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A THEORY OF TEAM COACHING

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After briefly reviewing the existing literature on team coaching, we propose a new …

After briefly reviewing the existing literature on team coaching, we propose a new
model with three distinguishing features. The model (1) focuses on the functions that
coaching serves for a team, rather than on either specific leader behaviors or leadership
styles, (2) identifies the specific times in the task performance process when
coaching interventions are most likely to have their intended effects, and (3) explicates
the conditions under which team-focused coaching is and is not likely to
facilitate performance.

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  • 1. Academy of Management Review2005, Vol. 30, No. 2, 269–287. A THEORY OF TEAM COACHING J. RICHARD HACKMAN Harvard University RUTH WAGEMAN Dartmouth College After briefly reviewing the existing literature on team coaching, we propose a new model with three distinguishing features. The model (1) focuses on the functions that coaching serves for a team, rather than on either specific leader behaviors or lead- ership styles, (2) identifies the specific times in the task performance process when coaching interventions are most likely to have their intended effects, and (3) expli- cates the conditions under which team-focused coaching is and is not likely to facilitate performance. Coaches help people perform tasks. Coaching TEAM COACHINGis pervasive throughout the life course, from Team coaching is an act of leadership, but it ischildhood (e.g., a parent helping a child learn to not the only one or necessarily the most conse-ride a tricycle), through schooling (e.g., a teacher quential one. Team leaders engage in many dif-coaching a student in the proper conduct of a ferent kinds of behaviors intended to foster teamchemistry experiment), and into adulthood (e.g., effectiveness, including structuring the teama fitness coach helping with an exercise regimeor a supervisor coaching an employee in im- and establishing its purposes, arranging for theproving his or her job performance). The main resources a team needs for its work and remov-body of research about coaching is found in the ing organizational roadblocks that impede thetraining literature, and it focuses almost entirely work, helping individual members strengthenon individual skill acquisition (Fournies, 1978). their personal contributions to the team, andExcept for the many popular books and articles working with the team as a whole to help mem-that extract lessons for team leaders from the bers use their collective resources well in pur-experiences of athletic coaches, relatively little suing team purposes.has been published that specifically addresses Leaders vary in how they allocate their timethe coaching of task-performing teams. and attention across these activities, depending Here we propose a theory of team coaching on their own preferences; what they believe thethat is amenable to empirical testing and cor- team most needs; and the team’s own level ofrection. The theory has three distinguishing fea- authority, initiative, and maturity. Only the lasttures. One, it focuses on the functions that two sets of activities (helping individual mem-coaching serves for a team, rather than on either bers strengthen personal contributions andspecific leader behaviors or leadership styles. working with the team to help use resourcesTwo, it explicitly addresses the specific times in well) are coaching behaviors, however, focusingthe task performance process when coaching respectively on individual team members andinterventions are most likely to “take” and have on the team as a whole. In this paper we dealtheir intended effects. Three, it explicitly identi- exclusively with the fourth—team coaching—fies the conditions under which team-focused which we define as direct interaction with acoaching is most likely to facilitate perfor- team intended to help members make coordi-mance. Overall, we show that the impact of nated and task-appropriate use of their collec-team coaching—whether provided by a formal tive resources in accomplishing the team’s work.team leader or by fellow group members— Although team coaching is a distinct and of-depends directly and substantially on the de- ten consequential aspect of team leadership, re-gree to which the proper coaching functions are cent evidence suggests that leaders focus theirfulfilled competently at appropriate times and behavior less on team coaching than on otherin appropriate circumstances. aspects of the team leadership portfolio. In a 269
  • 2. 270 Academy of Management Review Aprilstudy of 268 task-performing teams in 88 organi- Wilson, 1991). Although varied, these modelszations, we (Wageman, Hackman, & Lehman, specify ways that team leaders can develop2004) asked team leaders and members to rank members’ interpersonal skills, define members’the amount of attention the team leader gave to roles and expectations, deal with conflict andactivities in each of the four categories listed interpersonal frictions, and help a team achieveabove (with a rank of “1” signifying the greatest a level of “maturity” that lessens the team’s de-attention). For both leader and member reports, pendence on its leader (Eden, 1985; Fischer, 1993;coaching the team as a whole came in last (the Geber, 1992; Manz & Sims, 1987; Patten, 1981;combined mean ranks were as follows: structur- Rees, 1991; Torres & Spiegel, 2000; Woodman &ing the team and its work, 1.75; running external Sherwood, 1980).interference, 2.16; coaching individuals, 2.88;and coaching the team, 3.02). Process Consultation The lesser attention given to team coachingcould simply mean that leaders underestimate The process consultation approach developedthe potential benefits of providing coaching as- by Schein (1969, 1988) posits that competent in-sistance to their teams. More likely, perhaps, is terpersonal relations are essential for effectivethat leaders do not coach their teams because task performance and that group membersthey do not know how to do so, or they have themselves must be intimately involved in ana-ventured a coaching intervention or two that did lyzing and improving those relationships. Thenot help and thereafter focused their behavior consultant engages team members in analyzingon seemingly more promising team leadership group processes on two levels simultaneously:strategies. By using existing research and the- (1) the substantive level—to analyze how humanory to identify the kinds of leader coaching be- processes are affecting work on a specific organ-haviors that do help teams operate more effec- izational problem—and (2) the internal level—totively, we seek here not only to advance basic better understand the team’s own interactionunderstanding about team coaching but also to processes and the ways that team processesprovide practitioners with some of what they foster or impede effective group functioningneed to know to coach their teams competently. (Schein, 1988: 11–12). Decidedly clinical in orien- tation, this type of coaching requires the process consultant first to directly observe the group as EXISTING APPROACHES it works on a substantive organizational prob- In a review of existing research and theory, lem and then, once the group is ready, to intro-we identified three conceptually driven ap- duce systematic or confrontive interventions in-proaches to team coaching and one eclectic ap- tended to help the team deal with its problemsproach that is largely atheoretical. These four and exploit previously unrecognized opportuni-approaches, described below, point the way to- ties.ward a more comprehensive research-basedmodel of team coaching, and we draw on them Behavioral Modelsin developing propositions for the present the-ory. Two distinct models of team coaching are based on theories of individual behavior: (1) the application of Argyris’s (1982, 1993) theory of in-Eclectic Interventions tervention to team-focused coaching by Schwarz Eclectic coaching interventions are activities (1994) and (2) applications of operant condition-that derive from no particular theoretical per- ing to the modification of team behavior, nota-spective but have considerable face validity bly those of Komaki (1986, 1998) and her col-nonetheless, in that a lay person would be likely leagues.to assume that they would help a team perform In his approach, Schwarz posits that coacheswell. Eclectic models are found mainly in the should provide feedback to a team in ways thatpractitioner literature as codifications of the les- help members learn new and more effectivesons learned by management consultants team behaviors, especially in how they give andwhose practice includes team facilitation (e.g., receive feedback. The coaching process in-Fischer, 1993; Kinlaw, 1991; Wellins, Byham, & volves three phases. First is observing actual
  • 3. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 271group behavior both to note behaviors that are identify the issues the team needs to deal withimpeding the group’s work and to identify be- next. The focus of learning sessions for newlyhaviors not presently exhibited that might facil- formed or “novice” groups (whose members areitate group work. Second is describing to the mainly occupied with social issues of inclusiongroup what has been observed and testing in- and acceptance and task issues having to doferences about the meanings of those behaviors. with team goals and with member skills andAnd third is helping group members decide roles) differs from that for more mature or “ex-whether they wish to change their behaviors pert” groups (whose members have becomeand, if so, how they might do so. The model ready to learn strategies for self-regulation,specifies several specific ground rules both for such as how best to detect and correct errors andthe facilitators’ behaviors and for team mem- how best to adapt to changing external de-bers’ behaviors, such as providing specific be- mands). Because teams are unlikely to be ablehavioral examples for points made, publicly to process intensive interventions when task de-testing assumptions and inferences, and explic- mands are also high, learning sessions are re-itly inviting questions and challenges. served for periods of relatively low cognitive The operant conditioning approach to team demand. During intensive work periods, devel-coaching is based on the well-established prin- opmental coaches focus mainly on gatheringciple of individual learning that behavior is a data about behavior and performance for usefunction of its consequences. Applied to teams, guiding subsequent interventions. When taskoperant coaching involves three kinds of coach- demands diminish, active coaching resumes.ing behaviors: (1) providing instructions abouthow to behave, (2) monitoring the team’s perfor- Summarymance, and (3) providing performance-contin-gent consequences to the team (Komaki, 1986; Most of the approaches to team coaching justSmith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1979). Because the oper- summarized are based on well-established psy-ant approach to team coaching does not specify chological principles and findings about humanany particular patterns of team interaction that learning and performance. Moreover, researchfacilitate effectiveness across different types of conducted within each tradition has been infor-teams and tasks, team coaches must have ex- mative and, especially for the operant and de-tensive task knowledge so that they can issue velopmental approaches, has generated empir-proper instructions about desirable behaviors ical findings that enrich our understandingand reinforce the team when it does well about coaching processes and outcomes. None(Komaki, 1998; Komaki, Deselles, & Bowman, of the existing approaches, however, is sup-1989; Komaki & Minnich, 2002; Smoll & Smith, ported by evidence that addresses all links in1989). the coaching intervention–team process–team performance sequence. We seek here to provide a conceptual model that does explicate all linksDevelopmental Coaching in that sequence, that takes explicit account of The distinguishing feature of the developmen- teams’ temporal and organizational contexts,tal approach to coaching is the central role and that provides a sound basis for generatinggiven to time and timing. Two premises on guidance for team coaching practice.which this approach is based are (1) that teamsneed help with different issues at different DOMAINstages of their development and (2) that thereare times in the life cycles of groups when they We begin by specifying what we mean by aare more and less open to intervention (Kozlow- work team and what we mean by performanceski, Gully, McHugh, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, effectiveness, which together bound the domain1996; Kozlowski, Gully, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, of our model.1996). A key coaching intervention in the develop- Work Teamsmental approach is the “learning session,” inwhich the coach and team members review the We focus only on full-fledged teams that per-team’s purpose, assess its progress thus far, and form tasks in social system contexts. Such teams
  • 4. 272 Academy of Management Review Aprilhave three features. First, they are real groups. Because we believe that these dimensions alsoThat is, they are intact social systems, complete are consequential for any team’s long-term or-with boundaries, interdependence among mem- ganizational performance, we define team effec-bers, and differentiated member roles (Alderfer, tiveness using the following three-dimensional1977). Members of real groups can be distin- conception (adapted from Hackman, 1987).guished reliably from nonmembers, they are in-terdependent for some common purpose, and 1. The productive output of the team (i.e., itsthey invariably develop specialized roles within product, service, or decision) meets or ex-the group. Real groups can be either small or ceeds the standards of quantity, quality, and timeliness of the team’s clients—thelarge and either temporary or long-lived. people who receive, review, and/or use the Second, work teams have one or more group output. It is the clients’ standards and as-tasks to perform. They produce some outcome for sessments that count in assessing teamwhich members bear collective responsibility products—not those of the team itself (ex-and for which acceptability is potentially as- cept in rare cases where the team is the client of its own work) or those of the team’ssessable. The kind of outcome produced is not manager (who only rarely is the person whocritical—it could be a physical product, a ser- actually receives and uses a team’s output).vice, a decision, a performance, or a written 2. The social processes the team uses in car-report. Nor is it necessary that the outcome ac- rying out the work enhance members’ capa-tually be assessed; all that is required is that the bility of working together interdependently in the future. Effective teams become adeptgroup produce an outcome that can be identified at detecting and correcting errors before se-as its product and that it be theoretically possi- rious damage is done and at noticing andble to evaluate that product. Social groups and exploiting emerging opportunities. They areother collectives that generate no identifiable more capable performing units when theyproduct fall outside our domain. finish a piece of work than when they be- gan. Finally, work teams operate in a social system 3. The group experience contributes positivelycontext. The team as a collective manages rela- to the learning and personal well-being oftionships with other individuals or groups in individual team members. Work teams cansome larger social system. Usually this social serve as sites for personal learning and cansystem is the parent organization that created spawn satisfying interpersonal relation- ships, but they also can deskill, frustrate,the team, but it can be people or groups outside and alienate their members. We do notthat organization as well, such as opponents for count as effective any team for which the netan athletic team or customers for a service- impact of the group experience on members’providing team. What is critical is that team learning and well-being is more negativemembers be collectively responsible for manag- than positive.ing consequential transactions with other indi- Although the three criteria vary in importanceviduals and/or groups. in different circumstances, effective teams bal- ance them over time, never completely sacrific- ing any one to achieve the others. In the pagesTeam Performance Effectiveness that follow, we identify the coaching functions, the temporal imperatives, and the contextual Criterion measures in empirical research on circumstances that affect the degree to whichteam performance often consist of whatever coaching behaviors can help a work teamquantitative indicators happen to be available achieve and sustain a high standing on all threeor are easy to obtain (e.g., production figures for of the criteria.industrial workgroups or number of correct re-sponses for teams studied in experimental lab-oratories). Such criteria of convenience do not FUNCTIONSaddress other outcome dimensions, such as cli-ent assessments of a team’s work, the degree to Over four decades ago, McGrath first sug-which a team becomes stronger as a performing gested that “[The leader’s] main job is to do, orunit over time, or the extent to which individual get done, whatever is not being adequately han-members become more knowledgeable or dled for group needs” (1962: 5). If a leader man-skilled as a result of their team experiences. ages, by whatever means, to ensure that all
  • 5. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 273functions critical to group performance are cient effort, use inappropriate strategies, and/ortaken care of, the leader has done his or her job apply inadequate talent in their work—arewell. Thus, a functional approach to leadership likely to fall short in one or more of the effective-leaves room for an indefinite number of ways to ness criteria.get key group functions accomplished, and Associated with each of the three performanceavoids the necessity of delineating all the spe- processes are both a characteristic “processcific behaviors or styles a leader should exhibit loss” (Steiner, 1972) and an opportunity for pos-in given circumstances—a trap into which it is itive synergy, which we call a “process gain.”easy for leadership theorists to fall. That is, members may interact in ways that de- What functions are most critical for team per- press the team’s effort, the appropriateness of itsformance effectiveness? Functions whose ac- strategy, and/or the utilization of member talent;complishment are critical for group decision alternatively, their interaction may enhance col-making have been identified by Hirokawa and lective effort, generate uniquely appropriateOrlitzky (Hirokawa, 1985; Orlitzky & Hirokawa, strategies, and/or actively develop members’2001), and those that bear on other aspects of knowledge and skills.group behavior have been comprehensively re- Coaching functions are those interventionsviewed by Hollingshead et al. (in press). For our that inhibit process losses and foster processspecific and delimited purposes—that is, iden- gains for each of the three performance pro-tification of the most critical functions served by cesses. Coaching that addresses effort is moti-those who coach work teams—we focus on three vational in character; its functions are to mini-aspects of group interaction that have been mize free riding or “social loafing” and to buildshown to be especially potent in shaping group shared commitment to the group and its work.performance outcomes (Hackman & Morris, 1975; Coaching that addresses performance strategyHackman & Walton, 1986). is consultative in character; its functions are to Specifically, we posit that team effectiveness minimize mindless adoption or execution of taskis a joint function of three performance pro- performance routines in uncertain or changingcesses: (1) the level of effort group members col- task environments and to foster the invention oflectively expend carrying out task work, (2) the ways of proceeding with the work that are espe-appropriateness to the task of the performance cially well aligned with task requirements.strategies the group uses in its work,1 and (3) the Coaching that addresses knowledge and skill isamount of knowledge and skill members bring educational in character; its functions are toto bear on the task. Any team that expends suf- minimize suboptimal weighting of members’ficient effort in its work, deploys a task- contributions (i.e., when the weight given to in-appropriate performance strategy, and brings dividual members’ contributions is at varianceample talent to bear on its work is quite likely to with their actual talents) and to foster the devel-achieve a high standing in the three criteria of opment of members’ knowledge and skill.work team effectiveness specified earlier. By the The three coaching functions specifically andsame token, teams that operate in ways that exclusively address a team’s task performanceleave one or more of these functions unful-filled—that is, where members expend insuffi- processes—not members’ interpersonal rela- tionships. This focus distinguishes our model from the great majority of writing and practice about team coaching, especially in the eclectic 1 A team’s strategy is the set of choices members make tradition, which posits (sometimes explicitly butabout how to carry out the work. For example, a manufac- more often implicitly) that coaching interven-turing team might decide to divide itself into three sub- tions should primarily address the quality ofgroups, each of which would produce one subassembly, withthe final product to be assembled later. Or a basketball team members’ interpersonal relationships.might decide to use modified zone defense, with one player The pervasive emphasis on interpersonal pro-assigned to guard the opposing team’s best shooter. Or a cesses in the team performance literature re-team performing a task that requires a creative solution flects a logical fallacy about the role of thosemight choose to free associate about possible solutions inthe first meeting, reflect for a week about the ideas that processes in shaping performance outcomes. Tocame up, and then reconvene to draft the product. All of illustrate, consider a team that is having perfor-these are choices about task performance strategy. mance problems. Such teams often exhibit inter-
  • 6. 274 Academy of Management Review Aprilpersonal difficulties, such as communications former to significantly outperform the latterbreakdowns, conflict among members, leader- (Kernaghan & Cooke, 1990; Woolley, 1998).2ship struggles, and so on. Because both lay per- Proposition 1: Coaching interventionssons and scholars implicitly rely on an input– that focus specifically on team effort,process– output framework in analyzing group strategy, and knowledge and skill fa-dynamics, it is natural to infer that the observed cilitate team effectiveness more thaninterpersonal troubles are causing the perfor- do interventions that focus on mem-mance problems and, therefore, that a good way bers’ interpersonal relationships.to improve team performance would be to fixthem. As reasonable as this inference mayseem, it is neither logical nor correct. Although TIMINGserious interpersonal conflicts sometimes do un- The efficacy of coaching interventions de-dermine team performance (Jehn & Mannix, pends not just on their focus, as discussed2001), it does not necessarily follow that the above, but also on the time in the group’s lifeproper coaching intervention in such cases is to cycle when they are made. Regularities in grouphelp members improve their interpersonal rela- life cycles have been explored empirically fortionships. many decades, beginning with Bales and Strodt- In fact, research suggests that, in some cir- beck’s (1951) classic study of phases in groupcumstances, the causal arrow points in the op- problem solving. In a number of conceptualposite direction—that is, performance drives in- frameworks, scholars have sought to summarizeterpersonal processes (or, at least, perceptions research findings about group development, theof those processes), rather than vice versa. For most prominent being the “forming-storming-example, Staw (1975) gave task-performing norming-performing” model proposed by Tuck- man (1965). Almost all of these frameworks haveteams false feedback about their performance treated group development as following a fixedand then asked members to provide “objective” set of stages, with each successive stage beingdescriptions of how members had interacted. contingent on successful completion of the priorTeams randomly assigned to the high perfor- one.mance condition reported more harmonious and In recent years, research on temporal issues inbetter communications, among other differ- group behavior has raised doubt about the gen-ences, than did groups assigned to the low per- erality and validity of stage models (Ancona &formance condition (see also Guzzo, Wagner, Chong, 1999; Gersick, 1988; Ginnett, 1993;Maguire, Herr, & Hawley, 1986). McGrath & Kelly, 1986; Moreland & Levine, 1988; Doubt also is cast on interpersonal ap- for a recent attempt to reconcile alternative tem-proaches to coaching by action research that poral models, see Chang, Bordia, & Duck, 2003).seeks to improve team performance by improv- Gersick’s findings are particularly relevant foring the quality of members’ interactions. Some our purposes. In a field study of the life historiesof these studies use interventions based on the of a number of project teams whose performanceprocess consultation approach to coaching re- periods ranged from several days to severalviewed earlier; others employ a broader set of months, Gersick (1988) found that each of theinterventions that generally are referred to as groups she tracked developed a distinctive ap-team building or group development activities. proach toward its task as soon as it commencedAlthough interventions that address members’ work, and each stayed with that approach untilrelationships and interaction can be quite en- precisely halfway between its first meeting andgaging and do affect members’ attitudes, they its project deadline. At the midpoint of theirdo not reliably improve team performance (forreviews, see Kaplan, 1979; Salas, Rozell, Mullen,& Driskell, 1999; Tannenbaum, Beard, & Salas, 2 Woolley’s main effect finding was significantly condi-1992; Woodman & Sherwood, 1980). Moreover, tioned by the timing of the intervention, and the Kernaghan and Cook finding was obtained only for groups composed ofthose experimental studies that have directly members with ample task-relevant abilities. We discuss thecompared teams given task-focused and inter- moderating effects of timing and of group design on thepersonally focused interventions have found the impact of coaching interventions later.
  • 7. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 275lives, almost all teams underwent a major tran- likely to be helpful if they are provided at a timesition. In a concentrated burst of changes, they in the life cycle when the team is not ready fordropped old patterns of behavior, reengaged them. Indeed, ill-timed interventions may actu-with outside supervisors, and adopted new per- ally do more harm than good by distracting orspectives on their work.3 Following the midpoint diverting a team from other issues that do re-transition, groups entered a period of focused quire members’ attention at that time. We nexttask execution, which persisted until very near discuss the kinds of interventions that are mostthe project deadline, at which time a new set of appropriate at the beginnings, midpoints, andissues having to do with termination processes ends of work team life cycles.arose and captured members’ attention. Gersick(1989) subsequently replicated these findings in Beginningsthe experimental laboratory for groups that allhad the same amount of time to complete their When team members first come together totask (for alternative views of temporal dynamics perform a piece of work, the most pressing piecein task-performing groups, see Seers & Woo- of business, both for members and for the teamdruff, 1997, and Waller, Zellmer-Bruhn, & Giam- as a whole, is for them to get oriented to onebatista, 2002). another and to the task in preparation for the Gersick’s findings about the natural develop- start of actual work. This involves establishingmental processes of task-performing groups the boundary that distinguishes members fromraise the possibility, consistent with both the nonmembers, starting to differentiate roles andprocess consultation and developmental ap- formulate norms about how members will workproaches to team coaching previously summa- together, and engaging with (and, inevitably,rized, that the readiness of work teams for coach- redefining) the group task. These activities,ing interventions changes systematically across which involve simultaneous engagement withtheir life cycles. By “readiness for coaching” we the interpersonal and task issues that dominatemean (1) the degree to which the issues to be the start-up of any social system, create a highaddressed are among those naturally on team state of readiness for anything that shows prom-members’ minds at the time of the intervention, ise of reducing members’ uncertainties andcoupled with (2) the degree to which the team as helping them get off to a good start. A coachinga whole is not at that time preoccupied with intervention that helps a group have a goodmore pressing or compelling matters. “launch,” therefore, can significantly enhance We posit that coaching interventions are more members’ commitment to the team and the task,effective when they address issues a team is and thereby enhance their motivation to performready for at the time they are made and, more- the work of the team as well as they can.over, that readiness varies systematically The power and persistence of coaching be-across the team life cycle. In contrast, even com- haviors at the launch of a task-performing teampetently administered interventions are un- are affirmed by Ginnett’s (1993) study of the be- havior of airline captains during the first few 3 minutes of a newly formed crew’s life. The struc- In Gersick’s research it was not clear whether the mid- tural “shell” within which cockpit crews work ispoint transition was prompted externally (i.e., by referenceto a clock or calendar) or internally (i.e., by members’ sense quite detailed: the aircraft to be flown, where itthat about half their allotted time had elapsed). Mann (2001) is to be flown, the roles of each crew member,investigated this question experimentally by having groups basic work procedures such as checklists, andwork in a room with a clock that ran normally, in one where much more all are prespecified and well under-the clock ran one-third faster than normal (i.e., when thirty stood by all crewmembers. Therefore, a newminutes had passed, the clock showed that forty minuteshad elapsed), or in one where the clock ran one-third slower crew should be able to proceed with its workthan normal (i.e., at the thirty-minute mark it showed twenty without spending time getting organized, whichminutes). Groups with the normal clock experienced a single is, in fact, what happens if a captain does notmidpoint transition, replicating earlier findings. But groups conduct a launch briefing when the crew firstwith the faster and slower clocks exhibited two such transi- meets.tions—one at the midpoint indicated by the clock and theother at the actual midpoint of the allotted time—showing Consistent with Gersick’s results, Ginnettthat groups pace their work in response to both internal and (1993) found that what happened in the first fewexternal cues about elapsed time. minutes of crewmembers’ time together carried
  • 8. 276 Academy of Management Review Aprilforward throughout a significant portion of the groups did better than the “discuss your strat-crew’s life. Crews led by captains who merely egy first” groups on the version of the task fortook the time in their preflight briefings to affirm which the obvious way of proceeding was thethe positive features of the crew shell fared bet- optimum strategy, and the reverse was trueter than those whose captains gave no briefing when the obvious way of proceeding was sub-at all or those whose captains undermined the optimal.standard shell. Best of all were crews whose Perhaps the most significant finding of thecaptains went beyond mere affirmation and ac- study, however, is buried in the discussion sec-tively elaborated the shell—identifying, com- tion of the research report—namely, that it wasmenting on, and engaging their crews in a dis- nearly impossible to get the experimentalcussion of the unique circumstances of the trip groups to actually have a discussion of perfor-that was about to begin. These captains trans- mance strategy at the start of the work period.formed a highly competent set of individual pi- Only by structuring the strategy intervention aslots into a motivated flight crew. a “preliminary task” and explicitly requiring the Because most work teams do not have struc- team to check off each step as it was completedtures as detailed and elaborate as those of cock- could the experimental groups be induced topit crews, what happens as members come to- have more than a perfunctory discussion of theirgether and come to terms with their work should performance strategy at the beginning of theshape their trajectories even more profoundly work period. Beginnings are not a good time forthan was the case for Ginnett’s crews. Begin- strategy discussions, but, as will be seen next,nings provide a unique opportunity for motiva- midpoints are.tional coaching interventions that breathe lifeinto a team’s structural shell—no matter how Midpointsrudimentary or how elaborate that shell maybe—and thereby help get a team off to a good A second window for coaching interventionsstart with high motivational engagement by all opens around the midpoint of the team’s work.members. At that point the team has logged some experi- In contrast, and perhaps surprisingly, begin- ence with the task, providing data for membersnings are not good times to help teams formu- to use in assessing what is working well andlate work strategy. When they are just starting poorly. Moreover, the team is likely to have ex-out, teams are not yet ready to address ques- perienced an upheaval, driven in part by mem-tions of strategy, as Hackman, Brousseau, and bers’ anxieties about the amount of work theyWeiss (1976) inadvertently discovered in an ex- have accomplished relative to the time theyperimental study of team performance. These have remaining, that opens the possibility ofresearchers asked a subset of participating significant change in how the team operatesteams to take a few minutes to reflect on their (Gersick, 1988, 1989). For these reasons, readi-performance strategy—that is, to consider vari- ness for a strategy-focused coaching interven-ous ways of carrying out the task— before actu- tion is high at the temporal midpoint of a team’sally starting work on it. The investigators hy- work.pothesized that these teams would perform We posit that ongoing teams having no dead-better than teams that were encouraged to line, and therefore no temporal midpoint, alsoplunge immediately into the work— but only on experience increased readiness for strategy-tasks for which the most obvious and natural focused interventions when they are about half-way of proceeding was not the optimum task way finished with the work—for example, whenperformance strategy. they have consumed half of their available re- To test their hypothesis, the researchers struc- sources, have progressed halfway to their goal,tured their experimental task in two different or have arrived at some other natural breakways. In one version of the task, the most obvi- point in the work. At that time members areous and natural way of proceeding was, in fact, more likely than previously to welcome and beoptimum for team performance; in a second ver- helped by interventions that encourage them tosion, that way of proceeding would introduce assess their work progress, to review how theyinefficiencies and result in suboptimal perfor- are applying members’ efforts and talents to themance. As expected, the “plunge right in” work, and to consider how they might want to
  • 9. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 277alter their task performance strategies to better how best to proceed with their work. This con-align them with external requirements and in- clusion deals specifically with the timing of ex-ternal resources. ternal interventions intended to foster team The increased receptivity to coaching inter- strategy planning. When work teams spontane-ventions that encourage reflection on team work ously engage in planning activities in their ini-strategies by teams that have logged some ex- tial team meetings, process management normsperience, relative to those that are just starting sometimes emerge that are subsequently help-out, is a tenet of developmental theories of team ful in pacing and coordinating team activitiescoaching (e.g., Kozlowski, Gully, McHugh, Salas, (Janicik & Bartel, 2003).& Cannon-Bowers, 1996) and is empirically sup- In both the Woolley (1998) study and the ex-ported by the findings of Woolley (1998), men- periment by Hackman et al. (1976) described ear-tioned earlier. Woolley created an experimental lier, it was difficult but possible to introduce aversion of an architectural task that involved strategy-focused intervention at the beginningconstructing a model of a college residence hall of a task cycle. In other cases it is impossible toout of LEGO® bricks. Groups were informed in do so. Total quality management programs, foradvance how the structures they created would example, involve use of such techniques as Pa-be evaluated (criteria included sturdiness, aes- reto analyses, control charts, and cost-of-qualitythetics, and various technical indices). She de- analyses to develop improved production strat-vised two coaching-type interventions— one in- egies (for details, see Hackman & Wageman,tended to improve members’ interpersonal 1995). These techniques simply cannot be usedrelationships and one that provided assistance until a record of experience with existing strat-to the team in developing a task-appropriate egies has been amassed— once again affirmingperformance strategy. Each team received only that consultative coaching is more appropri-one intervention, administered either at the be- ately provided around the middle of a task cycleginning or at the midpoint of its work period. than at its beginning. Woolley’s findings, shown in Figure 1, confirmthat strategy interventions are especially help- Endsful when they come near the midpoint of ateam’s work cycle. When the strategy interven- The third special opportunity for coaching oc-tion was provided at the beginning of the work curs at the end of a performance period, whenperiod, it did not help, further affirming that the work is finished or a significant subtask hasmembers need to log some experience before been accomplished (Kozlowski, Gully, Salas, &they are ready to have a useful discussion of Cannon-Bowers, 1996). The end of a task cycle is FIGURE 1 Woolley’s Findings About the Focus and Timing of Coaching Adapted from Woolley (1998).
  • 10. 278 Academy of Management Review Aprilthe time when a team has as much data as it is can result in having leaders assigned a dispro-likely to get for members to use in exploring portionate share of the credit for team successeswhat can be learned from the collective work and minority members a disproportionate sharejust completed. Moreover, a team is likely to be of the blame for team failures (Smith & Berg,far more ready at this point than previously to 1987: Chapter 4). Competent, well-timed coach-capture and internalize the lessons that can be ing can help members work through such im-learned from their work experiences, for several pulses and generate collective learning thatreasons. The anxieties that invariably surface in strengthens the team’s capabilities as a task-getting a piece of work organized, executed, and performing unit.finished on time dissipate once that work iscompleted—significant, because people do notlearn well when brimming with anxieties (Ed- Summarymondson, 1999; Zajonc, 1965). Moreover, once the We have seen that work teams are especiallytask has been finished, there often is time for open to coaching interventions at three times inreflection, which typically is in short supply in the group life cycle: (1) at the beginning, when athe rush to completion. The postperformance pe- group is engaging with its task; (2) at the mid-riod, therefore, is an especially inviting time for point, when half the allotted time has passededucational coaching interventions (see also and/or half the work has been done; and (3) atBlickensderfer, Cannon-Bowers, & Salas, 1997; the end, when a piece of work has been finished.Butler, 1993; Ellis, Mendel, Nir, & Davidi, 2002). Moreover, each of the three coaching functionsSuch interventions not only build the team’s res- discussed in the previous section of this articleervoir of talent, which increases its performance is uniquely appropriate at one of those threecapabilities for subsequent tasks, but also con- times: motivational coaching at beginnings,tribute directly to the personal learning of indi- consultative coaching at midpoints, and educa-vidual team members. tional coaching at ends. Absent coaching interventions, team mem- The time dependence of the coaching func-bers are not likely to take initiatives after the tions is summarized in our second proposition.work has been completed to capture and inter-nalize the lessons that could be learned from Proposition 2: Each of the three coach-their experiences. If the team has succeeded, ing functions has the greatest con-members may be more interested in celebrating structive effect at specific times in thethan in reflecting, and if it has not, they may be team task cycle. Specifically, (a) moti-driven more to rationalize why the failure was vational coaching is most helpfulnot really their fault than to explore what might when provided at the beginning of abe learned from it. Moreover, even if members performance period, (b) consultativedo take the time to reflect on possible explana- coaching is most helpful when pro-tions for the team’s level of performance, coach- vided at the midpoint of a perfor-ing may be required to bring those explanations mance period, and (c) educationalinto alignment with reality. coaching is most helpful when pro- In a field study of team attribution-making vided after performance activitiesprocesses, Corn (2000) collected a diverse sam- have been completed.ple of task-performing teams in organizations,some of which had performed well and some of This proposition could be viewed as suggest-which had not, and asked members of each ing that coaching is irrelevant or ineffectualteam to explain why the team had performed as during the great majority of a team’s time—thatit did. The majority of those explanations fo- is, in the extended periods that lie between itscused on the behaviors or dispositions of indi- beginning, midpoint, and end. It is true thatvidual members or of the team leader. This at- teams are remarkably impervious to interven-tributional bias diverts members’ attention from tions, made during times of low readiness, thatthe ways that less salient structural or contex- seek to alter their established trajectories. Eventual factors may have shaped their interaction so, it often is possible for coaching to makeand performance. Moreover, it invites the psy- small but significant contributions to the teamchodynamic phenomenon of “splitting,” which and its work during between-marker periods.
  • 11. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 279 One such contribution is to help members co- coaching interventions are abundant for suchordinate their activities and thereby minimize teams, because they experience multiple begin-the risks of tacit coordination identified by Wit- nings, midpoints, and ends.tenbaum, Vaughan, and Stasser (1998). Leaders Still other teams operate continuously, with-who take on too much of the responsibility for out any official beginnings or ends whatsoever.coordination do run the risk of becoming so in- Many industrial production teams, for example,volved in the actual work that they overlook keep on turning out the same products monthopportunities to help the team develop into an after month, indefinitely into the future. Evenincreasingly competent performing unit. And teams with continuous tasks, however, usuallyteam members may eventually abdicate to the have beginnings, midpoints, and ends. Theyleader their own responsibilities for managing have them because the teams, or their manag-team performance processes. Still, when task ers, create them.complexity is very high and/or when members There appears to be a human compulsion toare relatively inexperienced, helping members create temporal markers, even when no suchcoordinate their activities can be an appropriate markers are actually needed. In a semiconduc-and helpful coaching intervention. tor manufacturing plant that operated continu- A second kind of between-marker coaching ously all year (except for an annual holidaythat can be helpful to work teams is the use of break when the entire plant closed down), foroperant techniques to reinforce constructive but instance, production activities were organizedinfrequently observed team behaviors, such as around six-week performance periods, and teamverbally reinforcing a team for exhibiting good dynamics were highly responsive to the begin-work processes (Komaki et al., 1989). Consistent nings, midpoints, and ends of these entirely ar-with the tenets of the operant model of team bitrary temporal markers (Abramis, 1990; Hack-coaching summarized earlier, these initiatives man, 2002). The creation of quarters to demarkcan both increase the frequency of desirable financial reporting periods and semesters (orbehaviors and decrease the frequency of unde- quarters) to organize educational activities insirable behaviors. However, such initiatives schools have the same character: they are arbi-may be especially helpful for teams whose ba- trary but nonetheless powerful in shaping thesic performance processes—that is, their man-agement of team effort, strategy, and talent— rhythm of collective activity.are already strong. Even well-designed and Temporal rhythms are deeply rooted in hu-well-executed reinforcement of desirable team man experience, and if temporal markers arebehaviors cannot compensate for the absence of not naturally provided (e.g., through human bi-well-timed motivational, consultative, and edu- ology or seasonal cycles), we create them andcational coaching interventions. then use them to pace our activities. Such mark- Most of the research evidence supporting the ers identify the beginnings, midpoints, and endsproposition that teams are especially open to of team life cycles, and they thereby create op-motivational, consultative, and educational in- portunities for coaching interventions that oth-terventions at their beginnings, midpoints, and erwise would not exist.ends comes from teams that have a single taskto complete by a specified deadline. The taskcycles of such teams are coincident with their CONDITIONSlife cycles, and, therefore, temporal markers areeasy to identify. For many work teams in orga- The impact of motivational, consultative, andnizations, however, tasks and deadlines are not educational coaching depends not just on theso clear and well defined. For example, some time in the task cycle at which interventions areteams have multiple tasks to perform, perform made but also on the degree to which two otherthe same task multiple times, or have work that conditions are in place. The first of these condi-requires members to manage multiple task cy- tions is the degree to which key performancecles simultaneously in the service of larger per- processes are externally constrained, and theformance goals (Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, second is the degree to which the group itself is2001). Opportunities for temporally appropriate a well-designed performing unit.
  • 12. 280 Academy of Management Review AprilTask and Organizational Constraints circumstances the relationship between the team’s utilization of member talent and team Not all of the coaching functions specified performance is severely restricted.here are salient for all team tasks, since for In some organizational circumstances allsome tasks only one or two of the three perfor- three of the performance processes are uncon-mance processes drive performance outcomes. strained, and all three, therefore, are salient inFor an arithmetic task with a self-confirming affecting performance outcomes. Consider, foranswer, for example, the performance of a team example, the work of product developmentthat has accepted and engaged with its task is teams. The pace of the work is largely at thealmost entirely a function of the knowledge and discretion of the team, performance proceduresskill its members apply in their work. In con- are mostly unprogrammed, and the work re-trast, performance on a simple, self-paced pro- quires use of complex skills to deal with consid-duction task, such as moving materials from one erable uncertainty in the environment. Motiva-place to another, is almost entirely a function of tional, consultative, and educational coachingthe level of effort members expend. interventions, if competently provided, all can Thus, if one of the three performance pro- be helpful in fostering the performance effec-cesses is constrained (i.e., if variation in that tiveness of such teams.process is controlled or limited by the task or the In other circumstances some performance pro-organization), then any attempts by members to cesses are constrained and others are not. Sur-manage that particular process will be ineffec- gical teams are one example (Edmondson, Boh-tual. If, however, a performance process is not mer, & Pisano, 2001). There is little constraintconstrained, then how well members manage regarding the use of knowledge and skill bythat process can substantially affect their team members but moderate constraint on bothteam’s eventual performance. strategy (some but not all procedures are pro- The salience of effort is constrained by the grammed) and effort (some but not all task in-degree to which work inputs are under external puts derive from the nature of the surgical pro-control. When the arrival of the materials a team cedure and the response of the patient as theprocesses is controlled externally (e.g., by cus- operation progresses). Finally, there are sometomer demand or machine pacing), a team can circumstances in which all three performanceonly respond to whatever it receives and will be processes are constrained, as for a team work-unable to increase its output by working espe- ing on a mechanized assembly line where in-cially hard. In such circumstances the relation- puts are machine paced, assembly proceduresship between team effort and performance is are completely programmed, and performanceseverely restricted. operations are simple and predictable. A team The salience of strategy is constrained by the assigned such a task would be a team in namedegree to which performance operations are ex- only, since performance would depend so littleternally determined. When work procedures are on how members interacted.completely prespecified (e.g., by mechanical re- Teams can be helped by coaching interven-quirements or by a manual that specifies ex- tions that focus specifically on reducing processactly how the work is to be done), a team has losses and/or on fostering process gains only forlittle latitude to develop a new or better task those aspects of team performance processesperformance strategy. In such circumstances the that are relatively unconstrained. Coaching in-relationship between team performance strate- terventions that address team processes thatgies and performance is severely restricted. are substantially constrained will be ineffec- Finally, the salience of knowledge and skill is tual, since they seek to improve team processesconstrained by the degree to which performance that are not salient for how well the team per-operations are simple and predictable (versus forms. Such interventions can even compromisecomplex and unpredictable). When task perfor- performance because they consume members’mance requires the use of skills that are well time and direct their attention away from morelearned in the general population on tasks that salient aspects of their interaction.are well understood, a team is unable to im-prove its performance by bringing additional Proposition 3: Coaching interventionsknowledge or skill to bear on the work. In such are helpful only when they address
  • 13. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 281 team performance processes that are (Bettenhausen & Murnighan, 1985; Gersick, salient for a given task; those that ad- 1988), and they tend to remain in place until and dress nonsalient processes are, at best, unless something fairly dramatic occurs to force ineffectual. a rethinking about what behaviors are and are not appropriate (Gersick & Hackman, 1990; Louis & Sutton, 1991). When those upfront norms ofGroup Design conduct actively promote continuous scanning Certain features of a team’s design, including of the performance situation and proactive plan-properties of the social system context within ning of how members will work together, theywhich it operates, can negate the impact of facilitate the development of task performancecoaching interventions, even those that are well strategies that are appropriate for the team’sexecuted and that address appropriate team task and situation (Hackman et al., 1976; Wool-performance processes. Moreover, design fea- ley, 1998). The appropriateness of a team’s per-tures can exacerbate the effects of good and formance strategies also depends, however, onpoor coaching on team effectiveness, heighten- the degree to which the organizational informa-ing the benefits of good coaching and making tion system makes available to the team what-even worse the problems brought about by poor ever data and projections members may need tocoaching. select or invent ways of proceeding that are well Each of the three performance processes that tuned to their circumstances (Abramis, 1990; Bik-form the core of our model—the level of effort the son, Cohen, & Mankin, 1999).team expends on its task, the appropriateness of The level of knowledge and skill a teamits performance strategies, and the amount of brings to bear on its work is influenced by theknowledge and skill it applies to the work—is composition of the team (a structural feature)shaped not only by coaching interventions but and by the organizational education system (aalso by how well a team is structured and by the contextual support). Well-composed teams havelevel of contextual support provided (Hackman, members who bring to the group a rich array ofWageman, Ruddy, & Ray, 2000). task-relevant knowledge and skills, and they The effort a team expends on its work is influ- are structured so that members’ talents can beenced by the design of its task (a structural drawn on readily in pursuing team purposes.feature) and by the reward system of the orga- Such teams are as small as possible, given thenization in which the team operates (a contex- work to be accomplished, they include memberstual support). A motivating team task is a whole who have appropriate skills, and they have aand meaningful piece of work for which mem- good mix of members—people who are neitherbers share responsibility and accountability so similar to one another that they are like peasand one that is structured so that members re- from the same pod nor so different that they riskceive regular and trustworthy data about how having difficulty communicating and coordinat-they are doing. Well-designed team tasks foster ing with one another (Ancona & Caldwell, 1992;high, task-focused effort by team members Campion, Medsker, & Higgs, 1993; Druskat, 1996;(Hackman & Oldham, 1980). Team effort is en- Goodman & Shah, 1992; Jackson, 1992).hanced by organizational reward systems that Even well-composed teams, however, may notrecognize and reinforce team excellence—and have within their boundaries all of the talentthat avoid the common, if usually unintended, required for excellent performance. Organiza-problem of providing disincentives for collabo- tional education systems can supplement inter-ration among team members by placing them in nal resources by making available to teams, atcompetition with one another for individual re- the teams’ initiative, technical or educationalwards (Wageman, 1995). assistance for any aspects of the work for which The task appropriateness of a team’s perfor- members are not already knowledgeable,mance strategy is influenced by its core norms skilled, or experienced, including, if necessary,of conduct (a structural feature) and by the or- assistance honing members’ skills in workingganizational information system (a contextual together on collective tasks (Stevens & Yarish,support). Collective expectations about accept- 1999).able behavior are either “imported” to the group Research evidence clearly establishes the pri-by members or established very early in its life ority of structural and contextual features over
  • 14. 282 Academy of Management Review Aprilcoaching behaviors as influences on team per- When, then, can coaching make a constructiveformance processes and outcomes (Cohen, Led- difference in team performance processes? Weford, & Spreitzer, 1996). For example, Wageman propose that coaching makes relatively small(2001) found, in a study of field service teams at adjustments to an already defined trajectory.the Xerox Corporation, that team design fea- When a team’s performance situation is favor-tures, including those described just above, con- able, competent coaching can be helpful totrolled significantly more variance in both the members in minimizing process losses and cre-level of team self-management and in perfor- ating process gains. When a team’s structure ismance effectiveness than did team leaders’ flawed and/or its context is unsupportive, how-coaching behaviors. For team self-management, ever, even competent process-focused coachingdesign features controlled 42 percent of the vari- may do more harm than good.ance, compared to less than 10 percent for mea- Proposition 4: Competent coaching in-sures that assessed the quality of leaders’ terventions (i.e., those that foster col-coaching activities; for team performance, de- lective effort, task-appropriate perfor-sign controlled 37 percent of the variance, com- mance strategies, and good use ofpared to less than 1 percent for coaching. These member knowledge and skill) arefindings are consistent with other evidence, more beneficial for groups that arecited earlier, showing that even highly compe- well structured and supported than fortent process-focused coaching by team leaders those that are not; poor coaching in-or consultants rarely generates substantial or terventions (i.e., those that subvertenduring improvements in team processes or team performance processes) are moreperformance, and with the more general finding detrimental for teams that are poorlythat coaching cannot prevail against strong structured and supported than forstructural and contextual forces (Hackman, those that are well designed.1987). It is nearly impossible to coach a team togreatness in a performance situation that under- Further findings from the Wageman (2001)mines rather than supports teamwork. study described above provide evidence in sup- FIGURE 2 How Team Design and Leader Coaching Jointly Affect Team Self-Management
  • 15. 2005 Hackman and Wageman 283port of this proposition. As seen in the left panel CONCLUSIONof Figure 2, competent coaching (e.g., conduct- In the present model we posit that teaming a problem-solving process) helped well- coaching can foster team effectiveness onlydesigned teams exploit their favorable circum- when four conditions are present. Two of thesestances but made little difference for poorly conditions have to do with organizational cir-designed teams. Poor coaching (e.g., identifying cumstances and two with coaches’ actions.a team’s problems and telling members howthey should solve them), in contrast, was muchmore deleterious for poorly designed teams than 1. The group performance processes that arefor those that had an enabling team structure key to performance effectiveness (i.e., effort, strategy, and knowledge and skill) are rela-and a supportive organizational context (right tively unconstrained by task or organization-panel of Figure 2). al requirements. The interaction between a team’s design and 2. The team is well designed and the organi-the efficacy of coaching interventions may help zational context within which it operatesexplain the finding from “brainstorming” re- supports rather than impedes team work. 3. Coaching behaviors focus on salient tasksearch that the pooled ideas of individuals performance processes rather than on mem-working alone generally exceed in both quan- bers’ interpersonal relationships or on pro-tity and quality the product of interacting brain- cesses that are not under the team’s control.storming groups (Taylor, Berry, & Block, 1957). 4. Coaching interventions are made at timesStudies of brainstorming typically use either ad when the team is ready for them and able to deal with them—that is, at the beginning forhoc groups created especially for research pur- effort-related (motivational) interventions,poses (e.g., Cohen, Whitmyre, & Funk, 1960) or near the midpoint for strategy-related (con-existing organizational groups whose members sultative) interventions, and at the end of aare asked to take time from their regular work to task cycle for (educational) interventionsparticipate in the research (e.g., Osborn, 1963). that address knowledge and skill.On the one hand, if the participating teams’design features are suboptimal—not unlikely When these four conditions are present, skill-for ad hoc or serendipitously obtained groups— fully provided coaching can yield substantialit would not be surprising to find that brain- and enduring improvements in team effective-storming fails to facilitate creative team perfor- ness. Yet these conditions are not commonlymance. For teams that have enabling structures found in traditionally designed and managedand supportive contexts, on the other hand, this work organizations. Organizational work de-particular coaching intervention—as well as signs often constrain one or more of the threeothers that require teams to be able to use non- performance processes that drive team perfor-traditional and unfamiliar group process tools— mance; organizational systems do not providemight well generate substantial performance the supports that work teams need; and coaches,benefits. when trained at all, are taught the leadership In sum, even competent coaching is unlikely styles preferred by trainers rather than helpedto be of much help to groups that have poor to learn how to provide well-timed and appro-structures and/or unsupportive organizational priately focused interventions using their owncontexts. Favorable performance situations, preferred styles (Hackman, 2002; Hackman &however, can yield a double benefit: teams are Walton, 1986).likely to have less need for coaching (because One could conclude, therefore, that few schol-they encounter fewer problems that lie beyond arly resources should be expended on researchtheir own capabilities), and the coaching that on team coaching because it is of so little con-they do receive is likely to be more helpful to sequence. Moreover, one could view the reportsthem (because they are not preoccupied with from the field (cited in the introduction to thismore basic, structurally rooted difficulties). Over paper) that team leaders spend less time ontime, such teams may become skilled at coach- team coaching than on any other category ofing themselves and may even enter into a self- leader behavior as a sign of team leaders’ wis-fueling spiral of ever-increasing team capabil- dom. Rather than spend time on an activity thatity and performance effectiveness (Lindsley, so rarely makes a difference, leaders might beBrass, & Thomas, 1995). better advised to focus on aspects of their lead-
  • 16. 284 Academy of Management Review Aprilership portfolio for which there is a greater re- organizational circumstances within whichturn from effort expended. their teams operate. It is highly doubtful that We believe such conclusions would be too any single laboratory or field study could com-pessimistic—for scholars and practitioners prehensively assess all the propositions of thealike. Scholars with an interest in senior execu- present model. But studies that test individualtive leadership have for many years debated propositions by creating specific coaching inter-just how much of a difference CEOs make in the ventions and documenting their effects in con-performance of their firms. These disputes, texts that are thoughtfully created or selectedwhich probably can never be resolved empiri- can, over time, provide the knowledge requiredcally, have now given way to a more tractable to correct and refine the model.question—namely, under what conditions does The challenges for coaching practitioners aresenior leadership matter (Wasserman, Anand, & just as great as for scholars, and for the sameNohria, 2001)? We suggest that a similar refram- reasons. Rather than simply taking as given theing of research questions about team coaching circumstances in which their teams operate,may be warranted. That is, instead of asking, practitioners who lead work teams should give“How much difference does team coaching first priority to determining whether the basicmake?” scholars might more productively ex- structural and contextual conditions that fosterpend resources in further research on the struc- team effectiveness are in place (Hackman, 2002).tural and contextual conditions under which If they are not, team leaders would be well ad-competent team coaching does (and does not) vised to exercise influence with their own peerssignificantly affect team performance. and supervisors to create those conditions, and The conduct of such research poses several thereby to make competent team coaching pos-significant challenges. For one thing, it is far sible. We hope the model of team coaching setfrom straightforward to measure leader behav- forth in this article is of some use to practition-iors and group processes reliably as they unfold ers in orienting and prioritizing such initiatives,in real time in fluid organizational circum- as well as to scholars in conducting informativestances. And since the effects of team coaching research about work teams and the behaviors ofare determined jointly by factors that exist at those who lead them.multiple levels of analysis (i.e., the organization-al, team, and individual levels), it is necessary REFERENCESto locate or create research settings where there Abramis, D. J. 1990. Semiconductor manufacturing team. Inis ample variation at all three levels (Hackman, J. R. Hackman (Ed.), Groups that work (and those that2003). Studies of coaching effectiveness cannot don’t): 449 – 470. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.simply take as given whatever structural and Alderfer, C. P. 1977. Group and intergroup relations. In J. R.contextual features are commonly found either Hackman & J. L. Suttle (Eds.), Improving life at work:in the experimental laboratory or in organiza- 227–296. Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear.tional life. Ancona, D. G., & Caldwell, D. F. 1992. Demography and Indeed, it may be necessary in research on design: Predictors of new product team performance.team coaching, as sometimes must be done in Organization Science, 3: 321–341.other scientific fields, such as medical research Ancona, D. G., & Chong, C. L. 1999. Cycles and synchrony:and subatomic physics, to first create one’s phe- The temporal role of context in team behavior. In R. Wageman (Ed.), Groups in context: 33– 48. Stamford,nomenon of interest before conducting research CT: JAI Press.on its dynamics (Argyris, 1969). Research in lab- Argyris, C. 1969. The incompleteness of social psychologicaloratory settings, for example, could involve the theory: Examples from small group, cognitive consis-construction and administration of model- tency, and attribution research. American Psychologist,specified coaching interventions at times either 24: 893–908.consistent or inconsistent with the model’s prop- Argyris, C. 1982. Reasoning, learning, and action. San Fran-ositions and then assessment of the conse- cisco: Jossey-Bass.quences for group dynamics and performance. Argyris, C. 1993. Education for leading-learning. Organiza-And action research in field settings could as- tional Dynamics, 21(3): 5–17.sess the impact of educational programs in- Bales, R. F., & Strodtbeck, F. L. 1951. Phases in group problemtended to help team coaches design interven- solving. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46:tions specifically tailored to the task and 485– 495.
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