Resource Review: The Team Handbook

Team Handbook coverResource: The Team Handbook
Authors: Peter R. Scholtes, Barbara J. Streibel & Brian L. Joiner
Published by: Joiner/Oriel Inc.

Though primarily designed for corporate settings, this book is a practical guide to teamwork that can be used across many different contexts, from creating extended projects to in-class exercises. Writing to a general audience that includes both team managers and team members, the authors include information about all phases of teamwork including ideas for project set-up, activities designed to make work more productive, and advice on learning how to work together.

Scholtes, Streibel, & Joiner begin with a detailed discussion of typical American industry systems and the hows and whys of top-down management. While, they note, this heirarchical design does allow for quick decision-making and clear goal-setting, they argue that it also pushes corporations (or research labs, or classrooms) towards quick fixes that do not engage with workers' concerns or address underlying problems. The alternative offered is a theory of management that focuses on carefully examining methods and processes at all levels, teaching "everyone in the organization... to use a scientific approach to solving problems and making improvements."

It is likely that for instructors, the most useful parts of this book will be the fifth and sixth chapters: respectively, "Building an Improvement Plan," which details how teams can work together to solve a variety of problems, and "Learning to Work Together," which describes several phases of teamwork and outlines methods that teams can use to become more productive. In these chapters, the authors include several different graphical representations of teamwork processes and strategies that could be adapted into course handouts or rubrics for evaluation.

These chapters could be helpful to instructors when imagining how a team project might be built into a course or internship. For instance, the authors suggest that the leader should start a project by helping team members develop a well-defined goal. Further, they detail scientific methods for moving teams towards their goals, which, unsurprisingly, are quite similar to the steps of basic research: "collect meaningful data," "identify root causes of problems," "develop appropriate solutions," "plan & make changes").

In addition, Scholtes (et al) include information about the psychology of group dynamics and practical tips for helping group members establish a productive working relationship - for example, working to help teams establish clear roles for participants and ground rules for communicating with each other.


Tags: Resource, Teamwork