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Meredith Belbin’s Team Roles Model

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


‘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:

  1. Teams that were too small or too large were less likely to succeed. Five was a good number.
  2. In teams, people seem to play a variety of different roles.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

Belbin Team Roles

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.

Task-focused Roles

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The tool is not suitable for recruitment or advancement selection – it is designed to help understand and address team dynamics.
  3. 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.
  4. Team members can adapt their style and therefore active profile, in response to awareness, training and support.

Further Reading

  1. The Teamworking Pocketbook
  2. Teambuilding Activities Pocketbook
  3. The Belbin Team Roles website
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Bruce Tuckman’s Group Development Model

There are a number of Pocketblogs about Bruce Tuckman’s highly successful model of group and team development.

Here is a quick reference to them all.
Click the headings to go to the blog.

Forming, Storming, Norming: The Tuckman Model of Group and Team Development

… a general introduction to the model – part of the Pocket Correspondence Course series of blogs.

Swift Trust–Why some Teams don’t Storm

… introduces the model and looks at the storming phase and uses the concept of ‘swift trust’ to understand why some teams skip over this phase.

Tuckman Plus

… looks at an additional phase: the ‘yawning’ stage.

Tuckman Plus, Part 2: Transforming

… looks at another additional phase: the ‘transforming’ stage.

Team Performance Beyond Tuckman

… isn’t strictly about Tuckman – it introduces the ‘Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model’.

There’s more to Bruce Tuckman…

But if it is Tuckman and his ideas that interest you, then you might expect him to feature in our Management Thinkers series. And you’d be right. He’s here:

Bruce Tuckman: Group Development

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Forming, Storming, Norming: The Tuckman Model of Group and Team Development

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


‘How do new groups of people develop into
effective teams?’

Bruce Tuckman developed the best known and most widely used answer to this question in the early 1960s. Working for the US Navy, he reviewed a wide range of group dynamics research, to identify a sequence of discrete stages that described the findings of most of the studies.

Tuckman himself ascribes the success of his model over other, later models, to the catchy labels he created for the stages.

Tuckman Group Development Model

1. Forming

When a group first comes together, people are keen to get on with the task at hand, but have little idea what is expected of them. In building relationships, they start with the superficial dialogue familiar to anyone who has arrived in a room full of unfamiliar people. As a team leader, focus on giving people work they can get on with and, at the same time, get to know their colleagues. Tuckman referred to this as the forming stage.

2. Storming

People are social creatures, and we need to assert ourselves, find our allies, and make a niche for ourselves. In the next stage, storming, the group turns inward, focusing on relationship building. Conflicts arise as, like hens in the farmyard, we each seek our place in the pecking order. The group may also start to challenge your leadership so, while you keep them focused on work, you need to assert your leadership and provide support to individual team members.

3. Norming

Following the intensely social storming phase, we withdraw into task-focused activities. We hunker down and get on with the work. The group is now more cohesive, focusing on creating procedures, fulfilling defined roles and making progress. This is the norming stage, and it is often very productive. Because people know what their role is now, focus your leadership on creating links between team members and establishing routines and team habits..

4. Performing

As the quality and depth of relationships build, the group reaches its final stage, performing. Group members support each other in their tasks and show greater behavioural flexibility. The group now feels like a team, with individuals stepping into leadership roles as their capabilities and interests dictate. Your leadership can be very subtle, focused on maintaining the productive environment in which the team can thrive, providing them with the information and resources they need, and protecting the team from disruptive interruptions and distractions.

5. Adjourning

Two decades later, in 1977, Tuckman collaborated with Mary Ann Jensen in reviewing further research studies. As well as endorsing his earlier model, their analysis suggested a fifth stage ‘for which the perfect rhyme could not be found’ in Tuckman’s own words.

They called this stage adjourning, although many authors (including me) prefer the term ‘mourning’. As the group separates, there is a palpable sense of loss. The joy of working successfully with valued colleagues is important to us and we mourn its loss. Like in the case of  ‘real’ mourning, you should make time for your team to reflect on the transition and celebrate the past.

Additional Phases

Trainers and writers have introduced additional phases to the model, which each have their value. Two of these, the ‘yawning’ stage and the ‘transforming’ stage have been covered in earlier Pocketblogs:

Critique

Tuckman’s model was not based on primary research and has been criticised for its linear nature and its discrete stages. Despite this, it accords well with people’s experience and has been applied in a number of related formulations.

As a manager, use the model to understand the evolution of your team, and in interpreting what happens among the groups with which you work.

Further Reading

  1. The Teamworking Pocketbook
  2. The Management Models Pocketbook
    looks at Tuckman in Chapter 3
  3. The Teambuilding Activities Pocketbook suggest activities to use with teams as they go through the various stages.

Other Pocketblogs you may like

Swift Trust–Why some Teams don’t Storm

… introduces the model and looks at the storming phase and uses the concept of ‘swift trust’ to understand why some teams skip over this phase.

Team Performance Beyond Tuckman

… isn’t strictly about Tuckman – it introduces the ‘Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model’.

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The Wisdom of Teams: Outperforming Individuals

The Wisdom of Teams

The Wisdom of TeamsThe Wisdom of Teams is a true classic among Twentieth Century business books. Based on detailed interviews with 47 teams across the US, it uncovers the wisdom of what teams can achieve, and how they can perform at their best.

The authors of The Wisdom of Teams acknowledge that what they discovered is both obvious, in that we recognise the truths straight away, and subtle, in that making sense of them in the real world can be hard. They rank their findings as both common sense and uncommon sense. And all this is as it should be. Teams are people. And people working together can be messy and hard to characterise.

So, while the book has been criticised for its obviousness, and also for being too long and sharing too many long stories, this is its nature. Real team stories show not just the obvious truths, but the subtle complexities too. Perhaps the biggest idea of the Wisdom of Teams is that there is no one Big Idea, but many smaller big ideas.

Continue reading The Wisdom of Teams: Outperforming Individuals

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Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences
Multiple Intelligences
Multiple Intelligences

The idea of Multiple Intelligences is the brainchild of Harvard Professor, Howard Gardner. As big ideas go, they don’t get bigger and simpler than this one.

Big, because the idea of Multiple Intelligences addresses something fundamental in all of us. It’s about our different capacities to excel in the full variety of human endeavours. It has a lot to say about how we should value the people around us, and the best way to educate our children.

Yet it is also disarmingly simple. There’s no single measure of intelligence. And neither should we reserve the label ‘intelligent’ for a narrow band of people who are simply intelligent in one of a small number of ways. Human potential expresses itself in a vast variety of forms. And so does our intelligence.

Continue reading Multiple Intelligences

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Charles Margerison & Dick McCann: Team Management

Charles Margerison and Dick McCann developed one of the leading tools to help managers with team performance.

When you want your team to perform well, there are two approaches you can take:

  1. Manage them well
  2. Select them for a good balance

There are tools available for each, though there are fewer to help with selecting a balanced team. Of those there are, without a doubt, Meredith Belbin‘s Team Roles is the best known by far.

But it is not the only game in town. You might choose it for its simplicity. But for sophistication, let’s look at the work of Charles Margerison and Dick McCann.

Charles Margerison and Dick McCann
Charles Margerison and Dick McCann

Charles Margerison

Charles Margerison grew up in the 1940s in the UK. He studied economics at the University of London School of Economics, securing a BSc. He remained to research a PhD in educational psychology. In 1967, he moved to Bradford University, and in 1971 was awarded his second PhD, in social science.

Some time after this, he moved to Australia, and joined the staff of University of Queensland. He was Professor of Management from 1982 to 1989.

From 1982, he worked with Dick McCann to research team management. And, in 1985, they co-founded Team Management Systems. He remains a part of the business, as well as being a director and President of Amazing People Worldwide.

Charles Margerison has written many books, including one with Dick McCann.

Dick McCann

Dick McCann also grew up in the 1940s, but in Australia. From 1961-5, he studied for a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, at the University of Queensland. He followed this with a PhD. In 1969, he moved to England, to work for BP Chemicals. There, he worked as a research engineer, and also trained as a certified accountant.

In 1974, he returned to Australia, to become a research fellow at the University of Sydney. In 1982, he started his collaboration with Charles Margerison.

In 1985, Dick McCann became the Managing Director of Team Management Systems in Australia. At the same time, his co-founder focused on European and US expansion.

Dick McCann stepped down from his director role in 2015, but remains involved in research. He is author of four books. They include Team Management: Practical New Approaches, which he co-wrote with Margerison.

Margerison and McCann’s Contribution

Margerison and McCann have developed a fair number of interconnecting models. There is too much to attempt to describe them here. They include work on:

  • Workplace values
  • Influencing skills
  • Opportunities and Obstacles

We’ll focus on their most widely used model, the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel. But before we can get to it, we must first understand the work that underpins it: the Margerison-McCann Types of Work Wheel.

Types of Work

Margerison and McCann interviewed with over 300 managers. They wanted to find what made a difference between good and poor performance.

When they assessed the team members’ activities, their data fell into eight work functions. They describe them as:

Advising
Gathering and reporting information

Innovating
Creating and experimenting with ideas

Promoting
Exploring and presenting opportunities

Developing
Assessing and testing the applicability of new approaches

Organising
Establishing and implementing ways of making things work

Producing
Concluding and delivering outputs

Inspecting
Controlling and auditing the working of systems

Maintaining
Upholding and safeguarding standards and processes

From their work, they suggest that different jobs have different critical functions. These need people with the right skills and competencies, to perform them well.

Margerison and McCann present these types of work in a trade-marked Types of Work Wheel, which we present here with a link back to the TMS website.

Margerison-McCann Types of Work Wheel
Margerison-McCann Types of Work Wheel http://www.tmsdi.com

Critical Work Functions

Let’s compare two examples that they offer. For each, they give three ‘critical work functions’. These make the difference between good and poor job performance.

Finance and Accounting
The critical work work functions are: Organizing, Producing and Inspecting.

Design/R&D jobs
The critical work functions are Advising, Innovating and Developing.

Team Management

From here, it isn’t hard to see how Margerison and McCann relate their work functions to individuals’ work preferences.

This creates their concept of ‘role preferences’. These are the roles in a team that people are most likely to enjoy. When people’s critical work functions match their work preferences, they are likely to:

  • be happier in their job
  • perform better

Team Role Preferences

The role preferences are:

Reporter-Adviser
Supportive. Enjoys collecting and sharing information. Knowledgeable and flexible.

Creator-Innovator
Imaginative, creative, and able to embrace complexity and uncertainty. Enjoys researching new ideas.

Explorer-Promoter
Enjoys exploring possibilities, looking for new opportunities, and then selling them to colleagues. Persuasive, fast thinking, and easily bored.

Assessor-Developer
Analytical and objective. Enjoys ideas, developing and testing new opportunities, and making them work.

Thruster-Organizer
Highly results-focused, Likes to set up systems, push forward and see results. Analytical, but quick to make decisions.

Concluder-Producer
Highly practical. Enjoys systematic planning and work processes. Takes pride in efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of outputs.

Controller-Inspector
Enjoys focusing on and controlling the detailed aspects of their work. Good at checking and enforcing standards, but less skilled with informal influencing.

Upholder-Maintainer
Likes to uphold standards and values. Can be conservative in the face of change, but has a strong sense of purpose.

How Margerison and McCan Identified their Role Preferences

Margerison and McCann worked with four measures related to how people approached work. They were strongly influenced in the choices by Carl Jung’s psychological types. So you’ll see a strong relationship to the work of Isabel Briggs-Myers and Katharine Briggs.

Margerison and McCann’s measures are:

  • How people prefer to relate with others
  • How people prefer to gather and use information
  • How people prefer to make decisions
  • How people prefer to organize themselves and others

These measures lead to RIDO scales (Relationships, Information, Decisions, Organization). And the scales showed a strong relationship to the Types of Work.

Like the Types of Work Wheel, they present their team role preferences as a Team Management Wheel. Again, we present this trademarked model with a link to the TMS website.

Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel
Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel – http://www.tmsdi.com

The Linker Role

At the centre of the wheel is the ‘Linker’ role. Every jobholder needs this role to be successful in their job. It involves integrating and co-ordinating other people’s work. This is both within the team, and with external players.

This role is particularly important for the team leader, as you’d expect.

Linking comprises thirteen skills:

  • six people skills
  • five task skills
  • for the team leader, two leadership skills

These, however, are the subject of a whole other model, the Linking Leader Model.

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Isabel Briggs-Myers & Katharine Briggs: Type Indicator (MBTI)

Psychologists and, before them, philosophers have spent centuries trying to divide us into types. Whilst their attempts have had somewhat less of the hocus-pocus and downright prejudice to them than the racial typographies of some early ethnographers, many systems have advanced little beyond Hippocrates’ theory of four temperaments based on the bodily humours.

Rigour in Personality Testing

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that scientists had the statistical tools to analyse and understand personality with any rigour. Even so, the strongest, most widely used personality classification system – the so-called ‘Big Five’ Personality Factors – is still a matter of much research and debate as we reach approach the third decade of the twenty first century.

So perhaps the biggest change that the twentieth century wrought was not in reliability, but in accessibility and application. Personality assessment tools became widely popular and, through the second half of that century, widely used in workplaces to support selection, group development, team-building, personal development, marital counselling, and a range of other uses. Not all of the uses have been endorsed by the developers of these tools. And not all tools are widely supported by the more rigorously trained academic community of psychology.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

And so we come to Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers. Their tool, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is very widely used. Every day, trainers and development professionals introduce it to new cohorts of staff and managers. These employees often take full self-evaluation questionnaire and are then told what this means about them and their colleagues.

The moments of insight are a joy to watch. The MBTI certainly seems to capture something of our personality, and explain something of our behaviours. But does it? This remarkably resilient and successful tool started through nothing less than a mother’s desire to understand her daughter’s choice of husband. What mother can’t empathise with that?

Katherine Briggs & Isabel Briggs-Myers
Katherine Briggs & Isabel Briggs-Myers

Katherine Cook Briggs

Katherine Cook was born in Michigan, in 1875 and was home schooled. Her father was an academic. She went to college to study agriculture and stayed on as a teacher and academic. She married prominent physicist and administrator, Lyman Briggs.

As her daughter grew up, Briggs became interested in children’s educational and social development. This led her to create a vocation test for children, which she thought could guide a child’s future well-being. This thinking focused on four personality types: meditative, spontaneous, executive, and sociable. These are still present among the wider set of 16 MBTI types.

Her quest was to find one unifying theory, and she considered ideas from many philosophers, scientists, and psychologists. Her own big breakthrough was when she discovered the work of Carl Jung. He advocated for four principal psychological functions by which we experience the world: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking. This, along with our orientations to extroversion or introversion, give us the Jungian Personality Types, which Briggs and her daughter developed into their own type indicator model.

Isabel Briggs-Myers

Isabel Briggs was born in 1897, and was home schooled by her mother. Following her mother’s discovery of Jung’s work, Briggs-Myers (now married) became interested in the work too, focusing on how character and personality influence the type of work we might thrive in. Together, they developed their framework and the questionnaire that goes with it. They began a long program of observation and discussion, refining their interpretation of Jung’s work.

During World War II, Briggs Myers wanted to help reduce conflict among people, but more pragmatically also to understand why some people hated their jobs in the military and others thrived.

It wasn’t until 1945 that they did some solid empirical research. With the help of Lyman Briggs, they ran their first MBTI assessment on around 5,500 George Washington Medical School students.   Briggs Myers studied the results for years, searching for patterns among dropouts and successful students.

The Outcome of the Work

Briggs was the primary driving force and inspiration behind the creation of the MBTI from Jung’s original work. Briggs-Myers created the physical test itself, and did the work on validation and interpretation.

The result was one of the best-known and widely used personality tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Wikipedia reports that an estimated 50 million people have taken the MBTI. Whilst it is not widely endorsed by the academic community, and is based on largely desk-research and theorisation, rather than empirical trials, the MBTI remans popular. This is doubtless due to the ease of superficial understanding.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – MBTI

The MBTI classifies personality types along four pairs of categories. Briggs-Myers and Briggs claimed that we all fit into one of the 16 possible combinations of personality type, and that we have a dominant preference in each pair.

MBTI - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - 16 Types
MBTI – Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – 16 Types

The Type Indicator is a test  to assess which personality type offers the ‘best fit’ with the assertion that knowing your personality type that will help you succeed in life. The three original pairs of preferences from Jung’s typology (Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling) are supplemented by a fourth pair (Judging and Perceiving), added by Briggs-Myers.

This is a phenomenally rich model and there are many excellent resources online. So here, we’ll only attempt a very superficial outline of the types.

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
This axis refers to where where we get our energy from, and where we direct our attention. This can be  on people and things in the outer world; extraversion. Or it can be on ourselves and our inner world; introversion.

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
This axis refers to how we like to deal with information. People with a Sensing preference tend to focus on the basic information, whilst the Intuiting type prefers to interpret the information, and add meaning.

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
This axis refers to how we like to make decisions. Thinkers like to make objective decisions, using logic and rationality. The feeling style is more subjective, considering special circumstances, and how people feel.

Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
This axis refers to how we like to dealt with experiences and circumstances. The judging style prefers to make a choice, and stick with it. The Perceiver likes to stay open to new information and options, and respond flexibly.

Assessment of the MBTI

The MBTI correlates poorly with more robustly researched psychological traits or types models, like the Big Five Personality factors. So why do so many people readily endorse their MBTI type? The answer, I think, lies in a combination of two factors.

Firstly, while not a strong correlation with rigorous typographies, it is derived from extensive observation and the factors that make up the MBTI undeniably exist – regardless of whether they are truly the ‘right’ fundamental elements of personality.

And secondly, we have our old friend, the Forer Effect. This is the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements are highly general and could apply to many people. If this sounds worrying, it is. The Forer Effect (sometimes known as the Barnum Effect (after showman and huckster PT Barnum) is also the basis of much mentalism and fraudulent cold reading.

The MBTI definitely has value as a personal and executive development tool. But if the trainers and specialists who deploy it do not make its limitations clear, they are doing your organisation a disservice.

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Hirotaka Takeuchi & Ikujiro Nonaka: Scrum Development

Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka have featured in an earlier Pocketblog, which was focused on Nonaka and the work  he led on how knowledge can transform organisations.

Arguably, it is how Nonaka and Takeuchi took some of their thinking forward that has led to a far bigger transformation. In 1985, they co-wrote an article for the January 1986 edition of Harvard Business Review. Called ‘The New New Product Development Game’, this article was instrumental in revolutionising the discipline of Project Management.

Takeuchi and Nonaka gave us a new way of thinking about how to develop products and deliver projects. And they coined an evocative sporting metaphor for their process, which has stuck: Scrum.

Hirotaka Takeuchi & Ikujiro Nonaka
Hirotaka Takeuchi & Ikujiro Nonaka

Ikujiro Nonaka

Born in 1935, Ikujiro Nonaka gained a BS in political science at Waseda University, then started work at Fuji Electric, where he created their management programme. Nonaka left Fuji in 1967, to study at the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded his MBA in 1968, and his PhD in Business Administration, in 1972. He took posts at US universities, before returning to Japan, as a professor at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University.

Hirotaka Takeushi

Born in 1946, Hirotaka Takeuchi got his BA from the International Christian University, Tokyo. After a short spell working at McCann-Erickson, he went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he got his MBA in 1971, and his PhD in 1977. During his time at Berkeley, he also worked summers for McKinsey & Company in Tokyo and, more important, met Nonaka.

Takeushi took a lectureship at Harvard in 1976 until 1983, when he joined Hitotsubashi University School of Commerce, where he became a full professor and Dean of the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy. He stayed until 2010, when he returned to Harvard, as Professor of Management Practice, where he is now.

The New New Product Development Game.

In January 1986, Harvard Business Review published ‘The New New Product Development Game‘ by Takeuchi and Nonaka. This was about a new way to do New Product Development, or NPD. They drew on the idea of ‘ba’ – a Japanese coinage of Nonaka’s, meaning a meeting place for minds and the energy that draws out knowledge and creates new ideas.

They also took a look at the Toyota idea of teams coming together to solve problems. They introduced a sporting metaphor from the game of Rugby; that of the scrum. They used scrum to denote the way teams work together intensively when the ball goes out of play. In a work environment that demands creativity and innovative problem solving, this is just what is needed.

They followed this article up with a 1995 book, ‘The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation‘. This looks at the way Japan became a major economic power, especially in the automotive and electronics industries. they argue that Japanese firms are successful because they create new knowledge to produce successful products and technologies.

Scrum Teams

The model they created for Scrum Teams is of a cross functional group that can work autonomously to resolve its own problems. Their organisation is ’emergent’ meaning there is no assigned leadership or structure; it just emerges from the effective collaboration of its members.

To work best, a Scrum Team needs to be co-located, and work together full-time. This allows a high level of cross-fertilisation of ideas, and a dedication to working on their shared problems, tasks, and initiatives.

Scrum as an Agile Project Management Methodology

Agile project management seeks to avoid the all-or-nothing approach to projects that used to characterise traditional approaches – especially when done in a way that slavishly follows a set of ‘rules’. Although good project managers have always incorporated a lot of plan-do-review (the Deming Cycle), the growth of software development projects demanded an increase focus on agility and incrementalism.

This was the basis of the Agile movement and today the single most widely used Agile methodology takes its name and guiding principles from Takeuchi and Nonaka’s metaphor: Scrum.

In Scrum projects, a Product Owner is responsible for detailing the business requirements and ensuring that the business gets a good return on its product development investment (RoI). The Scrum Team, led by a Scrum Master, selects one subset of functionality from a product backlog of undeveloped functions, divides it into tasks, and works intensively on developing the outputs for a fixed time, known as a Sprint, which is usually 30 days.

Each day, the team gets together for a daily Scrum Meeting to share learning, report progress, discuss challenges, and solve problems. At the end of the sprint, the team should produce a working product that is stable and useful. After a reflection and learning process, the team then works with the product owner to define the subset of functionality it will work on in the next sprint.

The team continues like this until the Product Owner concludes that the next sprint would not create enough additional value to justify the incremental cost.

The Scrum Project Management Lifecycle
The Scrum Project Management Lifecycle

 

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Karol Adamiecki: Management Harmony

We tend to think of leading management theorists as coming from the United States. This seems especially so of Scientific Management. But when the privilege of naming things for the world’s largest audience goes to those who write in English, history creates a bias. And because that audience largely reads only one language, that bias gets amplified.

One of many losers from the Anglo-centric nature of management and business thinking was Karol Adamiecki. He was a Polish engineer, turned economist and management thinker, who can claim to have invented the Gantt Chart before Henry Gantt, PERT before the US Navy, the Theory of Constraints before Eliyahu Goldratt, and much of Scientific Management before FW Taylor.

Karol Adamiecki 1866-1933
Karol Adamiecki 1866-1933

Short Biography

Karol Adamiecki was born in southern Poland, in 1866. He studied engineering at the Institute of Technology in St Petersburg, graduating in 1891. He then returned to his home town, where he took charge of a steel mill. He stayed for nearly 30 years, during which time, he formed his ideas about management.

In 1919, he left the mill, and became a lecturer at the Warsaw Polytechnic, becoming a professor in 1922. There, he further codified and published his ideas. In 1925, he founded the Institute of Scientific Management in Warsaw, becoming its Director and remaining until his death in 1933.

Adamiecki’s  Law of Harmony in Management

While running the steel rolling mill, Karol Adamiecki developed sophisticated thinking around management that was, from our perspective, ahead of its time. The three principal components were:

  1. Harmony of Choice
    Management should select and supply production tools that are mutually compatible. He went on to argue that this should be especially so in terms of their output production speed. This anticipated the Theory of Constraints, and the ideas of Eliyahu Goldratt by 75 years or more.
  2. Harmony of Doing
    Sequencing and scheduling of activities need to be fully co-ordinated to optimise production efficiency. Here, he not only developed a tool that looks very similar to the Gantt Chart, well before Gantt published. His approach also anticipated the US Navy’s Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and du Pont’s Critical Path Method (CPM) by over 50 years.
  3. Harmony of Spirit
    I imagine the Pharaohs’ overseers were constantly emphasising the importance of creating a good team. But this is another theme that feels very modern – perhaps even more so than the other two. Let’s not forget that Taylor’s view of Scientific Management was mechanistic and process-oriented. It took Mayo to bring humanism to the fore, and ideas of team working in management only started to dominate from the 1970s.

Adamiecki started to publish in 1898, several years before Taylor did so.

Harmony of Doing:
The Harmonograph or Harmonogram (or Harmonograf)

In 1896, Adamiecki solved the problem of sequencing and scheduling in production and published, in1903, his solution. He called it a Harmonograf. And it looks very much like what we now call a Gantt Chart. However, Henry Gantt did not publish until 1910. There is no evidence to suggest Gantt copied Adamiecki’s idea.

In constructing the Harmonograf, however, Adamiecki describes a process that is pretty similar to the PERT and CPM methods. He certainly is able to include critical path and float. These are two concepts Gantt did not consider at all.

As Adamiecki described his methods, he was able to optimise production schedules by sliding paper tabs and arranging paper strips. In a very real sense, he developed an analog scheduling computer.

Assessment

Without a doubt, Adamiecki’s thinking was of its time, but way ahead of its rediscovery. He possibly failed to realise just how valuable it was. But more likely, he simply suffered from an Anglophone bias in scholarship and manufacturing. Publishing in Polish simply did not get him recognition far beyond the borders of his home country. Even now, it is only in the Karol Adamiecki University of Economics in Katowice, that his name is celebrated.

And I have to ask, could this happen again? Yes. I think it can, will and probably is happening now. Last week, we met Vlatka Hlupic. Arguably, her work is known despite her Croatian origin, because she lives and works in London. With the US and the UK increasingly looking to close their borders for differing but related reasons, the next Karol Adamiecki’s work could well lay undiscovered for just as long as that of the first.

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Amy Edmondson: Teaming

Amy Edmondson is an Engineer turned Management and Leadership Professor, who has made a special study of how to create effective collaboration among small, disparate groups in informal circumstances. This, she believes, is the key to organisational success in a world where innovation is critical.

Amy Edmondson
Amy Edmondson

Very Short Biography

Amy Edmondson grew up in New York, and studied Visual and Environmental Studies and Engineering at Harvard University, graduating in 1981. For a short while, she was Chief Engineer at the Buckminster Fuller Institute. After she left, she published a book, ‘A Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller’ about Fuller’s ideas.

She then moved to the Pecos River Learning Centers, where she became Director of Research, until starting a PhD in Organisational Behaviour at Harvard in 1991. When she completed it, she joined the staff of Harvard Business School, where she is currently the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management.

Failure

For many people, Amy Edmondson came to notice with her 2011 Harvard Business Review article ‘Strategies for Learning from Failure‘. In this, she argues the case for ‘intelligent failures’ setting out a neat model of how failure spans a spectrum from blameworthy to praiseworthy.

Reasons for Failure - Amy Edmondson
Reasons for Failure – Amy Edmondson

The abilities to face up to failure, discuss it candidly, and be curious about it lead nicely into the work for which Edmondson is best known…

Teaming

Edmondson distinguishes the concept of ‘Teaming’ from the more familiar idea of teamwork. Teaming is about bringing together a diverse group and rapidly creating the conditions for close collaboration. It bears a close relationship with the idea of Swift Trust, which we discussed in an earlier Pocketblog.

However, whilst swift trust focuses on creating a solid basis for long-term collaboration quickly, Edmondson is more interested in short-term, informal collaboration. For this to happen, she identifies ‘three pillars’.

  1. Curiosity – to learn from the people around you
  2. Passion – so that you care enough to work your hardest
  3. Empathy – so you can see things from other people’s points of view

The role of leadership becomes one of role modelling these three behaviours. You must be driven to achieve the goal, enquire deeply into the situation, and tune into the needs and emotions of the people around you.

Edmondson’s book, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy is very highly regarded and features a foreword by Edgar Schein.

An important concept that Edmondson introduces in her work on teaming is…

Psychological Safety

Teaming works – and teams work – when participants collectively feel that members can take risks together safely. They can share feelings and disclose actions without fear of recrimination. This creates a climate of openness, which Edmondson calls ‘Psychological Safety’. Again, the leader needs to model appropriate behaviours, acknowledging your own fallibility, and being curious and empathic.

Crucially, when you achieve psychological safety for your team, work becomes a problem of learning, rather than of executing actions. In this, Edmondson’s work complements Schein’s exceptionally well.

Edmondson in her own Words

There are a number of excellent videos available. In this 12 minute TEDx video, Edmondson is talking about Psychological Safety.

And you can see Edmondson talking about Teaming here.

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