When you find the recipe for success with an individual or group, it’s tempting to try and reproduce those characteristics. Particular attributes are hailed as invaluable to the organisation’s culture and become integral to recruitment processes, which are then set up to identify and select for those behaviours.
In very little time, the organisation develops a cloned culture, with like choosing like and everyone taking the same approach. Not only will the company discover that it is deficient in other roles, but also, as cracks start to appear, the weaknesses of the dominant Team Role are likely to become more and more pronounced.
We asked Meredith Belbin for his input.
"It is very difficult to see a culture when you go in to an organisation, but you can feel it."
Taken from the Belbin webinar: Belbin and Culture
A Teamworker might be the model employee in an easygoing company where attention is paid to the atmosphere at work. With concern to ensure that everyone gels, conflict is avoided almost at all costs. However, this can mean that no one is willing to challenge the status quo and that under-performers are more easily tolerated, in the interests of getting along. Without people to direct and initiate difficult conversations, the organisation might find itself coasting along, only to hit the rocks.
Shapers are likely to be competitive. If an organisation continues to recruit Shapers (and only Shapers) on the basis that they are hard-driving, high-profile and successful individuals, they are likely to end up with a culture rife with internal conflict. In this kind of culture, other Team Role contributions will likely be neglected or overwhelmed. Shapers are used to calling the shots and nothing stirs them more than the presence of other Shapers. Since other Team Roles barely figure, there is no teamwork and complications multiply.
With too many Co-ordinators, a different situation will prevail. Impressed by an interviewee’s broad perspective and maturity, managers may unwittingly recruit a surfeit of Co-ordinators, each vying to play the same role. At worst, the culture will be a manipulative one, with each person trying to persuade colleagues into doing their bidding. With Co-ordinators being natural delegators, productivity is likely to be low, as everyone attempts to limit their own workload. The fallout is liable to cause resentment among those forced to take on more than their fair share. Any Implementers present will be reluctant to put their shoulder to the wheel when others are quick to take the credit for accomplishments. With the vast majority of Co-ordinators favouring a broad outlook, details may fall by the wayside, as specialised knowledge is rejected in favour of generalisations.
A culture of criticism, or even cynicism, can often be attributed to an overabundance of Monitor Evaluators in an organisation. Like the maturity of the Co-ordinator, the logical, analytical brain of the Monitor Evaluator might seem a promising attribute at interview. However, cloning Monitor Evaluators will mean that new ideas are few and far between, since they are likely to be quashed before being given a chance to air. This dampened spirit will affect the activities of others, meaning that creative individuals, like Plants, will be afraid to speak up for fear of having their ideas ridiculed or rejected out of hand. If such “paralysis by analysis” is left to continue, the organisation will soon find itself stagnating, and seemingly unable to account for its unmotivated workforce.
A sales company commonly hires Resource Investigators for their enthusiasm, persuasiveness and “gift of the gab”. With such a lively staff and all phone lines buzzing, bosses might wonder why the profits are not as high as anticipated. In spite of the enthusiasm shown for landing the initial sale, few structures will be in place for ensuring customer care and follow-up, meaning that goodwill is soon lost. Projects will seem to have been abandoned in mid-flow. Customers may feel that they have a great contact at the company, but will eventually become frustrated by a gradual loss of interest in their custom.
It might be tempting to recruit Plants for their innovative, pioneering mentality and unconventional thinking. However, where too many Monitor Evaluators cause stagnation through over-criticism, Plant culture destabilises any structure already in place. With lots of ideas competing for attention and no one to assess their merits or practicality, a lot of creative effort may go to waste and talented individuals may be tempted to leave.
Process industries are usually drawn to an Implementer culture, favouring employees who are efficient at getting the job done and loyal to the company. But the upshot of this may be less desirable. Too many Implementers could mean an overstructured and inflexible culture. Routine procedures will leave little room for new ideas, and much will be sacrificed in the name of productivity. Employees will be given little scope for initiative. With Implementer managers interfering at operational levels, employees will be resentful that they are not respected or trusted to get on with the work.
In a Completer Finisher culture, high standards take priority. Anxiety levels are likely to be high, and, if there is little or no calming Co-ordinator influence, this anxiety could be severely detrimental to morale. At worst, the drive for perfectionism will turn into obsession. Employees are likely to work long hours, getting in early and staying late to ensure they have got every last detail right. Since so many people are competing to have the last say, a culture of penny-pinching or splitting hairs is likely to develop. Individuals will be eager to claim ownership of work and reluctant to delegate it. The price paid is that consultation will be rare, with individuals or departments operating as “lone rangers” without reference to each other.
Employing too many Specialists produces its own problems too. The willingness to develop and maintain specialised knowledge might be highly desirable for a pharmaceutical company recruiting scientists and technicians, for example. But if there are no Shapers or Resource Investigators to drive the company forward, or consider what is needed in the market, individuals will become bogged down in project work, and over-protective of their areas of special interest.
Whatever the aims of the organisation, addressing and promoting behavioural diversity is key to success. But when ‘cloning’ is leading an organisation down a dead end, it can be difficult to diagnose from the inside. Belbin is an objective, evidence-based tool which helps to analyse the behavioural make-up of individuals and teams, enabling managers and C-suite to identify trends and tackle cultural issues which might otherwise compromise success. For more information on what Belbin can offer your team, please call us today.
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