefully above doing. The Plant initiates ideas, the Monitor Evaluator reviews the team’s thinking and outputs, and the Specialist contributes deep expertise.
Some Comments about the Model
My experience, and Belbin’s guidance notes, highlight many factors about this excellent model, which you can use if you buy the materials from www.belbin.com. Here are some key points:
- The Belbin evaluation tools are not psychometrics. They are well calibrated and developed over a long time, but they tell you about a person’s preferences now – based on their situation, experiences and how they relate to other team members. Belbin profiles shift over time.
- The tool is not suitable for recruitment or advancement selection – it is designed to help understand and address team dynamics.
- Some people have one or two strong team role preferences, others have several and are more balanced. Every conceivable profile seems to appear over time.
- Team members can adapt their style and therefore active profile, in response to awareness, training and support.