Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Teaming, according to Edmondson (2012) in her new book teaming, is viewed as a learning process involving "iterative cycles of communication, decision, action, and reflection" (p. 50).  From this organizational learning perspective, teaming is a dynamic process determined by the mindset and practices of teamwork - "teamwork on the fly" (p. 13). Here, teaming is the the change agent for the organization, the engine of organizational learning.

From my perspective, I viewed Edmondson's (2012) idea of teaming as that of an Action Research approach to addressing tasks, projects, or specific problems. Kurt Lewin, the father of social psychology, believed that action research would help resolve social conflict in the workplace, improving the overall human condition (Burnes, 2007). "Lewin believed that the key to achieving this was to facilitate group learning through democratic participation and so enable individuals to understand and restructure their perceptions of the world around them" (Burnes, 2007, p. 215).

Action research is the fundamental principle behind many models of change. French and Bell defined action research as:

"The process of systematically collecting research data about an ongoing system relative to some objective, goal, or need of that system; feeding these data back into the system; taking actions by altering selected variable within the system based both on the data and on hypotheses; and evaluating the results of actions by collecting more data" (cited in Rothwell & Sullivan, p. 42).

Edmondson (2012), expands on this action research model to include acceptance of the individual as well as including the collaborative efforts of the group.  This is reflected in the four specific behaviors for successful teaming that Edmondson (2012) provided:

  • Speaking Up: Teaming depends on honest, direct conversation between individuals, including asking questions, seeking feedback, and discussing errors.
  • Collaboration: Teaming requires a collaborative mindset and behaviors - both within and outside a given unit of teaming - to drive the process.
  • Experimentation: Teaming requires a tentative, iterative approach to action that recognizes the novelty and uncertainty inherent in every interaction between individuals.
  • Reflection: Teaming relies on the use of explicit observations, questions, and discussions of processes and outcomes. This must happen on a consistent basis that reflects the rhythm of the work , whether that calls for daily, weekly, or other project-specific timing (p. 52, Exhibit 2.1).


Burnes, B. (2007). Kurl lewin and the hardwood studies: The foundation of OD. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 43(2), 213-231.

Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rothwell, W. J., & Sullivan, R. (2005). Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Consultants (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pheiffer.
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