A Common Language for Teams

A Common Language for Team Performance

The Role of a Team Leader:

         As team leaders of grade level learning communities, one of our responsibilities is to support the Shanghai American School vision. Developing the skills, understanding, and dispositions to facilitate this goal is important.  Engagement and discussions with my learning community have led to deeper reflections and a quest to better understand these current team interactions.  A current focus for the 2010-2011 school year at SAS is the development of Critical Friends Groups (schoolreforminitiative.org).  One of the questions that members of critical friends groups focus on is, “What are the collegial conversations that make a difference?”

Purpose of this work:

         I have come to believe that reflecting on and having an awareness of highly effective teams can lead to sustained, quality team performance. There are a wide variety of team performance models. I have been experimenting with the use of a model from The Grove Consultants International called the Team Performance Model. I bring this model to our meeting as a team leader and as a member of this leadership team with the hope of engaging in meaningful learning and having a conversation that “makes a difference” about the implications that the Team Performance Model (Sibbet, 2002) has for our work as team leaders.

A Metaphor for Team Performance

                   As I stated earlier, an awareness of the actions of highly effective teams can lead to improved team performance.  As a team, we are working toward the accomplishment of our SAS vision and our unique learning community vision and goals.  Exploring the Team Performance Model can provide us with a common language and a metaphor for communicating about team performance. 

         The SAS middle school team leader is engaged in multiple daily activities and the facilitation of the learning communities’ accomplishment of SAS goals. These interactions can be thought of as group processes.

         The Team Performance Model combines the ideas of group processes and team building.  David Sibbet of The Grove Consultants International has drawn heavily from the work of Arthur M. Young (Young, 1976) and his work on the Theory of Process in developing the Team Performance model.  Young states,


Process, as the dictionary defines it, consists of steps taken to reach an end. Therefore any process projects a goal and goes through means (constraints) to gain it. We may therefore depict this descent and ascent which process develops as an arc (Sibbet, 2002, p. 13).


         The arc reference in the above quote helps in thinking about the Team Performance Model as a metaphor of a continuously bouncing ball. The Team Performance Model also builds on the work of Jack Gibb (Ayre, Clough, Norris, 2002, p.31), who identified predictable stages in team formation.  His research led to the conclusion that teams go through predictable stages and repeating challenges. 

         The Team Performance Model is one model to help the learning community and the leadership team move through these stages toward sustained high performance using a common language.

A Guide to the Team Performance Model

         In reviewing the Team Performance Model the following ideas will help in the understanding of the model.

         In Facilitating Community Change (2007), the authors explain the key features of this model as the following;

Seven stages, four to create the team and three progressive stages of performance. The design graphically illustrates the "peak-and-valley" nature of all process as a central feature, starting at the "Top-line" freedom of "anything's possible" during Orientation, moving to the "bottom-line" constraints of deciding how to work together during Commitment, then finally regaining freedom and flexibility as constraints are mastered in High Performance and Renewal. (p.31)


         The bouncing ball metaphor also keeps the awareness that group process is always in motion. As teams move through each phase, the stage is either resolved or unresolved. We must keep in mind that the movement through the stages isn't linear.  Teams don't always start at Stage 1.  Team Performance is a constant process and although a stage may at one point in time be resolved, it isn't resolved forever. Teams recycle through the stages constantly, thus the bouncing ball metaphor.  

         As team leaders we have to decide upon actions.  Actions are aimed at a goal of some sort, reflected in the choices made by the group and the team leader.  These intentional actions can also be thought of as a group, or learning community, "having direction."  

         In the Team Performance Model, decisions that move process in a new direction are referred to as the "commitment".  As a team leader, or facilitative leader, recognizing the "commitment" and having an understanding of its implications is of crucial importance.

         Again, the Team Performance Model is one model to help the learning community and the leadership team move through these stages toward sustained high performance using a common language. With these ideas in mind we will review the Team Performance Model while thinking about the following questions:


         What are the implications for us as a leadership team?

What are the implications for you as a team leader?

         What are the implications for our learning community teams?

         What are the implications for our students?


         One of the outcomes I hope for out of this process is to open the door to engage in meaningful conversations about team performance and its implications in our learning community.






Works Cited



Ayre, Darvin, Gruffie Clough, and Tyler Norris. Facilitating Community Change. Boulder, Co.: Community Initiatives, 2000. Print.


The School Reform Initiative. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://schoolreforminitiative.org/>.


Sibbet, David. Principles of Facilitation: the Purpose and Potential of Leading Group Process. San Francisco, CA: Grove Consultants Internationall, 2002. Print.


Young, Arthur M. The Reflexive Universe: Evolution of Consciousness. New York: Delacorte, 1976. Print.