Building a Dairy Farm Team - Page 2

Country Aire Dairy Greenleaf, Wis. ( Mike Roemer )

Stages of Team Development

A dairy farm group goes through several stages before becoming a highly efficient and effective team. The stages are:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Initial Integration (norming)
  4. Total Integration
  5. Dissolution

Teams go through these stages at different rates and in different ways. Most will go through all five stages provided they don't stall at an early stage and cease to function.

Note carefully! We are describing a process uncommon in group work. Teamwork is easy rhetoric. The practice of teamwork challenges even the most experienced dairy farm managers. Some farm managers look for "top down" shortcuts. Some scoff at the time necessary to turn a group of people into a team. However, for those who understand the principles and then work hard at implementation, the payoffs can justify the effort.

We turn now to the characteristics typically associated with each of the five stages in the team development process.

  1. Forming
    1. Members become acquainted
    2. Members learn about goals and tasks of the team
    3. Members evaluate work associated with and benefits of the team relative to career and personal needs
    4. Almost everyone exhibits good behavior and courtesy
    5. Leader is identified
    6. Preliminary plans are made for the next steps
    7. Members enjoy a good and seemingly easy start
  2. Storming
    1. High emotion
    2. Conflict may occur during long and seemingly inefficient meetings
    3. There is a lot of “behind the bosses’ back” and “behind the leaders’ back” kind of grumbling
    4. High emotion characterizes some of the interaction among team members
    5. Doubts based on previous negative experiences cause people to be cautious
    6. Doubts emerge about ability to deliver all that is expected
    7. Writing a mission statement and/or goals is stressful and leads to additional statements about differences of opinion
    8. Outcome finally is to push ahead with a sense that some important progress has been made but that there is much still to be accomplished
  3. Initial Integration (norming)
    1. Team begins to function cooperatively
    2. Rules of acceptable conduct, or norms, are established
    3. Team needs begin to take precedence over individual needs
    4. Hostility ceases
    5. Mission statement and detailed goals are completed
    6. Individuals begin to experience benefits of close cooperation with others on the team
    7. Sense of closeness and group purpose emerges
    8. Team has some major successes
  4. Total Integration
    1. Major successes continue
    2. Conflict is rational
    3. Creative tension regularly reappears
    4. "What next?" is a compulsive question
    5. Team struggles with how to handle changing membership
    6. Successes are widely recognized
    7. Members are concerned more about the team than their own successes
    8. Team is well organized; meetings are short and efficient
  5. Dissolution
    1. No team goes on indefinitely
    2. Teams that have functioned well sense when change, new members, and “mission accomplished” have taken members back to the forming stage.

Cultivating Team Performance

Neither the farm manager nor outside cooperators, e.g., veterinarians, can accept responsibility for team performance. Each team is responsible for its own performance. However, the following guidelines for team members, managers, and cooperators can help cultivate team performance:

  1. Establish urgency. Have a driving cause, issue, or need.
  2. Pay particular attention to early planning meetings and actions. Remember that most groups never reach the norming stage of team development.
  3. Set some clear rules of behavior. Those rules will vary from team to team. Examples include holding all scheduled team meetings, starting meetings on time, volunteering to help each other with disagreeable jobs, saying thank you, and not talking about problems with neighbors and friends.
  4. Set and seize upon a few performance-oriented tasks and goals. Make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Timed.
  5. Challenge each other with fresh facts and information.
  6. Spend lots of time together. There is no substitute for a team caring about its members and each team member caring about the welfare of the team. Celebrate birthdays, go to a baseball game together, have frequent team meetings, and have a daily "coffee break" together.
  7. Exploit the power of positive feedback, recognition, and reward. Celebrating successes is time well spent.