Group Dynamics

This article is focused on managing a software development team which consists of members of different experience level. To be specific the team has eight members among which four are fresher with little to no experience and the rest are mature and experience developers. The basic objective here is to discuss the managerial and leadership skills that are required to managing a team with different experience levels. Leader and leadership skills and the methods of implementations will be the main focus of this essay. The methods used in the essay are the result of extensive study and analysis of Course materials [1] [4] and different research essays, leadership and management related theories. The three methods discussed in this essay points towards team development in technical and emotional level  

as well as maintaining a unified approach towards a single goal. Upon a deep analysis the essay concludes that, a leader should always put forward an assertive idea then plan and control the team movement towards a definitive goal. A leader understands his team and preserves its environment by maintaining the balance through the utilization of the adversaries, such as diversity in accordance to the team, towards his profit.

Scenario and assumptions

In a well reputed software industry, a project manager has been appointed to manage a group of eight developers. Among those eight, four developers are experienced and mature; while the other four are young university graduates who have just been recruited with some to none experience status. The imbalance in the experience level causes a big stress on the group dynamics. The project manager has to address the challenges presented by the disturbance caused by the difference in experience level on his team in order to make the team self-organising, self performing to reach its optimal productivity.

The team is recently put together under the supervision of the current project manager. The Four freshman developers were recruited straight away from their respective universities by the company. These freshmen are aloof in the real field of software development. They are highly equipped with good technical knowledge but they lack the important skill of practicality as they have no work level experience. But in the other hand the experienced four are not necessarily well equipped with fresh knowledge instead they supplement themselves with the rich resource of practical experience. The experienced four have had an experience as a working team but with different team members in different departments. The team consists of all the necessary parts as a group but their group relationship is down to the basic as none of them have had any previous working relationship with each other. Experienced members fall in generation X as skeptic and independent-minded while young in generation Y who are generally characterized as self-confident, self-reliant, and independent and group oriented. [2]

Roles as a leader

As stated by Henry Kissinger, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” So a leader should be a visionary, who has a preset notion of all the steps that his group might have to follow towards a future goal. A leader should possess the charisma to guide.  It is his responsibility to transform the team of eights from their current situation to a high performing and self managing team. These skills of a leader can be summarized in three categorical functions. These functions are as following:

A.1)Planning and Organising

A.2)Motivating and

A.3)Controlling

B.Planning and organizing:

A team has to go through various phases before reaching a desired state of productivity and reliability as every other successful team in the industry has been doing. [3] The first phase of every group or team would be the introductory phase. This is where the human components of the team come in contact with each other in the form of initial meeting. As diversity is the main aspect of the team, differences should compliment each other while bringing the members together. Experience should be correctly matched with fresh energy and new knowledge with older wisdom. This simple strategy brings far more productivity than a homogenous team but to manage the perfect balance might be a handful for even an experienced manager.

Introduction can be the first tool of discovery. Then some team building exercises and gradually talks related to their personal lives i.e. hobbies, family, aim etc. A good leader should pay close attention to this phase as it will help him to project the team’s interaction in the future. This projection will help him to devise a general idea of how the team should be planned and organised in the beginning. The initial meeting also aims to increase interaction within the group to make a responsive and familiar team environment.

The very next stage includes the division of work and responsibilities. A leader should be assertive on the division but as a good leader it is a best choice to encourage the team members to come forward with their choice of responsibilities and work. This simply brings the qualities and faults of the individual through their preferences, again an important aspect to be noted by the leader for future organisation plans and policies. Leaders should also be provided opportunities to clarify. Questions are encouraged so that they have better understanding of what is going on. [1]Since the team is the mixture of experiences it is very important to divide task accordingly and plan and project ways to improve the ability and confidence of young members.
As the real work starts it is a good idea to pair differences to bring the better sides of both. For this, an experienced and a young programmer are to be paired together. Pair programming enhances young members as they seek knowledge and wisdom from experience members while experience members learn how to be more open, agree and disagree etc. at the same time [6] As the development cycle moves through, fresher will gain more experience and confidence. During this phase the leader should also closely analyse the progress of the team and adjust his decision by looking through progressive cycle. Some initial assumptions might have backfired which needs to be redesigned and more aggressive and concise plan has to be set which will eventually become the team’s spirit while moving forward.

The last stage comprises of the working phase where the team becomes a fully functional unit. Every bits and pieces of the team engine is already in its place and the working mechanism is well defined and efficient. Who, what, when, where and why is well understood by the team. By this time a good leader gradually reduces his role and presence to mentoring and controlling as the team is in its full control. [13]

C.Motivation

Highly motivated teams are the most productive ones. It is the basic duty of a leader to keep his team highly motivated and focused towards the team’s objectives. As every human being is different in some way, motivational methods can vary greatly between individuals. Realistic goals should be set so that the failure would not demoralize the team morality and confidence. [14] Also when any of the members puts his/her effort, than usually the performance tends to increase. With every increase, it is a common human nature to expect recognition and awards are usually the most acceptable way to showcase the gratitude. [8]Rewards should be planned and given according to the need and desire of the member .For example: promotion is given to the person who seeks growth and especially to those who intend to stay with the company for long run and on the other hand monetary rewards should be given to those who have plans to move on.

Besides these, job satisfaction plays a vital role in getting team members motivated. Means and measures have to be adopted to increase fulfilment among the employees. Satisfaction brings a sense of confidence and as we commonly know a confident person is a well motivated being. To achieve satisfaction, team members are provided with training and development opportunities. Everyone is participated in team meeting, brainstorming ideas, etc. Team members are bombarded with adequate challenges and are provided with sufficient opportunities for achievements. The achievements are recognized formally or informally. Informal measure are recognized in meetings, coffee table etc while formal measure are provided with certificates, rewards, etc. [9]

During the initial days of the team, experienced employees frequently get involved in decision making process which makes them feel more important and committed. On the other hand the young employee may get discouraged, might feel sense of abandonment and inferior due to their exclusion from decision making process. To mitigate this, decisions are explained and questions are encouraged and gradually they are also involved in decision making process. [4]

Monetary reward is not opted as the primary factor for motivation.  It doesn’t motivate people in the long run. Moreover it is not considered to be of high importance when tasks are related to high expertise, skills, which requires innovation etc. However, make sure that the members are paid enough to ensure they don’t think about it and get occupied by the problem that can be caused by its scarcity. [7] It is also extremely important to maintain salary according to the performance. Though salary might not be very effective motivating factor, it can highly de-motivate employee and create a sense of dissatisfaction when they become aware that they are paid less than their counterparts. [9] [12] A good leader is a good motivator, without motivation we humans tend to drift into randomness losing our passion and focus [1].Be sure to motivate and also be motivated.

D.Controlling

Team is the collection of various personalities from different walks of life usually carved through different cultural, social and financial background. On top of that, our team is a mixture of different generation working together. It is prone to conflict which might seriously bring underachievement and undesirable situations. [4] These situations are eliminated and reduced as much as possible. All these are managed through controlling.

I believe there is always a reason behind a person’s behaviour. Behaviour is a function of people when surrounded by a particular situation. [10] It is wise to find the main reason to the problem and act accordingly towards solving it. ACHIEVE method by P.Hersey and M.Goldsmith [11] acts as a perfect tool and can be used. This method gives several possible reasons and causes of underachievement.  The causes can be related to ability to do task, clarity of the task, help and support received by employee during the task, motivational level of the employee, evaluation criteria, knowledge of legal practices, internal and external environment effects, etc. After causes are found, actual steps can be taken for its remedial. For example: ability of the team member can be increased by training and practices, feedback is conducted periodically and constructive feedback is given so that he/she can find his/her shortcomings and plan measures to overcome it.

But there are times when the use of power is absolutely necessary and in such case a leader should be prepared to use it. Experienced and young has to be treated differently. Experienced employees are mature and have worked for years in the company so will be treated with dignity and dealt lightly. A general discussion is done and solution to the problem is found. As for an instance, some highly experienced, skilled person might not like to get involved in the management at all .These people would be kept away from the management but would be greatly involved in the technical aspect. As young members of the team are volatile, immature and are inexperienced; they might get off the track pretty soon. Appropriate mixture of positional power can be used. For instance, some might procrastinate and never finish their assignment.  They will be treated with coercive power like warning, termination, punishment etc. [4]

Conclusion

Diversity in a team is always regarded as one of the most important thing as it compliments members of the team. Diversity can be easily embraced and practically utilized. To do that, a project manager should focus much more attention on planning, motivating and controlling. As differences can hamper the performance of the group so a leader needs to focus on his plans to overcome those situation that would definitely arise in the future. The members should be motivated personally and professionally to carry out their objectives. Right rewards and good compliment can energize and revitalize a pressured individual. A good leader is also a strong leader who can assert a certain power over his team members to keep them disciplined. In Order to have a working watch, every component should be tuned to a precise rhythm and sometimes to achieve that feat strong decisions are to be made. A well planned environment with certain controlling factors and mixed with motivational courage can melt difference across the board and unify a team for healthy working environment.

Reference

[4]Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources, Blanchard, K. and Heresy, P., Prentice Hall, 2001

[5]From the silent generation to generation x, y and z: strategies for managing the generation mix : Jeni McIntosh-Elkins, Karen McRitchie and Maureen Scoones

[6]Developmental sequence in small groups: Tuckman, Bruce W.

[7]On Becoming a Leader: The Leadership Classic, Bennis, W.G., Perseus Publishing, 2003

[8]Martin, C. and Tulgan, B. Managing Generation Y: Global Citizens Born in the Late Seventies and Early Eighties. HRD Press, Amherst, MA, 2001.

[9]Extreme programming explore: William C. Wake.

[10]The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us :Daniel Pink

[11]Oliver, R. (August, 1974). Expectancy Theory Predictions of Salesmen’s Performance. Journal of Marketing Research 11, 243-253.

[12]Herzberg, Frederick; Mausner, Bernard; Snyderman, Barbara B. (1959). The Motivation to Work (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley. ISBN 0471373893.

[13]The Sage Handbook of Methods in Social Psychology: Lewin’s equation

[14]Hersey P, Blanchard KH, Johnson DE. Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. 7 th ed. New Jerssy: Upper Saddle River, N. J Prentice Hall; 1996.

[15]George and Yellen, 1990 Akerlof George, Janet Yellen ,The fair wage-effort hypothesis and unemployment Quarterly Journal of Economics

[16]Leading self-directed work teams: A guide to developing new team leadership skills, McGraw-Hill, Inc.

[17]Zander Alvin F. Productivity and group success: Team spirit vs. The individual achiever

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