Team change


This chapter will look at teams, team development and change from a number of perspectives and will be asking a number of pertinent questions:

  • What is a group and when is it a team?
  • Why do you need teams?
  • What types of organizational teams are there?
  • How do you improve team effectiveness?
  • What does team change look like?
  • What are the leadership issues in team change?
  • How do individuals affect team dynamics?
  • How well do teams initiate and adapt to organizational change?

The chapter aims to enhance understanding of the nature of teams and how they develop, identify how teams perform in change situations, and develop strategies for managing teams through change and change through teams.

We open with a discussion around what constitutes a group and what constitutes a team. We will also look at the phenomena of different types of teams: for example, virtual teams, self-organizing teams and project teams.

Models of team functioning, change and development will be explored. We look at the various components of team working, and at how teams develop and how different types of people combine to make a really effective (or not) team.

We take as our basic model Tuckman’s model of team development to illustrate how teams change over time. This is the forming, storming, norming and performing model. But we will add to it by differentiating between the task aspects of team development and the people aspects of team development.

Finally we look at the way in which teams can impact or react to organizational change.


There has been much academic discussion as to what constitutes a team and what constitutes a group. In much of the literature the two terms are used indistinguishably. Yet there are crucial differences, and anyone working in an organization instinctively knows when he or she is in a team and when he or she is in a group. We will attempt to clarify the essential similarities and differences. This is important when looking at change because teams and groups experience change in different ways.

Schein and Bennis (1965) suggest that a group is ‘any number of people who interact with each other, are psychologically aware of each other, and who perceive themselves to be a group’. Morgan et al (1986) suggest that ‘a team is a distinguishable set of two or more individuals who interact interdependently and adaptively to achieve specified, shared, and valued objectives’. Sundstrom, de Meuse and Futrell (1990) define the work team as ‘A small group of individuals who share responsibility for outcomes for their organizations’.

Cohen and Bailey (1997) define a team as ‘a collection of individuals who are interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for outcomes, who see themselves and who are seen by others as an intact social entity embedded in one or more larger social systems (for example, business unit or the corporation), and who manage their relationships across organizational boundaries’.

Our own list of differentiators appears in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1: Differences between groups and teams


Team or work group

Indeterminate size

Restricted in size

Common interests

Common overarching objectives

Sense of being part of something or seen as being part of something

Interaction between members to accomplish individual and group goals

Interdependent as much as individuals might wish to be

Interdependency between members to accomplish individual and group goals

May have no responsibilities other than a sense of belonging to the group

Shared responsibilities

May have no accountabilities other than ‘contractual’ ones

Individual accountabilities

A group does not necessarily have any work to do or goals to accomplish

The team works together, physically or virtually

A group is a collection of individuals who draw a boundary around themselves. Or perhaps we from the outside might draw a boundary around them and thus define them as a group. A team on the other hand, with its common purpose, is generally tighter and clearer about what it is and what its raison d’tre is. Its members know exactly who is involved and what their goal is. Of course it turns out that we are speaking hypothetically here, as any one of us has seen teams within organizations that appear to have no sense at all of what they are really about!

Let us illustrate the difference between a team and a group by using an example. We might look into an organization and see the Finance Department. The Finance Controller heads up a Finance Management Team that leads, manages and coordinates the activities within this area. The team members work together on common goals, meet regularly and have clearly defined roles and responsibilities (usually).

Perhaps the senior management team has decreed that all the high potential managers in the organization shall be members of the Strategic Management Group. So the Finance Controller, who is on the high potential list, gets together with others at his or her level to form a collection of individuals who contribute to the overall strategic direction of the organization. Apart from gatherings every six months, this group rarely meets or communicates. It is a grouping, which might be bounded but does not have any ongoing goals or objectives that require members to work together.



Within your working life, what teams are you a member of and to which groups do you belong?



Within your personal life, what teams are you a member of and to which groups do you belong?



In what ways was it easier to answer in your personal life, and in what ways more difficult?


Why do we need teams and team working? Casey (1993) from Ashridge Management College researched this question by asking a simple question of each team he worked with: ‘Why should you work together as a team?’ The simplest answer is, ‘Because of the work we need to accomplish.’ Team work may be needed because there is a high volume of interconnected pieces of work, or because the work is too complex to be understood and worked on by one person.

What about managers? Do they need to operate as teams, or can they operate effectively as groups? The Ashridge-based writers say that a management team does not necessarily have to be fully integrated as a team all of the time. Nor should it be reduced to a mere collection of individuals going about their own individual functional tasks.

Casey believes that there is a clear link between the level of uncertainty of the task being handled and the level of team work needed. The greater the uncertainty is, the greater the need for team work. The majority of management teams deal with both uncertain and certain tasks, so need to be flexible about the levels of team working required. Decisions about health and safety, HR policy, reporting processes and recruitment are relatively certain, so can be handled fairly quickly without a need for much sharing of points of view. There is usually a right answer to these issues, whereas decisions about strategy, structure and culture are less certain. There is no right answer, and each course of action involves taking a risk. This means more team working, more sharing of points of view, and a real understanding of what is being agreed and what the implications are for the team.


Robert Keidal identified a parallel between sports teams and organizational teams. He uses baseball, American football and basketball teams to show the differences.

A baseball team is like a sales organization. Team members are relatively independent of one another, and while all members are required to be on the field together, they virtually never interact together all at the same time.

Football is quite different. There are really three subteams within the total team: offense, defense, and the special team. When the subteam is on the field, every player is involved in every play, which is not the case in baseball. But the team work is centred in the subteam, not the total team.

Basketball is a different breed. Here the team is small, with all players in only one team. Every player is involved in all aspects of the game, offense and defense, and all must pass, run, shoot. When a substitute comes in, all must play with the new person.

Source: Adapted from Keidal (1984)

Many different types of team exist within organizations. Let us look at a range of types of team found in today’s organizations (see Table 2.2).

Table 2.2: Types of team










Stable or one-off project

Focused on project achievement






Time limited


Organizational links

Can be part of the formal and/ or informal organization

Part of management structure

Outside of normal management structure

Separate management structure


Led by

Dependent on nature and purpose of group

One manager or supervisor

Normally coordinated or facilitated

Project manager





Converge for meetings

Colocated, dispersed, virtual




Business as usual

Maintenance function or part of change infra-structure

Change or development



Dependent on nature and purpose of group

Through the line


Via project manager and project sponsor















Stable as a structure but fluid by project

Potential fluid

Potential fluid









Organizational links

Part of management structure Dual accountability

Can be part of the management structure

More distributed across the organization

Part of management structure


Led by

Project manager and functional head

One manager or supervisor

Potentially distributed leadership or coordination

One manager

Sponsor or change manager


Colocated, dispersed, virtual



Often colocated

Colocated, dispersed, virtual


Project achievement

BAU or Project

Change or development

Business as usual Change and development

Change and development


Dual accountability

Through the line or project manager


Through the line

Via project manager and project sponsor





Task and communication

Task and communication

Work team

Work teams or work groups are typically the type of team that most people within organizations will think of when we talk about teams. They are usually part of the normal hierarchical structure of an organization. This means that one person manages a group of individuals. That person is responsible for delivering a particular product or service either to the customer or to another part of the organization.

These teams tend to be relatively stable in terms of team objectives, processes and personnel. Their agenda is normally focused on maintenance and management of what is. This is a combination of existing processes and operational strategy. Any change agenda that they have is usually on top of their existing agenda of meeting the current operating plan.

Self managed team

A sub-set of the work team is the self-managed team. The self-managed team has the attributes of the work team but without a direct manager or supervisor. This affects the way decisions are made and the way in which individual and team performance is managed. Generally this is through collective or distributed leadership.

Self-managed work teams are more prevalent in manufacturing industries rather than the service arena. Once again there is an emphasis on delivery of service or product rather than delivering change.

Parallel team

Parallel teams are different from work teams because they are not part of the traditional management hierarchy. They are run in tandem or parallel to this structure. Examples of parallel teams are:

  • teams brought together to deliver quality improvement (for example, quality circles, continuous improvement groups);
  • teams that have some problem-solving or decision-making input, other than the normal line management processes (for example, creativity and innovation groups);
  • teams formed to involve and engage employees (for example, staff councils, diagonal slice groups);
  • teams set up for a specific purpose such as a task force looking at an office move.

These teams have variable longevity, and are used for purposes that tend to be other than the normal ‘business as usual’ management. They are often of a consultative nature, carrying limited authority. Although not necessarily responsible or accountable for delivering changes, they often feed into a change management process.

Project team

Project teams are teams that are formed for the specific purpose of completing a project. They therefore are time limited, and we would expect to find clarity of objectives. The project might be focused on an external client or it might be an internal one-off, or cross-cutting project with an internal client group.

Depending on the scale of the project the team might comprise individuals on a full or part-time basis. Typically there is a project manager, selected for his or her specialist or managerial skills, and a project sponsor. Individuals report to the project manager for the duration of the project (although if they work part-time on the project they might also be reporting to a line manager). The project manager reports to the project sponsor, who typically is a senior manager.

We know the project team has been successful when it delivers the specific project on time, to quality and within budget. Brown and Eisenhardt (1995) noted that cross-functional teams, which are teams comprised of individuals from a range of organizational functions, were found to enhance project success.

Project teams are very much associated with implementing change. However, although change may be their very raison d’tre it does not necessarily mean that their members’ ability to handle change is any different from the rest of us. Indeed built into their structure are potential dysfunctionalities:

  • The importance of task achievement often reigns supreme, at the expense of investing time in meeting individual and team maintenance needs.
  • The fact that individuals have increased uncertainty concerning their future can impact on motivation and performance.
  • The dynamic at play between the project team and the organizational area into which the change will take place can be problematic.

Matrix team

Matrix teams generally occur in organizations that are run along project lines. The organization typically has to deliver a number of projects to achieve its objectives. Each project has a project manager, but the project team members are drawn from functional areas of the organization. Often projects are clustered together to form programmes, or indeed whole divisions or business units (for example, aerospace, defence or oil industry projects). Thus the team members have accountability both to the project manager and to their functional head. The balance of power between the projects and the functions varies from organization to organization, and the success of such structures often depends on the degree to which the project teams are enabled by the structure and the degree to which they are disabled.

Virtual team

Increasing globalization and developments in the use of new technologies mean that teams are not necessarily colocated any more. This has been true for many years for sales teams. Virtual teams either never meet or they meet only rarely. Townsend, DeMarie and Hendrickson (1998) defined virtual teams as ‘groups of geographically and/or organizationally dispersed coworkers that are assembled using a combination of telecommunications and information technologies to accomplish an organizational task’. An advantage of virtual teams is that an organization can use the most appropriately skilled people for the task, wherever they are located. In larger companies the probability that the necessary and desired expertise for any sophisticated or complex task is in the same place geographically is low.

Disadvantages spring from the distance between team members. Virtual teams cross time zones, countries, continents and cultures. All these things create their own set of challenges. Current research suggests that synchronous working (being face to face or remote) is more effective in meeting more complex challenges. Team leadership for virtual teams also creates its own issues, with both day-to-day management tasks and developmental interventions being somewhat harder from a distance.

When it comes to change, virtual teams are somewhat paradoxical. Team members can perhaps be more responsive, balancing autonomy and interdependence, and more focused on their part of the team objective. However change creates an increased need for communication, clear goals, defined roles and responsibilities, and support and recognition processes. These things are more difficult to manage in the virtual world.

Networked team

National, international and global organizations can use networked teams in an attempt to add a greater cohesion to their organization, which would not otherwise be there. Additionally they may wish to capture learning in one part of the organization and spread it across the whole organization.

We might have grouped virtual and networked teams under the same category. However we could think of the networked team as being similar to a parallel team, in the sense that its primary purpose is not business as usual, but part of an attempt by the organization to increase sustainability and build capacity through increasing the reservoir of knowledge across the whole organization.

Networked teams are an important anchor for organizations in times of change. They can be seen as part of the glue that gives a sense of cohesion to people within the organization.

Management team

Management teams coordinate and provide direction to the sub-units under their jurisdiction, laterally integrating interdependent sub-units across key business processes.

(Mohrman, Cohen and Mohrman, 1995)

The management team is ultimately responsible for the overall performance of the business unit. In itself it may not deliver any product, service or project, but clearly its function is to enable that delivery. Management teams are pivotal in translating the organization’s overarching goals into specific objectives for the various sub-units to do their share of the organization task.

Management teams are similar to work teams in terms of delivery of current operational plan, but are much more likely to be in a position of designing and delivering change as well. We expect a more senior management team to spend less time on business-as-usual matters and more time on the change agenda.

The senior management team in any organization is the team most likely to be held responsible for the organization’s ultimate success or failure. It is in a pivotal position within the organization. On the one hand it is at the top of the organization, and therefore team members have a collective leadership responsibility. On the other hand it is accountable to the non-executive board and shareholders in limited companies, or to politicians in local and central government, or to trustees in not-for-profit organizations. Along with the change team (see below) the management team has a particular role to play within most change scenarios, for it is its members who initiate and manage the implementation of change.

Change team

Change teams are often formed within organizations when a planned or unplanned change of significant proportions is necessary. We have separated out this type of team because of its special significance. Sometimes the senior management team is called the change team, responsible for directing and sponsoring the changes. Sometimes the change team is a special project team set up to implement change. At other times the change team is a parallel team, set up to tap into the organization and be a conduit for feedback as to how the changes are being received.

Obviously different organizations have different terminologies, so what in one organization is called a project team delivering a change will be a change team delivering a project in another organization.

More and more organizations also realize that the management of change is more likely to succeed if attention is given to the people side of change. Hence a parallel team drawn from representatives of the whole workforce can be a useful adjunct in terms of assessing and responding to the impact of the changes on people.

We see the change team as an important starting point in the change process.



Of the teams of which you are a member, which are more suitable to lead change and which more suitable to implement change? Justify your answer.


Rollin and Christine Glaser (1992) have identified five elements that contribute to the level of a team’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness over time. They are:

  • team mission, planning and goal setting;
  • team roles;
  • team operating processes;
  • team interpersonal relationships; and
  • inter-team relations.

If you can assess where a team is in terms of its ability to address these five elements, you will discover what the team needs to do to develop into a fully functioning team.

Team mission planning and goal setting

A number of studies have found that the most effective teams have a strong sense of their purpose, organize their work around that purpose, and plan and set goals in line with that purpose. Larson and LaFasto (1989) report, ‘in every case, without exception, when an effectively functioning team was identified, it was described by the respondent as having a clear understanding of its objective’.

Clarity of objectives together with a common understanding and agreement of these was seen to be key. In addition Locke and Latham report that the very act of goal setting was a prime motivator for the team; the more your team sets clear goals the more likely it is to succeed. They also reported a 16 per cent average improvement in effectiveness for teams that use goal setting as an integral part of team activities.

Clear goals are even more important when teams are involved in change, partly because unless they know where they are going they are unlikely to get there, and partly because a strong sense of purpose can mitigate some of the more harmful effects of change. The downside occurs when a team rigidly adheres to its purpose when in fact the world has moved on and other objectives are more appropriate.

Team roles

The best way for a team to achieve its goals is for the team to be structured logically around those goals. Individual team members need to have clear roles and accountabilities. They need to have a clear understanding not only of what their individual role is, but also what the roles and accountabilities of other team members are.

When change happens – within, to or by the team – clarity around role has two useful functions. It provides a clear sense of purpose and it provides a supportive framework for task accomplishment. However, during change the situation becomes more fluid. Too much rigidity results in tasks falling down the gaps between roles, or overlaps going unnoticed. It might result in team members being less innovative or proactive or courageous.

Team operating processes

A team needs to have certain enabling processes in place for people to carry out their work together. Certain things need to be in place that will allow the task to be achieved in a way that is as efficient and as effective as possible. Glaser and Glaser (1992) comment, ‘both participation in all of the processes of the work group and the development of a collaborative approach are at the heart of effective group work. Because of the tradition of autocratic leadership, neither participation nor collaboration are natural or automatic processes. Both require some learning and practice.’

Typical areas that a team need actively to address by discussing and agreeing include:

  • frequency, timing and agenda of meetings;
  • problem-solving and decision-making methodologies;
  • groundrules;
  • procedures for dealing with conflict when it occurs;
  • reward mechanisms for individuals contributing to team goals;
  • type and style of review process.

In the turbulence created by change all these areas will come under additional stress and strain, hence the need for processes to have been discussed and agreed at an earlier stage. During times of change when typically pressures and priorities can push people into silo mentality and away from the team, the team operating processes can act like a lubricant, enabling healthy team functioning to continue.

Team interpersonal relationships

The team members must actively communicate among themselves. To achieve clear understanding of goals and roles, the team needs to work together to agree and clarify them. Operating processes must also be discussed and agreed.

To achieve this level of communication, the interpersonal relationships within the team need to be in a relatively healthy state. Glaser and Glaser (1992) found that the literature on team effectiveness ‘prescribes open communication that is assertive and task focused, as well as creating opportunities for giving and receiving feedback aimed at the development of a high trust climate’.

In times of change, individual stress levels rise and there is a tendency to focus more on the task than the people processes. High levels of trust within a team are the bedrock for coping with conflict.

Inter team relations

Teams cannot work in isolation with any real hope of achieving their organizational objectives. The nature of organizations today – complex, sophisticated and with increasing loose and permeable boundaries – creates situations where a team’s goals can rarely be achieved without input from and output to others.

However smart a team has been in addressing the previous four categories, the authors have found in consulting with numerous organizations that attention needs to be paid to inter-team relations now more than ever before. This is because of the rise of strategic partnerships and global organizations. Teams need to connect more. It is also because the environment is changing faster and is more complex, so keeping in touch with information outside of your own team is a basic survival strategy.

Table 2.3: Effective and ineffective teams


Team mission, planning and goal setting

Team roles

Team operating processes

Team interpersonal relationships

Inter-team relations



Team more effective, adaptive and change oriented

Clarity of goals and clear direction lead to greater task accomplishment and increased motivation

Clear roles and responsibilities increase individual accountability and allow others to work at their tasks

Problem solving and decision making are smoother and faster.

Processes enable task accomplishment without undue conflict

Open data flow and high levels of team working leading to task accomplishment in a supportive environment

Working across boundaries ensures that organizational goals are more likely to be achieved

Team less effective, less adaptive and change oriented

Lack of purpose and unclear goals result in dissipation of energy and effort

Unclear roles and responsibilities lead to increased conflict and reduced accountability

Unclear operating processes increase time and effort needed to progress task achievement

Dysfunctional team working causes tensions, conflict, stress and insufficient focus on task accomplishment

Teams working in isolation or against other teams reduce the likelihood of organizational goal achievement



Using the five elements above, what is your current team effectiveness?



What needs to change, and how would you go about it?


All teams go through a change process when they are first formed, and when significant events occur such as a new member arriving, a key member leaving, a change of scope, increased pressure from outside, or a change in organizational climate.

Tuckman (1965) is one of the most widely quoted of researchers into the linear model of team development. His work is regularly used in team building within organizations. Most people will have heard of it as the ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ model of team development. His basic premise is that any team will undergo distinct stages of development as it works or struggles towards effective team functioning. Although we will describe Tuckman’s model in some detail, we have selected a range of models to illustrate the team development process, as indicated in Table 2.4.

Table 2.4: Key attributes in the stages of team development

Tuckman (1965)


Attempt at establishing primary purpose, structure, roles, leader, task and process relationships, and boundaries of the team


Arising and dealing of conflicts surrounding key questions from forming stage


Settling down of team dynamic and stepping into team norms and agreed ways of working


Team is now ready and enabled to focus primarily on its task while attending to individual and team maintenance needs

Schutz (1982)

In or out

Members decide whether they are part of the team or not

Top or bottom

Focus on who has power and authority within the team

Near or far

Finding levels of commitment and engagement within their roles


Modlin and Faris (1956)


Attempt to recreate previous power within new team structures


Attempt to resolve power and interpersonal issues


Roles emerge based on task and people needs

Sense of team emerges


Team purpose and structure emerge and accepted, action towards team goals

Whittaker (1970)


Sense of unease, unsure of team engagement, which is superficial

Power and control

Focus on who has power and authority within the team

Attempt to define roles


Team begins to commit to task and engage with one another


Ability to be clear about individual roles and interactions become workmanlike

Hill and Gruner (1973)


Structure sought


Exploration around team roles and relations


Clarity of team roles and team cohesion


Bion (1961)


Team members invest the leaders with all the power and authority

Fight or flight

Team members challenge the leaders or other members

Team members withdraw


Team members form pairings in an attempt to resolve their anxieties


Scott Peck (1990)


Members try to fake teamliness


Attempt to establish pecking order and team norms


Giving up of expectations, assumptions and hope of achieving anything


Acceptance of each other and focus on the task

Tuckman s model of team change


Forming is the first stage. This involves the team asking a set of fundamental questions:

  • What is our primary purpose?
  • How do we structure ourselves as a team to achieve our purpose?
  • What roles do we each have?
  • Who is the leader?
  • How will we work together?
  • How will we relate together?
  • What are the boundaries of the team?

If we were to take a logical rational view of the team we could imagine that this could all be accomplished relatively easily and relatively painlessly. And sometimes, on short projects with less than five team members, it is. However human beings are not completely logical rational creatures, and sometimes this process is difficult. We all have emotions, personalities, unique characteristics and personal motivations.

As we saw when we were exploring individual change, human beings react to change in different ways. And the formation of a new team is about individuals adjusting to change in their own individual ways.

Initially the questions may be answered in rather a superficial fashion. The primary task of the team might be that which was written down in a memo from the departmental head, along with the structure they first thought of. The leader might typically have been appointed beforehand and ‘imposed’ upon the team. Individuals’ roles are agreed to in an initial and individual cursory meeting with the team leader.

The team may agree to relate via a set of groundrules using words that nobody could possibly object to, but nobody knows what they really mean in practice: ‘be honest’, ‘team before self’, ‘have fun’, and so on.


Tuckman’s next stage is storming. This is a description of the dynamic that occurs when a team of individuals come together to work on a common task, and have passed through the phase of being nice to one another and not voicing their individual concerns. This dynamic occurs as the team strives or struggles to answer fully the questions postulated in the forming stage.

Statements articulated (or left unsaid) in some fashion or form might include ones such as:

  • I don’t think we should be aiming for that.
  • This structure hasn’t taken account of this.
  • There are rather a lot of grey areas in our individual accountabilities.
  • Why was he appointed as team leader when he hasn’t done this before?
  • I don’t know whether I can work productively with these people.
  • How can we achieve our goals without the support from others in the organization?

An alternative word to storming is ‘testing’. Individuals and the team as a whole are testing out the assumptions that had been made when the team was originally formed. Obviously different teams will experience this stage with different degrees of intensity, but important points to note here are:

  • It is a natural part of the process.
  • It is a healthy part of the process.
  • It is an important part of the process.

The storming phase – if successfully traversed – will achieve clarity around all the fundamental questions of the first phase, and enable common understanding of purpose and roles to be achieved. In turn it allows the authority of the team leader to be seen and acknowledged, and it allows everyone to take up their rightful place within the team. It also gives team members a sense of the way things will happen within the team. It becomes a template for future ways of acting, problem solving, decision making and relating.


The third stage of team development occurs when the team finally settles down into working towards achievement of its task without too much attention needed on the fundamental questions. As further challenges develop, or as individuals grow further into their roles, then further scrutiny of the fundamental questions may happen. They may be discussed, but if they instead remain hidden beneath the surface this can result in loss of attention on the primary task.

Tuckman suggests in his review of the research that this settling process can be relatively straightforward and sequential. The team moves through the storming phase into a way of working that establishes team norms. It can also be more sporadic and turbulent, with the team needing further storming before team norms are established. Indeed some readers might have experienced teams that permanently move back and forth between the norming and storming stages – a clear signal that some team issues are not being surfaced and dealt with.


The final stage of team development is performing. The team has successfully traversed the three previous stages and therefore has clarity around its purpose, its structure and its roles. It has engaged in a rigorous process of working out how it should work and relate together, and is comfortable with the team norms it has established. Not only has the team worked these things through, but it has embodied them as a way of working. It has developed a capacity to change and develop, and has learnt how to learn.

The team can quite fruitfully get on with the task in hand and attend to individual and team needs at the same time.



Ralph Stacey, in his book Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics (1993), describes what happens when a group is brought together to study the experience of being in a group, without any further task and without an appointed leader. Known as a Group Relations Conference and run by the Tavistock Institute in London, this process involves a consultant who forms part of the group to offer views on the group process but otherwise takes no conscious part in the activity. This:

always provokes high levels of anxiety in the participants … which … find expression in all manner of strange behaviours. Group discussions take on a manic form with asinine comments and hysterical laughter … the participants attack the visiting consultant … becoming incredibly rude.…

Members try to replace the non-functioning consultant … but they rarely seem to be successful in this endeavour. They begin to pick on an individual, usually some highly individualistic or minority member of the group, and then treat this person as some kind of scapegoat. They all become very concerned with remaining part of the group, greatly fearing exclusion. They show strong tendencies to conform to rapidly established group norms and suppress their individual differences, perhaps they are afraid of becoming the scapegoat … the one thing they hardly do at all is to examine the behaviour they are indulging in, the task they have actually been given.

The situation described in the box offers a way of exploring some of the unconscious group processes that are at work just below the surface. These are not always visible in more conventional team situations. The work of Bion (1961) and Scott Peck (1990) is useful to illuminate the phases that groups go through and highlight the challenges for leaders.

Moving through dependency

In any team formation the first thing people look for is someone to tell them what to do. This is a perfectly natural phenomenon, given that many people will want to get on with the task and many people will believe someone else knows what the task is and how it should be done.

In any unfamiliar situation or environment people can become dependent. Jon Stokes (in Obholzer and Roberts, 1994) describes what Bion observed in his experience with groups and called basic group assumptions:

a group dominated by basic assumption of dependency behaves as if its primary task is solely to provide for the satisfaction of the needs and wishes of its members. The leader is expected to look after, protect and sustain the members of the group, to make them feel good, and not to face them with the demands of the group’s real purpose.

The job of the leader, and indeed the group, is not only to establish leadership credibility and accountability but to establish its limits. This will imbue the rest of the team with sufficient power for them to accomplish their tasks. The leader can do this by modelling the taking of individual responsibility and empowering others to do the same, and by ensuring that people are oriented in the right direction and have a common understanding of team purpose and objectives.

Moving through conflict

Bion’s second assumption is labelled fight or flight. Bion (1961) says:

There is a danger or ‘enemy’, which should either be attacked or fled from … members look to the leader to devise some appropriate action … for instance, instead of considering how best to organize its work, a team may spend most of the time worrying about rumours of organizational change. This provides a sense of togetherness, whilst also serving to avoid facing the difficulties of the work itself. Alternatively, such a group may spend its time protesting angrily, without actually planning any specific action to deal with the perceived threat.

The threat might not necessarily be coming from outside, but instead might be an externalization – or projection – from the team. The real threat is from within, and the potential for conflict is between the leader and the rest of the team, and between team members themselves. Issues around power and authority and where people sit in the ‘pecking order’ may surface at this stage.

The leadership task here is to surface any of these dynamics and work them through, either by the building of trust and the frank, open and honest exchange of views, or by seeking clarity and gaining agreement on roles and responsibilities.

Moving towards creativity

The third assumption that Bion explored was that of pairing. This is:

based on the collective and unconscious belief that, whatever the actual problems and needs of the group, a future event will solve them. The group behaves as if pairing or coupling between two members within the group, or perhaps between the leaders of the group and some external person, will bring about salvation … the group is in fact not interested in working practically towards this future, but only sustaining a vague sense of hope as a way out of its current difficulties … members are inevitably left with a sense of disappointment and failure, which is quickly superseded by a hope that the next meeting will be better.

Once again there is a preoccupation. This time it is about creating something new, but in a fantasized or unreal way, as a defence against doing anything practical or actually performing. The antidote of course is for the leader to encourage the team members to continue in their endeavours and to take personal responsibility for moving things on. Collaborative working requires greater openness of communication and data flow.

Moving through cohesion and cosiness

Turquet (1974) has added a fourth assumption, labelled oneness. This is where the team seems to believe it has come together almost for a higher purpose, or with a higher force, so the members can lose themselves in a sense of complete unity.

There are parallels to the stage of performing, but somehow, once again, the team has fallen into an unconscious detraction from the primary task in hand. Attainment of a sense of oneness, cohesiveness or indeed cosiness is not the purpose the team set out to achieve. Good and close team working is often essential and can be individually satisfying, but it is not the purpose. Too much focus on team cohesion can lead to abdication from the task, and is only a stage on the way to full team working. The goal is interdependent working coexisting with collaborative problem solving. This requires the leader to set the scene and the pace, and team members to act with maturity.

See Chapter 4 for more ideas on leading change.



Imagine that you are one of a team of 5 GPs working at a local practice. You want to initiate some changes in the way the team approaches non-traditional medical approaches such as counselling, homeopathy and osteopathy. The GPs meet monthly for one hour to discuss finances and review medical updates. They do not really know each other well or work together on patient care. There is no real team leader, although the Practice Manager takes the lead when the group discusses administration.

Using one of the models of team development described above, explain how you could lead the team towards a new way of working together. What obstacles to progress do you predict, and how might you deal with them?


Here we use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to see how individual personalities might influence and be influenced by the team. We also use Meredith Belbin’s research into team types to indicate what types of individuals best make up an effective team.

MBTI and teams

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator suggests that if you are a particular type you have particular preferences and are different from other people of different types (see table 1.5 for MBTI types). This means that when it comes to change, people with different preferences react differently to change, both when they initiate it and when they are on the receiving end of it. This is also true when you are a member of a team. Different people will bring their individual preferences to the table and behave in differing ways.

When undergoing team change, individual team members will typically react in one of four ways (see illustrations above):

  • Some will want to ascertain the difference between what should be preserved and what could be changed. There will be things they want to keep.
  • Some will think long and hard about the changes that will emerge internally from their visions of the future. They will be intent on thinking about the changes differently.
  • Some will be keen to move things on by getting things to run more effectively and efficiently. They will be most interested in doing things now.
  • Some will be particularly inventive and want to try something different or novel. They will be all for changing things.

The use of MBTI, or any other personality-profiling instrument, can have specific benefits when teams are experiencing or managing change. It can identify where individuals and the team itself might have strengths to be capitalized on, and where it might have weaknesses that need to be supported.

Behaviours exhibited by team members will run ‘true to type’, and thus knowing your preferences and those of the rest of the team will help aid understanding. It is also true that different team tasks might be suitable for different types – either because they are best matched or because it provides a development opportunity. Surfacing differences helps individuals see things from the other person’s perspective, and adds to the effective use of diversity within the team.

Researching in the health care industry, Mary McCaulley (1975) made the point that similarity and difference within teams can have both advantages and disadvantages:

  • The more similar the team members are, the sooner they will reach common understanding.
  • The more disparate the team members, the longer it takes for understanding to occur.
  • The more similar the team members, the quicker the decision will be made, but the greater the possibility of error through exclusion of some possibilities.
  • The more disparate the team members, the longer the decision-making process will be, but the more views and opinions will be taken into account.

McCaulley also recognized that teams valuing different types can ultimately experience less conflict.

A particular case worth mentioning is the management team. Management teams both in the United States and the United Kingdom are skewed from the natural distribution of Myers Briggs types within the whole population. Typically they are composed of fewer people of the feeling types and fewer people of the perceiving types. This means that management teams, when making decisions around change, are more likely to put emphasis on the business case for change, and less likely to think or worry about the effect on people. You can see the result of this in most change programmes in most organizations. They are also more likely to want to close things down, having made a decision, rather than keep their options open – thus excluding the possibility of enhancing and improving on the changes or responding to feedback.

There are some simple reminders of the advantages and disadvantages of the preferences for teams making decisions about managing change within organizations, as listed in Table 2.5.

Table 2.5: Complementarity and conflict in teams


Needed to raise energy, show enthusiasm, make contacts and take action.

But they can appear superficial, intrusive and overwhelming.

Where individuals draw their energy from


Needed for thinking things through and depth of understanding.

But can appear withdrawn, cold and aloof.


Needed to base ideas firmly in reality and be practical and pragmatic.

Can appear rather mundane and pessimistic.

What an individual pays attention to or how he/she receives data and information


Needed to prepare for the future and generate innovative solutions.

Can appear to have head in the clouds, impractical and implausible.


Needed to balance benefits against the costs and tough decisions.

Can appear rather critical and insensitive.

How an individual makes decisions


Needed to be in touch with emotional intelligence, to negotiate and to reconcile.

Can appear irrational and too emotional.


Needed for his/her organization and ability to complete things and see them through.

Can appear overly rigid and immovable.

What sort of lifestyle an individual enjoys


Needed for his/her flexibility, adaptability and information gathering.

Can appear rather unorganized and somewhat irresponsible.

Belbin s team types

What people characteristics need to be present for a team to function effectively? Meredith Belbin (1981) has been researching this question for a number of years. The purpose of his research was to see whether high and low performing teams had certain characteristics. He looked at team members and found that in the higher performing teams, members played a role or number of roles. Any teams without members playing one of these roles would be more likely to perform at a lower level of effectiveness. Of course different situations require certain different emphasis.

He identified the following roles.

The Chairman: coordinates the working of the team towards its objectives, using his or her communication and people skills. Quite people focused.

The Shaper: focuses on task achievement. Attempts to bring shape and structure to the team’s direction, using enthusiastic and proactive attitude.

The Plant: generates ideas for the team using imagination and intelligence, working at a high level rather than with the detail.

The Monitor-Evaluator: has the ability to see how things are going. Takes in information, collates, interprets and evaluates data and progress.

The Company Worker: is quite the pragmatist. Able to translate ideas into tangible actions. Aims for stability and agreed courses of action.

The Resource Investigator: has the ability to go out and ensure the necessary resources are obtained through his or her networking and interpersonal skills and positive attitude.

The Team Worker: focuses on the team’s well being by being able to read the signals of the team dynamic and arbitrate, mediate and facilitate the team through difficult emotional terrain.

The Completer-Finisher: keeps working to meet deadlines. Very detail conscious and disciplined in his or her approach to task completion.



What team role(s) are you likely to use?



What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of the eight roles?

Belbin concluded that if teams were formed with individuals’ preferences and working styles in mind, they would have a better chance of team cohesion and work-related goal achievement. Teams need to contain a good spread of Belbin team types.

Different teams might need different combinations of roles. Marketing and design teams probably need more plants, while project implementation teams need Company Workers and Completer Finishers. Likewise, the lack of a particular team type can be an issue. A management team without a Chairman or Shaper would have problems. An implementation team without a Complete Finisher might also struggle.


Throughout the last decades of the 20th century many organizations repeated the mantra, ‘people are our greatest assets’, and many would then apologize profusely when they were forced into downsizing or ‘rightsizing’ the workforce. Similarly many organizations have sung the praises of teams and how essential they are within the modern organization. Many organizations have sets of competences or stated values that implicitly and explicitly pronounce that their employees need to work in the spirit of team work and partnership.

It was therefore interesting for the authors to discover that there was a real lack of any authoritative research on the interplay between organizational change and team working. We have seen in a previous chapter the effect that change has on individuals and groups of individuals; but what has not been studied is the effect of change on teams. And as a consequence there is very little research on strategies for managing and leading teams through organizational change.

Whelan-Berry and Gordon (2000), in their research into effective organizational change, conducted a multi-level analysis of the organizational change process. To quote them:

they found no change process models at the group or team level of analysis in the organization studies and change literature. Literature exists which explores different aspects of team or group development, team or group effectiveness, implementation of specific interventions, and organizational and individual aspects of the change, but not a group/team change process model … the lack of change process models for the team or group level change process in the context of organizational change leaves a major portion of the organizational change process unclear.

They continue:

The primary focus of existing organizational change models is what to do as opposed to explaining or predicting the change process. Most of the models implicitly, and a few explicitly, acknowledge, the inherent (sub) processes of group level and individual level change, but do not include the details of these processes in the model. The question is how does the change process vary when considered across levels of analysis? For example, how does a vision get ‘translated,’ that is, take on meaning, in each location or department? In addition, what happens at the point of implementation? We must ‘double click’ at the point of implementation in the organizational level change process; that is, we must look at the group and individual levels and their respective change processes to understand the translation and implementation of the organizational level change vision and desired change outcomes to group and subsequently to individual meanings, frameworks, and behaviours.

Table 2.6 examines each type of team previously identified, and looks at the way in which this type of team can impact or react to organizational change. We also look at the pros and cons of each team type when involved in an organizational change process.

Table 2.6: Teams going through change

Team type






Propensity to initiate change

Dependent on nature and composition of group


Limited in terms of organizational impact

Potentially high depending on integration into organization

Fair given propensity to address change

Propensity to adapt to change

Dependent on purpose and composition of group

Dependent on team members and team culture

Dependent on purpose and team members

Theoretically high.

Good for limited changes in scope but not total

Dependent on degree of enabling or disabling structure

Advantages during change

Difficult to get alignment

Good at implementation once it is clear

Good for pilot schemes

Good focus for specific implementation goals

Flexible, so good for initiating ideas

Disadvantages during change

Useful for coming up with out-of- the-box ideas

Does not like change too often

Can become alienated through failure, or through boasting about success

Not good for tackling complex topics such as values or leadership

Leadership sometimes not clear, so discussion can go on for ever

Advice for leaders

Good for initiating ideas and spreading the word

Need to involve the leaders or shapers of these teams early – especially if you need their commitment rather than compliance

Useful for starting things up and proving an idea. Do not let members become too isolated.

Encourage them to link in with the outside world

Good for short-range tasks such as appointing consultants or researching techniques.

Not good for the complex stuff. Do not be tempted to give complex issues like ‘improve communication’ to a project team

Good for initiating ideas and spreading the word

Team type






Propensity to initiate change

Limited unless project specific

Potentially large depending on nature and composition of group

Theoretically and practically high.

Typically should be the team that initiates change

Raison d’tre


Propensity to adapt to change

Dependent on purpose and team members

Dependent on purpose and team members

Theoretically and practically high. Sometimes will have difficulty adapting to others’ change

Theoretically and practically high


Advantages during change

Brings disparate groups together if tightly focused

Wide reaching, so good for sharing sense of purpose and sense of urgency

Powerful, so makes an impact

Has increased energy and sense of purpose because it was set up to make change happen


Disadvantages during change

Lack of cohesion means purpose may be misunderstood and important issues are not raised

Not good for monitoring implementation because of lack of process and regularity

Often resistant to changing through lack of time or lack of teamwork, so role modelling of desired changes can be weak.

Focus on events after the launch often poor due to packed agenda and belief that it will all happen smoothlya

Not impactful if it lacks influence (presence of powerful people)


Advice for leaders

Involve the key virtual teams early – especially the leaders and shapers, but do not expect them to implement anything complicated

Good for initiating ideas and spreading the word

Do something surprising yourself if you want your management team to change the way it works.

Insist on role modelling.

Keep your eye on the ball because there will be problems

Recruit powerful people

Work on alignment

Ensure resources


Team development processes are disturbed in times of change. An external event can shift a performing team back into the storming stage. Only teams that are quite remote from the changes can simply incorporate a new scope or a new set of values and remain relatively untouched.


  • Groups and teams are different, with different characteristics and different reasons for existing.
  • Teams are important in organizational life for accomplishing large or complex tasks.
  • Team work is important for management teams when they work on risky issues that require them to share views and align.
  • There are many different types of organizational team, each with significant benefits and downsides.
  • Teams can become more effective by addressing five elements:

    • team mission, planning and goal setting;
    • team roles;
    • team operating processes;
    • team interpersonal relationships;
    • inter-team relations.
  • Teams develop over time. Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming and performing model is useful for understanding this process.
  • The team development process involves different leadership challenges at each stage.
  • Bion’s work highlights four possible pitfalls that need to be worked through:

    • dependency;
    • fight or flight;
    • pairing;
    • cosiness.
  • The composition of a team is an important factor in determining how it can be successful. Belbin says that well-rounded teams are best. Deficiencies in a certain type can cause problems.
  • The Myers Briggs profile allows mutual understanding of team member’s preferences for initiating or adapting to change.
  • Belbin’s team types offer a way of analysing a team’s fitness for purpose and encouraging team members to do something about any significant gaps.
  • Leaders need to be aware of the types of team available during a change process, and how to manage these most effectively.

Below is a summary checklist of the key questions you need to be asking and answering before, during and after the change process:

  • Where are the teams affected by the change process?
  • What types of team are they and how might they respond to change?
  • What do they need to be supported through the change process?
  • How can we best use them throughout the change process?
  • What additional types of team do we need for designing and implementing the changes?
  • As all teams go through the transition, what resources shall we offer to ensure they achieve their objectives of managing business as usual and the changes?
  • How do we ensure that teams that are dispersing, forming, integrating or realigning stay on task?
  • What organizational process do we have for ensuring teams are clear about their:

    • mission, planning and goal setting;
    • roles and responsibilities
    • operating processes;
    • interpersonal relationships;
    • inter-team relations?

Making Sense of Change Management
Making Sense of Change Management: A Complete Guide to the Models, Tools and Techniques of Organizational Change
ISBN: 0749453109
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 96 © 2008-2020.
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