Belbin Team Roles have been used as part of an exciting project in the West African republic of Guinea, where a wide range of services and opportunities is being developed by the Bolloré in what it calls Blue Zones, the first of which was opened in the capital Conakry in June 2014.


Each facility has a fully stand-alone energy supply, made possible by coupling photovoltaic panels with the LMP batteries developed by Blue Solutions, a Bolloré Group subsidiary. The system produces, stores and distributes a clean, uninterrupted, unlimited and free supply of clean energy, while offering the Bluezone a Wi-Fi Internet connection and its own drinking water supply. It also offers local residents a range of infrastructures for sport and culture, and includes a business incubator for start-ups in the sectors of new technologies, the environment and sustainable development. A total 42 of these Bluezones, linked by the railway network, are planned throughout Africa.

Context

Having successfully launched the first phase of the project, the Bluezone team responsible then had to ensure that its development provided all the services promised. This involved progressing from “start-up” mode to an established way of working on an industrial scale. The future zones should follow rigorous management practices at the same time as retaining the creativity needed for these types of activities. Each member of the team had to accept this challenge in order to achieve the expected levels of efficiency and performance.

The team’s objective now was to put in place the management structures needed to set up and run the 7 Blue Zones planned for Guinea. In particular, the recruitment, training and integration of the future managers and employees, a total of 150 – 200 people. Individual competencies, team harmony, the understanding of the roles needed, organisation and governance are key issues for the success of the initiative.

Accompaniment on several levels

Based on the shared values and vision of the management team and in the spirit of innovation of the Blue Zone project, it was agreed that work was needed in order to ensure cohesion, efficiency and, as a result, performance. Therefore, the process aimed to explore the internal “customer-supplier” relationship and optimise its contribution to the team’s performance. But, above all, it was first necessary to ensure that everyone possessed a minimum base-level of managerial competence.

That is why the training was proposed at several levels and stages and formed the basis of three seminars which took place in December 2014.

  • Basic management skills
    Training on topics such as: goal-setting, managing priorities, problem-solving and decision-making, working together, finding « win-win » solutions, effective communication, delegating, giving feedback and conducting interviews.
  • Building an effective team    
    To enable the transition from start-up to industrial project, a two-day seminar was organised using Belbin Team Roles with the theme “The roles and relationships of an effective team”.
  • Planning for the future
    At this stage, team members learn what is expected of them and what they need to do in order to ensure they make the best contribution to the roll-out of the Blue Zone development plan.
  • Once Team Role profiles had been fully understood, relationships with other team members explored and key roles identified, the principal actions needed to ensure the success of the project, in line with Blue Zone vision and values, were identified and each team member was given a road map outlining the roles he/she was expected to play
  • Feedback on the contribution of Belbin to the Blue Zone in Guinea

The first step was to convince the client that Team Roles would adapt to the African culture, which is heavily reliant on a hierarchical tradition. The leader of the group, who had been recruited for his artistic and communication skills, was very sceptical about this, fearing that the Belbin approach might highlight weaknesses in his own managerial skills and thereby cause him to lose credibility.

Once these doubts had been removed, however, Belbin enabled every member of the team to understand how complementarity would work by allowing everyone to play to their strengths. The manager’s leadership position, contrary to his expectations, was, in fact, reinforced.

Various exercises were used to illustrate Team Roles in operation and examine everyone’s contribution, and the Team Role Wheel showed which roles were missing and who might be capable of filling the gaps. In particular, it was understood that, although the team possessed creativity in abundance, the lack of good examples of Monitor Evaluator and Co-ordinator could make the implantation of ideas somewhat more difficult. The project director planned to use this information when recruiting in the future.

  • All in all, a very encouraging beginning which suggests that Team Roles have significant potential for development in Africa using this case study as an example of what can be achieved. 
  • On Thursday, 8th October 2015, the President of the Republic of Guinea, Pr. Alpha Condé and Bolloré Group inaugurated the Dixinn Bluezone in the heart of the capital Conakry.
  • The first Bluezone, located in the Kaloum district since 2014, has met with huge success and already has over 10,000 subscribers!

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