Introduction

Functional teams are crucial in order to complete a group project efficiently and effectively. We chose to discuss the best ways to divide workload in group projects. While discussing what works best, we realize that some of the most effective tools are what we used when we started as a group. Because there is a high probability for teams to forget what their weaknesses are, The Belbin Role Test is a perfect way to see where each team member is most and least effective. Once everyone has taken the test, you can see where the team will be weaker in some areas and more dominate in others. Another important area the team must address is how their personalities work together. This is especially important in certain projects where a small team must tackle a large task.

Teams should establish their personality types and how they work well with others. Once teams have established this, the team can discuss what they are capable of handling in terms of workload and whether or not they are able to use the proper tools efficiently. Our team feels that these are important factors because they equally divide up the workload, minimizing task interdependence. This way, each team member is able to work independently, while keeping the main objectives and mission in mind. With experience with learning and working within these team dynamics determined by The Belbin Role Test, we feel this is a very beneficial way of dividing up work efficiently in teams.

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Belbin Team Roles

The Belbin Test is used to help assess how individuals work in a team environment. It was originally designed in the 1970s by Dr. Meredith Belbin.

There are a variety of “versions” of the test, but overall, they mean the same thing. The different roles a person may fall under are:

Belbin Team Role Description Skills/speciality
Creator Typically an extroverted individual who can be pushy at times. Usually the one in the group with an original and a radical approach to problems and obstacles. Coming up with innovative ideas
Implementer Team member who divides up workload to ensure amount of work is achievable and manageable. Can sometimes criticize others about their lack of a common sense approach Getting the project going
Finisher Team member is usually a perfectionist and ensures project is finished on time. They usually go over projects with a fine-tooth comb. Yet they are able to maintain a sense of urgency. Can sometimes criticize those who have unusual ideas. Finishing the project on time
Investigator Team member who gathers useful information from outside sources for the group. Typically not a creator or has original idea; really good at building on other ideas. Researching the validity of information and sources
Supporter Usually the most sensitive and aware of other teams members. Typically acts as a buffer in team meetings. Can take criticism negatively. Supporting team members and encouraging
Evaluating Team member who is much more practical and more serious. Balances creator roles nicely, Typically a natural critic. Can sometimes be tactless and destructive with criticizing others’ suggestions. Minimizes groupthink
Coordinator Team member is typically social and dominate in a relaxed kind of way. You ensure people’s talents are recognized. Are able to properly communicate across the team. Usually the chair in team meetings. Coordinates team activities/communication. Ensures team is all on the same page
Shaper Team member that is the self elected leader. Usually acts as the Coordinator when it is not fulfilled. Personally competitive intolerant of vagueness and muddled thinking. Can sometimes assume undue authority Keeps team on task

This type of test allows team members to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. In the pursuit of an effective team dynamic, teams are able to use The Belbin Test to divide roles based off of these strengths and weaknesses.

How it works

Each team member takes the test and answers a variety of questions. These questions range from how they work, where they work and what they value most. Once they are completed, team members are given numbers under a series of specific categories (the roles listed above). Once all numbers are entered, the category with the highest determines which characteristic (role) is the most dominate. Once the numbers from each team member are assessed, the team can see where their strengths and weaknesses will lie. This is a great assessment to predict where potential conflicts may arise. With the knowledge of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, a team can then effectively divide roles and tasks. Using the Belbin team roles to divide tasks will increase team cohesion, ultimately making the team more efficient and effective in every aspect. There are also negative roles that teams must watch out for (Listed below). These kinds of dynamics will restrain the team from moving forward and being effective.

Dysfunctional Role Description
Blocker Restricts the flow of ideas within a team
Attacker Confronts the ideas of other team members
Recognition-Seeker Interrupts unnecessarily seeking attention
Joker Often talks about things that are irrelevant to team discussion
Withdrawer Backs off/retreats during discussion/confrontation
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Capabilities

It is ideal that roles are assigned by each member’s capabilities. This theory can be viewed as simple economics. Say that Ben and Francisco are working on a project together. They are required to hand in eight PowerPoint slides and eight Excel models in 3 days. Ben just so happens to be a PowerPoint specialist and is capable of producing four PowerPoint slides in twenty-four hours. Ben, however, is not an Excel specialist. He is only capable of producing one Excel model a day. Francisco, on the other hand is a master of Excel. He is capable of producing four Excel models in one day. He can also do PowerPoint, but only at a rate of 1 slide per day. Instead of splitting the roles by a simple half and half of 4 Excel models and 4 PowerPoint slides per person, Ben should do all the PowerPoint slides while Francisco does all the Excel models. Production time is reduced from a staggering 4 days to 2 days, thus finishing before the deadline by a full day. This is simply done by assigning roles according to the members’ capabilities rather than workload quantity.

Obviously in the real world, situations can be a lot more complex compared to the example given above. However, in the bigger picture, that’s how companies work. You have a marketing department, an accounting department, a HR department and so on. Each department specializes on a particular subject that they are good at. Another way of looking at it is each department is doing what they are capable. It just doesn’t make sense to have each employee do a little bit of marketing, a little bit of accounting, and a little bit of human resource. It’s impossible. It’s out of their capabilities. That’s why you should assign roles by capabilities. You focus on what you are good at and let others take over your weaknesses. Things get done faster. There are fewer meetings because everybody knows what they are doing. You build trust because you know the person you are relying on is good at what they are doing.

“You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole”-Jason Fried, co-author of Rework.
There’s no such thing as completely well-rounded, nobody is a jack-of-all-trades utility man. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. We live in a world of limited time, resources, ability and focus.  In teams, finding a role that suits your own capabilities is vital to team success.

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Task Interdependence

When working in teams, it is essential that structured tasks are given to each specialized role in order to better coordinate work among several people. In order to effectively complete a task within a group, team members must be aware of the level of task interdependence. Task interdependence is the
actual sharing of information, materials, and expertise amongst the group members in order for each role to successfully complete their given task. In turn, roles can be divided based on the level of task interdependence and the workload allocated to each group member.

Working in teams often requires the use of reciprocal interdependence, which is when work output is handed back and forth between different group members. This is the highest degree of interdependence, awareness, and accuracy of team roles is extremely important. Roles can be divided through personality tests like Belbin, or based off of group members’ capabilities, but the functioning success of the team depends on effective task interdependence. The appropriate division and coordination of roles becomes more important with the higher the level of task interdependence that the job requires. With higher levels of task interdependence also comes an increased chance of conflict. This can be avoided by the creation of a team charter when the group is formed, clarifying the roles, expected tasks and performance outcomes for each member. This team charter tool can be used as a concrete device to resolve conflict and solidify the division of roles.

The successful execution of one team member’s role can greatly affect another team member’s role. For this reason, task interdependence becomes extremely important amongst each individual member, as one group member unsuccessfully fulfilling their role can skew the group’s collective success. Special attention to role division and the usage of the team charter to enforce the roles is in order when the level of task interdependence is high.

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Resources

Here is a list of what we feel are the top websites to help teams efficiently divide roles.

Top Web Source Source URL
Roles on Agile Teams: From Small to Large Teams Ambysoft http://www.ambysoft.com/essays/agileRoles.html
Team Building Activities,

And Initiative Games & Problem Solving Exercises

Wilderdom.com http://wilderdom.com/games/InitiativeGames.html
Leader and Team Management Zainbooks.com http://www.zainbooks.com/books/management/leadership-and-team-management_28_a-team-based-organization.html
Home to Belbin Team Roles Belbin.com http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8
Personalities Into Teams Mechanical Engineering http://memagazine.asme.org/Articles/2010/february/Personalities_Into_Teams.cfm
Team Building, Team Roles and Team Dynamics with Dr Marriott Sabre Corporate Development http://www.sabrehq.com/team_building_articles/team-dynamics.htm
Negotiating as  a Team Harvard Business School http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4940.html
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References

Girvin, M. (n.d.). Excel Is Fun! Retrieved from Highline Community College: https://flightline.highline.edu/mgirvin/AllClasses/216_2003/Content/Excel/ExcelIsFun/Excel2007IsFun!.htm
Jason Fried, D. H. (2010). Rework. New York: Crown Business.
Steen, S. L. (2009). Canadian Organizational Behaviour Seventh Edition. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Belbin Team Inventory. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belbin_Team_Inventory
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Google Docs. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Docs

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Bio

This report was written by Dynamic 6. Dynamic 6 is a group of marketing students at BCIT. Dynamic 6 includes: Lisa Debi, Cassy Murphy, Jerry Chen, Marisa Forsythe, Ryota Niitsuma and Willie Chik.

Lisa Debi is a 1st year student at BCIT studying Marketing Management, Tourism Option.  Lisa is fluent in both Mandarin and English. She loves photography and traveling.

Cassy Murphy is a 1st year student at BCIT studying Marketing Management, Communications Option. Cassy is an active blogger who is intrigued by the impact of social media on marketing. She enjoys theatre, speaking Russian, and eating dairy and gluten free chocolate chips.

Jerry Chen is a 1st year student at BCIT studying Marketing Management, Professional Sales Option. Jerry just graduated from high school but eagerly peruses his studies. He enjoys watching movies, listening to music and playing baseball.

Marisa Forsythe is a 1st year student at BCIT studying Marketing Management, Communications Option. Marisa recently transferred from Douglas College. She enjoys photography, graphic design, poetry and of course, her cats.

Willie Chik is a 1st year student at BCIT studying Marketing Management, Professional Sales Option. Willie and his partner Colin run and maintain an online business called 9 Obsessions that focuses on Asian Communities.  He enjoys drawing and eating McDonalds.

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