History and Research

“A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.”  Dr. Meredith Belbin

A unique study of teams took place at the Administrative Staff College at Henley (now known as the Henley Business School) which ran an internationally famous 10-week course for successful managers with board potential.

Part of the course involved a business simulation in which the managers were put in to competing teams. This simulation contained all the principal variables that typify the problems of decision-making in a business environment. The experiment was designed along scientific lines with careful measurement at each stage.

In 1969, Dr Meredith Belbin was invited to use this business game as a starting point for a study of team behaviour. He came to it as a highly respected academic/industrialist, chairman and co-founder of The Industrial Training Research Unit (ITRU), which was founded by the Manpower Services Commission.

Having an interest in group as well as individual behaviour, but with no particular theories about teams, he enlisted the aid of three other scholars: Bill Hartson, mathematician and international chess master; Jeanne Fisher, an anthropologist who had studied Kenyan tribes; and Roger Mottram, an occupational psychologist. Together they began what was to be a nine-year task. Three business games a year with eight teams in each game, and then in meeting after meeting, observing, categorising and recording all the different kinds of contribution from team members.

Further Reading

The research carried out at Henley, along with the outcomes, can be found in Dr. Meredith Belbin's first book

Additional titles by Meredith Belbin that explain the theory and its application in more detail: