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A team can be defined as a group of individuals with different skills who work together towards achieving a common goal or rendering a service. Over the years, the concepts of teams and group management have been quite common among organizations as they are efficient in the accomplishment of complex tasks and corporate problem-solving. In the early days, managers defined team roles based on the employees’ behavior, but, as years went by, organizations underwent remarkable transformations in organizational structures. The changes were chiefly facilitated by economic and technological advancements that altered the manner in which organizations competed, which increased the need for innovation. As a result, teams and team roles underwent massive changes with pressure building up the need for diverse skills expertise and experience among team members to enhance efficiency. Consequently, new theories and models of team building and functioning were developed. It is important to analyze theories and models used by organizational managers in the 1970s in order to comprehend how the concept has changed and pinpoint the strategy which would be adequate for team management.
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Team Management Strategies that Managers and Teams Used in the 1970s
In the 1970s, a manager’s primary concern was employees’ conduct in general in the process of team building and definition of team roles. As such, most managers employed the Belbin’s Theory of team roles, which was developed by Dr. Meredith Belbin in the 1970s. According to Isaac and Carson (2012), the theory delineated that efficiency and accomplishment of teams and groups within an organization depended on individuals involved and the project to be implemented. Thus, managers had to identify individual behavioral strengths and weaknesses before assigning appropriate team roles within a team. According to the model, these advantages are assessed against nine team roles, which include: (1) Plants referring to persons with exceptional problem-solving skills; (2) Monitor Evaluators who make impartial, logical judgments; (3) Coordinators who ensure that team objectives are met; (4) Resource Investigators whose obligation is conflict resolution; (5) Implementers who deal with application of the organization strategy; (6) Completer-Finishers who assess errors; (7) Team Workers who work on behalf of the team; (8) Shapers who ensure that teams do not lose focus; and (9) Specialists who have unique skills needed to have the work done (Isaac & Carson, 2012).
Another strategy used by managers for team building and management in the 1970s was the use of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that was developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. The theory was applied by organizational managers to control and motivate behaviors of individuals within a team. In line with the strategy, human behavior is directed towards achievement and fulfillment of human needs arranged in a hierarchy of five levels (Aldag & Kuzuhara, 2015). The lower levels are psychological and must take precedence over higher levels of growth needs. The first level referred to as physiological needs involves basic needs like air, shelter, food, and water. The second level referred to as psychological needs mentions financial security, personal security, and human well-being. The third level relates to belongingness needs, which involve love, friendship, and family. The fourth level of needs includes esteem needs like confidence, achievement, and respect for others. The fifth level of needs envisions self-actualization, which refers to creativity and problem-solving among others. According to Aldag and Kuzuhara (2015), two essential elements that were not included in the five levels were added in the 1970s and they include cognitive needs such as knowledge and aesthetic needs such as appreciation. Managers need to fulfill these requirements to control and influence employees’ behaviors in a team.
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Changes in Teams Roles and Team Management Strategies since the 1970s
Nowadays, teams and team roles have changed strategically due to economic and technological imperatives. According to Chiocchio, Kelloway, and Hobbs. (2015), organizations from different parts of the world have progressively shifted their focus from organizing company operations around individuals to building team-based structured that execute organization operations. As a result, team responsibilities and roles have subjectively increased as there are now a variety of groups that exist under one organization, but in different contexts and functions. In this respect, teams are required not only to perform relevant tasks, but also to interact socially with other teams and display task interdependencies. The organization managers’ responsibilities have also increased as they are bestowed with the duty of delegating team roles and building up teams across different contexts to facilitate efficiency and improve performance (Chiocchio et al., 2015). These settings include production teams, service teams, management teams, and advisory teams among others. As such, new strategies of team building and management have emerged to cope with the changes.
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In line with Salas, Fiore, and Letsky (2013), Cognitive Team Roles is one of the strategies incorporated by organizational managers in team building and management. The approach recognizes that for a team to be efficient it has to represent ten roles of thinking that are sensory-focused, people-focused, and task-focused. The ten cognitive and behavioral functions include: strategist, creative thinker, logical thinker, driver, troubleshooter, detailed thinker, challenger, collaborator, altruist, and intuitive thinker. The cognitive team role model has been mainly developed to deal with changes relating to innovation and development of teams that suit various tasks in the organization (Salas et al., 2013). Another team building and management model is the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel. According to Roe (2014), the model contends that identification of hard-working and skilled individuals as a part of a team is inadequate to guarantee team effectiveness since they may be assigned roles that do not match their strengths. As such, under the model individuals’ role preferences include: reporter-advisor, creator-innovator, explorer-promoter, assessor-developer, thruster-organizer, controller-inspector, and upholder-maintainer (Roe, 2014).
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The Strategy that One Would Better Use to Manage Teams from a Personal Perspective
From a personal perspective, the strategy that would be best in team management is the Cognitive Team Roles strategy. This is because, unlike traditional team management strategies that focus on team members’ behaviors and ways of motivating them, the Cognitive Team Role strategy develops awareness of individual team thinking preferences (Salas et al., 2013). As a result, it identifies appropriate thinking skills that would suit a particular group and function, thereby enhancing overall performance. Likewise, the Cognitive Team Roles model is also quite beneficial for team management as it will allow managers to identify potential weaknesses and conflicts that may exist within a team and mitigate them before they occur (Salas et al., 2013). Furthermore, the model has no constraints regarding types of groups and levels at which it should be implemented. This is because managers can use the team management strategy to maintain excellence in a high performing team and boost performance of low performing teams by solving problems deterring performance. Likewise, it enhances efficiency of project teams by ensuring they remain focused on the task at hand and preventing development of dysfunctional new teams with the help of categorizing them based on their cognitive skills. Needless to say, the Cognitive Team Roles strategy has appropriate and flexible thinking strategies, which is why it is quite efficient in accommodating corporate changes like technological advancements without losing focus on organizational goals.
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To conclude, the essay has outlined how teams and team roles have changed since the 1970s. Economic and technological advancements are main drivers of these changes. In the 1970s, organizational managers focused on employees’ behavior in the process of team development and management. Thus, they employed team management strategies like the Belbin’s theory and the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Managers used these theories to influence and motivate behaviors of team members before assigning appropriate team roles within the team. Nonetheless, teams and team roles have changed with time as a variety of teams have been developed in different contexts and need to complete differing functions. New strategies for team management such as the Cognitive Team Roles strategy and the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel have been developed to enhance effectiveness of team development and management.