Strategic Team Development

Team CLEN’s Strategic Team Review and Action Tools (STRAT)

Introduction

Our Mission

To work strategically as a group of leaders to share ideas, accomplish course objectives, and learn in a cohesive environment that fosters growth and personal development.

Our Vision

CLEN will accomplish this by harnessing the christian values of love, faith, and hope to expand our ability to become strategic transformational leaders in our personal and professional contexts, empowering others to live up to their full leadership potential.

Our Values  

  • Trust and Integrity
  • Diversity and Open-mindedness
  • Collaboration and Resourcefulness.

The Team

On Monday October 15, 2018, the strategic team including Christina, Lisa, Emmanuel, and Nadia (CLEN) became a team while taking a Strategic Leadership course within the Master of Arts specialization in Leadership. We are a diverse team whereby we all bring various life and professional experiences to the group, creating a powerful dynamic to share insights on different topics. Although the vision for our lives vary, our team has found there is a common denominator at the core: Christina aspires to empower and mentor women, who have been oppressed and have experienced injustices, by creating an organization with a vision to develop those who have been oppressed. Lisa seeks to identify macro change in professional and political arenas amidst systemic and intergenerational trauma suffered by our First Nations peoples. Emmanuel works toward advocating for good governance practices (honesty, transparency, participation, and integrity), in the Africa context. Lastly, Nadia is pushing for fair representation of journalists of colour in the mainstream media. Evidently, our group aspires to bring extraordinary value to the world by advocating for social justices for those who have been marginalized and oppressed. Our passion lies in helping and empowering others so they may experience love, compassion and feel empowered to affect change in their own lives and Communities.

Procedure

Our strategic team completed the Strategic Team Review and Action Tool (STRAT) exercise to evaluate how effective and cohesive the team functioned as a unit. The team gathered to debrief the results of the STRAT exercise, which consisted of 32 questions ranked from 1 to 5, in order to stimulate conversation among strategic leadership team members.  The STRAT assesses the awareness of strategic leadership team dynamics by categorizing them as follows: the “internal and external environment” (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 208) with four questions, the “mission,vision, and values” (p. 209) with five questions, the “strategy drivers and business strategy” (p. 210) with three questions, the “leadership strategy” (p. 213) with thirteen questions, and “performing” (p. 216) with seven questions. (see Image 1)  For a non- profit organization dealing with social justice issues, STRAT means having all the information necessary, and acting in ways that promote the wellbeing

of all stakeholders involved, both within and outside the organization.

Image 1. STRAT’s total number of questions and percentage by category.

The images and table below provides an insight into the CLEN’s team result.

Image 2.1. Standard Distribution: STRAT questions and their values

Tables 1.  Items ranked by average from the highest to the lowest.

Rank Average

STRAT Questions Rank by Average (Highest to Lowest)

1 4.75
  • 13  Composed of diverse individuals with Complementary talents
2 4.5
  • 10  Different Opinions are welcome
3 4.25
  • 32  Direct or Indirect control of the ressource it needs to accomplish its task.
3 4.25
  • 31  Access to the relevant information it needs to make decision
4 4
  • 25. Exhibits a high level of integrity
  • 28. Widespread agreement about what are the most important organization priorities (Key success factors) needed to drive our sustainable competitive advantage.
  • 14.  Shares information well with each others.
  • 6. Clear about own purpose and core values
5 3.75
  • 3.  Share vision of our of our future
  • 12. Work well together
  • 21. Respond effectively to opportunity and threats in the environment
6 3.5
  • 30. Access to the relevant information needed to make decisions and take action
  • 24. Share best practices across individuals and departments
  • 4.  Individuals at all level understand how their role  support the organizational mission
  • 9. There are few undiscussable subject here
  • 17. Getting ahead here depends on performances not politics.
7 3.25
  • 2. Understand the threats and opportunity in the external environment.
  • 8. Encourages others to improve by experimenting  with new or different ways of doing things.
  • 15. Constructive interactions with others throughout the organization
  • 18. Strike an appropriate balance between leading with short terms and long term needs.
  • 20. Does not waste its own and other’s energy on unproductive activities.
  • 22. Trust and respect each others
  • 23. Fosters cooperation rather than competition across organizational units.
  • 29. Clear responsibility for contributing to one or more of the key drivers of our organizational success.
8 3
  • 26. Pride of the way right and wrong issues are handled
  • 16.  Support execute growth and development
  • 11. Our strategy is discriminating. clear about what we will do and clear about what we will not do
  • 5. Keep abreast of technological cultural, and market trends
9 2.75
  • 1  Regularly and realistically assesses its organizational strengths and weaknesses.
  • 7. Think globally
  • 19. Encourages an appropriate level of Risk taking
  • 27. There is a positive sense of energy and excitement around here.

Image 2.2.  Average score by value distribution from highest to lowest

Image 2.3. CLEN’s average scores and percentage by category

Discussion

Comparaison with the norms

Appendix D of Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) provided “the norms based on STRAT data collected from 12,364 respondents” (p. 299 – 302). The comparison between the norms and our data reveals four similar items (10, 13, 25, 6 ) among the top five (See Table 1, Image 2.1). Two of our high rated items (31, 32) were not rated by the norms. While our Highest values was 4.75 ( see Table 1; Image 2.1), the norms had 4.25 as its highest values.

Insight into CLEN Team Scores

STRAT Categories: According to the results,  the team’s average score by category (see Image 2.3) depicted disagreement amongst team members with regards to the internal and external environment yet remained neutral about the other categories. The results of the assessment of the mission, vision, and values appeared to be the strongest. This was followed by categories in order respectively: Performing, Leadership Strategy, Strategic Drivers and Business Strategy, and lastly, the Internal and External Environment. By looking at the distribution of percentages, it shows the following three categories resulting in the same percentage including Mission/Vision and Values assessment, Performing, and Leadership Strategy. Afterwards, the lowest percentages included Strategic Drivers and Business Strategy, and Internal and External Environment. The distribution by questions showed three of the highest scores were in Leadership Strategy and two were in the Performing category. Once again, the two categories which shared the lowest score by questions included the assessment of the Internal and External Environment and the Leadership Strategy.

Tentative explanation for neutral scores

Close to 50% of our responses were rated neutral ( 2.75 < 3 < 3.50). (see Image 1., Image 2.2). One explanation for this result could be the nature of the questions in this distribution. For the most part, the questions addressed the team’s development dynamic, shared identity, ideology, and practice. Meanwhile the section averaging 3.91 to 5 relates to skills or items we bring to the team and therefore, do not have significant impact on team collaboration. Furthermore, another explanation for the results could be attributed to the short time span the team has spent together.  In conclusion, our limited time together has highlighted elements we could use as drivers. From an appreciative inquiry stand point, we can focus on our strengths and utilize them to improve on our weaknesses.

Tentative explanation for Highest Insights

Diversity: We are four individuals with different professional and cultural backgrounds who have been brought together for the purpose of becoming more effective leaders.

Different opinions are welcome: Our team values critical thinking, which takes on a wide-angle view of topics and issues by considering differing and conflicting perspectives to determine the best possible course of action. Evidently, this requires a group to be incredibly open-minded, becoming objective and detached from long-held beliefs and thought processes. Group members value each other’s wealth of knowledge and life experiences, leading to a plethora of ideas.

Direct or indirect control of the resources it needs to accomplish tasks: We are required to work as a unit to fulfill the expectations of the Strategic Leadership course, which are provided to us in the form of assignments. Therefore, each of us knows where to find the relevant materials necessary to achieve the group’s tasks. Nevertheless, we recognize certain aspects of our learning escape our control including the course platform or forum. Nonetheless, we have identified the people who have the skills to assist us and help us manage our technological confusion.

Access to relevant information to make decisions and take actions: Information relative to this course are available to all the team members via WordPress. We believe the challenge is the accessibility of information held by individuals and needed for team purpose. We have addressed this issue through several means. First, our weekly meeting where we discuss topics on the agenda. Second, we communicate daily through emails outside our scheduled weekly meetings. Third, we created a Google document to collaborate and gather information relevant to our mission for this course.

The strategic leadership team illustrates a high level of integrity: In the context of our team, we can argue integrity has not been tested. However, we can see value displayed in the honest, sincere and principle based discussions we have regarding our commitment to the course, frustrations, and hopes.

Tentative explanation for Lowest Insights

Positive sense of energy and excitement: The technical difficulties and the confusion at the start of this course hindered excitement amongst members. As a result, frustration initially overshadowed the positive energy.

Encourages an appropriate level of risk taking: There is a certain level of risk that comes with trust while an individual works with others. As we work together to achieve our mission (course), we will continually grow in trust for each other. Ultimately, this will produce more risk-taking and increased learning for the strategic group as a whole.

Thinks globally: Even though diversity is our strength, the reality cannot be ignored our group includes four people immersed in the western culture. This unavoidable bias given our combined life experiences contributes to it being more difficult to think globally.

Regularly and realistically assess strengths and weaknesses: As group members become more familiar with one another, strengths and weaknesses will be better understood. This process takes time as skills and talents begin to emerge with the various tasks the group is faced with.

Keeps abreast of technological, cultural, and market trends: These are issues which are not necessarily pressing in our personal and professional contexts. Therefore, it is not a large topic of discussion in our strategic team. This could be due to cultural trends are deeply ingrained into our thought processes and perceptions of reality. Due to the STRAT assignment and after debriefing, we discovered there was a significant amount of confusion with regards to this point.  It became evident thorough definitions are required to ensure consistent understanding throughout the survey to maintain validity in the data.

Group Goals

Group Strength 1: Our strategic team is composed of people with complementary talents; therefore, we can build on our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses.

Goal 1. Christina and Emmanuel : Use Emmanuel as internal contact to respond to complex technological interaction including conference meetings, group posts on WordPress, Pressbook and others. In addition, Christina has strong writing and editing skills, so she is primarily in charge of creating cohesion amongst the four different styles of writing.

Rational: Emmanuel is the tech expert. We already look to him to help with technological issues related to the course. For example, Christina had difficulties finding a textbook online and Emmanuel explained how to find it. In addition, he explained how to use WordPress through the tool of screen sharing. Evidently, we are using a member’s strength to compensate for other group members’ weaknesses.  As a result, Emmanuel is an emergent leader in the group for technology due to extensive knowledge on the topic. Emmanuel’s strengths are Christina’s weaknesses and vice versa: English is not Emmanuel’s first language, so Christina has helped to create flow throughout the paper and mesh the various writing styles.

Group Strength 2: Our group displays radical open-mindedness to differing opinions, perspectives, and ideas.

Goal 2. Lisa: Moving forward, we will introduce a role for a designated group member to be the  “devil’s advocate” in our meetings to avoid the sometimes catastrophic groupthink fallacy. Furthermore, it encourages the group to think globally. We decided that Lisa is best suited for this role as she likes to bring a different perspective to meetings. Due to her life experiences in the professional realm, the team found she is more consistently aware of utilizing critical thinking in her everyday decisions (whereas the rest of the team believes growth in this area is still necessary). Lisa frequently encourages the team to look at an issue from another angle, fostering further debate and conversation.

Rational: In every group discussion, we must bring up various perspectives. As stated earlier, critical thinking is a crucial skill for leaders to embody yet it is difficult to implement successfully. Therefore, critical thinking requires we become self-disciplined in our self-monitoring with the goal of becoming excellent decision-makers; those who are committed to seeking the best possible solution (Elder, 2007). Critical thinking provides a means for individuals to step out of the cage of their mind which is bared by limited thinking, and forced to become objective observers of their own personal beliefs, conclusions, and assumptions. It requires group members let go of cherished beliefs and ideologies that sometimes may have become apart of our identity the ego fights to protect (Forte & Horvath, 2011: p. 41). The reason this is so important is because we may cling to old beliefs of our current reference system and fail to accept new information from someone who may be more knowledgeable (Forte & Horvath, 2011: p. 41) . Ultimately, this results in poor decision-making and followers will suffer the consequences of the leader’s actions. Our group is fortunate enough to excel in critical thinking because we pride ourselves in our diversity and openness to varying perspectives. This also helps us to avoid groupthink and the confirmation bias which inhibits good decision-making.

Group Strength 3: Our Strategic Leadership team encourages an appropriate level of risk taking; to generate positive outcomes within a cohesive learning environment.

Goal 3. Nadia:  Team members should display a certain level of vulnerability through sharing events in our personal lives as a part of our meetings in order help strengthen the teams’ bond. We believe Nadia will be sufficient at reminding team members this is an important aspect of team building and it needs integration into the weekly team meetings. Nadia is part of an organization giving a voice to those who have primarily been silenced, so she understands the gravity of creating community and a safe place for all team members.

Rational: Sharing personal details helps to build trust with other members and fosters a community conducive to creativity and innovation. Creating a high performance teams requires a significant amount of risk due to the vulnerability of sharing ideas and opinions because it exposes the individual to the chance of being criticized.

Conclusion

This exercise inspired our team to develop a mission, vision, and core values to further strengthen our alignment and commitment. In addition, we discovered we are all committed to creating impact and adding value through social justice initiatives with the ultimate goal to change the lives of individuals in different segments of marginalized populations. We also took the STRAT and analyzed the data to determine how we could become a more strategic and effective team. After careful analysis, we concluded setting realistic goals based on our unique talents and strengths contributed to the overall effectiveness of the team. Moving forward, perhaps the STRAT can serve as an anchor for all the tasks the team must accomplish to ensure we are operating at a high performance level. Therefore, our strategic team will complete the STRAT survey on a weekly basis (after completing a required task) to determine if we are utilizing and growing in our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses to ensure overall team effectiveness.

References

Elder, L. (2018). Another brief Conceptualization of Critical Thinking. The foundation of Critical Thinking. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

Forte, J. M., & Horvath, C. P. (2011). Critical Thinking. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.student.twu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=541360&site=eds-live

Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader your role in your organizations enduring success (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass