Six Sigma Green Belt: Define—Team Building Challenges

In the previous post I discussed the process of team development, according to the stages set forth by the American psychologist Bruce Tuckman. Those are the stages that develop if everything develops  well. What are the some of the challenges that can occur that could prevent arrest the development of a team?

These problems range from psychological differences (red), organization issues (blue), ego conflicts (green), and cultural differences (purple).

Problem Explanation Possible solution
1. Dominant or reluctant members Some people have a fear of stating their opinion in front of others, where others seem to have a fear of NOT stating their opinion and tend to dominate the discussion. Give the floor to the shy people FIRST. Have time limits on comments from dominant members or have them keep the minutes of the meeting which will force them to listen to others. 
2. Group think In many cultures, there is a pressure to conform to the group or to the manager’s opinion; differing opinions are not expressed. Have the younger or more junior people speak first or have separate meetings of the junior people who represent their findings to the senior staff. 
3. Anarchy The opposite extreme from group think is when any member of a meeting is allowed to go off on a tangent. Have an agenda prepared and a timetable and stick to it; table discussions that are off topic or that go on too long. 
4. Lack of trust Teams meet only at virtual meetings, so trust is slow to develop. Have at least one face-to-face meeting at the beginning of team project; find some way of having team members access biographical information on other members so they are seen as human beings beyond the professional role they play. 
5. Stating opinion as fact If you give you opinion about a person’s idea and state it is as a fact, rather than how you see it from your perspective, then it makes it harder for them to accept. You should teach people how to do evaluations that MUST be prefaced b words such as “in my opinion,” “I think”, etc., to let people know that it is your opinion–and nothing more.


6. Put-downs Criticism that is focused on the person and not on the idea. Criticizing an idea without giving any indication of how to improve it. Make clear rules about attacks on a person rather than their ideas. All criticism must be constructive. If you don’t like the idea, say how you yourself would improve it. 
7. Humor In the early stages of team formation, humor can backfire if it is not understood or worse, misunderstood. This can occur because people from different cultures may interpret something said or even a gesture differently. Avoid making jokes and alleviate tension in a way that is less risky, until you get to know participants better. Cultural awareness on the part of the project manager is essential.

These above are examples of the different sources of conflict that might occur. However, the last one, that of cultural differences, is an increasingly important topic in teams that are international or global. So the next post deals in more detail with these cultural differences.

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