WSC Network Research Highlight: Measuring Team Processes

By: Keaton Fletcher

Working with other people in a team requires an entirely new set of behaviors than working in isolation. WSC Network Member, Margaret Luciano, along with a team of researchers, led by John Mathieu, recently published a paper in Organizational Research Methods, about these behaviors. Specifically, teams researchers have relied on a framework of team processes (i.e., things that team members do) for the better part of the last two decades, but no one has designed a measurement tool to capture these explicit behaviors. Mathieu, Luciano, and colleagues collected data from 714 teams (3,484 individual people) to create a survey designed to capture perceptions about these team processes.

The original model (Marks, Mathieu, Zaccaro, 2001) upon which this measure was based, suggested that team-oriented behaviors fall into three categories. Action processes, are those team-oriented behaviors that a team uses during periods of task completion. For example, action processes would include correcting a fellow nurse on a mistake you see them making during a surgery. These processes can include monitoring how progress toward the goal is going, monitoring the environment and systems, keeping an eye on teammates and helping when necessary, and coordinating the sequencing and timing of behaviors. Transition processes, on the other hand, are those that occur in between periods of task completion, and focus instead on reflecting on the last action period and preparing for the next. These behaviors can include setting and clarifying goals, mission analysis, and creating a strategy. The other set of team processes proposed in the model is interpersonal processes. These team behaviors focus on the relationships between team members other than task completion. These behaviors can include motivating, building confidence, managing people’s emotions, and managing conflict.

The authors created and tested 50-item, 30-item, and 10-item surveys to capture team members’ perceptions of whether these individual behaviors, and the overall larger groupings of behaviors happened in their teams. Results found that the surveys captured the three distinct dimensions of team processes, and also captured the specific behaviors within each of these categories. Further, the 10-item and 30-item versions of the survey worked well, meaning that researchers and practitioners interested in team processes (or diagnosing teamwork issues) can capture necessary data relatively quickly. Overall this study makes great strides toward bridging the gap between theory and practicality.

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