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Team Development Programme: a training manual – Review


Author: Joan Walton
Publisher Russell House Publishing
Published: February 2002
Price: £29.95

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Whilst team development has been an issue ever since people started to organise their work within collaborative groups, the first seminal book on the subject for me was the classic 'Team Development Manual' by Mike Woodcock and Dave Francis (versions of which are still available). They established both a standard and a format by including both easily understood theoretical models, diagnostic tools, and a range of practical activities. Since that time there have been a multitude of books and manuals adopting a similar approach covering all the many aspects of team development. Whenever a new title appears on the market, you have to ask "What does this one add to the existing stockpile?".

Joan Walton's manual is rooted in the field of social care where the materials have been extensively tested within residential care settings. The examples and issues discussed tend to reflect this public sector background, and trainers working in other settings may need to adapt and adjust the materials for their use. This can be both helpful and challenging. The social care setting necessarily involves references to supervision, stress, conflict, feedback, assertiveness, and values – not all of which are widely recognised or practiced in other work settings.

In a useful introductory section, Walton provides guidance for group leaders on how the materials and activities in her ten modules can be used. Interestingly, she explores the relative merits of using an external consultant, internal training officer, or other team leader to facilitate the process. I detect a definite preference for using experienced managers within the same organisation to run programmes in each other's teams – and avoiding some of the problems associated with outside facilitators. This sets the tone for the modules which follow: there is no need for mysticism and magic about team-building. It is a process of clarification, communication and collaboration from which any group can benefit without engaging in expensive external processes.

Each of the modules and its associated activities can be undertaken individually for existing teams, or combined into a longer programme for more recently-formed teams. The materials are presented with clear guidelines and easy-to-use activities and handouts. There are references to follow-up materials for those who want to take each topic further.

Over the past few years, increased attention has been paid to 'new management' approaches to team-working. Realising the limitations of a focus on task, relationships and processes, some managers and trainers have started to look at the more unconscious elements operating with the workplace. Developing practical resource materials which focus on the aggregate history, inherent culture, holistic relationships, unconscious power, and institutional reflexes of a team or organisation has proved difficult. These elements are easier to define in theory than to surface through exercises. Whilst beyond the scope of the present manual, the two modules on stress and values are particularly welcome as they enable teams to address questions about some of the deeper processes operating within workplaces.

This is a useful and practical addition to the team-working library and will be most easily used by those interested in team self-development and those in social care settings. Perhaps also worth highlighting is the relative cheapness and accessibility compared to many of the more expensive tomes in this field.

Tim Pickles,
Founder, TrainingZONE


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