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Research Basis for KTEP

Our research was designed to identify the factors which are critical to the success of knowledge and R&D teams and to compare the importance of knowledge and resource based factors with interpersonal and team process factors. The research had two components: a quantitative component which was used to identify and quantify the factors; and a qualitative component which was used to identify and describe the behaviours and team processes used by successful teams in their day to day interactions. A brief summary of the quantitative research is provided here. A more detailed description and a case study is provided in the paper Teams in the Test Tube.

A questionnaire was administered to a sample of 250 research and knowledge professionals. Each respondent completed the questionnaire twice, separated by a period of three to four days. The first time, respondents completed the questionnaire in relation to their most effective, current or recent teams and the second time in relation to their least effective, current or recent teams. "Effectiveness" was defined as "the capacity of the team to achieve the objectives for which it was established". (The results were validated by testing teams which were rated as highly successful or unsuccessful by independent indicators such as awards, prizes, significant patents or premature termination by clients or funding agencies.)

Research Survey Results

The results for the Most and Least Effective teams are shown in the following graphs. Figure 1 shows the mean scores for responses on the most effective teams. Figure 2 shows responses for the least effective teams. The scores have been normed to 10 for ease of comparison. Figure 3 shows the differences between the normed means for factors in the two populations of teams.

Figure 1. Most Effective Team Results - Rank Order of Factors


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The most effective teams scored highly on all of the factors. The range of mean scores for the most effective teams was 6.7 to 8.5. The highest scores were for Clarity of Purpose, Information Sharing, Goodwill and Cooperation and Trust. The lowest score was for Market/Client Awareness. The relatively high scores for all of the factors was expected given that each emerged from an intensive screening of factors relevant to team effectiveness. The three categories of factors were distributed fairly evenly throughout the rank order, although all of the leadership factors were in the top third. The difference between the highest scored factor, Clarity of Purpose, and the lowest scored factor, Market/Client Awareness, was only 18%, confirming that all of the factors are well managed or evident in effective teams.

Figure 2. Least Effective Team Results - Rank Order of Factors


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Scores for the least effective teams were significantly lower for most factors. There was a greater range between factor scores, with a maximum difference of 28%. There was also a significant difference in the pattern of rankings. The highest scores were for the "hard-edged" or resource factors, Scientific and Technical Expertise, and Equipment and Facilities . The ranking of these important, "hard-edged" factors at the top indicates that they were well covered, even in the least effective teams. The team dynamic and process factors were concentrated in the lower half of the distribution of rankings.

The most revealing information emerges from Figure 3. It confirms that the factors showing the greatest difference between the most effective and least effective teams are the "soft", team dynamics and process factors.

Figure 3. Ranking of Differences Between Most and Least Effective Teams


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The results indicate that while the resource factors such as Scientific and Technical Expertise and Equipment and Facilities are necessary, they are not sufficient conditions for research team effectiveness. There is little difference in the level of expertise and quality of equipment between the most and least effective teams. The factors which show the greatest difference between the most and least effective teams are the "soft" factors such as Trust and Goodwill and Cooperation. Leadership factors are also significant discriminators. The results imply that the greatest scope for increasing the effectiveness of most knowledge teams is to focus on inter-personal dynamics, team process and leadership issues.

While these findings may seem obvious to Human Resource and Organization Development specialists, they often surprise knowledge professionals who place greatest emphasis on the intellectual quotient rather that the emotional or social quotient of their teams. The presentation of relatively objective data to demonstrate the importance of team dynamics has been very helpful in convincing team leaders and members to reflect on their team processes.

Factor Definitions
Leadership factors
Inspirational Leadership
the capacity of the designated leader(s) to develop a shared vision, stimulate creative thinking and gain the commitment of members
Project Management
the capacity of the designated leader(s) to gain resources, set performance standards and deliver results within time and budgets
Clarity of Purpose
the extent to which the goals and objectives of the team are clear to all members and each understands his/her role
Autonomy in Operation
the degree of control and flexibility within the team to plan and conduct its work
Resource Factors
Professional and Technical Expertise
 
the quality and diversity of professional knowledge and expertise relevant to the team's work
Equipment and Facilities
the access to equipment, facilities or specialist techniques required to undertake the work
Information Sharing
the access to information required to do the job and understanding of the capabilities of others in the team
Market/Client Awareness
the level of understanding of all members of the team of the needs and expectations of clients or funding agencies
Process Factors
Conflict Management the ability of the team to use conflict constructively as part of the team's creative process
Team Brainstorming the level of synergy achieved from sharing new thoughts and sparking ideas of one another
Team Learning the ability of the team to evaluate its performance, build on its successes and learn from its mistakes
Creative Dialogue the extent to which divergent or lateral thinking is encouraged and exchanged at team meetings and through other communication processes
Interpersonal Dynamics Factors
Trust
the extent to which members feel they can be open, honest and direct and can rely on each other for support
Respect for Individuals
the extent to which the different capabilities and personal styles or preferences of individual members are respected and valued
Goodwill and Cooperation
the capacity of the team members to cooperate and achieve results through informal and intuitive understandings
Alignment of Values
the extent to which individual values and beliefs are aligned with team goals and priorities
Appropriate Pressure the sense of pressure generated by clients or by the intrinsic interest of the work
What is a team?

A team is a particular form of work group that has the following characteristics:

• The number of members is usually between 4 and 15. The maximum number is about 20. Any more and it is not possible for full interaction and integration of activities.
• There is a common purpose. Every member is committed and signed on to the purpose.
• The members are interdependent with respect to the team's resources. The most important resource for knowledge teams is the expertise and experience of the members.
The members have differentiated roles and functions. Ideally, the roles should be complementary and with little overlap of function or expertise.
• There is interactive communication between all of the members. Each person can interact directly with each other person without going through a leader or manger
• All major decisions are made by consensus. Every member is in sufficient agreement to implement the decision
• Synergy is achieved. The team achieves more through interaction than the individual could achieve working separately or in parallel.

What are the major differences between work groups and work teams?

Some of the significant differences between work groups and teams are set out in the following table.

Work Groups Work Teams
- A common area of interest but many different purposes or goals exist within the group
- Interaction between members but usually accountability is to the leader
- Roles and functions may be differentiated but there is often overlap or parallel functions
- There is value in membership through sharing resources or supporting each other
- The leadership is generally more directive and the designated leaders is accountable for the group's work
- One common goal unites the team
- Interdependence between members - accountability is primarily to one another
- Roles and functions complement one another and there is little overlap
- There is a commitment to one another to achieve the common goal
- The leadership is more consultative or participative and the team is accountable for its work
 

What is a knowledge team?
A knowledge team is a particular type of team in which the knowledge and expertise of the members is the major resource. The concept of knowledge includes both explicit knowledge (facts, information and concepts) and tacit knowledge (knowing how to do things).

New knowledge or new applications of existing knowledge are often the major products or outputs of the team's work. A significant level of creativity or innovation is required to apply the team's knowledge in useful ways.

Why are teams important in knowledge-based organisations?
Teams are increasingly important in knowledge work and R&D because many of today's issues or problems are so complex that few individuals have the capability or breadth of discipline skills and expertise to solve them on their own.

In addition, many new opportunities or discoveries are made at the intersection of different disciplines. New insights often occur when the methodologies and paradigms of one discipline are applied to another. Creativity can also occur when new, multi-disciplinary models are built by teams to make sense of complex data sets or to show relationships between events.

Many organisations claim that their competitive advantage lies in their capacity to provide multi-disciplinary solutions to clients' problems. To do this effectively, organisations need to be able to establish teams that can work effectively across traditional boundaries of functional and discipline groups.

Challenges for knowledge teams

There are some particular difficulties and challenges for knowledge and research organisations. Some of the major challenges are:

• Knowledge professionals are often highly individualistic, task orientated professionals who can be frustrated by the need to share and consult with others, particularly people who they perceive has not having the same level of expertise that they have.
• The education of professionals often neglects the interpersonal and communication skills that are essential for successful team work.
• There can be significant "power distance" between high status and low status team members which may limit the willingness or confidence of lower status members to fully contribute, particularly at idea generation stage.
• A strong belief that intellectual ability will overcome all problems. Knowledge professionals and researchers often think that sheer intellectual horsepower alone will be sufficient to achieve the team's objectives.

Research by Marshall and Lowther (1998) demonstrates that this belief about the power of intellectual ability is mistaken. While intellectual ability is an essential requirement for effective knowledge teams, it is not sufficient for success. Our research indicates that there is relatively little difference between the levels of expertise in highly successful teams compared with unsuccessful teams. There is, however, a significant difference in levels of trust and other interpersonal or "soft skill" factors between successful and unsuccessful knowledge teams.