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«Anna B. Adams D. Christopher Kayes The George Washington University David A. Kolb Case Western Reserve University Working Paper ORBH 12/13/04, ...»

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Teams can become caught in action by adequately incorporating feedback, and teams also can become caught in inaction by incorporating too much feedback. Teams must learn to balance feedback pursuit and action.

One of the tools teams typically use to show this action process visually is an actionplanning worksheet. This worksheet allows the team to directly integrate feedback into its actions so that it can change goals, better match team members with team tasks, improve processes, and reanalyze its context, all based on feedback. The action-planning worksheet enables the team to chart this iterative process. The team can balance feedback and action without getting stuck in either process.

The action processes a team enlists are based on the level of development in which the team operates. Early on in a team’s development, it is likely to perform actions disconnected from feedback. Responsibility is shared as team members begin to work collectively rather than individually. In essence, the transition from lower to higher development is marked by the team’s response to goals or circumstance without seeking feedback. In later stages, the team works together to change current goals and act upon them as the situation demands. The team is able to make independent, well-thought-out decisions based on feedback from its feedback systems with involvement from everyone on the team. In these later stages, the team designs new feedback systems to integrate increasingly complex data from the environment. The team takes responsibility for its actions based on this feedback. By the time the team reaches the highest stages, it has learned to seek and integrate feedback continually into higher-order, purposeful actions. These actions will be adapted as needed by changing goals, skills, and contexts. The team has learned that purposeful actions are based on continual learning and adaptation.

We have outlined how learning drives individual teams to develop higher-level functioning in each of the six aspects of team functioning. In the final section, we outline the implications of this model of team learning for educational interventions and introduce a structured method to guide teams through this process.

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Since teams do not often naturally develop or learn, a programmed team-learning experience provides a structured way to move through the developmental process for each aspect of team functioning. Understanding how teams learn was the first step in designing a simulation that encourages learning. Teams learn from experience by having members who are Involved and committed to the team and its purpose and who are creating new knowledge • and identifying challenges (concrete experience).

Engaging in reflection and conversation about the team’s experiences and making • observations to ensure that all available knowledge has been addressed (reflective

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Thinking critically about how the team works and coming up with new theories, devising • plans or models and placing abstract events into coherent and simple explanations (abstract conceptualization).

Making decisions, taking action, and experimenting with various approaches and • strategies for problem solving (active experimentation).

A team can progress in its development through several popular educational interventions. One such intervention, the Kolb Team Learning Experience (KTLE), emphasizes development of the various aspects of team functioning described above, including the internal mechanisms of the team and management of the team’s environment. Its structured experiences enhance team effectiveness through learning. In its step-by-step simulation, individuals learn to implement the basic team functions (e.g., goals, roles, membership) within an existing or new team. This learning is put to direct use to accomplish a specific purpose put forth by the team or its organization.

The KTLE is a structured written simulation (in the form of a team workbook) in which team members learn about team functions while engaging in the processes of knowledge creation, reflection, critical thinking, and action taking. Thus, team members learn how to learn as the team progresses through activities and problems in the team-learning workbook. The team is encouraged to experience all stages of the learning cycle multiple times and reflect on its ability to continually experience these stages. As the team learns, it increases its ability to operate at higher developmental stages within its functional aspects of purpose, membership, roles, context, process, and action taking. Upon completion of the simulation, the team has knowledge about the functions of teams in general, experience about the functions of its team specifically, and awareness of learning and progress through the learning cycle modes. This knowledge, experience, and learning can be continually leveraged as the team continues to work together to accomplish its goals.

The KTLE helps teams work toward higher development through seven distinct

simulation modules, each lasting about an hour in length. The modules are as follows:

1. Team learning overview: Teams engage in an introductory exercise that encourages teamwork and requires the team to move through the learning cycle by engaging in a simulated product development and marketing exercise. Teams then analyze their process and acquire their first exposure to the team-level learning cycle.

2. Team purpose: This module helps a team set its general direction by identifying individual purpose and how it relates to the team’s overall purpose.

3. Team membership: Teams “map” the learning styles of individual members onto a specially designed learning space. They then develop a snapshot of team members’ learning styles and can begin to see how the team as a whole learns best. Team members can identify the synergies and challenges relative to their individual learning styles.

4. Roles: Team members identify their role preferences and “map” them to identify gaps and potential strengths of team members and the team as a whole.

5. Context: The team identifies its primary contextual demands, including the nature of its task and the resources it needs to complete its task effectively.

6. Team process: The team once again visits the four-phase team learning cycle. In this module, however, the team diagnoses its own process and identifies its strengths and weaknesses relative to navigating the learning cycle.

7. Action planning: The team works through a detailed action-planning worksheet. In this final module, the team pulls together what it learned about itself from the other six modules. The planning process provides the team with a detailed but flexible action plan, including deadlines, expected results, and the necessary team processes to achieve these

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Team learning is an essential process that facilitates team development and, in turn, the ability of a team to take action in the face of specific contextual demands. The history of group and team research describes both the positive and negative aspects of team functioning. The KTLE provides a structured simulation to help teams realize the importance and potential of team learning without falling prey to the problems that often plague teams during the learning process.

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