Team Building (Development)
Rex C. Mitchell, Ph.D.

* These are abbreviated notes for use in connection with a presentation on team building, rather than full text. One of these days, I'll take time to write out a more complete version.


o Team building (or team development ...both terms are used) is a central, "bread-and-butter" area of intervention in organization development (OD)
o Widely used, many forms and variations, often in conjunction with other interventions
o For a group to function effectively as a team requires:

o Most teams have problems and work together less productively than they could


o A generally accepted goal of team-building is to improve the problem-solving ability among team members by working through certain task and interpersonal issues that impede a team's functioning. The final aim of team-building is a more cohesive, mutually supportive and trusting group that will have high expectations for task accomplishment and will also respect individual differences in values, personalities, skills, and idiosyncratic behavior. (A. J. Reilly & J.E. Jones, "Team-building," in The 1974 Handbook for Group Facilitators, U. Associates, La Jolla, 1974, p.227).

o Some sub-goals (not all apply in each case) are:

  1. Identify objectives and set priorities
  2. Examine and improve the content and task performance of the team
  3. Analyze and improve group process, how the group is functioning
  4. Improve communications and relationships among group members
  5. Improve ability of the team to solve problems
  6. Decrease unhealthy competition and increase cooperation among team members
  7. Increase ability to use conflict in positive ways
  8. Work more effectively with other teams in the organization
  9. Increase the team members' respect for each other's individual differences
  10. Gain a better understanding of each member's roles in the work group, and negotiate/establish an appropriate set of roles
  11. Establish an effective system for making decisions
  12. Improve understanding of the team's purpose and role in the total functioning of the organization (make it more relevant) - understand and manage interfaces effectively


  1. Initiating idea for meeting, based on at least some data and a preliminary diagnosis
  2. Setting objectives (requires discussion and iteration with client system)
  3. Collecting and analyzing data
  4. Planning the meeting with specifics from data
  5. The meeting, including data feedback and joint diagnosis (consultant and clients)
  6. Follow-up and making changes (this is where the work really takes place)

* Although these steps are fairly typical, there are many variations to fit the situation, needs, objectives, and individuals involved


* The diagnosis may indicate a need to focus on one or more of the following. If more than one, it is helpful to address them in this order (however, interpersonal issues often need to be addressed at any and all stages of a team building project):


Although improving group cohesiveness is often one goal of team building, cohesiveness has both positive and potentially negative aspects. Note Janis' eight characteristics of "group-think" (defined in analyzing the disastrous Bay of Pigs decision in the spring of 1962 ...a project put in place by Eisenhower, inherited by JFK) ...note contrast with the effective group decision making in the Cuban Missile Crisis in Oct. 1962, by essentially the same group.

  1. Illusion of invulnerability
  2. Rationalization
  3. Illusion of morality
  4. Shared stereotypes
  5. Direct pressure (to suppress dissent)
  6. Self-censorship
  7. Mind guards within the group
  8. Illusion of unanimity


o Role analysis is designed to clarify roles and expectations, especially between boss and subordinates based on the premise that consensual agreement about group members' roles will lead to a more productive and satisfied team
o Role analysis and clarification often use responsibility matrices to clarify who has primary responsibility and who else has an involvement in a decision or action area. There are many forms, but all are basically a two-way table in which the main players or actors are listed one way and the major decisions/responsibilities/actions are listed in the other dimension. Entries are made in each cell for each of the actors involved in a particular decision/etc. with a code such as:

Another version is, for decisions:

o Typically the work group will work to identify the two lists, then individually fill out the responsibilities (as each individual sees them) for the entire table.. Then the data are summarized, analyzed, and used as a basis for clarification and negotiations. This normally leads to written agreements of understanding among team members


o Some symptoms that might indicate an appropriate use of team-building are:

o See evaluation checklist from W. G. Dyer (1995), Team Building, 3rded, Menlo Park: Addison-Wesley p.83
o If problem is primarily structural or technical ...or an intergroup issue ...or an administrative mistake ...or conflict between only two people -- team building would not be an appropriate change strategy.


o The people involved, especially the boss or senior authority figure - are crucial to the success
o The "boss" is interested and willing to make significant changes, personally and in the team
o Also, other individuals in the group must want to be involved ...and feel sufficiently informed, consulted, and OK with the plan so that they can "buy in" and participate without coercion or sabotage
o Timing is important ...often helps to have some outside event or internal crisis that has helped with the "unfreezing" ...yet things should not be too chaotic with excessive anxiety or extreme time pressures
o Team-building should not be used as a substitute for management action - allowing managers to avoid an uncomfortable decision or problem
o The consultant working with the group needs to deal with the group where it is (not where he thinks it should be) - including their goals (not the consultant's goals or values)
o Avoid big surprises - especially for the boss


o See separate module plus lecture
o Is both a useful way of viewing organizational behavior and communications, and provides a potent design for team building
o Deals directly with interpersonal issues ...and is a useful foundation for other team-building work - goal-setting, roles, and processes

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Last modified July 12, 2006 Copyright 1990-2006 Rex Mitchell