Internal Competition A Curse for Team Performance
Table of Content Introduction1 Question 1: What are the dysfunctional characteristics of the FIS project? 1 Question 2: What type(s) of conflict did the team experience? Explain your answer. 3 Question 3: Is the poor team development process a consequence of dysfunctional characteristics? Explain your answer. 6 Question 4: What course concepts contributed to the team’s performance failure? Explain your answer.
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8 Question 5: What should the new team leader do? 9 Bibliography12 Introduction – Internal competition – A curse for a team performance.
As the title indicates this assignment describes in essence a prehistoric dilemma that dates back to the origins of the human being. The individual and his eternal struggle for a better life. How individual goals are achieved and the question weather to go alone or to be a part of a team? What is the best way forward?. This is a case about the ego. The backdrop is the Indian company called FIS, a business process outsourcing unit specialized in consulting and financial advisory. It is working on a project for a US based client designing and creating training modules for ERP implementation.
The FIS team performance management is largely grounded in a three level appraisal system that is obviously designed to increase the effectiveness of the team. The outcome is to ensure solid project completion and customer satisfaction. Needless to say that did not happen and the project becomes plagued by internal rivalry, poor leadership, poor coordination among other things that ultimately leads to a failure. Our mission is in short to explain in relevant terms why we think this happened and finally describe how it could be prevented to happen again.
Working in a group and striving for a common goal can be challenging as this paper will demonstrate. We as a group did clearly experience many of the same concepts that characterize the FIS case when working on this assignment. However as this paper demonstrates, we drew on the recently gained organizational behavior (OB) knowledge and resolved it in peace and harmony. The context of the case is described in the following paragraph and organizational chart. Steven Fernandez is the Human Resources Manager who is shortly introduces in the beginning of the case.
He is playing a minor role with regard to the team conflicts due to the fact that he is not within the team at the clients site. His subordinate is Pete Philly who is described as an easygoing project manager. As a team leader was Sai Rishi selected who is lower ranked than Philly but is the boss of the other four team members Nirmal Sara, Shri Shalini, Lia Aarthi as well as Abey Sidharth. The following sections will introduce into the numerous types of conflicts and their consequences. Question 1: What are the dysfunctional characteristics of the FIS project?
In order to point out the main problem one can say that the team neither works efficiently nor effectively. The result is an inadequate group development process. In the following paragraphs we want to show a lot of examples in order to explain which dysfunctional characteristics of the FIS project cause the bad team performance and why these aspects lead to the failure of the project. The first thing to mention is the intra-group competitiveness. In our opinion the reason for this internal competition is the evaluation system.
Employees’ promotion, wages and future prospects depend on the ratings and feedback from the project manager. There are three levels in an appraisal – (a) below expectations, (b) met expectations and (c) exceeded expectations. This over simplified grading system does not work because it only focuses on the individual performances of each team member regardless of the team performance as a whole. For a group project it should be more relevant to highlight the result or rather the success of the task and the customer satisfaction.
Another issue in this case is that the evaluation system is based on only three categories. Hence every team member tries to reach the highest category (exceeded expectations) in order for promotion and higher wages. This leads to that each individual team member tries to lower the performance of the other team members to highlight his or her own performance. All together it constricts team development and performance as well as project success. Achieving individual goals is seen as more important to some team members than the team goal – finishing the task reaching the best outcome as possible.
Therefore it grows a information filtering between team members. Some team mates hesitate to share information and restrain their work results in order to have advantages against their colleagues. As an example Sara needs information from Sidharth, but he puts her off claiming it took him a long time to find this documents and Sara should spent the same time of searching on it. Otherwise he shares the information with one of his group mates. Finally some of the team members or rather small groups of the team stuck in a rivalry mindset.
For this reason the team is not able to create a common vision or a feeling of corporate identity and to share common ideals. In general for every project a new team has to be set up. Team members have to get acquainted to each other. This can lead to bad team performance. In this case the problem is that if people have worked together and know each other well, they tend to form smaller groups within the groups which cause a kind of group thinking. As well as if the size of the team changes over time it is hard for new people to integrate into the existing group.
For example those team mates who have worked together in previous projects, separate themselves from the team through being together without involving other members into their small group during the breaks. It is especially a problem in this case because after two month of already working on the project, several new members joint the team.To sum up one can say that there is a lack of group activities and finally very low cohesiveness between the team members. A further fundamental factor causing the bad performance of the team and the failure of the project is a lack of behavioral norms.
Members of the group gossip about other team mates. It can be seen in the case that the team leader Rishi is talking to the project manager Philly and claims that Sara is not talented enough to prepare courses curriculums. Besides the gossiping there is also a way of bullying existing. For instance Philly accuses Sara in front of the whole team by stating that she misses deadlines although that actually is not true. In addition to that he corners Sara through advancing deadline dates. Relating to the lack in behavioral norms it is also important to bring up the differences in attitude of working.
Philly seems very lax to answer emails, to take important phone calls and to take care of the needs of the team. This attitude costs the team late hours in the office to meet the deadlines. As a consequence the team feels irritated which has a bad influence on the motivation and causes frustration. The main task or function of the project manager or at least of the team leader is representing a role model and avoiding the problems mentioned before. However they reinforce the trouble because of a huge lack of leadership. As outlined before the attitude of Philly`s work is not appropriate as well as his behavior to Sara.
Regarding convenient communication and coordination Philly and Rishi fail. The poor coordination arises through a wrong composition of the team. The performance as individuals is high but the team performance is low due to the reasons that are explained above. Concerning to the case the proper execution of Philly’s and Rishis tasks is not ensured. Instead of focusing on his team leading topic Rishi always does Philly’s work. Philly relies on the results given by Rishi in place of checking the work and to pay attention to success of the whole project.
One of the reasons for the low level of communication for example is that a few members are even reluctant to reveal the details about their own work and do not integrate new team members. All in all the lack of guidance, low cohesiveness and all the other dysfunctional characteristics lead to misunderstandings, suspicion and disagreements among the team. Question 2: What type(s) of conflict did the team experience? Explain your answer. Regarding to question one we now want to show the different types of conflicts that took place. At first we have to define what is meant when we talk about conflict. Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two or more independent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scare resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. ” A conflict can have either positive or negative effects. Constructive conflicts are helpful to achieve goals; dysfunctional conflicts are likely more destructive due to emotions and differences between two parties. In the explanation below we focus on different types of dysfunctional conflicts and the reasons for these conflicts which we can find in the case study.
The first important conflict arises from the organizational structure which causes a structural conflict. Those types of conflicts result from either structural or process characteristics of an organization. Further it can be divided into two different categories, vertical and horizontal. The latter one occurs between groups at the same organizational level. Vertical conflicts take place between employees on different hierarchical levels. The evaluation system in the case causes vertical conflicts on the one hand and horizontal conflicts on the other hand. The feedback system is not well rganized because there are only three appraisal categories that can be achieved. Only one of them is probably seen as a positive assessment by employees. Rishi’s promotion depends on Philly’s feedback to him and simultaneously he is concerned of the performance of Sara. Hence, he tries to lower down her performance to highlight his own work. That can be seen as a vertical structural problem as well as the matter of fact that he always show compliance to Philly or even do Philly’s tasks. The evaluation system also causes horizontal conflicts. The internal competition increases due to the lack of differentiation of appraisal categories.
Employees might have only a low chance to get promotion or wage rises because they are probably not able to reach the only positive feedback. This is a reason for frustration and strategic behavior. Instead of working together for the team success some team members try to highlight individual performance through undermining the work of their colleagues. This structural horizontal conflict is also observable for the example of Sara. Her position is a junior developer, but actually she seems to have more experiences than other team members. This is probably one reason that other team members try to undermine her performance.
This is especially illustrated in the fact that Sidharth and other colleagues reveal important information which will be explained in detail later on in this chapter. To sum up in this case there is a lack of explanation of feedback as well as unsuitable and not well differentiated appraisal categories. Due to those examples one could easily imagine that the most of all other types of conflicts are related to these aspects explained before in some way. A conflict of interest occurs because of incompatible needs or competition over resource constraints.
This type can be subdivided into three different sources – substantive, procedural and psychological issues. Our case deals with time, physical resources and in the broader sense with money which are substantive aspects. The individual interest like promotion, pay hike and own reputation of Rishi are more important for him than the team success. Hence, he always humors Philly and does Philly’s work rather than using his time appropriately through focusing on his main duty leading the team to success and looking after the needs and tasks of the team members.
This is also a kind of task conflict which is illustrated in the next step. Concerning the physical resources one can discover that people refuse to share resources and critical information. Not only that Sidharth refuses to share his documents with Sara but also some members of the team are even averse to reveal their working results, because they are afraid that other team members get the laurels for their work. A task conflict occurs over a disagreement about tasks or goals. Referring to the FIS project the employees expect appropriate work from project manager Philly.
However Philly is very lax in managing his tasks. As expressed above he needs a lot of time to answer emails and is often refused to take significant phone calls to the customers. Besides he is very careless checking the course material before it is submitted to clients. Nevertheless it can also be classified as a differing process goal when people have for example a disagreement about how to accomplish a task. Otherwise this topic is also interrelated to a conflict regarding different values which accrue when individuals or teams have an unequal understanding of values, worldviews or certain other aspects.
As one can see from the example explained above the project manager and the team members seems to have diverse attitude concerning accomplishing their work. Sara and Shalini are very committed to the project whereas Philly seems to be not very much engaged. This causes long working hours and struggling to meet deadlines which lead to frustration and demotivation among the team. This matter of fact can be dangerous for the success of the project. An organization needs high motivated employees which are more likely productive in doing their work faster and in higher quality.
Besides the different values and attitudes to work there is another big disagreement about a process goal. This so-called process conflict takes place because the first draft of the results of the course material reaches the client. However this is not the correct procedure. Regarding the process description the first draft is only an overview or a sketch. It is not a final version and therefore it should not be handed over to the client. After reworking the first draft, the second draft should be send to the team leader, Rishi, for review.
Afterwards the final draft has to be checked by project manager, Philly. When the final review is completed the the material is delivered to the training leader. First mistake is that Rishi send the first draft to Philly, even though he should have only submitted the second draft to Philly. The second huge failure is that Philly deliver the first draft to the client without checking the material. In this aspect there is also a task as well as the value conflict included. As explained beforehand Philly always relies on Rishis working results and he has a lax attitude of work concerning fulfilling his tasks.
Another reason that could have happened is poor communication because if the team members as well as the superiors would exchange data and talk to each other in an appropriate way they could avoid such mistakes. The result of the poor communication within the team is that there are many information conflicts. This type of disputes occurs when needed information is missing, misinterpreted or rather interpreted differently, not correct or when there are disagreements about the relevance of certain data. As a role model Philly should not take so much time to answer emails. Sidharth refuse to share an important document with Sara.
As already mentioned as well a few members are even reluctant to reveal the details about their own work. These examples for informational conflicts are also reasons for debates, arguments due to confusion in the integration issue of their individual work results. At least it leads to misunderstandings, clashes and finally chaos. All these issues are drivers of several relationship conflicts. Interpersonal differences arise due to inconsistencies or controversies between people within teams. Referring to the FIS project there are many examples of interpersonal differences.
One of the momentous issues are that a small group of team members knowing each other in advance are not willing to integrate new people into the team. That leads to formation of subgroups and finally to a lack of inclusion and cohesiveness. A second example is the dysfunctional characteristic that for some team members the individual success expressed in the appraisal rating is more important than project development, team success and customer satisfaction. For instance Rishi claims about Sara’s weak work to Philly, to emphasize his own work. However Sara’s commitment to the project is very high.
Philly trusts and believes in Rishi’s opinion and statements, though he also begins to bully Sara. He passes the buck to Sara blaming her in front of the whole team she would always miss deadlines. Actually struggling to meet deadlines is caused through Philly’s lackadaisical attitude to work. However Sara first tries to avoid the conflict and concentrate on her job but she is inwardly frustrated and demotivated. Later she tries to talk to Rishi about Philly’s behavior expecting him to help her as a team leader. But he shows compliance to Philly and denies supporting her. Again this is a ack of leadership; he does not take care to needs of his team. All in all it seems to be clear that the organizational structure of the evaluation system is responsible for the most of the dysfunctional conflicts. Some of the team members are working more as individuals or in mini-groups within a team not realizing that this project requires integrating individual’s work to one big picture. Though all stuck in a rivalry mindset and the possible failure of the project is predictable. Question 3: Is the poor team development process a consequence of dysfunctional characteristics? Explain your answer.
In the previous chapters was outlined that the project team had to face a lot of different conflicts. The sum of these conflicts led to the low team performance and a team development which cannot be seen as exemplary. The advent of this poor team development process can be seen in the selection of the several team members. Based on communication skills, experience, appraisal and fitting to the project requirements a global team is set up (out of Americans and Indians), regardless if the team members fit to each other or not. When people have to work in a group there are two possible forms possible: workgroups and teams.
They differ in various aspects. Workgroups tend to follow individual goals and are focused on their individual tasks. The interdependence is low and social skills are rather not important. Whereas team members are following a common goal and are focused on their collective goal. Analyzing the project team of FIS Consulting services it seems to be rather a workgroup than a team. Team members differ in their individual working styles. Sara and Shri Shalini are very well performing employees with excellent appraisals. Their senior Philly had a different approach to get work done.
For instance he refused important inquiries from clients also his long response time. This differing process goals, differing values as well as interpersonal differences are one cause for the dysfunctional conflict which supports the team development process in a negative way. Any process gain which can be derived out of the team work will be offset through these differences. In the end all the advantages which team work implicate (better performance for instance) have vanished. Another source of dysfunctional conflict is the resource constraints. Specific team members refused sharing resources as well as crucial data.
What also happened was the duration of information gathering. As mentioned above it takes several days to get an answer of Philly and Abey Sidharth required two days to obtain critical data. These kinds of action are not beneficial if a team has to complete a task. Instead of collaborating they undermine each others work. On one site this hinders an efficient goal attainment and on the other hand it offends other team members. If the work of one team member is questioned causelessly time and again the performance and enthusiasm of this person will decrease significantly. In the worst case this behavior will be acquired by other colleagues.
This is especially fostered group formation. This means that within the whole group several smaller groups are formed. In the company FIS Project Services this happens a lot due to previous project work. If for instance a duo has worked together for a long time and then is integrated into an existing team consisting out of six people. The duo tends to stick together and is reluctant to integrate other team mates. This group forming is very well illustrated in the case. Certain subgroups have lunch together but not the team as a whole. The entire project lacks team building events, like going to movies or a common breakfast at the hotel.
Furthermore it is essential for effective teams that they have or develop group cohesiveness which is very beneficial if the team targets a common goal. Group cohesiveness ensures that team members have the feeling that their character and their work is appreciated within the team. That increases the performance because the employee has an intrinsic motivation to push the project forward. People can count on each other and work hand-in-hand very efficient. For the FIS project team this example is unfortunately not the case. People cannot rely on others and they do not have the feeling that they are going into the same direction.
The team is not cohesive, they rather push each other away. If a manager wants to develop a well-functioning team in our opinion a team contract is a requirement. In this contract all the rules and procedures are written down and are open to scrutiny for everyone. Most beneficial would be if the team contract is set up during the first meeting in which everyone can contribute to it. A further benefit is that the team contract prevents the omission error and therefore unethical behavior. Due to the fact that the FIS project team lacks such a contract it is no surprise that the problems and the conflicts escalates.
If Rishi would have been a good leader he would set up a team contract. Furthermore the team leader Rishi lacks a lot of leadership capabilities. One of the most important tasks of a team leader is that he has to care for his team. Only when this task is properly performed the project goal (development of ERP training materials) can be reached. But as described above he failed in his duties miserably. Instead of fostering team cohesiveness he started bullying his team mates, especially Sara. When other team members hampered each other he did nothing to end this destructive decision.
He could have been a mediator and facilitate as a third party between the two opposite parties. But he made it even worse and fueled the disputes. Question 4: What course concepts contributed to the team’s performance failure? Explain your answer. As outlined in the previous chapters the project team faced a lot of conflicts which led to the low team performance and a team development. For a team to become successful they must share common goals and responsibilities for specific outcomes. The job of the team leader is to set these goals and establish behavioral norms within the team.
As pointed out it was believed that the project team members of the FIS project possessed substantial individual technical expertise, but lacked the skill to perform together successfully, meaning that the team had all the potential to be efficiently as a team. Philly seemed to lack effort, approvals were delayed which led to frustration amongst the team members, the team was working long hours and struggled to meet deadlines. Philly failed at setting a common goal and responsibilities with specific outcomes and a direction and he did not have an enabling structure that facilitated teamwork.
Philly also failed in managing the diversity, observable and unobservable similarities amongst the team. Diversity can cause misunderstanding, suspicion, and conflict in the workplace that can result in absenteeism, poor quality, low morale and loss of competitiveness as well as lowered workgroup cohesiveness. In simple terms this is exactly what happened in the case. As a result the team lacked cohesiveness, to the degree to which members are attracted to the team and to its members and how loyal team members are to the team and to each other.
This lack of cohesiveness reached its lowest point in absolute bullying. Nirmal Sara is a victim of workplace bullying by Rishi and Philly, manifested in repeated mistreatment, verbal abuse and humiliation. Teams typically progress through a series of developmental stages before performing effectively. The FIS team underwent an inadequate team development According to Tuckman’s model there are five-stages for a team to form successfully. Forming; in which members learn about each other and the team’s goals, purpose, and lifespan. Storming; team members begin establishing goals, work processes, and individual roles.
Norming; the team becomes more cohesive and clarifies members’ roles and responsibilities, team goals, and team processes. Performing; the team is cohesive, productive, and makes progress toward its goals and at last adjourning; when the team disbands. Referring to the previous chapters the FIS consulting team only got through the first two stages, forming and got stuck in storming. As also explained beforehand the team began forming groups within the team and was reluctant to involve other members. The team was working as individuals in mini groups, which escalated into intra-group competitiveness, the groups compete against each other.
From the start the team began focusing on achieving a high performance appraisal rating rather than working together as a team. Team members commonly formed their suggestions as in small groups separating themselves from other team members. The groups provided suggestions without consulting or briefing the rest of the team members prior to the meetings resulting in team members promoting their own agenda for the sake of a personal benefit. The team members did not seem to realize that that the project required integrating each individuals work into a cohesive whole as they were stuck in rivalry mindset.
The team was assigned with designing different courses, training material and preparation tasks. Each of these tasks were performed by different team members and these components would later require alignment and integration to complete the final module. So it should be obvious that resource sharing was very important to the project. Different groups of the team started refusing to share resources and critical information with the rest of the team. This eventually led to misunderstandings and disagreements amongst team members.
They did not succeed in developing cohesiveness to the degree to which members were loyal to the team and to each other. So the team never got to the point of performing due to intra-group competitiveness. Because members of the team lacked cohesiveness and were not committed to the team or its goals the team performance suffered as a result. These factors led to process loss as a consequence where the team performs worse than the individual members would have if they would have worked alone. This failure of the team development and therefore the FIS project ultimately led to a negative impact on the company’s image.
Question 5: What should the new team leader do? It seems quite obvious that before the new team leader does anything, he must analyze in detail what really happened at the FIS project in North America. When he has established a clear picture of what went wrong he should form a plan to prevent it from happening again and aim to increase customer and employee satisfaction in the process. One of the most striking things when reading the case is the level of autonomy the off-shore team has. How bad things could get before they were identified and dealt with at the FIS HQ.
So the first thing the new team leader (and the HR department at FIS) needs to establish is clarity and a strong quality protocol for each project. He needs to integrate a detailed project roadmap that has frequent internal reviews, process definition, milestones and performance accountability. This system has to be redundant, so if one link in the chain fails an alarm goes off and there is a B-plan to fall back on. For major milestones like a client demo a quality assurance manager has to approve that the product meets delivery qualifications and client expectations.
We assume that in this analytical exercise the same core concepts as we have highlighted in answers one to four would surface. In short, how the evaluation system generated a destructive intra-group competiveness and low cohesiveness as a result. How the poor leadership and work ethics on both senior and mid level affected motivation and caused frustration in the ranks below. How the vertical and horizontal structural conflicts generated task, goal and process conflicts that combined with poor communications nearly drove this project to the ground.
So the first thing would be to assess the pros and cons of the current evaluation system. The rather crude three level individual appraisal system does seem to foster internal competition and individual goal orientation that in the end is not aligned with the company goals. Without the scoring details of the internal evaluation system the result; below, met or exceeded expectations seem a bit granular parameters given the complexity of the task and the size of the group.
The second thing would improve it by preventing that a direct sabotage or conflicting interests like holding back information or resources could benefit individual appraisal. Then make a strong effort to align individual goals with the company ones through task performance and integrity. In addition the team leader needs to add more focus on the collective group effort and task completion as well as client and employee satisfaction. Thirdly he needs to make sure there is much higher cohesiveness in the group to generate better working morale, motivation, team spirit, performance and employee satisfaction.
One of the things that affected the FIS project was that the group grew from a small workgroup to fully fledged team with the relevant differences in their interdependence, accountability, decision making and leadership. Sadly the cohesiveness of the team diminished relative to the increased size of the group. As a group leader he needs to give those growing pains special attention and lead by example. He should instigate and structure various team building exercises and events to foster good group communications. This can be as simple as a group breakfast at the hotel or even just a walk in the park.
And on the topic of communications, to prevent the omission and commission errors from the past the team leader needs to create a secure communication process where employees can report misconduct (either under name or anonymous) or and seek consultation or mediation at early stages of a potential conflict. This communication system needs to be able to feed up to a higher source at FIS consulting HQ in some instances, as one of the major source of problems and dysfunctional behavior were the former team leaders Philly and Rishi.
Lastly the new team leader should also form a doctrine with code of ethics and behavioral norms that reflect the FIS company values, vision and culture. This document should be presented to all employees at say a team offsite event, and be proactively introduced to all new employees so they understand how their actions, big or small have an important social impact. If those conditions mentioned above were met, we believe the offshore department at FIS would be capable of taking on and completing big and complex projects and pass with flying colors.
But in essence the dilemma of the new leader is the same that every team leader is faced with. To motivate his team in physiological, behavioral, cognitive and social context to curb the individuals effort into a strong team effort and strive for a common goal. To quote Al Pacino in the movie “Any given Sunday”: “And, either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. ” ? Bibliography Phillips, J. M. , & Gully, S. M. (2011). Organizational Behavior. Mason, OH: South-Western/Cengage Learning.