Groups involve a tension between its corporate aims and gaining the best out of individual efforts. The group as an entity, however, can lead to tensions which it must resolve. This group involved people who partially knew each other and, being self-selecting, allowed us to get to know each other better through a task that had corporate and individual elements.
Tuckman's five stages of group development is useful (The Center for Service and Leadership, nd). Thus the forming stage was smoother than might have been and involved less in the way of a slow lead-in to tasks. Despite initial anxiety it allowed for some initial confidence based on a limited knowledge of each other. We still had to become oriented. However, in education, such as in Physical Education, self-selection carries the danger of being the one picked the last among peers. As a result the storming stage was reasonably sedate and business-like and therefore moved quickly to the Norming stage of cohesion and shared leadership, assisted by regular contact between members using Information Communication Technology. As regards the next stage of performing, this was, in literal terms of actually performing, delegated out for stylistic cohesion and consistency, so some were more in the background than others. In the dynamic, everyone felt able to contribute. The final stage, adjourning, was inevitably incomplete because the relationships continued on the course.
Meredith Belbin's Team Role Theory about effective group working from internal relationships is useful regarding who did what according to their traits - a team member's characteristic behaviour when interacting and serving the group as a whole (see Cartwright et al., 113). These are the towards introverts of Co-ordinator (CO: people oriented team goals based leader, but not creative), Shaper (SH: highly motivated energetic person moulding others to the task but can provoke) and Plant (PL: big ideas intelligent specialists, weak communicator), and the towards extroverts of Resource investigator (RI: explorer and developer of others' ideas through contacts, if easily bored with time), Implementer (IMP: tolerant, realistic and low anxiety assisting task oriented person, but inflexible), Team worker (TW: people oriented diplomat encouraging helpful interventions, but indecisive), Completer finisher (CF: quiet steady detailed person meeting specifications, but worries and does not delegate), Monitor evaluator (ME: shrewd and rational thinker and able to make decisions, does not inspire others) and Specialist (SP: individualist dedicated provider of rare skills, a profession person over an organisation person but narrow contributions). (Cartwright et al., 1993; Banffshire Partnership, nd; Chapman, 2005), Although there are nine types, not all need to be present for the formation of an effective team - so long as there is counterbalance. This team's roles were assigned from the criteria and individual team members picked specific areas that they felt they were best suited to undertake, with the general consensus of the rest of the team.
Belbin's roles are typologies, derived from research but idealised (as by Max Weber). Individuals may have characteristics of one or more type. Arguably this group consisted of six: Co-ordinator, Monitor evaluator, Specialist, Implementer, Resource Investigator and Completer finisher. Everyone was something of an Implementer because we were all showing a practical and disciplined approach to attendance and carrying out the tasks up with communication to the deadline. As in the model we reduced anxiety feelings.
To some extent we were all Specialists, bringing in our own lifelong learning knowledge, as revised. In my case this involved particular knowledge of the Russian education system evolved from the Soviet Union, and comparison with Britain, and added the decision making process of the European Union. It went into the group pot and became part of its output.
A practitioner of Basic Skills also made a key content based input. College implementation was another content input, this time from two members. As well as such individual specialist tasks, a number of people took on additional organising, collating and summarising tasks. We had a good organiser and facilitator as Chair of the group. The evaluation role also showed a combination of individual effort and co-ordination, and a number of us were effectively Monitor evaluators. The 3000 word tasks of individuals were sent around the group members for reading and commentary, which was an exchange of knowledge, assisting co-ordination. In this way we were all Implementers to some extent.
A half hour presentation to the whole group was needed. To be indeed practical it was decided that only three of the group would do the presenting. It meant going from the storming to norming stage, and meant smooth running co-ordination meeting the time limit. Each member provided the speakers with a short outline for the three thousand word final report. Each outline was accompanied with relevant Power Point slides. Another feature from this limited speakers approach was developing a house style so that the presentation did not appear disjointed. The presentation also used a specialist person to be in control of the actual ICT hardware and software, with overhead transparencies in case of emergency.
An implementor put everybody´s work into the finished document in the required format. Leading up to this was a team activity at the Norming into Performing stages, due to the use of interdependent ICT to gain group agreement on the content and for clarification as well as sending to the implementing collator. ICT also allowed the exchanging of the minutes taken by the same member from regularly attended meetings.
The Banffshire Partnership Ltd. (nd), Belbin's Team Role Theory. Retrieved April 04 2006 from http://www.srds.co.uk/cedtraining/handouts/hand40.htm, adapted from West, M. (1994), Effective Teamwork, The British Psychology Society.
Cartwright, R., Collins, M., Green, G., Candy, A. (1993). Managing People: A Competence Approach to Supervisory Management. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 113-117.
The Center for Service and Leadership (nd), Leadership Tips: Five Stages of Group Development; Virginia: George Mason University. Retrieved April 03 2006 from http://www.gmu.edu/student/csl/5stages.html, adapted from Tuckman, B. (1965). 'Developmental Sequence in Small Groups'. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399, and Tuckman, B. & Jensen, M. (1977) 'Stages of Small Group Development'. Group and Organizational Studies, 2, 419-427.
Chapman, A. (2005), 'Belbin Team Roles', Personality Theories, Types and Tests; Businessballs.com. Retrieved April 03 2006 from http://www.businessballs.com/personalitystylesmodels.htm#belbin%20team%20roles%20descriptions .
Coser, Lewis A. (1977), Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 223-224, quoted in Ridener, L. R. (1999), 'Weber - The Work - The Ideal Type, Dead Sociologists Society; Department of Sociology: Radford. Retrieved April 03 2006 from: http://www2.pfeiffer.edu/~lridener/DSS/Weber/WEBERW3.HTML.