AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EFFECTIVE
TEAMS AND INDIVIDUAL TEAM MEMBER BEHAVIOR PATTERNS:
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON ORGANIZATIONAL FUNCTIONING
Gail Marie Viveiros
B.A., Glassboro State College, 1974
M.Ed., University of Hawaii, 1979
M.A., University of Colorado, 1986
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
1999 by Gail M. Viveiros
All rights reserved.
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Gail M. Viveiros
has been approved
Viveiros, Gail Marie (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
An Investigation into the Relationship Between Effective Teams and Individual
Team Member Behavior Patterns: A New Perspective on Organizational
Thesis directed by Professor Nadyne Guzman
In the early 1980s an alarm was sounded across the United States, as
evidence of decline and failure steadily increased in both business and education.
Americas response was a rededication to the pursuit of excellence in the
workplace. Yet, the 1990s has seen a continuation of this downward trend in
many areas. It is not that we have not tried to fix our organizations. Each year
a plethora of how to books are written and millions of dollars paid to consultants
in an effort to alleviate organizational problems and improve functioning.
Organizations are now passionately embracing the team concept in order
to meet the complex demands of todays competitive world. Organizations cannot
overcome the challenges that confront them without teams and teamwork, and
effective teams can often determine the success or failure of an organization.
Little research is evident in the study of interpersonal behavior within
teams. Missing in much of the literature is an understanding that people create
the organization when they come to work, operate it while they are at work, and
use it to meet their own personal needs. Viewing teams through the lens of Family
System Theory provides an alternate perspective on team functioning. The team
structure so prevalent in organizations today is consistent with the family structure.
This study examined the relationship between effective team functioning
and individual adult behavior patterns, learned during childhood within the family
system, carried into adulthood, and played out in the workplace. Educational
teams were surveyed in an effort to assess their view of their own individual levels
of behavior and their view of their teams effectiveness. It was hypothesized that
the higher the reported behavior levels of individual team members, the lower the
team effectiveness. Conversely, the lower the reported behavior of individual
team members, the higher the team effectiveness.
Results indicated that indeed a relationship did exist between team
effectiveness and four of the five behavior patterns surveyed. Correlation
between these behavior patterns and team effectiveness was negative, defining an
inverse relationship, thus supporting the hypothesis proposed for the study.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
This dissertation is dedicated to my family. To my husband Jim, whose patience,
understanding, and company sustained me through many long days. To my
daughter Meredith, whose continued faith and encouragement fostered the belief
that this venture was possible. Without their support, this research project would
not have reached completion.
Sincere thanks are also expressed to the following people:
Dr. Nadyne Guzman, my advisor, who provided the research foundation,
academic expertise, moral support, and friendship for this undertaking.
Dr. Rodney Muth, who continually challenged me to strive for excellence.
Dr. Ann Elrod, Dr. Ted Grubb, and Dr. Paul Sale, committee members,
who thoughtfully reviewed my work.
Douglas County School District and the dedicated professionals who
assisted me throughout this project.
The many friends and colleagues who encouraged me during this
INTRODUCTION AN ORGANIZATIONAL DILEMMA....................... 1
1. ORGANIZATIONAL THEORY................................5
Classical Organization Theory.....................6
Power and Political Theory........................9
Organizational Culture Theory....................11
2. SYSTEM THEORY.......................................17
General System Theory............................21
General System Theory and Organizations..........23
3. ORGANIZATIONAL TEAMS AS SYSTEMS.....................30
4. INDIVIDUALS AS SYSTEMS..............................40
Individuals and Organizations....................40
Interpersonal Behavior within Organizations......41
Family System Theory
Five Behavior Categories
Category 1: Dependent/irresponsible...............47
Category 2: Rebelling.............................47
Category 3: Overachieving/overcontroIIing.........48
Category 4: Caretaking............................48
Category 5: Withdrawal............................49
Family System Theory and Organizational Teams............49
Validity of Pilot Team Effectiveness Survey.......65
Reliability of Pilot Team Effectiveness Survey....67
Validity of Pilot Empowerment Behavior
Reliability of Pilot Empowerment Behavior
Data Collection Procedure........................73
Team Effectiveness Survey...............................82
Pearson Correlation Coefficient..................87
Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey.....................88
Correlation of Behavior Category Factors.........93
Results of Team Effectiveness Survey....................95
Results of Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey..........98
6. ANALYSIS OF INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOR CATEGORIES
AND TEAM EFFECTIVENESS.................................... 103
Team Effectiveness Survey
Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey................ 105
Relationship Between the Two Scales................ 106
7. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION..................... 118
The Hypotheses..................................... 119
Additional Analysis................................ 123
Limitations of the Study........................... 125
Implications of the Study.......................... 128
Future Research Recommendations.................... 131
A: Letter to Team Members..................... 133
B: Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey.............. 134
C: Team Effectiveness Survey................... 140
D: Letter to the Superintendent.................. 142
E: Letter to Principals...................... 143
F: Letter to the Director of Special Services............ 144
G: Letter to Team Leaders..................... 145
H: Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey (revised)......... 146
I: Team Effectiveness Survey (revised).............. 153
1.1 Relationship of Systems..............................................16
5.1 Relationship between Individual Behavior Patterns and Team
5.1 Pilot Survey Checklist Responses...............................64
5.2 Factor Analysis for Pilot Team Effectiveness Survey ...........66
5.3 Team Composition ..............................................75
5.4 Means and Ranges for Age.......................................81
5.5 Numbers and Percent for Gender ................................81
5.6 Means and Ranges for Years in Education .......................82
5.7 Means and Ranges for Years on Team.............................83
5.8 Factor Analysis for Team Effectiveness Survey .................86
5.9. Factor Analysis for Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey........91
5.10 Correlation Matrix Team Data.................................94
5.11 Correlation Matrix Individual Data...........................94
5.12 Mean Individual Team Member Scores Team Effectiveness Score
of Team Effectiveness Survey ..................................96
5.13 Mean Team Member Scores for the Five Factors of Empowerment
Behavior Profile Survey .......................................99
6.1 Mean, Standard Deviation, and Range from Team Effectiveness
6.2 Mean, Standard Deviation, and Range for the Five Factors ..... 105
6.3 Correlation Matrix Team Data.................................. 107
6.4 Elementary Correlation Matrix Team Data, Secondary
Correlation Matrix Team Data, Special Education Correlation
Matrix Team Data....................................... 107
6.5 Correlation Matrix Individual Data............................ 107
6.6 Elementary Correlation Matrix Individual Data, Secondary
Correlation Matrix Individual Data, Special Education
Correlation Matrix Individual Data..................... 110
6.7 Means and Standard Deviations of Team Effectiveness for
Elementary, Secondary, and Special Education Teams ............. 112
6.8 Multiple Comparisons between Elementary, Secondary, and
Special Education Teams ........................................ 113
6.9 Correlation of Team Effectiveness with Age, Number of Years
In education, and Number of Years on the Team .................. 115
6.10 Correlation of Team Effectiveness and Age, Number of Years
in Education, and Number of Years on the Team for Elementary,
Secondary, and Special Education Teams .................. 115
6.11 Comparison of Means and Standard Deviations for Gender
and Team Effectiveness ......................................... 116
6.12 Comparison of Means and Standard Deviations for Gender
and Team Effectiveness within Elementary, Secondary, and
Special Education Teams.................................................. 116
AN ORGANIZATIONAL DILEMMA
In the early 1980s, an alarm was sounded across the United States in both
school and corporate organizations. In business, manufacturing productivity had
dropped steadily since the 1950s. The U.S. per capita GNP, a measure of a
nations international standing, fell below those of Japan and several European
countries. The average wage for workers declined by 26% from 1963 to 1983. In
1986. 138 banks failed, the largest number in one year since the Great Depression
(Peters, 1988). Corporate survival in the worlds marketplace was reportedly at
Grave concerns were expressed about education as well. A Nation At Risk
(National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). for example, reported to
the American people that, while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools
and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and
to the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are
presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future
as a nation and a people (p. 5). According to this report, the United States had
lost much of its dominance in research, innovation, and development of superior
products. Americas response to this threat of increasing dysfunction and decline
during the 1980s was a rededication to the pursuit of excellence in the workplace
(Allcom. 1991 p. xi).
The pursuit of excellence in the 1980s has been replaced by a continued
search in the 1990s, as organizations seek answers to improve effectiveness and
stem the flow of decline. A multitude of reports repeatedly declares that lowered
productivity, decreased morale, flawed decision-making, and increased conflicts
characterize many of Americas organizations today (Schaef & Fassel, 1988).
Bolman & Deal (1991) state that schools are continuously blamed for societies
problems, universities are criticized for turning out unprepared young adults, and
government agencies are mired in bureaucratic red tape. According to Bolman &
Deal, the private sector also continues to struggle, as automobile manufacturers
recall faulty cars and industrial accidents plague the environment. Even
enormously successful giant corporations, such as Digital, Sears, and Xerox, have
succumbed to decline and failure (Christensen, 1997). It is not that we have not
tried to fix our organizations.
Each year, a plethora of books proclaims the model and millions of dollars
support consultants who profess to have Â£he answer to cure organizational woes.
Team building activities and retreats attempt to build camaraderie and trust among
members within the organization. Organizations consistently spend a multitude of
time, money, and resources as they strive to find the "quick fix." Still, the
problems persist. What are organizations missing?
This dissertation suggests that a different perspective may assist
organizations in achieving their goals and functioning effectively. In this view,
organizations are regarded, not as objective entities, but rather as conscious entities
possessing an interconnectedness of individuals functioning within a larger system
for a common purpose (Framer, 1993). Organizations, then, constitute a system
with primary importance given to the interactions and relationships that exist among
Most organizations today embrace teams or work groups as a way to
organize for the complex tasks that face them (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). This
structure constitutes a subsystem, possessing all the characteristics of a system,
within the larger organization. Team members interact in relationship with each
other, with other systems, and within the larger systems that encompass them.
These team members as individuals, however, also comprise systems in their own
right. One aspect of the extremely complex system called human beings is the
patterns of behavior, learned from experience and influenced by many factors, that
these individuals bring to and exhibit within the organizational setting. These
behavior patterns may be healthy or unhealthy, in varying degrees and
combinations. Using general systems theory as its conceptual framework, this
dissertation explores the relationship between individual behavior patterns and
effective team functioning.
Part of a multi-stage project, this research builds on previous work
conducted by Guzman and Earll (1996) and Guzman (1997). The Empowerment
Behavior Profile Survey, one of two survey instruments used in this study, was first
developed by Guzman and Earll in 1996. Guzman (1997) distributed the survey to
schools in 1997, in an effort to establish instrument validity and reliability. Though
partially accomplished, continued research was warranted to achieve the task. The
study of individual adult behavior patterns and their relationship to team
effectiveness, presented in this dissertation, then, is a continuation of the initial
work by Guzman and Earll. It attempts to establish instrument validity and
reliability of the Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey, as well as the Team
Effectiveness Survey H9981 developed by Viveiros. In addition, it proposes to
establish that a relationship exists between individual adult behavior patterns and
In order to 'set the stage for the emergence of a new perspective on
organizational functioning, several well-grounded theories that purport to explain
organizational functioning are detailed. While certainly not an exhaustive list, these
theories represent those commonly blamed for organizational ineffectiveness and
Shafritz & Ott (1996) define theory as a proposition, or set of propositions
that endeavor to explain or predict a phenomenon. In this case, organizational
theory attempts to explain how and why individuals and groups behave within
various organizational structures and cultures, and under a variety of conditions and
circumstances (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). Shafritz & Ott (1996) continue:
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the world is ruled by
the underlying premises of organizational theory, and that it
has been ever since humankind first organized itself for
hunting, war, and even family life. Indeed, the newest thing
about organizational theory is the study of it. (p. 1)
As far back in history as 500 B.C. Sun Tzus, The Art of War (500
B.C./1983), promoted the need for organizational structure, interorganizational
communication, and staff planning. Machiavelli (1514/1995) produced the first
how to succeed in organizations book for managers and leaders. In the present,
hundreds of books are written each year on how organizations should be structured
and managed in an effort to improve organizational functioning.
Information on organizational theory is obviously important for managers
and leaders. Managers and administrators who look to organizational theory to
assist them, however, encounter a legion of variables, perspectives, and solutions to
improve organizational functioning (Bolman & Deal, 1991; Pfeffer, 1982;
Sergiovanni & Corbally, 1984; Shafritz & Ott, 1996). Many theories purport to
account for organizational success or failure. Each espouses basic assumptions
about organizations and what aspects are important for an understanding of
organizational functioning (Shafritz & Ott, 1996).
Classical organization theory was the first of its kind, and continues to be
the foundation on which many other theories are built. Humanistic theory emerged
in a continued effort to understand organizational functioning. Theories on power
and politics as well as organizational culture are two additional examples that
continue the effort to explain organizational functioning (Shafritz & Ott, 1996).
Classical Organization Theory
Most scholars of organizational theory view the beginning of the factory
system in Great Britain during the eighteenth century as the beginning of classical
organizational theory. This is the base on which many other theories of
organizational functioning are built (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). Classical organization
theory rests on four premises. First, production is the primary focus and the
function of the organization is to accomplish economic goals. Second, systematic,
scientific methods are the best way to organize for production. Third, division of
labor and specialization of jobs maximize production. Last, people within
organizations produce at maximum effort in accordance with rational economic
principles (Shafritz & Ott, 1996; Pfeffer, 1982; George, 1972).
The Scientific Management Movement, founded by Frederick Taylor, is the
cornerstone of classical organization theory. The main goal is to increase efficiency
through systematic management (Taylor, 1911). Taylor attempted to break
production tasks into minute parts, training workers to exert the maximum effort in
the minimum amount of time. Taylor reasoned that once this was accomplished,
the result should be the utmost prosperity for both employer and employee (Bolman
& Deal, 1984; Shafritz & Ott, 1996).
Classical organization theory depicts organizations as closed systems."
unaffected by human or environmental factors. In this view, the organization can
function rationally and predictably. The bureaucracy, with its rigid structure and
endless red tape, is a prime example of one such closed system (Bolman & Deal,
The humanistic perspective views organizations as functioning rationally and
with foresight to achieve a collective end. The Judeo- Christian tradition and the
philosophical underpinnings of much of American life and culture venerate and
idealize the concepts of free will and conscious choice (Pfeffer, 1982). Behavior
is determined by deliberate, purposeful action and intention (Allison, 1971).
Cognitive processes of individuals within organizations are emphasized. The
humanistic view connects social needs and job performance. By treating workers
with respect, providing motivating work, and by empowering individuals,
organizational effectiveness should improve.
Many theories embrace the ideas of the humanistic movement. The first.
Needs Theory, argues that people act purposefully to fulfill their needs (Maslow.
1971). Individuals are motivated to satisfy their needs from a variety of sources,
including their jobs and work environments (Hampton, 1968). This theory offers a
relatively simple picture of human behavior and puts forth easily implemented
solutions for behavior difficulties encountered within organizations (Pfeffer, 1982).
Expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964) proposes that an individuals behavior is
motivated by her or his expectation that the behavior will lead to a certain outcome.
In this view, clarifying outcomes and ensuring that members of the organization
will be rewarded for these outcomes are the solutions to increasing effectiveness.
Path-Goal Theory (House, 1971) connects Expectancy Theory to leadership.
He reasoned that performance and job satisfaction could be improved if the leader
clarified the paths to desired organizational goals and provided rewards once those
outcomes were achieved. This model proposes that an individuals conscious
intention determines behavior. Behavior can be understood in terms of goals.
Last, Locke (1984) discusses Goal-Setting Theory. He argues that people
undertake action and that behavior is driven by a desire to achieve their goals.
The Hawthorne Project, a joint venture between the Hawthorne (Chicago)
plant of the Western Electric Company and Harvard University carried out between
1927 and 1932 illustrates the humanistic theory. The project included scientific
management studies, based on Taylorism, that examined many environmental
factors in an effort to increase work productivity. The results achieved, however,
puzzled researchers and produced outcomes inconsistent with anticipated results.
Social relationships and social interactions greatly affected productivity
(Landsberger, 1958). These studies continue to be relevant as they underscore the
complexity of factors that must be considered in the study of organizational
Power and Political Theory
Organizations, based on traditional theories, espouse clear and consistent
goals that are decided at the top, shared by all members, and conceived through a
rational decision-making process (Bolman & Deal, 1984; Bolman & Deal, 1991;
Shafritz & Ott, 1996). Power and political theory also assumes this same structural
approach, purporting organizations as rational systems. Within these systems,
however, exist an array of individuals and groups ail hawking their particular
political interests and attempting to gain power within the organization (Bolman &
According to Bolman & Deal (1984), five premises summarize power and
political theory. First, organizations are resource dependent and important
decisions usually revolve around the abundance or scarcity of resources. Second,
individuals within organizations belong to many special interest groups, such as an
ethnic group, specialized department, or professional group. Third, individuals and
groups within the same organization may hold different values and beliefs. Fourth,
decisions emanate from the bargaining and negotiating among individuals and
groups. Last, power and conflict figure prominently within the organization.
The distribution of power within an organization is usually either highly
concentrated and controlled by a tight hierarchical structure, or diffused throughout
the system and shared by many (Bolman & Deal, 1991). In the first scenario,
according to Bolman & Deal (1991), politics becomes the game, as individuals and
groups vie for power and attempt to control the decision-making process within the
organization. These power plays are sometimes evident and sometimes orchestrated
underground (Shafritz & Ott, 1996).
Power within organizations is a topic often avoided. A chief reason may be
that the concept of power often conflicts with the belief that organizational goals are
rationally developed and shared by all members (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). Mintzberg
(1983) argues, however, that in reality, power is used as a tool for individuals and
groups to control the decision-making processes of an organization. In fact,
Mintzberg (1983) continues, it is the driving force behind organizational
functioning. Power is a fundamental element in human interactions and is evident
in all social relationships (Muth, 1984). Power and political theory, therefore,
offers another view of organizational functioning.
Organizational Culture Theory
Organizational Culture Theory views organizations through a symbolic
frame, using symbolic concepts to explain human behavior and organizational
functioning (Shafritz & Ott, 1996; Schein, 1991; Bolman & Deal. 1984; Bolman &
Deal, 1991). Rather than accepting Maslow's (1971) hierarchy of needs,
organizational culture theorists state that meaning is the most basic human need
(Bolman & Deal, 1991).
Organizational culture is defined as a set of values, beliefs, assumptions,
perceptions, and norms, that operate unconsciously, producing specific patterns of
behavior among members of the organization (Shaffitz & Ott. 1996; Sehein, 1992).
Organizational culture theory differs from other more classical theories that rest on
assumptions of formal authority, established rules, and rational behavior. Instead,
it assumes that behavior and decisions within an organization are controlled by a set
of beliefs held by members of the organization. These beliefs may be
counterproductive for the organization, yet are repeated because that is the way
things are done (Shaffitz & Ott, 1996).
Bolman & Deal (1991) suggest that this perspective assumes that
organizations are not rational entities, but instead are fraught with ambiguity and
uncertainty that color decision-making and organizational functioning. This creates
an atmosphere where problem-solving and decision-making are not accomplished
within a rational framework. Instead, organizations create symbolic solutions to
organizational problems, which may or may not be solutions at all.
The idea, that tasks performed day in and day out by individuals and groups
do not produce results, is unsettling. It produces low morale. Realizing that
problems cannot be solved through rational means, members within an organization
create myths, rituals, and stories that they accept and share as true. Organizational
culture can provide meaning for individuals and groups and provide the illusion that
all is well (Bolman & Deal, 1991).
The culture of an organization is determined by the leader, and it is difficult
to separate one from the other (Schein, 1992; Sergiovanni & Corbally. 1984).
Often, for leaders and managers, the perception of what is happening in the
organization is more important than what is actually happening. This reassures and
gives meaning to internal structures and provides legitimacy for organizational
leaders and members from external supporters (Bolman & Deal, 1991).
When organizational culture ceases to work productively, leaders and
managers attempt to change the culture. This is a difficult task and it involves
the changing of deeply ingrained values and beliefs about the organization (Trice &
Beyer, 1993). Trice & Beyer (1993) list powerful reasons individuals and groups
resist this change. These include fear, self-interest, habit, dependence, threats to
power, lack of resources, and social disruption. These factors assist in ensuring
that the present culture remains intact regardless of the ineffectiveness of the
On the positive side, organizational culture allows individuals and groups to
escape from the pessimism of endless problems and find creative solutions by
believing they can solve these problems (Bolman & Deal, 1991).
These organizational theories attempt to understand and explain human
behavior (Laszlo, 1972). Questions regarding human beings and human nature
were dissected into specific problems and answered through specific solutions.
Research was preoccupied with the study of components in their smallest, most
isolated parts. This approach led to the development of a vast array of theories,
many of which have been mentioned above, that undertake an explanation and
understanding of human behavior (Laszlo, 1972). However, this specialized study,
Laszlo (1972) states, occurs within a closed system, with little thought given to the
many internal and external influences impacting the organization. In spite of these
numerous, complex theories, we continue to have little comprehension of and
insight into human behavior within organizations.
The advent of technology, however, posed new problems for the ever-
increasing specialization within modern science, and this split into isolated fields of
study had several impacts. First, it became obvious that, though evolving
separately, these disjoined disciplines began experiencing similar problems.
Second, studying and working separately contributed to a lack of communication
and, in consequence, an impaired ability to attain viable solutions (von Bertalanffy,
1968). Last, principles of quantum physics, with its focus on relationships, began
crossing into many non-scientific disciplines (Pagels, 1993; Wheatley, 1992).
Scientists began to search more vigorously for universal principles, laws,
and connections exist which apply to all systems, regardless of the field of study or
discipline. In this way, a new discipline emerged, and a new theory born and
christened General System Theory.
The universe, consisting of the system and its environment, contains a
hierarchy of systems. Dubbed suprasystems. these systems all interact with each
other while maintaining discreet boundaries (Parsons, 1955). For the purposes of
this research, the following conceptualization of systems will be explored: (a)
Systems Theory, (b) General Systems Theory, (c) General Systems Theory and
Organizations, (d) Teams as Systems, and, (e) Individuals as Systems. Figure 1
illustrates the relationship of these systems.
General System Theory
^ General System Theory^ .
/ / / N \ \ \ \
/ I / / 1 ' \ 1 Individuals 1 as Systems * \ \ 1 \ 1 1 1
\ \ \ \ \ 1 1 1 1
\ V / / / /
The concept of system theory has a long history. The classical philosopher-
scientist viewed human beings as connected to and one with their world. In order
to understand humankind, they espoused, one had to understand its world (von
Bertalanffy, 1968). Nicholas of Cusa and Theophrastus Paracelsus in the fifteenth
century, Gottfried Leibniz in the sixteenth century, and Karl Marx in the nineteenth
century were but a few who pioneered the movement toward modem system theory.
Cardinal Nicholas Chrypffs of Cusa, countered most of the most brilliant
thinkers of his time who believed that the only true knowledge was that which
could be measured and counted (Steiner & Stewart, 1997). A priest by vocation
and mathematician by education. Cardinal Nicholas argued that some processes are
too complicated to conceptualize mathematically or spatially. Nicholas thus offered
the view of the world as a system, where cognition and experience cannot be
Like Nicholas, Theophrastus Paracelsus, a physician in the early fifteenth
century, deviated from the popular thinking of his time. Paracelsus viewed objects
and processes in the world as phenomenon connected to the whole universe. All
individual events are influenced by all remaining things in the universe. Paracelsus
believed nature and the world to be equivalent, and humankind could only
understand itself by experiencing nature. The world is in harmony, and every
separate entity is a part of the whole (Steiner & Stewart, 1997).
Gottfried Leibniz, another pioneer in system thinking, developed a theory
that combined philosophy, mathematics, history, and theology. According to
Kemerling (1997), Leibniz proposed that everything in the world exists in perfect
harmony with everything else. Human knowledge rested on human experiences,
everything within the mind, and all that was pan of the world.
Karl Marx, also a trailblazer of system theory, differed from earlier system
thinkers in that his work was undertaken not simply for knowledge sake, but to
promote social upheaval and revolution. Marx viewed the workforce as a system,
and believed that problems occur when the workers are disconnected from their
work. Economics not philosophy, Marx believed, was the foundation of the system
Though dabbling in system thinking dates back many centuries, several
events emerged during the early part of the twentieth century that catapulted system
theory into the forefront of organizational thinking. The first occurred in the field
of science itself, classified as a crisis in physics. Scientists discovered a new world
at the subatomic level that could be neither understood nor explained by classical
physics principles and laws. This new realm was dubbed Quantum Physics
During the previous three centuries, scientists had relied on Newtonian
principles to plan, predict, and analyze the world. Zohar (1990) describes the
Newtonian world. Understanding phenomenon required separation and reduction
into their smallest, most isolated form. Cause and effect controlled and predicted
actions. Numbers were used to describe phenomenon. In essence, the rule of
thumb stated that one must study the parts in order to understand the whole.
The advent of quantum physics, however, revealed a very different world.
Scientists discovered that matter was neither stable nor finite, but rather fluid,
changing form and properties in response to other substances and observers.
Matter changes from particles to waves to mass, to energy, and back again (Zohar.
1990). In the quantum world, relationships and the interactions that occur between
and among parts become the reality. Interdependence replaces separateness and
independence (Capra, 1983). Likewise, humans also impact this relational realm as
they interact with it. The study of phenomenon cannot be separated from those
who study, as the very act of observing can alter it before documentation can occur
(Zohar, 1990). With the discovery of quantum physics, a paradigm shift occurred,
and the need for a systems approach appeared.
Another major event, the rise of technology, also fueled the fires of system
thinking. Advances in technology created a movement from simple to more
complex machines. These highly technical inventions required collaboration and
cooperation from many different sources in order to operate, (von Bertalanffy,
1968) used the sophisticated ballistic missile to illustrate this point. The creation
and utilization of this complex machine relied on mechanical, electronic, and
chemical technologies. In addition, financial, economic, and social factors
interacted. The relationship of man and machine came into play. Last, the
question of values and the utilization of the missile within a global perspective
could not be ignored. Technology, then, produced the ability to create complex
machines that required a systems approach in order to adequately explain and
understand them (von Bertalanffy, 1968).
A third event was the decline of organizations operating as machines.
Following the thinking of the time, organizations moved away from the mechanistic
principles and began borrowing from principles of biology. Using a biological
metaphor, organizations were viewed as organisms, with individuals and groups
working together much like that of the molecules and cells within living entities.
Parts are interconnected, interrelated, and interconnected (Morgan, 1997). All
organizations, whether a living organism or society, share certain characteristics.
These include wholeness, growth, differentiation, hierarchical order, control, and
cooperation (von Bertalanffy, 1968). In this way, the organization was viewed as a
system. It is also one of many subsystems interacting with each other and the
environment and continually evolving.
General System Theory
While these circumstances all indicated the need for a system approach, it
was Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928 who brought modem system theory into
practice (Laszlo, 1972). Von Bertalanffy moved system theory from the science
and mathematical realm to a general system theory with interdisciplinary application
Ludwig von Bertalanffy, a Hungarian biologist educated in Vienna, fathered
an organistic approach to biology. More importantly, he founded the science of
General System Theory. Von Bertalanffys work was a direct reaction to the
reductionism thinking held by most scientists of his time. Reductionism argues that
scientific theories which explain phenomenon on one level can be applied to more
complex phenomenon. All reality can be reduced to a number of indivisible basic
elements. Qualitative properties can be reduced to quantitative ones (von
In general system theory, von Bertalanffy (1968) proposed that
homogeneous characteristics existed across all systems. All parts of the system
interact with each other and with the environment, continuously changing and
evolving. System theory ushered in a new era of thinking that cut across
conventional disciplines and adhered to a set of shared presuppositions.
Laszlo (1972) interprets these presupposition proposed by von Bertalanffy.
The first. Holism, disputes the long-held notion that scientific explanation depends
on reducing a complex phenomenon to its smallest, most isolated behavior. This
explanation views the world as atomistic and mechanistic. Von Bertalanffy
believed that phenomenon must be viewed not only as individual components, but
also in regard to the relationship between and among the components.
The second presupposition of system theory is the idea of integrating diverse
concepts and theories into one general system theory. This integration dissolves
such traditional dichotomies as humankind versus nature and individual versus
Last, system theory incorporates qualitative philosophy with quantitative
technology across disciplines, breaking cultural and ideological barriers. The vast
scope of system theory, then, offers an optimistic hope for viable solutions that face
human organizations today.
This change toward conceptualizing the world as a system has been
characterized as a Kuhnian paradigm shift (Kolevzon & Green, 1985; Lincoln.
1985; Schaef & Fassel, 1990). A paradigm shift is not a gradual step-by-step
process, but rather, a radical change in the way a subject is viewed (Framer. 1993).
Von Bertalanffy, drawing from his background in biology and the changes
occurring in the world around him, ushered in a new way of thinking that would
forever change Western science.
General System Theory and Organizations
A system is a subdivision of the universe. A system represents an organized
collection of individual components brought together by specific interactions for a
common purpose (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). It can be defined as the complexity of
elements standing in interaction (von Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 33).
Six characteristics dominate general system theory. First, systems are not
merely composed of separate units, but rather possess unique and dynamic
attributes of their own. A system is an organized collection of individual parts with
specific roles and responsibilities that come together to accomplish specific goals
and purposes (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). A systems properties emerge from the
relationships and interactions between and among members within the system and
from the relationships and interactions of the system with the larger environment
(Bolman & Deal, 1991).
Second, hierarchical order within the system is replaced by interactions,
mutual influence and constraint, and individual interests. Hierarchy then, within
system theory does not depend on legitimate authority, positions, and titles, but
rather on relationships, both formal and informal (Framer, 1993). Scott (1961)
defines the formal system as the functions and jobs performed by the members.
The informal system, on the other hand, consists of a structure of interactions
between and among members. This structure allows mutual demands and
expectations between the informal system and its members. The system may
modify its behavior to accommodate the individual and the individual can modify
her or his behavior to meet the expectations of the system (Scott, 1961).
Third, all members of the system are interconnected. Members are
connected through their roles and specific responsibilities. In addition, this
interconnectedness revolves around processes such as communication and decision-
making. Communication is especially important in systems as it links the various
separate parts into a synchronized whole (Scott, 1961). This theorist identifies a
additional process: decision-making. This process occurs as a result of the
interactions between and among members and serves to connect individuals and
groups within the system.
Fourth, the social world is not predictable or controllable. Because system
theory holds to the view of an open system, it contains many variables that
cannot always be controlled. In fact, the interconnectedness and interdependence of
the individual components create constant change as each part continually bumps
against others within the system. This creates uncertainty within the system.
(Shafritz & Ott, 1996).
Fifth, the relationship between action and cause is not linear, but circular.
Classical organizational theory tends to be somewhat simplistic, viewing systems as
rational, stable entities that can be easily controlled. System Theory, on the other
hand, tends to view systems as complex, multi-dimensional milieus where cause
and effect relationships are affected by many factors. Whereas, Taylors Scientific
Management Theory studied cause and effect to produce optimal organizational
performance, Systems Theory studies cause and effect to find optimal solutions to
improve organizational functioning (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). Systems theory
attempts to go beyond the rigidity of cause and effect thinking. It cannot be
necessarily assumed that there is a logical and rational cause for system problems
The final characteristic of General System Theory is the constant change of
the system. Because all components of the system are interconnected, a change in
one part creates change for the whole system. Thus, a member entering or exiting
the system, a change in leadership or management, or decisions implemented often
create intended, as well as unintended ripples throughout the system (Shafritz &
Ott, 1996). These changes can occur from within the system or from the
environment, which is also part of the system. Systems must continually adapt to
the environment, while at the same time realizing that the environment influences
virtually all interactions that occur within the system (Schwartz & Ogilvy, 1979).
If a system is a subdivision of the universe, then an organization can be
classified as a subdivision, or subsystem, of the larger system. It is common
practice to consider human organizations as systems (Emery. 1969). Because
system theory can be applied to all systems, it becomes relevant in the study of
System theory has long been used to attempt to understand the relationship
between organizations and their environment. Within this theory, the ecological
perspective considers organizations as externally controlled, influenced by the
environment and without much freedom for their behavior. Two principal theories
offer explanations of organizational behavior within this perspective. The
population ecology theory assumes a functionalist approach, proposing that the
organization is controlled solely by environmental conditions (Framer, 1993). This
model concerns itself with population characteristics and variables that cause
organizations to be selected or spared in the life and death process. Kaufman
(1985) speaks from the population ecology perspective when he asserts that
theoretically organizations should live forever. The only reasons causing their
demise are external forces, such as the lack of resources. According to Kaufman,
organizations succeed or fail purely by chance.
A second theory, resource dependence, argues that organizations are not
self-sufficient and must rely on the environment, thus becoming interdependent with
the environment. This creates pressures and demands which in turn affect the
activities of the organization both positively and negatively. Autonomy and
freedom from external restraint within the organization diminish (Pfeffer, 1982).
The common thread of theories within both perspectives is the belief that
organizations are governed by intentional, purposeful, and rational actions, both
internally as well as externally (Pfeffer, 1982).
While it is common, according to Emery (1969), to consider organizations
as systems, it is also common to find these organizations as closed systems, viewed
as either technical systems or social systems. A closed system is one in which
nothing enters or leaves. The system is static, maintaining equilibrium and the
status quo (von Bertalanffy, 1968). Analysis of organizational functioning centers
on factors such as resources, information flow, responsibilities, and power.
General system theory, however, views people in a very different way from
traditional organizational theories (Bowen, 1994). The theories discussed in the
previous chapter, classical organization theory, humanistic theory, power and
political organization theory, and organization culture theory attempt to explain
why humankind behaves as it does. Systems theory focuses on the facts of what,
how, when, and where interactions occur in human relationships rather than why
they act in certain ways (Shafritz & Ott, 1996).
Conceptually, it is useful to draw an analogy between living organisms and
social organizations. Wheatly (1992) suggests that we regard organizations not as
objective entities, but rather as conscious entities possessing an interconnectedness
of individuals much like the interconnectedness of organs within the human body.
In this view, the organization constitutes a system, with primary importance being
given to the relationships that exist among its parts, the individual members of the
organization. The organization is composed of individual components, the
members, connected to and interacting with a larger structure, the organization, to
achieve common goals (Guzman & Earll, 1996).
While all systems can be considered organized, with individual components
demonstrating differentiation in functions, such as the specialization of human
organs, all systems do not have entities that can function independently. Organs
within the human body, for example, each have a specialized purpose that
contributes to the purpose of the entire system. However, they cannot be
considered purposeful entities unto themselves (Framer, 1993). An organization,
on the other hand, is composed of independent entities that can exercise free will
from within the organization.
Within the organization itself, we encounter another subsystem. Today,
most organizations structure themselves into systems known as teams. From
schools to businesses to airline cockpit crews, teams are the preferred means to
getting the job done in the most efficient and productive manner (Katzenbach &
Smith, 1993). Teams offer a perfect example of a system. They consist of
individual entities capable of exerting free will, independent, yet interdependent,
functioning within a larger social structure for a common purpose. The
examination of the concept of team as a system, then, may assist in attempting to
understand organizational functioning.
ORGANIZATIONAL TEAMS AS SYSTEMS
As our world propels itself toward increasing complexity, system thinking is
quickly becoming more necessary than ever. Humankind is becoming
overwhelmed by this complexity (Senge. 1990). According to Senge (1990), vast
quantities of information, global interdependency, and accelerated change are
creating systematic breakdowns. This is evident today in organizations.
Individual achievements and new, state-of-the-art products have not saved many
organizations from decline. The phrase. There is nothing I can do. Its the
system (Senge, 1990, p. 69), rings from many organizational bell towers. System
thinking offers a remedy to the floundering gripping many organizations in our
Organizations today are passionately embracing teams to meet the complex
demands facing them in todays competitive world (Zack & Serino, 1996).
Organizations cannot overcome the challenges that confront them without teamwork
and effective teams can determine the success or failure of an organization
(Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). Teams bring people with diverse skills and
competencies together to solve complex problems. (Zack & Serino, 1996). Teams
outperform individuals acting alone or in large organizational groups, especially
when performance requires multiple skills, judgments, and experiences (Katzenbach
& Smith, 1993, p. 9).
A team is a subsystem of the organization, as well as a system in its own
right. A team fits the definition of a system. Recall that a system is characterized
by a collection of individual components brought together by specific interactions
for a common purpose (Shafritz & Ott, 1996). It can be defined as the complexity
of elements standing in interaction (von Bertalanffy, 1968. p. 33).
System Theory, as mentioned in earlier chapters, is a discipline for seeing
wholes and for examining the separate elements within the system as they all
interact and relate. This is a powerful concept for teams as they strive for superior
performance. Yet teams within organizations often resist systems thinking (Senge,
1990). To embrace systems thinking, a team must admit that they are in charge of
their destiny and not totally controlled by outside forces. Team members assume
responsibility for their successes as well as their failures. Many teams develop
helplessness, and thus elude responsibility and positive action. By avoiding system
thinking, teams also avoid the self-examination of how their behavior contributes to
team problems and ineffective functioning (Senge, 1990).
In todays complex organizations, the need for effective team functioning
has never been greater (Senge, 1990). Senge describes three essential components
of the team as a system. First, teams must think of problems in terms of the
whole, not in terms of parts. They must fuse the intelligence, insights, and skills
of each individual mind into one mind. Second, mutual trust and reliance must be
developed among team members so that each can be confident that all will act to
complement the performance of the other. Third, teams must be cognizant that
they are involved in a much larger, interdependent relationship with not only the
organizational system, but also many other systems.
A group of people working together is not necessarily a team. Individuals
may work very hard but their efforts, in the form of time, energy, and production,
are wasted if they are not aligned with others efforts within the team. A team is a
group of people who share their ideas to improve the work processes for the entire
group, coordinate responses to promote organizational change, build respect among
team members, and set common goals (Willard, 1993). A team is composed of a
small group of people with diverse skills committed to a common purpose adhering
to specific goals, common performance strategies, and mutual accountability
Implementing the team concept, however, is a fairly complex task. The
basic principles of teams are not new. Research on work groups and teamwork has
been conducted for more than fifty years. This research offers valuable insights in
to the characteristics of effective teams. In assessing team effectiveness, Zack and
Serino (1996) assert that process and performance must be separated. Three
criteria summarize process: The first is the maximum effort the team applies to the
task. Second is the mix of knowledge and skills the team brings to the task. Last
are the strategies that the team applies to the task.
Three criteria can also be used to evaluate the performance of team
functioning. These include meeting or exceeding customer expectations,
demonstrating improvement as a performing team, and empowering team members
to grow both professionally and personally.
Organizational factors play an important role in determining whether or not
a team is effective. Zack & Serino (1996) describe a competitive or collaborative
culture as one such component that can enhance or hinder team functioning. In
addition, performance rules and power structures based on fair, stable, sound
judgments create thriving teams. When rules, however, are unknown, ambiguous,
or change, and are based on a rigid hierarchical power structure, teams can become
ineffective. Further, established norms provide rewards and sanctions and define
how a team accomplishes its tasks. Last, the social structure of the organization,
both formal and informal can promote or stifle communication, collaboration, trust,
conflict resolution, and mutual respect, thus impacting team effectiveness.
The literature discusses again and again some basic concepts essential to
effective team functioning. These include satisfaction, unity, organization, and
commitment (Hackman, 1983; Katzenbach & Smith, 1993; Kinlaw, 1991; Peters,
1988; Recardo, Wade, Mention, & Jolly, 1996; Senge, 1990, Willard, 1993).
Commitment on a team is represented by the maximum use of the teams
human resources. True commitment is characterized by commitment to the whole
rather than individuals (Senge, 1990). According to Kinlaw (1991), sacrificing
personal needs and interests to reach a common goal is one example of team
commitment. Team members place team needs above personal needs. Conversely,
personal agendas appears to be one of the greatest threats to effective team
functioning (Larson & LaFasto, 1989; Senge, 1990). Larson & LaFasto (1989)
continue by defining examples of personal agendas. Promoting personal interests,
failing to express differences in a forthright manner, operating individually rather
than cooperatively, and failing to take responsibility for ones actions all
characterize personal agendas. Team members must be accountable and assume
individual responsibility for their actions.
Team members working hard also symbolizes team commitment. Going
beyond what the team and others thought possible, in other words, exceeding
expectations, demonstrates team commitment. Individuals all desire and strive for
superior team performance. They expect that everyone on the team will contribute
to the best of their ability (Kinlaw, 1991).
Fundamental to the success of any team is team unity. In the traditional
workplace, each individual is responsible for her or his own job, with the
supervisor responsible for all the individuals. When structured into teams,
however, all members share responsibility for the teams performance. In effective
teams, individual members accept this responsibility, assisting each other, and
making the most of the teams human resources (Kinlaw, 1991).
Working out differences in straightforward and healthy ways demonstrates
team unity. Disagreements are not seen as catastrophes, but rather as opportunities
for change and improvement. Sometimes it appears that effective teams actually
thrive on adversity (Kinlaw, 1991). Senge (1990) dubs this creative tension
(p. 150). According to Kinlaw (1991), individuals on effective teams are
competent in interpersonal problem-solving skills. When discussing issues or
situations that may be potentially conflictual, team members must be able to do so
in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Effective teams are able to use the diversity
that each individual brings for the collective good. Put simply, working well
together and presenting as a unified group, are prime requirements for effective
A third component essential for effective team functioning is team
satisfaction. Kinlaw (1991) states that effective teams have feelings of pride. Pride
is associated with successfully overcoming obstacles to accomplish something
meaningful. In addition, effective teams spend time together at work and outside of
work. They laugh and have fun together. Work hard, play hard and do them
together, is a phrase that captures the essence of team satisfaction (Kinlaw, 1991,
p. 44). Team satisfaction manifests itself when a positive climate is present where
team members are satisfied with the relationships with other team members, enjoy
each other, and take pride in the accomplishments of their team (Larson & LaFasto,
The last element that portrays effective team functioning is coordination.
Collaboration and the coordination of efforts is a common feature (Senge, 1990).
Organization, clear expectations, and assistance from team members are necessary
if the team is to accomplish a common goal. Successful collaboration, or
coordination among team members is defined as the ability to set aside personal
agendas for a common agenda, to work cooperatively rather than individually, and
to build a trusting atmosphere where decision-making and problem-solving can
occur in unison (Larson & LaFasto, 1989). Team meetings are an integral part of
determining team functioning. Kinlaw (1991), contends that information sharing,
goal-setting, decision-making, and problem-solving all occur within the context of
the team meeting. Meetings must be well organized and coordinated if teams are to
be efficient and achieve their desired results.
Components of effective team meetings include a defined structure, clearly
articulated roles and expectations, cooperative goal-setting and problem-solving,
appropriate and agreed upon norms, and clear communication, and cooperative
working relationships (Kinlaw, 1991).
Whether it be goals, purpose, or expectation, team members must
understand and be clear about their role on the team and the role of the team within
the organization (Larson & LaFasto, 1989).
Willard (1993) summarizes organizational management authors Bob and
Ann Harper, Dennis Kinlaw, Leslie Bendaly, and Glenn Parkers description of
effective and ineffective teams. Effective teams are characterized by several
1. Clear goals that all group members commit to.
2. An atmosphere of trust.
3. Open honest communication.
4. A sense of belonging.
5. Pride in group accomplishments.
6. Cooperative decision-making.
7. Participation by all members.
8. Good listening skills.
In contrast, troubled teams are identified by:
1. Formal, stuffy, and tense interactions.
2. Poor communication.
3. Hierarchical structures.
4. Low trust levels.
5. Role confusion.
6. An unclear team mission.
7. Lack of cooperation among group members.
The last five years of research on teams (Willard, 1993) suggests that when
a team functions effectively, it produces exceptional results. Good teams
demonstrate innovative and skilled solutions to complex organizational problems.
Poorly functioning teams, however, waste time, energy, and resources and leave
team members, as well as managers, frustrated.
The answer to why some teams within organizations function effectively and
some do not is very complex. At least three dozen new books on teams have
recently been published, proclaiming the importance of teams, but offering few
suggestions on establishing successful teams. It is estimated that the failure rate for
teams is over fifty percent (Recardo, Wade, Mention, & Jolly, 1996). Social
scientists have spent the past decades studying a paradox in our collective
evolution. Humankind currently possesses the technical, physical, and intellectual
resources to provide for everyone in the world. Humankind, however, appears to
lack the ability to work together in order to solve critical issues and achieve this
end. This is a sad paradox indeed (Larson & LaFasto, 1989).
Explanations have been attempted through the myriad of theories discussed
earlier, and through a multitude of others not touched upon. The plethora of How
To books that continue to be written at a furious pace and organizational
consultant firms that continue to flourish attest to the constant struggle of
organizations to improve team and organizational functioning.
Within the team system, however, is another subsystemthe individual, that
must be considered when attempting to understand team functioning. Humans, as
living organisms, are automatically systems. They fit the definition of a system,
which is an order of parts and processes standing in mutual interaction (von
Bertalanffy, 1968). Members within a team do not operate as autonomous
individuals, but rather as part of a system continually influenced and controlled by
relationships in which they are involved (Framer, 1993). Yet, the individual as a
system is composed of many complex subsystems.
Though this phenomenon of the human system represents a small piece of
the team system, a smaller piece of the organizational system, and an even smaller
piece of the many systems within the universal system, its study may shed light on
dilemmas organizations struggle with in todays complex world.
INDIVIDUALS AS SYSTEMS
The conscious processes of human behavior are specifically a human
phenomenon (von Bertalanffy, 1968). Humans alone possess consciousness,
characterized, according to Laszlo (1972), by the development of symbolic
language, expression and communication of that language, abstract thought, and the
ability to monitor and control the interrelationship of stimuli and our responses.
Consciousness makes humans unique among systems. Planning actions,
communicating those actions to others, and executing the plan through teamwork is
a great advantage. Possessing this unique consciousness, however, can also
become problematic as humans attempt to function within the larger system.
Individuals and Organizations
When considering a model for improving team effectiveness, team members
and organizational leaders often focus on the process. This is consistent with
models of system theory that rely on input-throughput-output terminology.
Strategies to improve team effectiveness generally focus on the team process stage
within the system (Ginnett, 1990).
When attempting to analyze the individual within the team system, however,
team members and organizational leaders need to look at the input stage of the
system. Ginnett (1990) breaks these team inputs into four categories: (a) interests
and motivations, (b) skills and abilities, (c) values and attitudes, and,
(d) interpersonal behavior.
Research has been conducted for many years on the first three components
of Ginnetts input categories, especially within humanistic organizational theory.
Maslows (1971) Needs Theory, Vrooms (1964) Expectancy Theory, Houses
(1971) Path-Goal Theory, and Locks (19684) Goal Setting Theory, all described
earlier, discuss such individual behaviors as motivation, needs, interest, and
attitudes. Certainly, the Hawthorn Studies in the early part of the twentieth
century, illustrate the search to examine individual behavior and organizational
effectiveness (Landberger. 1958).
Interpersonal Behavior within Organizations
Little research, however, is evident in the study of interpersonal behavior
within organizations. Missing in most of the literature on organizational behavior
is any real appreciation for the complexity and paradoxical nature of human
beings and their nonrational feelings (Allcorn, 1991, p. 9). Lost is the need to
deal with the people who create the organization when they come to work, operate
it while they are at work, and use it to meet their own personal needs. It is
important to understand the rational as well as the non-rational aspects of the people
who compose an organization. A true understanding of people at work, then,
requires an understanding of the underlying psychodynamics of their motivation
that results in their behavior (Allcom, 1991).
Theories that view organizations as purely rational entities composed of
human beings that can be managed solely by logical means are now being
challenged. In numerous empirical attempts to study organizations ... we are
left with superficial descriptions that neglect the underlying factors that could help
explain managerial and organizational behavior (Kets de Vries, 1991. p. 1). A
body of literature in organizational behavior based on psychoanalytic concepts is
now emerging and rapidly growing (Framer, 1993; Guzman & Earl, 1996;
Hirschhom, 1988; Kets de Vries & Miller, 1984).
An increasing number of observers of and participants in organizational life
are beginning to realize that unconscious processes and non-rational behavior can
strongly affect leadership, group functioning, decision-making, and culture within
the organization. It is vital to gain insight into these factors in order to truly
understand the real nature of the interface between individuals and organizations
(Kets de Vries, 1991, p. xiv). The manifest presence of so much non-rational
behavior observed in many organizations helps us realize how simplistic many of
the theories on organizational behavior actually are. Viewing through the lens of
psychological concepts reveals that individuals within the organization, as they
interact with each other as leaders and followers, can contribute to and may even be
responsible for the success or failure of the organization. Organizational
effectiveness or ineffectiveness can be seen as a consequence of the
interconnectedness and interdependence of the conscious and unconscious
processes, as well as the rational and non-rational behavior of its members (Framer.
Many factors contribute to the interpersonal behaviors exhibited by
individuals within organizations. First, a number of researchers over the past two
decades have endeavored to identify personality factors that affect the behaviors of
individuals in the workplace. Attempts have been made to connect these
personality factors with effective or ineffective work performance (Barrick &
Mount, 1991). Little evidence exists, however, in spite of extensive study, that
personality factors can adequately predict job performance within organizations
(Day & Silverman, 1989).
According to Raelin (1984), Dissonance Theory is a second explanation for
effective or ineffective interpersonal behavior within organizations. Conflicting
expectations, roles, or values between the individual and the organization creates
anxiety within the individual. The individual must take some action to reduce this
anxiety, which may result in behaviors in conflict with the organization. These
deviant behaviors are characterized by reduced communication, involvement, and
support for co-workers. In the extreme, these behaviors result in outright defiance
and non-conformity. Individuals begin to use illegitimate means outside the
organizational structure to achieve their goals.
Viewing organizations through the lens of the family system is another
approach that may be useful for understanding interpersonal behavior within
organizations. Because the process which family system theory describes can be
found in all social systems, the theory offers organizations a new way for
understanding how and why they function the way they do. The theory underscores
the belief that members within the organization, similar to a family, do not operate
as autonomous individuals, but rather as part of a system continually influenced and
controlled by the relationships in which they are involved (Framer, 1993). This
very much resembles the family system.
Family System Theory
In the early part of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freuds ideas about
parents role in emotional illness sparked some interest in families as systems.
Family Systems as a movement, however, did not seriously take shape until
almost three decades later (Bowen, 1994; Hall, 1981). Dr. Murry Bo wan
introduced Family System Theory to the world in the 1950s.
Bowens theory describes emotional processes found in all families and rests
on several key assumptions. First, certain universal concepts, derived from an
evolutionary heritage, strongly influence human behavior. These are the primitive
reflexive and reactive emotional responses so prevalent in intimate relationships,
such as the family. Second, because of the intense emotional interdependence
within families, interactions and behavior are more predictable than in other
groups. In addition, these behavior patterns tend to repeat themselves from
generation to generation. Third, family members appear to exert a great deal of
pressure on each other to continue their behavior and maintain the status quo of the
family (Hall, 1981).
Family System Theory draws from many different sources. One
contribution, as mentioned above, was Freuds psychoanalytic theory, which
describes the effects of one individual on another. Second, von Bertalanffy and the
discipline of biology supplied ideas from general system theory. Third, sociologists
and anthropologists, describing the cultural aspects of family life, influenced family
This approach, consistent with general system theory, proposes that the
family as a whole is greater than the sum of its individual members. According to
Friedman (1981), the family is defined as a living social system. It consists of a
small group of individuals, connected and interdependent, organized into a single
unit. Family members interact in relationships that effect each other and the family
unit as a whole (Hall, 1981). Each family member is assigned a role to play within
the family structure. Powerful pressure is exerted for each individual to remain
within that role, thus ensuring the equilibrium of the family. This results in
patterns of behavior that remain with us as we enter adulthood, and permeate all
areas of life. Often these behaviors remain stable over time, even though contact
with the family unit diminishes (Bryannan, 1998).
Nagy (1990) proposes that when family roles produce behavior patterns that
are healthy, characterized by family relationships and interactions that are open
and honest, individual needs are met and individuals function effectively. When
family roles shape unhealthy behavior patterns, characterized by rigidity,
isolation, secrecy, and denial, individual needs remain unmet and dysfunctional
behavior can result.
At the extreme end of the continuum, family systems of trauma can be
found. High levels of anxiety and stress are everyday occurrences, and normal"
for family members (Guzman & Earll, 1996). Strained relationships and
interactions, isolation, and unmet personal needs are camouflaged to maintain the
equilibrium of the family. In fact, as mentioned above, family members often exert
extreme pressure on each other to maintain their family roles. According to
Guzman and Earll (1996), survival behaviors emerge as a coping mechanism for
dealing with this chronic stress. These behaviors cam extend into adulthood,
effecting both personal and professional relationships and interactions.
Based on previous work in recovery therapy, especially that of Lasater.
1988, Verdiano, Peterson, & Hicks (1990), Wegsheider- Cruse (1989). and
William and Potter (1994), Guzman and Earll (1996) identified five categories of
survival behaviors that emerge in response to family trauma:
Five Behavior Categories
Category 1: Dependent/irresponsible
This individual contributes little to group projects, procrastinates, is perpetually
late, and often loses things that they have borrowed. While they continually irritate
peers, they use humor and cute, provocative behavior to get back into good
graces. Others often take pity on them and complete their tasks for them.
Category 2; Rebelling
Rebelling for any reason is this persons mode of operation. Rules, supervisors,
and authority are devices that jeopardize independence. This individual constantly
has a chip on their shoulder that permeates all interactions. While peers may
become angry and frustrated with this individual, they hesitate confronting her or
him, lest they add to the oppositional behavior.
Category 3: Overachieving/overcontrolling
This individual appears to spend more time working and works much harder than
peers. He or she demonstrates perfectionist tendencies, setting high standards for
her or himself and others. Others do not generally live up to these standards which
causes this individual to work even harder to make up for these perceived
inadequacies. Others view this individual as cold, controlling, and unapproachable.
Systems usually reward the overachieving/overcontrolling individual, thus
perpetuating these behaviors.
Category 4: Caretaking
Everyone can always count on this individual to take care of everything, especially
during a crisis. He or she spends endless time finding solutions to problems and
comforting others. This persons capacity to give appears limitless. Others' needs,
whether money, time, or comfort, come before this individuals needs, often at the
expense of health and well-being.
Category 5; Withdrawal
This individual is quiet, seldom interacts, and has few friends. They often appear
anxious or nervous when others become too personal. Their personal lives are a
mystery, and this individual will not express interest or demonstrate reciprocity.
Implications of these survival behaviors stretch far beyond the family
system. If left unchecked, the result is often dysfunctional relationships and
interactions that occur in all life settings, including the workplace.
Family System Theory and Organizational Teams
Basic relationship patterns developed during childhood within the family
system manifest themselves throughout life in all relationships. Family interactions
and relationships, past and present, play a significant role in influencing behavior in
all kinds of social settings (Bowen, 1994). In addition, these concepts cross ethnic
groups, social classes, and religious affiliations (Hall, 1981). Thus, concepts from
Family System Theory can be applied to behavior in other social settings.
The team structure so prevalent in organizations today is also consistent with
this family structure. Formal hierarchical structures, informal influence
relationships, leaders and followers, all interconnected and continually
interconnected, form a work family (Guzman, 1997; Guzman & Viveiros,1998).
Relationship patterns in work relationships are identical to those developed during
childhood in the family. They differ only in their intensity (Bowen, 1994).
Exceptions exist even in this intensity difference (Bowen, 1994: Guzman &
Earll, 1996). Individuals with lower levels of differentiation can approximate the
same level of emotional interactions in the workplace as in their families.
Differentiation of self is defined as the ability to separate from ones parents and
establish as sense of an individual self. It has three general components: (a) the
extent to which an individual develops and maintains a solid independent identity,
in spite of the relationships in which they are involved,
(b) the ability of an individual to act logically, to think about what they are doing
rather than react emotionally, and, (c) the level of emotional union of the individual
with the relationship system.
Bowen (1994) continues with an explanation of the impact of differentiation
in the workplace. The individual with a higher level of differentiation is goal
directed at work, keeping their emotional needs within the family structure.
Those with a lower level of differentiation tend to seek relationships at work to
satisfy their emotional needs. This behavior affects leadership, team functioning,
and decision-making within organizations. Survival behaviors developed in
response to family dysfunction, such as those mentioned above, represent a low
level of differentiation. These behavior patterns, then, extend beyond the family
and are reenacted within the work family (Bowen, 1994).
In Kline and Saunders (1993), Ron Heidke from Kodak Corporation
discusses this concept of the work family. People in the workplace of the future
will feel the same as when they are at home. They will enjoy co-workers, can
share feeling and ideas, and can feel secure enough to express their independent
creativity. They can have a sense of working together in an honest and open
environment to accomplish common goals. Heidke assumes, however, that all
individuals have experienced positive, enjoyable, and healthy experiences within
Nagy (1990) proposes that people within organizations often find themselves
repeating the same behavior patterns in the workplace that they experienced in their
families. As mentioned earlier, when these patterns of behavior are healthy,"
individual needs are met and both the organization and the individual function
successfully. When these behavior patterns are unhealthy. the organization can
become dysfunctional, failing to meet its goals (Nagy, 1990).
Educational teams in particular need to understand the relationships and
dynamics within their group. First, due to the educational contract and strong
union backing, teachers jobs are largely protected. Legislation at the state level,
civil rights laws, and constitutional laws have been designed to protect teachers
from dismissal. Reconfiguring a team because it has become ineffective may not be
possible (Elrod, 1993).
Second, current supervision models do not focus on how to deal with
dysfunctional teams. Supervisors are not generally trained, lack sufficient time, and
lack sufficient sanctions to deal with ineffective group progress (Acheson & Gall,
1987; Blanchard & Johnson. 1981). Standard techniques such as staff meetings,
staff development, training seminars, and team building activities may provide a
quick fix," but are generally ineffective in alleviating team problems. Behaviors
such as communication breakdowns, isolation, anger, and withdrawal continue
despite great efforts at remediation (Schaef & Fassel, 1990).
Finally, re-assignment of individual group members, in the educational
system, is often very difficult. Even more arduous is termination, which can often
cost thousands of dollars and a tremendous amount of staff time (Elrod, 1993).
Quantitative data about individuals and their behavior patterns, as they play
out in teams within organizations, is scarce (Guzman, 1997). Schaef & Fassel
(1988) report that up to 96% of the population may be affected by such patterns, in
both positive and negative ways. Empirical data, however, does not accompany
this statistic. Guzman (1997) continues with the suggestion that it is the very
human, and therefore personal and unpredictable nature of this area that keeps it
from being studied (p. 4). Through our work with organizations, it became
apparent to us that unhealthy behaviors were occurring in the workplace and that
they interfered significantly with the building of relationships, the effectiveness of
teams, and the process of change (Guzman & Earll, 1996, p. 9).
Argyris (1964) suggests that theoretically the concepts of positive mental
health, demonstrated by healthy behavior patterns, and team effectiveness are
congruent. For Argyris. the question arises as to whether this relationship can be
empirically validated. For example, if an organization met the requirements of
effectiveness, would the individuals within the organization tend to be
psychologically healthy? Unfortunately, no empirical data are available to check
this prediction ( p. 298).
This dissertation is written to provide a more comprehensive account of how
the behavior of individuals within organizations contributes to the success,
dysfunction, or failure of teams within these organizations. This study examines
whether the adult behavior patterns of individual team members affect team
functioning. The purpose of the research is to contribute additional information and
insight about problems facing organizations today (Patton, 1990).
To test the primary hypothesis that a relationship exists between team
effectiveness and individual adult behavior patterns, two surveys were administered
to educational teams. The first survey, the Empowerment Behavior Profile
Inventory (Guzman & Earll, 1996) assesses individual behavior patterns of team
participants. The second, the Team Effectiveness Survey, developed for this
survey, determines the effective or ineffective functioning of the team.
Based on the literature review and this studys research question, it is
hypothesized that the higher the level of identified behavior patterns reported by
individual team members, the lower the team effectiveness. Inversely, the lower
the level of identified behavior patterns reported by individual team members, the
higher the team effectiveness. Figure 2 illustrates this proposed relationship.
High Individual Behavior
Ineffective / \ Effective
Team ( Team
Functioning \ / Functioning
Low Individual Behavior
Again based on the literature review, especially that of family systems
theory, a secondary hypothesis is also proposed. As mentioned earlier, emotional
issues in the workplace follow the same patterns as emotional issues in the family,
and individuals often relate and react within the organization in the same manner as
they would within their family (Bowen, 1994). Because teams structure themselves
in a variety of ways, these teams may function more or less effectively depending
how closely they resemble a family structure. The more closely team members
work together in interdependent situations, the more likely they are to become
involved in emotional alliances and emotional processes. In these types of teams
situation, team members may be more likely to recreate and act out family
relationships and interactions in the workplace (Bowen, 1994).
Educational teams at different levels, elementary, secondary, and special
education, indeed are structured differently. It is hypothesized that secondary
teams would report higher team effectiveness than either elementary teams or
special education teams, due to their more independent organization based on
separate disciplines. While team members meet to discuss common goals and
visions, each operates autonomously in their specific area. In addition, it is
hypothesized that special education teams, due to their more interdependent
organization, would report lower team effectiveness than either secondary teams or
elementary teams. Each special education team member has a specific role, and
each is dependent on the others to complete her or his job. For example, when a
student is evaluated, each team member assesses in their area of expertise. The
team is required to agree upon a time when all assessments can be completed,
communicate their results with all team members, agree upon a diagnosis, and
prescribe a course of action (Guzman & Viveiros, 1998). In order to pursue a
more in-depth look into team functioning at these different levels, these differences
will be examined.
Survey method deals with questions requiring what answers rather than
why answers (de Vaus, 1986). Marsh (1982) defines survey method as a
systematic measurement of variables yielding data that, once analyzed, demonstrate
patterns and relationships. Surveys are discernible from other research methods by
their form of data collection and method of analysis. Information is systematically
collected from at least two cases, and usually many more, about the same variables,
(de Vaus, 1986).
Most people today are familiar with survey techniques used to measure
subjective data, such as public opinion and political polls and market research
(Fowler, 1988). According to Fowler however, survey research methods also focus
on factual material, producing quantitative information about the population
participating in the survey. This type of survey research is the method employed
for this study. It contains the following characteristics: (a) a sample group
representative of the larger population; (b) information that is collected by asking
questions, which becomes the data of the study; and (c) a statistical outcome.
Guzman and Earll (1996) and Guzman (1997) developed and piloted The
Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey as a first step in establishing validity and
reliability. This instrument, as mentioned above, is one of two survey instruments
used in this researchers study. A brief review of the research conducted by
Guzman and Earll (1996) and Guzman (1997) follows.
Questions for the survey were adapted from earlier work on family
relationships, primarily that of Lasater (1988), Verdiano. Peterson. & Hicks
(1990),Wegscheider-Cruse (1989), and William & Potter (1994), and from
interviews with and observations of educators. As mentioned in the previous
chapter, five behavior categories emerged from this research identified as (a)
Dependent/irresponsible: (b) Rebelling; (c) Overachieving/overcontrolling; (d)
Caretaking; (e) Withdrawing.
The survey was piloted with 85 educators during teacher training sessions over
an 18 month period. According to their feedback, and combined with interviews
and observations conducted by Guzman anad Earll, questions were revised, refined,
and distributed into the five behavior categories.
As the first step in a multi-stage research project, the survey was mailed to 805
professional staff members in 17 schools. Researchers received a return rate of 439
surveys, or 55 percent. Data collected yielded the following findings:
1. Over half the respondents, 53% indicated a tendency to withdraw from
conflict, while 66% indicated that they serve as mediators for conflict.
2. A strong pattern of overachieving/overcontrolling and caretaking
behaviors appeared to emerge.
3. Respondents in the rebelling category, because of characteristics inherent
in that category, may not have completed the survey.
4. Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated a preference to non-team
The researchers identified several limitations to their study. First, the
sample may have been biased, as the survey was voluntary. Second, since
questions were developed by interview and observation rather than data analysis,
reliability for the instrument was not established. Last, a threat to validity was
present as questions were categorized through interview and observation rather than
through statistical analysis.
In the second stage of research, Guzman (1997) analyzed data collected
using the Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey in phase one. Based upon the 439
surveys returned, data were analyzed using an analysis of variance (ANOVA) to
compare behavior cluster scores to each of the five behavior categories and
identified variables. Comparisons were calculated for (a) gender, (b) school
level, and (c) position within the school. Data analysis revealed the following:
1. No significant difference was found for position within the school and
any of the five behavior categories.
2. No significant difference was found for school level and any of the five
3. A significant difference was found for gender comparison in the
rebelling behavior category. Male responses to questions within this
category were significantly higher, at the .01 level, than female
Because the data analyzed were those collected from Phase one of the
research, the same limitations existed. A sample bias was present as the
respondents were volunteers. Likewise, reliability and validity for the instrument
was not established. Incomplete surveys reduced the data available for analysis.
Finally, construct validity was not established.
The pilot for this research was conducted at a middle school outside the
school district of the actual study. Twenty-eight individuals on five teams returned
In survey research, pilot testing can identify errors question content or
presentation, ranging from confusing typographical mistakes to overlapping
questions to unclear questions (Litwin, 1995). Type may be too small, reading
level too difficult, or semantics problematic. In addition, in today's diverse
society, language and culture must be considered in a survey. Pilot testing allows
the author, who may be so close to the project that he or she may overlook
inaccuracies, a chance to correct such errors.
This is especially important if the survey will be distributed to a large
sample, as time, energy, and cost become significant factors. According to Litwin,
pilot testing is a necessary and vital component when developing a survey. It
allows the author to gain practical information about her or his survey in a real
situation. In addition, it establishes reliability and validity for the instruments to be
used in the actual research.
Though surveys were administered individually to each team member, this
task was accomplished during a team meeting. All members of the team had to
agree to complete the survey and be present at the team meeting in order for the
data to be considered valid. This procedure was an outgrowth of the earlier
research conducted by Guzman and Earll (1996). The purpose was twofold. First,
since assessment of team functioning was an outcome of the survey, all team
members would need to complete the survey in order to obtain an accurate view of
the team. Second, as proposed in the previous research, the possibility exits that
individuals with behavior characteristics within the rebelling behavior category
would not complete the survey. By having team members complete the surveys
within the structure of a team meeting, the probability that these people would
complete the survey increased. Last, distributing and collecting the survey during a
team meeting greatly increased the return rate.
The principal of the school selected teams randomly. Assigning a number to
each grade level team, twelve in all, she picked four numbers from a hat. In
addition, the sample included the special education team. The principal asked team
members if they were willing to participate in the pilot study. All five teams
agreed, and provided a date and time when the survey could be administered.
At the designated time, a manila envelope containing a cover letter (see
Appendix A) explaining the pilot, as well as the Empowerment Behavior profile
Survey (see Appendix B) and the Team Effectiveness Survey, was distributed to
each team member. The envelope and questionnaire were coded by level and team.
Team members were asked to complete the survey, return it to the manila envelope,
and seal it. The envelopes were collected when all team members had completed
Thirty team members participated in the pilot. All regular education team
members completed the survey. Though teams were requested to complete the
questionnaire during their team meeting in order to collect them as a team, one
team did not comply. While several individuals remained in the room, some left
and indicated that they would return the questionnaire later. One of these
individuals returned an incomplete survey, while a second later indicated that she
would not complete it at all. She felt that after reading it, she was not comfortable
The following checklist, adapted from Litwin was also included in the
envelope and participants were asked to complete it after finishing the survey.
1. Do any typographical errors exist?
2. Is all spelling correct?
3. Does the numbering of items make sense?
4. Is the print large enough to be easily read?
5. Is the reading level appropriate to the sample?
6. Is the survey too long?
7. Is the survey construction boring?
8. Is there a mix of easy and difficult questions?
9. Do the survey sections flow easily?
10. Are questions appropriate for the selected sample?
11. Are the questions sensitive to cultural and gender factors ?
12. Is the language appropriate for the selected sample?
Nineteen team members responded to the checklist. Table 5-1 illustrates
participant responses to each question.
PILOT SURVEY CHECKLIST RESPONSES
Question Yes No No Response
1 2 17 0
2 2 17 0
3 16 2 1
4 15 2 2
5 17 1 1
6 8 10 1
7 2 15 2
8 15 1 3
9 17 0 2
10 15 1 3
11 14 1 4
12 16 0 3
Additional comments either on the checklist or on the survey itself were
noted. Several participants indicated that the questions were "thought provoking"
and interesting. In addition, several individuals proposed that the Likert-scale
appear on all questionnaire pages. They indicated that they continuously referred to
the first page in order to complete the questions. Three people expressed concern
about the volunteering process, feeling pressured because the principal asked them
As a result of participant comments, the Likert-scale code of the
Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey was duplicated at the top of each survey
page. In addition, the team-selection process was amended. This will be described
in detail later in this chapter.
Validity of Pilot Team Effectiveness Survey
Validity assesses how well an instrument measures what it sets out to
measure. Factor analysis is a computer-assisted method that assesses whether the
individual items on a survey belong together in one scale (Litwin). Factor analysis
was used with pilot data from the Team Effectiveness Survey in an attempt to
identify if the items grouped together according to the four intended factors of team
commitment, team satisfaction, team organization, and team unity. They did not.
The small sample and/or high level of response variance among surveys are two
possible explanations for this (Litwin). All questions but one loaded heavily on one
factor. Table 5-2 illustrates this analysis.
FACTOR ANALYSIS FOR PILOT
TEAM EFFECTIVENESS SURVEY
Question Factor Loading
Reliability of Pilot Team Effectiveness Survey
Reliability is a measure of how readily the data collected from the survey
instrument can be reproduced. Internal consistency reliability is a psychometric
measure often used to assess the reliability of a survey instrument. Internal
consistency is an indicator that the different questions of the scale measure the same
concept, or variable (Litwin, 1995).
Chronbachs coefficient alpha is a statistic used to measure internal
consistency reliability. It is a statistic that illustrates the congruity of the scale. It
reflects how well the items on the scale complement each other because they
measure different aspects of the same variable. The reliability was .6761.
Question three, with a loading of -.411, was eliminated from the survey. This
increased the reliability to .7509. Data supported the presence of only one factor.
Validity of Pilot Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey
Neither construct validity nor internal reliability had been established in
previous research for the Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey. In order to
establish construct validity, a factor analysis was conducted on pilot data from the
Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey. As mentioned earlier, five components,
measuring five behavior categories, were intended within the survey. The factor
analysis, however, did not support the presence of five separate factors. As with
the Team Effectiveness Survey, the small sample and high level of variance among
participant responses may be responsible for this (Litwin).
Reliability of Pilot Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey
Again, using Chronbachs coefficient alpha, the reliability of this scale was
.9484, indicating strong reliability. This would also indicate a high probability that
the survey data from this instrument could be reproduced (Litwin).
A school district in a mountain state provided the setting for this study.
Extremely rapid growth characterizes this district, as it doubled in size from 1990
to 1998. One reason is the availability of land lying between two well built-up.
well-populated areas. The second reason is the availability of jobs in these two
cities. The commute to either is relatively short, and people can live in a less
populated area while still being close to work.
The District is large and covers almost 10,000 square miles, roughly the
size of the State of Rhode Island, with a student population of over 29,000. The
District has a unique composition, containing middle- to upper-middle class,
suburban, and rural populations. Fifty schools currently lie within the district
boundaries, divided into three geographic regions. Work teams, the unit of
analysis, were chosen from elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
A sample is a segment of a larger group called the target population (Fink,
1985). Fink suggests that the best sample is one identical to the larger population,
but smaller. It is representative, containing the important characteristics of the
larger target population. The survey is not meaningful unless it accurately
represents the larger population. Fink continues by indicating that, when executed
correctly, information gained from the survey sample can be generalized to the
target population and inferences and relationships drawn.
For the purposes of this study, work teams from elementary, middle, and
high schools within the District are the target population. Secondary schools and
elementary schools comprised the sample. Each team consisted of at least four
team members. Teams identified include high school discipline teams, such as the
math department, middle school multi-disciplinary teams, and elementary grade-
level teams or track teams. Track teams are unique to year-round schools, and
since this school district is year around, some elementary schools included in the
sample structured themselves into tracks, with each team encompassing one teacher
from each grade level, kindergarten through sixth. In addition, the sample included
special education teams from elementary, middle, and high schools.
The groups in the sample met the definition of a team. A team is a group of
people who share their ideas to improve the work processes for the entire group,
coordinate responses to promote organizational change, build respect among team
members, and set common goals (Willard, 1993). A team is composed of a small
number of people with diverse skills committed to a common purpose adhering to
specific goals, common performance strategies, and mutual accountability
Studying teams within organizations poses some specific difficulties. The
first is deciding when a team begins. A second problem is deciding when a team
ends. The beginning or termination of a team may or may not coincide with factors
such as task timelines or completion of goals. Numerous sets of stages have
been proposed to help identify phases of team development. These are usually
vaguely general and do not take into account the diverse structures within
organizations (Hannan & Freeman, 1989). Each phase that teams pass through,
however, creates its own needs, issues, and problems. These must be resolved if
the team is to become effective and productive (Ware, 1994).
According to Ware, initial membership on the team constitutes phase one.
This phase is characterized by superficial, polite, and cautious behavior. Goals are
unclear and stronger, more active team members tend to dominate decision-making.
Individual feelings are suppressed or avoided, and disagreements or conflict rarely
In phase two, the process of subgrouping begins. A greater closeness,
positive feelings, and camaraderie develop among subgroup members. Goals
become clearer. Conflict and disagreement are masked by a false unanimity.
Phase three brings confrontation as hostility emerges among subgroups and
power struggles dominate. Exchanges become heated, goals are contested, power
drives decisions, and conflict runs high.
As phase four emerges, subgroups disintegrate into a whole and a general
feeling of confidence and satisfaction permeates the group. Goals are agreed upon,
and decision-making is based on expertise. Communication is open and sincere
with disagreement based on honest differences. The team begins to form an
identity as a group working toward a common purpose.
The fifth, and final phase, is that of collaboration. If the group achieves this
level, it can proclaim itself a team. The team, then, is a number of individuals with
complementary skills, working toward a common purpose, with specific and mutual
The superintendent was contacted personally for permission to conduct the
research within the school district. The superintendent was also given a letter
documenting the specifics of the study (See Appendix D). Once permission was
obtained, all middle school and high school principals within the district were given
or sent individual letters (see Appendix E). This letter explained the purpose for
the research, the topic being explored, the method for data collection, and the
involvement of their staff. If willing to participate, principals were asked to
provide a list of teams within their buildings and a contact person for each team.
The same procedure was applied to elementary schools with one difference.
Twenty-six elementary schools exist in the district and, as mentioned before span a
great distance. In order to minimize extensive travel, elementary schools from only
one region were included in the sample. These schools are similar in size,
socioeconomic level, and percentage of special education students as schools in the
other two regions. Eight elementary principals were given or sent the same letters
as secondary principals (see Appendix E). Depending on familiarity, some letters
addressed principals by their first name while others were addressed with the more
formal titles of Mr., Mrs. or Ms.. Because special education teams are supervised
by the Special Education Director, the Director was given the letter requesting
permission to ask these teams to participate in the research (see Appendix F).
Six of ten secondary principals responded. Of these, only four agreed to
participate. No reasons for declining were given. All eight elementary principals
responded affirmatively. The Director of Special Education gave permission for
special education teams at all buildings to be contacted.
Data Collection Procedure
The proposed sample size of at least 60 teams reduces sampling variation
and standard error. The sample should contain characteristics of the target
population (Fink. 1985).
From the lists supplied by principals and the Special Education Director, the
designated contact person from each team within each school was sent a letter of
introduction, explaining the research and requesting assistance (see Appendix G).
The contact person was asked to return the bottom portion of the letter identifying
their school, team, and a date and time of a team meeting when it was convenient
for the survey to be administered. Twenty secondary teams, twenty-one elementary
teams, and twenty special education teams responded. The number of team
members ranged from a low of four to a high of fifteen.
Surveys were administered at the team meeting designated by the team
contact person. Each individual survey was placed in a manila envelope that
included a cover letter (see Appendix A). Each survey and envelope were coded by
team and level. Participants were instructed to complete the survey, return it to the
envelope, and seal it. Surveys were then collected by the team leader.
As mentioned during discussion of the pilot study, this method of survey
administration was selected for three reasons. First, in order to determine team
effectiveness, it was essential for all team members to be present and complete the
survey. Second, administering the survey in a group increased the likelihood that
all team members, especially those that might exhibit characteristics within the
rebelling category, would complete the survey. Last, this method of self-
administered surveys was also chosen because of the high rate of response when
groups agree to complete a survey. Response rate from this method is near one
hundred percent (Fink, 1985).
However, several problems in the data collection procedure occurred. As
mentioned above, in order to use team data collected, all team members had to
volunteer and be present at the team meeting. Unfortunately, this was not the case
for all teams. Table 5-3 illustrates the team composition for this study. The
number of team members listed in table 5-3 equals the actual number of individuals
on that team and the number of individuals that completed the survey. Teams
where one or more members were not present are represented by NA. Though
recorded as participants in the study, these teams were dropped from further
analysis. Although team leaders sent the attached slip back with a designated date
and time, at the elementary and secondary level, circumstances occurred that
rendered some team data unacceptable for the study.
Team Type Number on Team Team Type Number on Team
Elementary 6 Elementary 5
Elementary 4 Elementary 5
Elementary 6 Elementary 5
Elementary 5 Elementary NA
Elementary NA Elementary 6
Elementary 6 Secondary 4
Elementary NA Secondary 5
Elementary 5 Secondary 5
Elementary I Elementary 6 Secondary D 4
5 Secondary 5
Elementary NA Secondary 12
Elementary 4 Secondary 6
Elementary 4 Secondary NA
Elementary NA Secondary 5
Elementary 4 Secondary 4
Elementary 4 Secondary NA
TABLE 5-3 - Continued
Team Type Number on Team
Secondary L 4
Secondary M NA
Secondary N 3
Secondary 0 3
Secondary P NA
Secondary Q 3
Secondary R 4
Secondary S 5
Secondary T NA
SPED A 11
SPED B 13
SPED C 10
SPED D 9
SPED E 4
SPED F 7
Team Type Number on Team
SPED G 4
SPED H 9
SPED I 7
SPED J 13
SPED K 4
SPED L 8
SPED M 6
SPED N 5
SPED 0 7
SPED P 4
SPED Q 10
SPED R 7
SPED S 6
SPED T 8
Teams at the secondary level were eliminated for the following reasons:
1. Team leaders had not adequately secured voluntary participation from all
2. Team members changed their minds about completing the survey once it
3. Team members were absent on the day the surveys were distributed, and did
not complete and return them. Follow-up might have compromised the
anonymity of the participant, as direct contact would have to be made in
order to secure the survey.
Teams at the elementary level were eliminated due to tracking off. In year
round schools, one fourth of team members are off track at all times. Several
team members who were off track when surveys were administered did not return
the surveys upon their return. As mentioned above, follow-up wouid have
compromised the anonymity of the participant. All special education team members
were present and completed the surveys.
The total number of teams participating in the study was 51, with 304 individual
participants completing surveys. Sixteen elementary teams, fifteen secondary
teams, and twenty special education teams comprised the sample. This constituted
a return rate of 84 percent.
Teachers in the sample were asked to complete a questionnaire that
consisted of two parts. The first, the Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey (see
Appendix H) contained questions assessing individual behaviors that participants
exhibited within their team. The second, the Team Effectiveness Survey (see
Appendix I) determined the effectiveness of the team as perceived by the individual
team member. The total survey, that included both instruments, was five pages
long, with 94 questions, and required approximately fifteen to twenty minutes to
Both instruments had been revised after the pilot study. First, because of
respondents comments on the pilot survey, the Likert scale headings were placed at
the top of each page of the Empowerment Behavior Profile Survey. Second, due to
the factor analysis of pilot data, question three was eliminated from the Team
Effectiveness Survey. Thus question four became question three, question five
became question four, and so on. In addition, the statement asking participants to
rate the overall effectiveness of their team was added after question 14 at the end of
the survey as one check in the validity of the instrument. This will be described
and the purpose explained in greater detail later in this chapter.
Individual characteristics of teachers may also influence team effectiveness
in some way. For this reason, information was collected from team members in a
number of different areas. At the end of both the Empowerment Behavior Profile
Survey and the Team Effectiveness Survey, several questions were listed to gain
additional information about the respondents. Because the surveys were
administered by the researcher, questions were limited to ensure anonymity.
Questions included number of years as an educator and number of years on the
team surveyed, as well as age and gender of participants.
The number of years respondents have been in the teaching field, as well as
the number of years they participated on their team appeared relevant to discern.
Conflict sometimes arises in teams between newcomers and old-timers.
Those educators who have been teaching for many years may feel a sense of loss as
newer teachers enter the system. Likewise, unseasoned teachers may feel a sense
of alienation as they attempt to fit into existing structures (Boleman & Deal,
The age and gender of respondents were also considered important. For the
past two decades civil rights laws, including gender and age discrimination, have
become quite controversial. This legislation can be invoked as a means to ensure
equal opportunity or protected individual status (Bolick, 1987). These issues have
now infiltrated education, as we hear more and more about cases involving ADEA.
the Age Discrimination Employment Act. and Title IX. the Sexual Discrimination
In education, gender issues, especially at the elementary level, come
significantly into play, as a large majority of the teaching staff is female. This raise
questions about gender-biased teaching, as well as adequate male role models
(Weinstein, 1998). Gender roles and stereotypes continue to be debated in
education. This includes both the actual beliefs and practices of teachers, as well as
issues of gender equity in the educational system (Streitmatter, 1994).
All 304 respondents who agreed to participate in the study are licensed
teachers in Colorado. Though surveys were coded and participants were assured
anonymity by the researcher, all respondents answered all questions regarding
demographic information. The tables listed below depict the demographic data
gained from the questionnaire.
For the question on age, 293 of the 304 participants responded. Table 5-4
lists the mean, minimum, and maximum age of participants for all respondent and
MEANS AND RANGES FOR AGE
Mean Minimum Age Maximum Age
Total Group 40 21 62
Elementary 36.1 24 57
Secondary 39.4 25 62
Special Education 42.2 21 61
For the question regarding gender, 293 of 304 participants responded.
Table 5-5 represents the number of respondents in each gender category, as well as
the percentage of females and males, for the total respondent group and the
NUMBERS AND PERCENT FOR GENDER
Male N/ % Female N/ %
Total Group 42/13.8% 252/82.9%
Elementary 7/8.8% 72/90.0%
Secondary 20/27.8% 46/63.9%
Special Education 15/9.9% 134/88.2%
Regarding number of years in education, 292 of 304 participants chose to
complete this question. Table 5-6 lists the means and ranges for total respondents
and for subgroups.
MEANS AND RANGES FOR YEARS IN EDUCATION
Mean Minimum Years in Education Maximum Years in Education
Total Group 11.6 1 40
Elementary 8.9 1 32
Secondary 13.6 1 40
Special Education 12.2 1 30
When asked to state the number of years on the current team, 248 of 304
participants responded. Table 5-7 portrays the means and ranges of the 248
respondents, as well as means and ranges for the three subgroups.
Team Effectiveness Survey
As mentioned in previous chapters, many organizations structure themselves
into teams that resemble family systems. People within these teams often find
themselves repeating the same behavior patterns in the workplace that they
experienced in their families. When these patterns of behavior are healthy,
MEANS AND RANGES FOR YEARS ON TEAM
Mean Minimum Years on Team Maximum Years on Team
Total Group 3.4 1 17
Elementary 2.6 1 10
Secondary 3.2 1 17
Special Education 3.8 1 15
characterized by open and honest communication, individual needs are met and both
the organization and the individual function successfully. When these behavior
patterns are 'unhealthy, characterized by rigidity, isolation, secrecy, and denial,
the individual and the team can become dysfunctional, failing to meet its goals
The Team Effectiveness Survey was used to assess team functioning within
the schools analyzed (see Appendix I). Ideas for the scale were derived from a
number of different sources: Katzenbach & Smith, 1993; Kinlaw, 1991; Lawson,
1989; Peters, 1988; Recardo et al., 1996; Senge, 1990 ).
This survey gathers information from each individual team member and,
averaging all scores on a given team, provides an overall effectiveness score for
each team. A total of 269 respondents completed the Team Effectiveness Survey,
for a return rate of 89%.
As mentioned during discussion of the pilot survey, validity assesses how
well an instrument measures what it sets out to measure. As mentioned earlier in
this chapter, a factor analysis conducted on the small sample of data collected
during the pilot study did not support the presence of four separate components as
intended. All but one question, number three, loaded heavily into one factor, that
could simply be titled team effectiveness. The survey was revised, and question
three eliminated before being distributed for the study. Due to the small pilot
sample, 28 respondents, two approaches were used in an attempt to establish
construct validity within the Team Effectiveness Survey.
The first, factor analysis, is a computer assisted method used to establish the
validity of a survey instrument (Litwin, 1995). As mentioned earlier, factor
analysis attempts to identify the underlying variables, or factors, within an
instrument, and establish a pattern and correlation within the set of variables. It
separates variables into unique factor sets, relying on the basic assumption that
those factors do not overlap and do not correlate with each other (SPSS Base 8.0).
Validity is usually expressed as a correlation coefficient. Levels of .7 or higher
usually signify strong validity (Litwin, 1995).
Questions in survey research are designed to support the factors contained
within the instrument. When questions are stated in the negative, this contradicts
the intent of the factor. On the Team Effectiveness Survey, three questions were
stated negatively. While negative questions are sometimes difficult for many
respondents, they do encourage more thoughtful responses and logical thinking
In order have all questions within the instrument support the intended factor,
however, the three negative questions were recoded. Recoding reverses the Likert
scale scoring order of the responses (SPSS Base 8.0). A factor analysis was then
conducted. All questions but one loaded heavily onto one factor. Question 11
loaded almost equally on two factors with correlation coefficients of .628 and .554.
Since the value was slightly higher, however, for factor one, the factor analysis
appears to support the premise from the pilot study that only one factor exists
within the instrument. This factor can simply be referred to as team
effectiveness. Table 5-8 illustrates the factor analysis for the Team Effectiveness
FACTOR ANALYSIS FOR TEAM EFFECTIVENESS SURVEY
Question Factor Loading