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Fatores que influenciam o desempenho da equipe
Fatores que influenciam o desempenho da equipe
Fatores que influenciam o desempenho da equipe
Fatores que influenciam o desempenho da equipe
Fatores que influenciam o desempenho da equipe
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Fatores que influenciam o desempenho da equipe

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  • 1. The impact of top performers on project teams Marla Hacker Introduction A frequent response to the highly competitive and global marketplace is the formation of project teams. Project teams enable multiple perspectives, a variety of experiences, and a broad skill set to be brought to bear on projects. As projects increase in complexity, the use of project teams is increasingly being considered a necessity. The issue for many, if not most, organizations today is not whether to form project teams, but how to increase the performance of existing teams. Organizations that have installed teams often complain that they have not experienced the performance they expected (Kepner and Tregoe, 1996). It is common to see wide variances in project team performance. As a result, determinants of project team performance is an often studied area (Brown et al., 1990). Why is there a large variation in project team performance? This is an important question for managers. Better understanding the influences of the variation may help managers reduce it. The goal of this study was to identify a critical, visible factor or set of factors that managers could incorporate into their team formulation process that would increase the probability of higher team performance. The study simulated the real world experience of project teams. The simulation involved students in upper-division engineering courses. Student teams of three- four individuals were formed in two upper- level engineering courses. Each team was assigned a technical problem to solve, which would require the team to work together during an entire semester or ten weeks. Team performance was based upon the project scores. Project team definition Organizations are utilizing project teams more often as the result of increasingly complex projects and because success is often associated with beating competitors to the market. Project teams are highly interdependent in that team members must work together to complete a task, and must work extensively with nonmembers (Ancona and Caldwell, 1992). The advantage of project teams is their ability to bring together The authors Marla Hacker is Associate Professor at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA. E-mail: hackerm@capital.ous.edu Keywords Project team, Performance, High-flyers Abstract Management and scholars have been searching for the determinants of project team performance for many years. Individual characteristics and intra-team processes are most often hypothesized to influence team performance. To date, though, we still do not really understand why some teams perform better than other teams. Studies have provided mixed findings and inconclusive results. The study described in this article continues the search for variables that influence project team performance. The findings provide support for an increasingly, albeit controversial, discussion occurring within human resource circles, concerning the impact of top performers on team performance. Electronic access The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emerald-library.com 85 Team Performance Management: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 5/6 . 2000 . pp. 85±89 # MCB University Press . ISSN 1352-7592
  • 2. skills and experiences from multiple disciplines for integration and task completion (Keller, 1986). Project teams fit Parker's (1990) definition of team: a group of people with a high degree of interdependence, aiming for a goal or the completion of a task. But not all teams are alike. Project teams are different from work teams, improvement teams, and management teams in several ways. Unlike other types of teams, project teams are time- limited (Cohen and Bailey, 1997). Project teams often work towards the completion of a single output and after the attainment of the output the team disbands. The complexity of projects today and the speed in which projects must be accomplished have created the need for project teams composed of individuals willing and able to form quickly, accomplish project tasks, and then move on to other project teams. Factors influencing intra-organizational project team performance Most team performance models in the literature are similar to the initial model proposed by McGrath in 1964, shown in Figure 1. The independent variables include: individual characteristics (e.g. demographic, experiences, and skills), group characteristics (e.g. composition and structure), and environmental characteristics (e.g. business situation, culture, and physical conditions). It is often hypothesized that these variables influence team interaction processes or intra- team dynamics, which in turn influence team performance. An individual manager is often faced with similar project teams and wonders why performance varies so much across the teams ± the composition of the teams and the processes used are more similar than dissimilar, the manager has ensured that the appropriate skills and functions are represented on the project team, and that each team is using similar processes that teams have been trained in (e.g. meeting effectiveness techniques, data analysis techniques, etc.). Environmental factors may be considered similar since the project teams are operating within the same unit and have the same reporting structure. So, given all of this, the manager wonders why team performance varies so much. Perhaps, it is the variation in individuals? Many organizations attempt to address the individual factors that influence team performance with team training. The multiple perspectives desired on project teams often strain the social system of the team, creating intra-team dynamics that make achieving the task or project goals difficult. Intra-team dynamics include behaviors that create inefficient meeting processes and impact on output performance (e.g. non-participation, inattention, domineering behaviors, lack of cooperation, lack of trust, etc.). Most often team training is aimed at increasing positive interpersonal behaviors (e.g. listening and conflict management) or increasing the rational processes used by the group (Kernaghan and Cooke, 1990). Rational processes include the use of procedural structure to analyze a problem, develop alternative solutions and select the best alternative based upon predetermined criteria. To date, though, evaluative studies of the effectiveness of team training have shown conflicting results or only moderately effective results (Burke and Day, 1986), leaving managers still unclear about how to improve team performance. Focus of the study The focus of this study was to identify individual factors that influence project team performance. The individual factors analyzed Figure 1 Relationship model 86 The impact of top performers on project teams Marla Hacker Team Performance Management: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 5/6 . 2000 . 85±89
  • 3. were individual member characteristics and intra-team processes. By identifying independent variables with a relationship to team performance, managers may have a better understanding of how to form teams that more often will achieve higher performance. The research questions for this study were: . Can we identify individual member characteristics that influence team performance? . Can we identify intra-team dynamics that influence team performance? Design of the study Multiple regression analysis was used to determine which, if any, of the plausible independent variables might explain variance in team performance. Subjects The population for the study consisted of 22 teams composed of three-four team members each. All team members were upperclassmen engineering students or upperclassmen with engineering minor. Team members were randomly assigned in class to teams following an exercise where individuals self-assessed their technical skills (i.e. CAD drawing, presentation, statistics, etc.). An attempt was made by the instructor to balance technical skills across the teams. The teams were required to complete a semester-long, open-ended project. Open- ended projects are similar to industrial projects ± there are multiple approaches to a solution and no single solution. Students are required to make evaluate alternatives and make trade-offs to find a good, workable solution. Multiple sub-tasks were required to a complete the overall project. The sub-tasks required the application of concepts being taught concurrently in the classroom to the project area. Consequently, no student teams were ``smarter'' than the others regarding the task. They were all learning the material at the same time. Each team was evaluated relative to the other teams and assigned a letter grade. Thus, there was a strong incentive for teams, and for individuals within teams, to strive to do their best. Data collection sources Data were collected from multiple sources. The individual team member data were collected from two sources. Individuals completed a questionnaire that focused on demographic, and team and work experiences data. Additionally, the university database provided grade point average (GPA) data for each student participating in the study. For the intra-team dynamics data, individuals completed a 12-item survey that measured three constructs: level of team agreement, quality of discussion, and quality of interaction. There were four items per construct. The survey was administered at the end of the project. Individuals were asked to evaluate their team's intra-team dynamics using five-point Likert-type scales where: 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree. Team performance data were measured by the grades students received on the course project by their instructor. Summary of findings Research question 1: Can we identify individual member characteristics that influence team performance? A correlation matrix was computed with the independent demographic variables and the dependent team performance variable. Independent variables included age, gender, education level, team experiences, military experience, the number of siblings in the family, and grade point average. The only independent team member variable showing a relationship to team performance was GPA. GPA was analyzed several ways. The average team GPA, the highest individual GPA on the team, and the lowest individual GPA on the team were all evaluated as to the strength of relationship with project team performance. There was a significant positive correlation found between average team GPA and team performance, and between the maximum GPA on the team and team performance. The correlation coefficients were 0.6042 and 0.6379 with a corresponding p-value of 0.0037 and 0.0019, respectively. In addition, GPA itself explains 35.23 per cent of the variation in the team performance data. This is a very high value in studies of this type. 87 The impact of top performers on project teams Marla Hacker Team Performance Management: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 5/6 . 2000 . 85±89
  • 4. Research question 2: What is the relationship between intra-team dynamics variables and team performance? This question was answered in several steps. First, the items for each scale were evaluated for consistency. Cronbach Coefficient Alphas were calculated for this purpose. The Cronbach Coefficient Alpha for level of team agreement, quality of discussion and quality of team interaction were 0.74, 0.81 and 0.81, respectively. Scores above 0.70 are generally accepted as consistent (Nunnally, 1978). No statistically significant relationships were found between any intra-team dynamic variable (level of team agreement, quality of discussion, and quality of interaction) and the dependent variable ± team performance. Discussion and implications It is not surprising that we continue to have problems explaining why some teams are more successful than other comparable teams. A relationship between individual demographic or experiential variables and team performance was not found in this study. Similarly, a relationship between intra- team dynamics variables and team performance was also not found. The finding of a significant relationship between GPA and team performance, though, creates an interesting, though controversial, discussion and implications section. A high average team GPA was positively correlated with high team performance. Also teams having one student with a high GPA performed better than the other teams. GPA reflects an individual's motivation and capability to perform well. On a relative basis, since all university students are in the same ``system'', a motivated and capable individual should have a higher GPA than less motivated and less capable students. What makes this an interesting discussion in the team performance literature is how GPA in the university system could be analogous to management evaluations (and ratings) in industry and how top performers in industry may influence the teams they are on. How might this study simulate industrial conditions? The subjects were upperclassmen in engineering who were assigned to project teams based upon their prior skills and experience by their leader (the instructor). This is similar to how a manager would form a project team. The task was an open-ended project similar to projects found in industry. ``Open-ended'' means that multiple feasible solutions existed. The students had to formulate their own process for completing the project. The students were required to perform as professional engineers in terms of evaluating the situation, collecting and analyzing data, identifying alternatives, evaluating trade-offs, and making a convincing recommendation as to a solution or course of action. Evaluation was done by the leader (in this case, the instructor). Each project received a score reflecting the team's performance. In industry, a manager annually evaluates project and project team performance. Often the manager's evaluation includes quantifying the individual's performance into a numeric score or rating. Some organizations (e.g. Hewlett Packard, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric) have designated management rating levels of 1 through 4 or 5 and, each year, managers are evaluated according to this. Are GPA and management rating analogous? In theory, GPA represents a student's motivation and capability to be successful within the system in which the student achieved the evaluations (i.e. grades). Is not this also true for management rankings? In theory, within the same system, a manager rated higher than other managers should be more motivated and more capable than the lower rated managers in the same system (i.e. organization). It is not too great a leap, as might be originally thought, to see how management ratings and student GPAs are similar, which may help managers understand factors impacting on team performance. Management ratings and student GPAs both involve subjectivity. A person in a position (usually a higher hierarchical level) to evaluate an individual's work relative to others' work, usually using data and judgment, rates the individuals. In organizations typically a 1 through 5 numeric ranking occurs, whereas in the classroom a letter grade is assigned from A through F. Universities today are increasingly using pedagogy that involves open-ended, team projects much more frequently, thus 88 The impact of top performers on project teams Marla Hacker Team Performance Management: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 5/6 . 2000 . 85±89
  • 5. introducing more subjectivity in the evaluation process ± similar to management rating. If management rating and student GPAs are analogous, what are the implications of this study? The study found only one factor influencing team performance ± teams with higher average GPAs or teams with even one member with a higher relative GPA performed better than other teams. The real- world implication is that, if managers use management ratings as a critical factor in forming teams, team performance may be higher. Managers will suggest that they already do this ± they consider prior performance when forming teams. And it is generally true, when an objective must be met, that a top performer is often placed on a team. By ensuring that the top performer is on the team, management feels more confident that the performance of the team will meet or exceed expectations. This study suggests that teams should always have at least one top performer in its membership and an indication of a top performer is the management rating. This is a message that is being discussed more often in organizational circles today. At a recent HR conference, the following statements were asserted: . Jack Welch says that the top 10 percent performers' (rating level 5) output and energizing impact are overwhelming compared to performers at rating level 4. . Bill Gates says the difference between a top performer and an average one is 100- fold. Perhaps, after ensuring that teams have the required skill base, the most critical choice for managers relative to improving project team performance is selecting at least one individual to be on the team that has demonstrated the motivation and capability to perform well in the past as indicated by the management rating. The conclusion that an individual on the team can greatly enhance team performance has been found in other studies (Bacon et al., 1998; Hacker, 1998). Even with this, management rating has not been an overt consideration in team formulation processes even though management rating is available in many organizations today. This study does not suggest that scholars should give up the quest for identifying other critical factors related to team performance. The model developed by McGrath in the 1960s is appropriate even today. The relationships between individual, group, and environmental factors and team dynamics and team performance are as complex today as ever. What this study does suggest is a means for managers to improve their teams' performance today while the research on team performance continues. References Ancona, D. and Caldwell, D. (1992), ``Demography and design: predictors of new product team performance'', Organization Science, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 321-41. Bacon, D., Stewart, K. and Stewart-Belle, S. (1998), ``Exploring predictors of student team project performance'', Journal of Marketing Education, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 63-71. Brown, K., Klastorin, T. and Valluzzi, J. (1990), ``Project performance and the liability of group harmony'', IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 117-25. Burke, M. and Day, R. (1986), ``A cumulative study of the effectiveness of managerial training'', Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 71 No. 2, pp. 232-45. Cohen, S., and Bailey, D. (1997), ``What makes teams work: group effectiveness research from the shop- floor to the executive suite'', Journal of Management, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 239-90. Hacker, M. (1998), ``Production teams and process improvement activities: the impact of team technology'', Quality Progress, December. Keller, R. (1986), ``Predictors of the performance of project groups in R&D organizations'', Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 715-26. Kepner, C. and Tregoe, B. (1996), Worker Performance, Kepner-Tregoe, Princeton, NJ. Kernaghan, J. and Cooke, R. (1990), ``Teamwork in planning innovative projects: improving group performance by rational and interpersonal interventions in group process'', IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 109-15. McGrath, J. (1964), Social Psychology: A Brief Introduction, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, NY. Nunnally, J. (1978), Psychometric Theory (2nd ed.), McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. Parker, G. (1990), Team Players and Teamwork: The New Competitive Business Strategy, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. 89 The impact of top performers on project teams Marla Hacker Team Performance Management: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 5/6 . 2000 . 85±89

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