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The Mature Team and its Role in Productivity

Published December 23, 2009 1:01 PM by Brian Garavaglia

In the previous blog, I discussed the important difference that needs to be made between a group and a team.  Now that this has been hopefully clarified, an understanding of the maturity of the team has to also be addressed.  Teams do not just emerge as a mature, autonomous, fully functioning entity.  The organizational development of the team has to be focused toward achieving a level of team maturity.  In the previous paper I mentioned that teams stretch beyond just the group. Subsequently, as a team begins to emerge, the ultimate goal for a fully functioning team is to achieve a maturity level that allows it to function as an organic entity that works by itself, free from external intervention. Health care facilities function on the basis of teams.  However, many teams in health care organizations fail to develop and mature, ending up as nothing more than free wielding social gatherings that achieve nothing. 

Health care facilities depend on strong leadership to focus their efforts. In the early part of team development, a strong leader is very important. The leader, typically a nursing home or hospital administrator, an executive director or director of nursing plays a critical role during this period of time. The leader has to establish the norms of the group, or in other words, the rules that should be followed by the team members. Furthermore, the leader needs to make sure the team directs its attention toward achieving the goal. In the incipient stages of team development, the leader is important for inculcating the sense of purpose and direction of the team that must be internalized within each and every member of the team.  It should be clear and firmly established in each member so they understand their roles they play in the team and the importance and larger purpose that the team serves. As this statement reflects, members need to come away with a feeling of necessity about the work of the team.

To establish the maturity of the team, the leader is very important to provide continuous reinforcement of the tenets for team maturity described above. The nascent team needs continuous leadership and guidance in the early stages. The continuous infusion of organizational development, role refinement, and a reinforcement of purpose and urgency that the group holds, especially as it relates to the higher goals of the health care organization is critical.  It is at this early stage of team development that the immaturity of the team is quite noticeable. Frequently, when the leader is not present, the team unravels and often fails to understand how to conduct business. Similar to a young child that needs constant oversight, the team at this stage is quite similar.

As teams start to mature, one is able to witness a greater refinement of the roles that each member of the team holds. Team members come to understand their roles that they play, how their roles interface with other team members, and how the interdependency of each and every member is critical for a fully working and productive team.  At this time the team starts to coalesce, providing they have inculcated the team's mission and purpose.  Although the coalescence of the team at this time still does not allow it to function fully as an autonomous unit, independent of a strong leader, it is progressing to the point where autonomy is the next step.

When the team approaches the stage of maturity, it does not need one particular person to constantly reinforce the teams purpose and mission. Team members understand their purpose and it has been internalized into each of the team members. Teams that have reached a level of maturing have an affinity toward the problem that they seek to address. The organic nature of a fully functioning mature team automatically aligns itself with the problem that is seeks to address and the members are well aware of their responsibilities and what they need to do to accomplish the specific goals. This is the wonder of the mature team. It automatically understands it roles and directs itself toward seeking a solution to the problem. Very little prodding of the members is necessary. The organic, self-sustaining team environment allows it to manage itself and achieve a level of productivity as an autonomous unit with little oversight.

I mentioned in the previous paper that too many teams fail to do anything productive.  In other words, the nature of the team in many health care facilities exists in name only and the productivity of these teams often is desultory at best. However, mature teams feel a self of team-efficacy, understanding they have the ability to produce constructive results. They also understand the means to achieve these constructive results. Furthermore, since the team works as a mature entity, the work of the members and the team as a whole is done in an efficient and coordinated manner. Waste of time and effort is minimized and members understand the need to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Their focus in now unified and very little time is wasted per unit of input. When this is compared to the immature team that often wastes great levels of time, the mature team now is able to produce results that often exceed the totality of its team membership. The team has now reached the essence of efficiency. 

The autonomous, self-directed nature of the team that has now reached maturity is what a true team is all about.  When a team is examined, the maturity level of that team needs to be evaluated. As mentioned previously, in the early stages of team development the leader typically needs to be there to make sure that the team members stay focused. However, in mature teams, when any person or persons of the team are missing others can still continue to maintain the functioning of the team. True teams come to have a built-in self-managing feature, allowing the team to automatically adjust and conduct its activity in a productive manner.  

Hopefully it has become evident that solidly constructed teams play an invaluable part in health care decision-making. It should also have become evident that many of the collective gatherings that are often referred to as teams are truly nothing more than unwieldy and unproductive gatherings of individuals that come to hold the honorary title of "team." To understand how health care facilities can optimize their productivity, one has to come and understand the dynamics of the team as well as being sensitive to the maturity level of the teams that exist in their facility. It should now be evident that team development is not just a simple matter of bringing individuals together into one room, but a practice that blends science and an artistic touch to achieve the maximum productivity of a group of individuals.        




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About this Blog

    Brian Garavaglia, PhD
    Occupation: Long-term care administrator
    Setting: Sterling Heights, Mich.
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