How Can Teamwork Be Trained?
Teamwork interventions have utilized a number of training methods in order to target the regulation of team performance (i.e., preparation, execution, reflection) and management of team maintenance (i.e., interpersonal dynamics) dimensions. These intervention strategies generally fall under one of four categories.
First, the most basic approach to training and developing teamwork involves providing didactic education to team members in a classroom-type setting, such as lecturing about the importance of providing social support within the team or promoting ways to manage interpersonal conflict among teammates. This type of training has been found to be useful for enhancing team effectiveness (e.g., ).
A second category of team training involves utilizing a more interactive workshop-style format, wherein team members take part in various group activities, such as having discussions about the team’s purposes and goals (e.g., ) or working through case studies together (e.g. ).
The third broad category of team training involves simulation training, wherein teams experientially enact various teamwork skills, such as interpersonal communication and coordination, in an environment that mimics upcoming team tasks (e.g., airline simulators or medical patient manikins). Although often used as a means of fostering taskwork competencies (e.g., teaching new surgeons how to perform the technical skills of a medical operation), simulation training has been found to be an efficacious approach to teamwork intervention (e.g., ).
In addition to these three training approaches that occur outside of the team task environment (i.e., training within classroom and simulation settings), teamwork can also be fostered by incorporating team reviews in-situ (i.e., where the team actually performs its tasks), which allows teams to monitor/review their quality of teamwork on an ongoing basis. These team reviews involve some form of team briefs before (e.g., creating action plans), during (e.g., monitoring team members’ actions), and/or after (e.g., assessing the team’s performance) team task execution, and have also been shown to be efficacious in previous studies (e.g., ).
The effectiveness of teamwork interventions can be determined with an assortment of criteria, including team- and individually-based behaviors, cognitions, and affective states. Hackman and Katz 2010  posit that team effectiveness can be determined by examining the extent to which the team has achieved its a priori objectives. Since the broad purpose of forming a team is to produce something of value, it is perhaps unsurprising that the most widely tested criterion of team effectiveness has been team performance [18–20]. Thus, although teams come from an array of settings and are idiosyncratic in their own ways, one question that essentially all teams address at some point during their tenure is whether they are performing well. For example, is that road construction crew fixing potholes adequately? Does the local soccer squad have a respectable winning percentage? Has an elected political party successfully completed the tasks for which they campaigned? Did a special operations corps achieve the mission it set out to accomplish? When taken in concert, questions related to team performance are often of central interest when characterizing a team’s effectiveness.
In addition to assessing the outcome variable of team performance, researchers have also been interested in whether teamwork training actually improves teamwork itself. The efficacy of these interventions can be determined with a number of objective (e.g., products produced by an industry team), self-report (e.g., questionnaires regarding perceived social support amongst team members), and third-party assessments (e.g., expert ratings of team behaviors). Both general/omnibus measures of teamwork (e.g., ) as well as those assessing specific dimensions of teamwork (e.g., communication ) have been operationalized to examine the effectiveness of these interventions. For example, do team goal setting activities actually result in members creating and pursuing effective team goals? Does simulation training improve the requisite coordination processes among aviation cockpit crews? Has a didactic lecture contributed to improved conflict management among team members? Answering these types of questions is important for determining whether an intervention is actually efficacious in changing the variable that is targeted for improvement (i.e., teamwork behaviors).
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