Effective Team Reflection: The Role of Quality and Quantity

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Kai-Philip Otte, Udo Konradt,
and Martina Oldeweme of Kiel University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Effective Team Reflection: The Role of Quality and Quantity,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discusses some of the findings of this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

Although reflecting about past activities in teams is generally considered a very effective strategy for learning and improving team performance, previous research on this topic has often revealed contradictory results. Some studies even reported negative relationships between team reflection and team performance, suggesting that the relationship is more complex than originally expected. Since this represents a very interesting conflict between the theoretical assumptions and the empirical data, we tried to find new explanations for these results. When discussing the possible reasons, we came up with the idea that it may not be enough to ask teams how often or to what extent they reflect, but that previously unobserved factors could also play a role. In fact, in our investigations, we often witnessed teams that reflected only on a superficial level and that even when these teams realized that something was wrong, they seldom used the opportunity for in-depth analysis, further compromising their future performance. Accordingly, we wanted to determine whether both the quantity and quality of a team meeting needed to be considered in order to better understand the relationship between team reflection and team performance.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Although we believe that our findings provide important insights for the reflection process itself, we also believe that the general idea of the simultaneous consideration of quality and quantity is also applicable to other team processes. For example, other discussion-based processes, such as team planning, could be subordinate to similar principles. We therefore think that the distinction between quantity and quality can also provide valuable insights in other areas of research.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Our perspective on teams is still comparatively simple because we base our conclusions mainly on averages that are believed to represent a team and its actions appropriately. However, we have often seen in our own research that team members can sometimes judge the same object in a fundamentally different way. For example, we observed some very strong team leaders who literally repressed all of the other team members’ reflexive activities and assumed that the feedback we provided was manipulated, rather than admitting that their way of solving the problem was suboptimal. Accordingly, future research should include this plurality within teams more closely in their studies and conclusions in order to get a better and, above all, more complete picture of how team members interact and how these interactions affect the outcomes of a team’s actions.

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