Team Dynamics

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Imagine a small news organization, in a local market, discovered that their website was rated the worst in the area. It is a tired design, with outdated technology and ideas, one that the previous CEO would never allow to be fixed. But now, the CEO has been replaced with a new president, one that wants the organization’s managers to work together as a team to create a new, far better web presence. Without an energetic, central web location for all of its news, advertising, and multimedia, the organization will face bankruptcy within the year.

This hypothetical situation could certainly be real, with the battering that news organizations have taken in the last decade. A solid, dedicated team might be able to turn it around, and when it comes to highly technical, innovative ideas, team cohesion is vital to success. News and media organizations face many uphill battles in the new millennium, and often the central tool to the success of the organization is in how the management and construction of their website is approached. Information from all sides, including technology, advertising, design, and content are all essential considerations, and team members must find ways to work together well. This paper examines the hypothetical creation of a new multimedia-based website for a news organization, and the best leadership and team practices required to see that the project flourishes.

Project Details

Multimedia websites for news organizations, with consistently new and updated content, are vital to the survival of media companies. For the website redesign of the fictional news organization, content of a varying nature is king. The organization offers a print newspaper each weekday, daily video news features, and an attached radio station. Regular news articles with photographic galleries, video playback from both static and live sources, multimedia of various types including interactive charts and graphs, and both live and recorded audio are requirements for the new website, with featured spots for both social media and advertising.

This article was originally written for my communications classwork with CSU-Global. I have adapted it from a strict APA style to a more web-friendly style.

The organization in question is not a large one, but must adhere to both their current staff capabilities and the needs of a modern web presence. Media in the modern era is in a state of flux, constantly needing to evolve to feed content to the masses. Video is being used online more fully, and mobile technology is leading the way alongside captivating journalism and social media2. The organization must change its website to meet the needs of modern consumers, people that are hungry for the latest, most shareable content. To do that will require all departments in the organization to work together towards a common goal, across wide gaps of knowledge, techniques, and interests.

Those departments all have unique views of what the website should do for them, and how the system needs to work to the benefit of all. The new president of the fictional organization is creating a self-directed team, acting only as a liaison between the department managers and the board of directors. Each individual department will run their own sections, working with the other department managers as a team.

Each team member brings different experiences, requirements, and leadership styles to the table, in a complex batch of technological and procedural soup. Each team member has unique skills and experience, and needs to be able to produce their own work in their own specialized ways. Team structure have high or low structure, but in this case the teams may experience both7. Highly structured teams have specific, unique roles with set routines, and teams with low structure organize themselves with respect to the bottom line instead of assigned work7. In this case, each team is highly structured within the overall organization, such as news versus advertising. At the same time, within the news team itself, the team has a low structure and decides how to reach their department goals.

Each department is responsible for not only its own tasks, but needs to fit within the organization as well. The news department needs to add articles to the site, control the overall content, and monitor social media and external sources. Financially, the new site needs the advertising department to offer ads and features to sell on the site. The video team needs to offer video on the site, both live feeds all day long and recorded features through external sources like YouTube. The radio station needs to broadcast live at all times through the website, and to feature recorded audio for music playback, news articles, and podcasts. The engineering department controls how video and audio are fed to and from the local transmitters, through local networks and external servers, and to the website. At the end of it all is the web development department, putting it all together in a well-designed, fast moving, multimedia website.

With the web development department in the center, even in a self-directed organization, the department becomes the de facto lead of the project. Many parts of the organization might have a say in the project, and having a central expert working with all of the information can keep things consistent6. That central stakeholder can determine which pieces of the puzzle are the most critical and which have priority, and can coordinate necessary needs and responses from the other members more easily6. In the case of the web project, the end product is a working website, and having the web developer as the lead keeps those responses and needs in check. The web developer can balance the needs of each department as features are created, taking into account the specific requirements of those individual departments in a more diplomatically harmonious way. As a former web director and developer, the author has intimate knowledge of the procedures and requirements for a case such as this.

Literature Review

Each of the sources for this paper provide information varying from general overviews to specific, theory-related applications. Within the team strategy needed for a fictional organization are different styles and techniques, supported by individual papers on leadership styles, self-directed teams, Myers-Briggs personality results, and team dynamics. The overall resource, helping to keep things on track and wrapped up, was the textbook for the course.

The textbook for this course, Making the team: a guide for managers7, covered team and leadership theories generally, and provided helpful guidance overall. Making the team: a guide for managers7 was extremely useful for defining theories, and the broad topics helped to shape the exploration of team strategies with both the stated, fictional project and with team dynamics. Making the team: a guide for managers7 also explained theories in detailed ways, using helpful phrasing and keywords that led to more concrete articles on the same subjects. The information provided throughout Making the team: a guide for managers7 can be applied directly to the fictional team situation, especially Chapter 6 and the methods of team strengthening. With different roles and needs between departments, communication is paramount to success. Approaching discussions as problems to be solved, suspending initial judgments, ranking items instead of choosing specific items, and making sure each team knows what the other teams are capable of, are theories that can be used to make the fictional team work well together7. The importance of shared knowledge and communication can not be overstated, and is information that will be invaluable to team success.

Each reference supported the theories needed for successful team strategies, in working with this type of project. “Relation of project managers’ personality and project performance”1 related well to how the patterns revealed in the Myers-Briggs tests reflected errors and planning in team projects, and how issues were approached. That supported the descriptions of the types of managers needed to make the web project successful, and helped to inform the paper on the best personalities for the project. “A study of personality and leadership styles among members of a rock band”5 also explored team member personalities, and the dominant leadership styles within teams. While “A study of personality and leadership styles among members of a rock band”5 was about a rock band, the idea of teamwork matched the fictional project well, as each member of either a band or the fictional team would have specific expertise. The information featured in both “Relation of project managers’ personality and project performance”1 and “A study of personality and leadership styles among members of a rock band”5 can be used to determine which types of personalities should work together on the teams, to reach important goals and avoid conflict. The right expertise levels and personalities are strong factors in how the team could work together.

The web project required a self-directed team, and two of the resources discussed how those teams should work together to reach their goals. “Self-leadership and team members’ work role performance”3 specifically discussed self-leadership, and the importance of working both independently and with other team members. Overall, “Self-leadership and team members’ work role performance”3 thoroughly detailed self-leadership and performance, and supported the theories used in team strategy effectively. This information could be applied to the team, as the self-directed team would need to rely on themselves to get their part of the website completed. Complimenting that, “Mission possible”6 described how those teams need to work in action, particularly in how to centralize and support the entire team. “Mission possible”6 also observed the importance of focus in the project, and with disparate departments on a web project it is of vital importance to keep things consistent and orderly. The information would be used to help different departments with organization, and how to focus on how their commitment adds to the overall project without adding conflict.

Inevitably, those disparate departments will run into conflicts on a technical project such as this. Departments as varied as advertising and news, coupled with technological systems that each may not trust, means conflict is probable. “Achieving IT program goals with integrative conflict management”4 supported the team dynamics in this paper through a strong explanation of integrative conflict management. By explaining the importance of integrating conflict into the team dynamic, “Achieving IT program goals with integrative conflict management”4 helped to strengthen the argument of how those team members would best work through conflicts. Team members building the website can follow much of the information in “Achieving IT program goals with integrative conflict management”4, and use the procedures discussed to work through conflicts. The information supports the discussion of team dynamics significantly.

In most cases, the listed references covered specific topics in detail, but in one case a reference simply assisted with the fictional project idea. “Transformation of the new communication media within the frame of interpersonal interaction”2 explored the project behind this paper, the reasons to transform media websites into more modern, interactive sites. The information provided in the article, in particular the information about the future of the newsroom, corroborated the author’s personal experiences in a student media position. The importance of multimedia, enterprise journalism, and the mobile nature of the modern web experience all helped to explain how broad departments in an organization would need to work together to pull off the project successfully.

Team Strategy

For the project to reach its full potential, a combination of leadership and team dynamics will have to occur. With a self-directed team, the styles of leadership that each department uses become more important as they work together in their common goal. Their personalities, and differing departmental needs, will impact the course the project takes. Along that course, and working through inevitable conflicts, the project can easily sink or swim.

Leadership Styles and Self-Management

Using a self-directed team for the project works well with the unique expertise that each department brings to the table. Knowledge of how advertising and marketing affect the website will be unique to how news and content affects consumers. How the data from radio livestreaming transfers through specific IP addresses, and through enterprise-level server software, requires different techniques than how cascading style sheets work in a web design. Each team member brings a different part of the equation into the mix, and the needs of each department need to be met if the entire project will work seamlessly.

For the end result to work seamlessly, departments need to be able not only to work together, but to work individually with their own methods. Self-directing teams are more innovative and motivated since they can determine the best ways to approach their individual problems7. With a web project, attempting to force one department to use the techniques of another would be disastrous. Those methods might be procedurally different from one another, and being self-directed allows for flexibility in determining the best course of action. For example, a reporter may only work from the start of the article to the end, linearly. The page designer, instead, might be working on all parts of the page at once, skipping from a placed ad to the article, to the color of the font in another article. With a self-directed team, as long as the overall project goal is met, each member can work on their sections with their own unique procedures.

As a self-directed team, members with disparate methods still work well together, and perform smoothly either individually or as a group. Self-directed teams are proficient both in their own tasks and with the team, and the relationships between members were both adaptable and positive3. Those relationships lead to better performance for both the member and the team, especially when mutual feedback and communication are emphasized3. In the case of a media organization, each member has a different type of expertise, and the adaptability provided by a self-directed team allows members to work together within strong, supportive relationships.

Myers-Briggs Tests and Personalities

For the team to work well together, and to reach their goals, each member will have to have a personality that works well with other team members. Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for personality types, team members can be assessed according to the profile they have. “Relation of project managers’ personality and project performance”1 explained the scores through differences, as extroversion (E) or introversion (I), sensing (S) or intuition (N), thinking (T) or feeling (F), and judging (J) or perceiving (P). “Relation of project managers’ personality and project performance”1 reported that extroverted managers work well with the most people, are more sociable and connected, and have a mix of judging and perceiving actions in their personalities. Many managers are Sensing, Thinking, and Judging personalities, and often are more proficient and objective, and objectivity would be helpful in the fictional project1. Overall, extroverted team members would be able to adapt to the changes in the project as it progressed, and adapt to the different requirements that each department would need.

Openness to change and objectivity are imperative with a web project, as each department will need to negotiate and adapt to the needs of other departments. When team members agree with each other, and approach the needs of other departments openly and conscientiously, adaptations to the project can continue more amicably. The two dominant leadership styles from the rock bands in a survey5 were participative and oriented with achievement, and that leaders on the team welcomed participation in all discussions. There was no single leader, but a shared understanding among all members to consult about everything, and to challenge their high standards consistently5. The survey results mirror the idea of the web project team, as each member has a unique knowledge base and set of tools that are different from the other members. With an open team leadership style, a self-directed team is able to adapt more easily to change, and the clear communication styles between members create opportunities for shared excellence.

Team Dynamics

Self-directed teams with open communication lines provide meaningful opportunities for success, but they are not without a risk of conflicts. Self-directed teams have “the greatest potential for conflict”7 since there is no single voice persisting above all team members, and resolution can be time-consuming. With an element of information technology involved, solutions could lean toward the more unique end of the scale, causing friction with those departments used to working more linearly. The author, having been a programmer in the past, has personally observed how non-linear thinking programmers work with linear-thinking reporters, and the difficulties that those differences bring forward. Frustrations on both sides can ring out, causing delays and miscommunication.

But not all conflict is bad, and in the case of a large web project featuring different departments, conflict could be instrumental in creating a masterpiece. Integrative conflict management can be vital in technology environments, and directly and openly discussing conflicts leads to better products4. When members of the team are able to confront conflict head on, they can agree on how to proceed more consistently, with greater commitment to the final goals4. In the fictional web project, the importance of working through conflict is paramount to success. Each department has their own unique needs, some of which are sure to conflict with others. Through open discussion and compromise, and meeting conflicts head on, a successful project can be had.

Conclusion

This paper examined the hypothetical creation of a new multimedia-based website for a news organization, and the best leadership and team practices to see the project flourish. The hypothetical situation requires a solid, dedicated team. When it comes to innovative ideas, team cohesion is vital to success. Media organizations face many battles, and often the greatest tool to the success of the organization is in how their website management is approached. Information from technology, advertising, design, and content are all important considerations, and team members must find ways to work together well through conflicts.

References

  1. Bevilacqua, M., Ciarapica, F. E., Germani, M., Mazzuto, G., & Paciarotti, C. (2014). Relation of project managers’ personality and project performance: An approach based on value stream mapping. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, 7(4), 857-890. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3926/jiem.1005
  2. Hadzialic, S. (2016). Transformation of the new communication media within the frame of interpersonal interaction. International Journal on Global Business Management & Research, 5(2), 116-134.
  3. Hauschildt, K., & Konradt, U. (2012). Self-leadership and team members’ work role performance. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 27(5), 497-517. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02683941211235409
  4. Jiang, J. J., Chang, J. T., Chen, H., Wang, E. G., & Klein, G. (2014). Achieving IT program goals with integrative conflict management. Journal Of Management Information Systems, 31(1), 79-106. doi:10.2753/MIS0742-1222310104
  5. Kattan, M., & Fox, T. L. (2014). A study of personality and leadership styles among members of a rock band. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 18(2), 105-123.
  6. Porter, D. (2016). Mission possible: Building an effective business continuity team in seven steps. Journal Of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, 9(3), 239-250.
  7. Thompson, L. L. (2014). Making the team: a guide for managers. Boston: Pearson.

 

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