The Importance of Time and Communication in Team and Individual Effectiveness and Performance

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Lisa Papania, Beedie School of Business

Project team: Kamal Masri and Andrew Gemino, Beedie School of Business, Jacqueline Block-Glass, research assistant, and Jason Toal, Teaching and Learning Centre

Timeframe: October to December 2013

Funding: $5,000  

Courses addressed:

  • BUS 301 – Foundations for Collaborative Work Environments
  • BUS 345 – Marketing Research
  • BUS 444 – Business to Business Marketing
  • BUS 453 – Sustainable Innovation

Final report: View Lisa Papania's final project report (PDF).

From the final report: "In conducting our study, we found that Question 1 (What role does time play in the development of team effectiveness and team performance?) and Question 2 (What is the communication process by which teams become effective?) were interrelated. We found that teams take time to form and to reach the point of being able to work together collaboratively such that the deliverable produced is not something that could be done by a single individual, but which requires the joint effort, expertise, perspective and insight of each team member. However, by time we found that the passage of time alone does not determine whether individuals learn to work together collaboratively." Read more >>

Description: Our project aims to understand how working in teams contributes to individual and team performance in class. We define teams as individuals working in collaboration on a common task as opposed to groups that require individuals to contribute almost independently on a given task. We see teams as comprised of individuals who are required to cooperate with one another, bringing to the table their unique skill-set, and combining complementary skills to facilitate peer learning and ensure that the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. Teams work and are rewarded as a team for their performance. We propose that team members need time to build relationships that lead to trust that lead to team effectiveness. Time, relationships and trust are alluded to but generally glossed over in the team learning and team effectiveness literature. We believe that by understanding the drivers of team effectiveness is essential in order to redesign a curriculum that produces higher quality graduates who are more effective in the workplace.

Our study will contribute to the literature on how teams communicate. Much existing literature suggests that individuals communicate and work effectively when members have the same definitions and experiences reflected in their language. Our study, however, contributes to an emerging stream of literature that suggests that individuals learn to work together by co-creating a ‘vocabulary’ of words that enable each individual to reconcile his/her own perspective with a shared perspective in order to move forward and get things done.  Data will be collected through multiple methods:

  • Mid-way and post surveys
  • Students’ team member assessments
  • Students’ and teams’ performance in RATS (Readiness Assessment Test)
  • Student reflections on the development and performance of the team
  • Observation notes
  • Interviews

Questions addressed: We focus on one research question per semester over four semesters. Each question constitutes a ‘phase’ of our study. The first phase of our study seeks to gather data on the drivers of team effectiveness and learning, and individual effectiveness and learning in a team-based learning environment. In this phase, we seek to answer the first question below. However, we see the second question below to be closely related to the first question. Therefore, we will also gather data on the second question during the first phase of the study. At the end of the semester, we will provide a status report detailing our progress towards answering the first question, at which time we will determine whether to seek additional funding to gather additional data and/ or engage in further analysis to answer the second question.

  1. What role does time play in the development of team effectiveness and team performance?
  2. What is the communication process by which teams become effective?

Knowledge sharing: Results will be shared within the Faculty and at SFU.  

Papania, L. (2014, November). Teaching teams to improve individual and group learning and performance. Roundtable presentation at the BCCampus Symposium on Scholarly Inquiry into Teaching and Learning Practice, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.