The STAR Team Model
Developing a teamwork concept involves bringing together ideas and insights to inform and shape the concept. Here we explain the ideas which shaped the STAR team model, using three distinct strands of teamwork theory. Briefly introduced in our teamwork theories article, these were:
- Team development stages
- Team leadership styles
- Outside factors that influence teams (within the organisation and in the wider context)
How do these teamwork concepts fit with the STAR team model?
Teamwork concept STAGES: Team Stages
Team development theories, such as Tuckman’s group development stages, recognise that teams develop through different stages. This provides a progression from initial formation through to performance. Whilst they give a useful understanding of different team requirements at different times, there are a number of questions that aren’t particularly well answered by the models. For example:
- How should you lead at the different stages of a team’s development?
- How do you identify when you are progressing through a stage?
- How does the team develop in the organisational setting?
- How is it affected by other outside influences?
Group stages theory doesn’t explicitly answer these questions. To do so, and thus to build a more robust teamwork concept, ideas about team leadership and outside factors need to be introduced.
Teamwork concept STYLES: Leadership Styles
The second strand of theories suggests that leadership activity will be different at different stages of the team development. This is a common notion in management studies, that many models are in fact situational, and that the approach adopted should change dependant on the context. This idea is also common to a number of leadership theories, which suggest leaders should adapt their behaviours and actions according to the situation. For example, contingency or situational leadership models tend to offer a continuum of responses a leader might take, from a directive approach where the leader steers the team, to approaches that tend towards delegation, where team members have much more say about what and how they do things.
Other models recognise different functions of leadership. One well known example is John Adair’s action centred leadership, which emphasizes leaders placing a focus on the task, team and the individual. The balance of focus will vary from situation to situation.
In the STAR team model we have brought together some of these theories, highlighting the leader’s role in aligning individual strengths with teamwork, to achieve meaningful results. The STAR team model incorporates the idea that a leader needs to behave differently given the different stages of team development. The leader’s focus of attention will vary at different stages of the team’s development.
For example, during the formation of the team it is important to ensure that team members are clear about why they are in the team, and what they are expected to achieve. So the primary focus in this stage will be on results, whilst recognizing that aspects of teamwork and strengths will still need attention. During other stages the focus will switch to the importance of teamwork and strengths.
To further develop the teamwork concept, these second set of theories about leadership can be applied to the first (group development) to answer the question: “where should your emphasis be during the different stages?” What do you need to look out for and what activities do you need to focus on at the different stages a team goes through?
Teamwork concept SITUATION: Organisational and wider context
Thirdly, teams do not exist in a vacuum; their effectiveness can be greatly influenced by factors external to the team, from other teams, the wider organization and external factors outside the organisation. Whilst group stage theories such as Tuckman’s model provide a useful way to think about how a team develops they place little emphasis on the external environment. Similarly leadership models can too often focus on the leadership needs of the team and not enough recognition is given to the leader’s role outside of the team.
A number of researchers have expanded team theory to include an emphasis on the context within which the team operates. For example Sunstrom and colleagues view teams as embedded within an organization and suggest that team effectiveness is therefore dependant on how the boundaries work between teams and other teams, and how the organisational context impacts on the team. It raises the important role of the team leader in establishing boundaries, and in ensuring the links between other teams work well, and that the systems and processes in the wider organization support and encourage the effectiveness of the team.
To develop a teamwork concept such as STAR teams then it is important to blend together three strands of teamwork theories:
Group development stages
Contingency and situational leadership
and finally recognizing that
teams exist in an organizational and wider external setting that can support or inhibit teams.
If you do have the time to read more on this topic, why not go to our teamwork articles. To read more of about our teamwork concept – the STAR team model- see our articles teamwork theories, teamwork defined and teamwork in the workplace. For a more general introduction to team a good place to start might be to think through why is teamwork important , or you may want to think about how you define teamwork or reminding yourself of the benefits of teamwork.