The report is an observation and experiential study for the QUT Field Project Initiative that took place at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. The paper focused on group dynamics and their influence on team performance as it was experienced during the course of the QUT workshop. The report begins with an introduction of what group dynamics involves and the various definitions used by various pieces of literature. The report then proceeds to give a brief overview of the initiative and the way it was conducted. After defining the project objectives, the report then presents the development process based on Tuckman’s five stages of development. The other part includes the literature review, which consists the group dynamics that were observed throughout the development stages. The dynamics were first analyzed through a theoretical perspective. Later the dynamics were translated to their practical application in the field initiative as observed. The report concludes with summarizing the elements in the report and towards the end, recommendations were provided to enhance project management teams’ performance.
Table of Contents
Organisations and Projects
Within the organizational setting, teamwork plays a critical and significant role in building a workplace community to engaging a diverse expertise of workers to enable the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. For an organization to ensure its growth aligns with the strategic objectives, it is important to understand the dynamics of its groups or teams. Ideally, as Barlow (2013) elaborates, group dynamics are psychological processes (behaviors, feelings, or thoughts) that occur within social groups (intragroup) or between members of a group (intergroup). Further elaborated, intragroup dynamics are specific groups that are related through a mutual attraction due to a psychological effect or the formation of social cohesion (Wang, & Li, 2018). In this particular group dynamic, the other group members influence the behaviors, attitudes, experiences, and opinions collectively. On other hand, intergroup dynamics involves the behavioral and psychological relations between two or more groups. The groups are held together by the recognition and understanding of shared behaviors, opinions, perceptions, and attitudes towards the group or another group. The intergroup dynamics are important when more than team come together to complete a task.
Additionally, group dynamics often have both positive and negative aspects. In positive group dynamics, the group or teams yield productive results compared to individual efforts. Members encourage their team members to work on their strengths and encourage new and innovative ideas. By contrast, the negative group dynamics often lead to dysfunction groups that do not accomplish assigned projects. Notably, organizations must always strive to encourage positive group dynamics among cross-functional teams. Consistently, to get a comprehensive understanding on group dynamics, this report analyzes various group dynamics experienced and observed during a field trip organized by the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.
The QUT Field Project Initiative (FPI) involved multiple tasks that were assigned to different teams. Each task required specific equipment for the work to be completed. When the team completed the assigned tasks, they were each awarded hypothetical cash prize as profits. The teams were also provided an opportunity to earn bonus points by completing the tasks earlier or doing extra work. Infringement of the procedures was not tolerated and attracted a 4-minute penalty, where all the groups would stop working for this duration. Along with that, the project suffered a loss of $5,000 due to the infringement. In order to monitor the workshop progress, teams would every 30 minutes to discuss further curse of action. The project manager could also summon a meeting with team leaders or members during the workshop progress. Meeting with the project owner was only necessary to clarify any ambiguities in the tasks.
Group 1 development followed the five stages of Tuckman’s team development model. During the different stages, the group came across various dynamics that were noted for the purpose of the report. Figure 1 illustrates the group’s development stages alongside a brief description.
Figure 1 Tuckman’s five stages of team development (Nelson & Quick, 2012)
During this stage, the teams assembled at the workshop and had general discussions about the project. The teams shared their educational background and past experiences on projects they have worked on in the past. The project manager was the organizer.
The second stage of group development was filled with conflict and competition as members had an understanding of the task and general feel for who they are as a group. The group began to address important issues surrounding the task, discussed the responsibilities and roles each group member was expected to play.
At this stage, it was clear what the group needed to do. The group discussed the strategy to accomplish the task. Members were aware of their role and responsibility to enable the accomplishment of the task.
Once the teams were clear on what they wanted to do and each member assigned their role, they started engaging in activities. A considerable amount of productivity and trust was observed among the team members. Everyone was aware of what was expected of them and committed towards the end goal.
By this stage, the group had completed at least two tasks. The first task was completed with assistance from three other groups, while the group worked on the second task without assistance from other groups. Alongside completing their task, Group 1 also helped other groups in completing their tasks. Towards the end, the project manager gave a brief of all the achievements and dispersed the teams.
The following is a list of the dynamics that were experienced by Group 1 during their engagement with their assigned tasks and the overall experiential workshop.
The need to respond to market changes has seen project managers shift their focus from the individual to teams work activity. In many project situations, tasks have become complicated and achieve successful performance now demands a collection of knowledge, skills, and abilities, which is absent in a single individual. According to Von Treuer, (2013), completing tasks now requires several people to work together as interdependent entities to achieve effective results. Additionally, some projects are so large and complex in their structures demanding that activities must be closely coordinated through teamwork if organizational objectives are to be realized. Virtually, group processes refer to the way team members work together to achieve preset project goals. The success of the project relies on the multiple qualities of the members assigned the task. The qualities can be perceived in various ways such as knowledge, skills, and certain special abilities needed for the task. The members of the group should also have the necessary group skills to work together and coordinate their activities for the success of the group organization. Consequently, as Levi emphasizes, diversification of knowledge and skills is important for groups to function effectively. Thus, it is critical for the team leaders to identify the different levels of knowledge, skills, and special abilities among members, and utilize them to achieve full potential.
Before the trip to the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, the project manager alongside the project owner selected the members of each of the four groups. All the members of the group were from the project management program and had the basic group process skills necessary for the completion of the tasks. As an element of differentiation, each group was made up of individuals from different ethnic background, with varying skills, and level of expertise and experience. At the first stage, the group members were allowed to raise their opinions on the way they preferred the task to be carried out. The objective was to give an insight into other important things. The project leader and the project owner observed that although the groups were disorganized at first, they displayed maturity in their discussion and were able to reach a consensus after a few minutes. It was also noted that each member participated, despite the variations as some members were high participants and others low participants. The involvement in verbal participation and the level of maturity displayed during the discussion made the decision-making process smooth. Members made decisions after checking with other members and where necessary, they voted by a show of hands to agree or disagree. As the workshop advanced, the team seemed more coordinated and collective effort was more visible as they worked towards the completion of the task within the allocated period. The group’s leaders played an important role in identifying the knowledge, skills, and experience, which were used to assign each member a role.
The elements of the group process identified in the project management scenario are a key factor in group’s success. Notably, the project manager is responsible for assembling a productive team that has the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to complete a project and met the owner’s specifications.
When working with teams, conflict is inevitable and necessary. According to Verzuh (), where two or more people are involved and need to make decisions, there will eventually be a disagreement. Conflict is considered healthy for a team and it should not be suppressed, because it encourages innovations and generation of new ideas among others (Jehn & Mannix, 2001). Additionally, depending on the stage of development the team is at, the magnitude of conflict varies. For instance, in the forming stage, which is also the first stage of team development, conflict is likely to be minimal. During this stage, Guffey, Rogin, and Rhodes (2009) note that as the team members search for similarities and attempt to bond, they are often overly polite and conversation is a bit awkward, which explains why there are minimal conflicts. In the second stage of storming, members define their role and responsibilities, as they decide the way to reach their goals. Unfortunately, this stage produces conflict as members storm over the most appropriate ways to accomplish tasks. As Guffey et al. highlighted, a good team leader should set limits, control the chaos, and offer suggestions to help members reach a consensus. As members get to the norming stage, tension subsides, roles clarified, and information begins to flow smoothly. Towards the performing and stage, conflicts end as teams are aware of their roles and responsibilities and their focus is towards achieving the project goal.
At the beginning of the first activity, group 1 experienced a moderate conflict as members were not aware of the ways to complete the task and roles were not assigned. During the storming stage, every member was invited to give out their opinion on the different ways to complete the task. Luckily, for the group, a majority of the members agreed on the same approach. The approach was adopted, but some changes were incorporated from ideas drawn from the minority members’ suggestions. The members reached an agreement quickly because the teams respected each other’s opinions and did not want to impose ideas on others. It was also noted that as soon as the members started working on the first task, conflicts started to diminish and by the time they reached the performing stage, there were no conflicts at all. During the second activity, Group 1 presented the proposal to the project manager for approval and did not require outside support. Overall, the second activity was more coordinated as compared to the first activity.
Notably, conflict is a normal part of every team and as Guffey et al. pointed, it is not always negative. When managed in the right way, conflicts can improve the decision-making process, help members clarify issues, increase team cohesiveness, stimulate innovativeness, decrease tensions, and eliminate dissatisfaction. Unresolved conflict can destroy team productivity and undermine the moral of the group members.
Managing any aspect of the project involves communicating with the project team or with the external stakeholders. Research indicates that there is a direct relationship between communication and project outcome. According to Ziemba (2017), that is why communication is considered one of the most significant areas of project management. It is also important to note that communication within project teams is a complex process that is often affected by multiple factors such as the project stakeholders, the environment, communication structure, physical and psychological barriers among others. Virtually, when members of the team start to interact, they develop patterns of communication. The pragmatic perspective of communication holds that clear understanding of any group functionality is based on the empirical elaboration of the communication patterns they adopt (Barko, & Nemati, 2004). In light of this, it is important to create an environment where team members are encouraged to participate in the discussion. The group should come up with the right communication pattern that will allow information to flow from one individual to the others. Notably, the success of the group relies on effective communication patterns and their absence can lead to the failure of the group to accomplish its tasks (Emmitt, & Gorse, 2015). Consequently, Toseland and Rivas (2005), recommend decentralized networks over centralized networks. Ideally, as Levi (2011) elaborates, in centralized networks, communication must pass through certain members before it reaches the other members of the group. On the other hand, in decentralized networks, every member of the team has equal access to information and free to contribute. Additionally, although centralized networks provide faster and accurate information flow, they only work better on simple tasks, and decentralized networks are preferred in complex tasks.
Group 1 adopted a decentralized approach with its communication pattern. Members were invited to share their ideas, express their opinions, criticize others in a decentralized channel to help reach a decision as to how tasks were to be executed. During the course of the workshop, members followed both formal and informal communications, where meetings and email exchange constituted the formal method, and open discussions represented informal communication. During the storming stage, members who had technical expertise were consulted, but their contribution criticized to avoid bias. Communication with the project owner was through a centralized communication process where information flowed through a chain network. Communication with the project owner and project manager was necessary to clarify any ambiguity and it was often in form of reports and emails.
While there is a substantial amount of literature and research on leadership and team development, there is a limited study on the most effective leadership style for teams. Leadership is a form of social problem-solving technique that helps teams operate more effectively and achieve their goals. Leadership in teams is not defined by a specific set of behaviors, rather by the task, the environmental setting, and the problems facing the team (Levi, 2011). Additionally, as West and Work Foundation (2012) noted, leadership is the responsibility of all team members and should not be delegated to one person. In fact, effectively managing and leadership involve the skills and abilities of multiple individuals, molded together to produce an excellent team performance. Nonetheless, as Sahu (2010) further highlighted, it is important to have a team leader to help teams avoid spending too much time on managerial issues. Sahu also proposes eight steps to select a leader including a clear definition of what the leader does, evaluate performance, see leadership as a function, and a skill to be developed. It is also important to look at the bigger picture, have a leader who demonstrates respect towards subordinates, one who shares goals, and understands there are different teams for different needs.
Group 1 team leader was nominated unanimously by seven members before the beginning of the workshop. The leader displayed the qualities of a team leader. To start with, the leader was the first to arrive at the meeting venue and even sent members a reminder to remind them of the importance of keeping time and attending the first meeting. Due to his outstanding qualities, all the group members attended the meeting. After everyone had assembled, the team leader selected one member to brief the team on the tasks ahead and what was expected of them. Later, the leader invited members to express their ideas and opinions. Every time a member raised an issue, the team leader would then invite others to criticize the ideas. the leader also took it upon himself to motivate members and ensured members did not suffer from low morale. In the end, due to the excellent leadership skills of the team leader, discussing the different possibilities to complete the task were completed on time and with fewer conflicts.
The relationship among individuals in a team is critical to the overall success of the team. Successful teams are characterized by their ability to perform as a group and not as individuals (Cotterill, 2013). Consequently, as Richard highlights, group cohesion and effective communication are essential for good team dynamics. Participating and contributing ideas in a group leads to cohesion (Levi, 2011) and often has a positive influence on the group (Mullen & Copper, 1994). Along with that, cohesion in a group increases when performance since the group is able to perform a task collectively.
To get started, the first time the members of Group 1 met, each member was requested to do a proper introduction, giving a brief description of the scope of knowledge, skills, and past experience. At the beginning of the initiative, all members were expected to interact by expressing their views, giving their ideas, and criticizing their colleagues in the right way. Notably, before the groups separated to handle group tasks, there was minimal cohesion among the members.
From a perspective of project management, it is important to ensure that the level of team cohesion aligns with the project conducted (Hill, 2013). Complex projects demand more team cohesion as compared to simple one.
Team dynamics form an integral part of the success of projects. Projects are ad hoc and due to their nature, their success relies on group work and processes. From the first stage of the project to execution and completion of the project, team dynamics are critical. Importantly noted, teams also go through various developmental phases. Informed by Tuckman’s five-stage model, teams start at the formation stage, the move to storming, norming, performing, and later adjourning, which help define the different stages of project development. Teams also experience various dynamics, which determine the success or failure of a project. When managed properly and aligned with the project goals, team dynamics can help improve the performance of the project teams and ensure project success.
For projects to be successful, project managers must ensure they have a high performing team in place. Based on a critical analysis of the report, we recommended the following factors to be taken into account for an optimum level of team dynamics
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