More and more, teams carry the organizational workload. The extent and quality of their collaboration is becoming a focus of practical and theoretical attention. However, a developmental theory of teams, whether social-emotional or cognitive, does not exist. What is clear is that the hidden (= developmental) dimensions of team performance are now defining companies’ competitive edge and chances of survival.
The slide set on developmental process consultation, below, written almost 15 years ago, gave the first hint that team maturity is a fruitful subject of research. Developmental research, over-focused on the individual, was making it clear that ‘maturity’ was not a psychological, but foremost a social-emotional and cognitive-developmental issue. From this insight emerged Laske’s social-emotional team typology outlined in chapter 11 of volume 1 of Measuring Hidden Dimensions in 2005 (see ).
Aside from the lack of social-emotional data on teams, an even greater gap in public knowledge is the lack about teams’ cognitive status, regarding their fluidity of thinking and complexity handling capability. This issue is even more arcane to most since contemporary developmental theory continues to reduce cognitive performance either to logical task performances (as in M. Commons’ work) or to social-emotional stage positions (as in work by the Kegan tribe).
But the cognitive ability of teams is a self-contained and irreducible issue, and without investigating it teams will never be understood. This holds all the more since, as Laske’s (confidential) assessment work since 2000 has shown, there is an intrinsic and close link between social-emotional and cognitive maturity, however different the empirical scores attesting to them may outwardly look.
Below, the reader finds a set of slides on developmental process consultation which refines Edgar Schein’s work by extending it to the social-emotional domain.
Jan De Visch and myself first carried out the extension of E. Schein’s work into the cognitive-developmental domain in our book DYNAMIC COLLABORATION (see www.connecttransform.be). We do so in greater detail in our book entitled PRACTICES OF DYNAMIC COLLABORATION (Springer 2020). In these more recent books we make the ramifications of developmentally divided team minorities and majorities even more clear by reversing the meaning of the notions of ‘upwardly’ and ‘downwardly’ divided teams (as found in the slides of 2005). We do so in order to emphasize our hypothesis that teams whose majority is more highly developed than its minority follow an ‘upward’ directed tendency, while teams of the opposite constitution follow a ‘downward’ spiral in their performance. In addition, we show in detail that these tendencies occur on three levels of successively higher work complexity whose task focus is on (a) continuous improvement, (b) value stream management, and (c) business model transformation, respectively. In this we follow the further hypothesis that the quality of team performance manifests itself in the quality of the dialogue, external and internal, a team is capable of maintaining.
In a further step we can say that what holds for teams also holds for groups that are not teams, or strive to become teams. Organizational groups are developmentally diverse, comprising members at different levels of social-emotional meaning making. Frequently, such groups comprise an even broader developmental range than teams, in which adjacent levels such as T-2/3, T-3/4, and T-4/5 are the norm. It is this diversity, especially once cognitive-developmental diversity comes into play as well, that accounts for the difficulty in group conversations to achieve true dialogue. In fact, this difficulty is at the core of organizational ‘culture wars’.