Title: Management Teams
Publisher: Elsevier Butterworth – Heinemann
Author: R.Meredith Belbin
Review by: Dr Colin Thompson
The review on the back cover perfectly describes the intended audience of the text that says “It should be read by all that have responsibility and authority for guiding organisations in their selection of management teams.”
An essential book for building collaborative teams, this extraordinary book was written by Dr. Belbin and provides a useful theory for building and operating effective decision-making teams.
While Belbin’s title suggests this book is simply about business management, the content of the book is of much wider applicability. This book is a valuable, perhaps indispensable, source for anyone involved in collaborative endeavours. The book would be useful if it merely answered the question “Why do collaborative (creative, decision-making) teams succeed or fail?” Belbin goes much further than that. He tells us how to proactively build teams that are predisposed to succeed and, equally importantly, how to adopt strategies that will lead to success on the part of teams not so fortunately constructed.
This book is a must for all trainers in the HR arena. It explains the background to Belbins research; it explains the roles in detail and goes on to explain what the roles mean and how to use them to optimise team performance.
The language Belbin uses is friendly and easy to read and so the book is ideal material for trainers and students alike. This is a classic book which should be included on every HR trainer’s bookshelf.
An understanding of the importance of team building will always be a major factor in the successful growth and development of businesses. Management Teams has become part of everyday language of organisations all over the world.
All kinds of teams and team behaviour are covered, its contents include:
• A study of teams: How it all began
• The Apollo syndrome
• Teams containing similar personalities
• Creativity in the team
• Team Leadership
• Key team-roles
• Unsuccessful teams
• Winning teams
• Ideal team size
• Features of teamsmen
• Designing a team
• Teams in public affairs
• Where we are now
• Case studies in using Belbin
1. Changing a company’s style
2. Helping to bridge the culture gap
3. Use of team roles in change strategy
4. Using Interplace in a school
5. An expedition to Morocco
6. Linking the work of teams
7. Creating productive working relationships
8. Development of an R&D team
9. Developing ‘teaming’ as a working model for the South African Revenue Services (SARS)
10. Developing team roles in a range of organisations
As a result of research carried out in the 1970s, Belbin (b.1926) identified eight roles, which would prove useful in a well-balanced team. Later a ninth role was identified. Belbin’s theory can be used in such areas as team selection, understanding group dynamics and improving team performance. There are several types of team, for example temporary teams, cross-functional teams, top management teams and self-directed teams. Many teams have less than 9 people.
Some teams need to contain specific types of people. For these reasons Belbin’s theory is not a master plan but it does provide a structured mechanism for team members and managers to look at the dynamics of their team and understand the relationships.
The nine roles are:
Creative, imaginative, unorthodox. Solves difficult problems. However tends to ignore incidentals and be too immersed to communicate effectively?
Extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative. Explores opportunities and networks with others. However, can be over optimistic and loses interest after initial enthusiasm has waned.
Mature, confidant and a natural chairperson. Clarifies goals, promotes decision-making and delegates effectively. However can be seen as manipulative and controlling. Can over delegate by off loading personal work.
Challenging, dynamic, thrives under pressure. Jumps hurdles using determination and courage. However can be easily provoked and ignorant of the feelings of others.
Even tempered, strategic and discerning. Sees all the options and judges accurately. However can lack drive and lack inspired leadership qualities.
Co-operative, relationship focused, sensitive and diplomatic. A good listener who builds relationships. Dislikes confrontation. However can be indecisive in crisis.
Disciplined, reliable, conservative and efficient. Acts on ideas. However can be inflexible and slow to see new opportunities.
Conscientious and anxious to get the job done. An eye for detail, good at searching out the errors. Finishes and delivers on time. However can be a worrier and reluctant to delegate.
Single minded self-starter. Dedicated and provides specialist knowledge. The rarer the supplier of this knowledge, the more dedicated the specialist. However can be stuck in their niche with little interest in the world outside it and dwell on technicalities.
These summaries describe the characteristics of each role and also give ‘allowable weakness’ points. This means that managers can expect these weaknesses to emerge and therefore an allowance should be made. Therefore if a ‘Team Worker’ will have a natural tendency to be indecisive in a crisis, then the team can make sure that they don’t have high expectations in that situation. Team workers will be happiest if the crisis is foreseen and policy decisions which involve them made before the pressure is turned on.
It is evident that many of these roles will naturally conflict with each other. It is very powerful when individuals first understand that these natural behaviours and tendencies cause the conflicts that sometimes occur and not because the other person ‘does not like me’.
About the reviewer:
Dr Colin Thompson is Managing Partner at Cavendish; former Managing Director of print manufacturing plants/print management solutions companies; a non-executive director; speaker at conferences; helping companies to raise their `bottom-line`. He is the author of several books, research reports, business models on CD-ROM/Software and over 400 articles published worldwide. Visit his site or email: [email protected]