Analyzing Team Performance: In the Eye of the Beholder?
Published in Military Psychology
This study examined the effects of experience on the degree to which various team behavior characteristics were weighted in a team member's perception of team behavior importance. In general, the results supported the hypothesis that experience would moderate the extent to which team members weighted different team behavior characteristics when making judgments of overall team behavior importance. For the training teams, low-experience team members were found to place a higher emphasis relative to high-experience team members on the criticality of error, difficulty, importance to train, and difficulty of learning a team behavior. For the cargo helicopter teams, low-experience team members were found to place a greater emphasis on difficulty of performing a team behavior, whereas high-experience team members were found to place a greater emphasis on the time spent performing a team behavior. Results for fixed-wing attack teams were nonsignificant. However, the fixed-wing attack analyses were based on the smallest sample size (N=20), and inspection of the means in Table 1 suggests trends that are consistent with results for the cargo helicopter teams for the team behavior characteristics of difficulty and time spent. In summary, the results of this study suggest that team members may define the characteristics of teamwork differently as a function of individual differences and team experience. In other words, when conducting an analysis of team performance, the importance of teamwork and its corresponding behavioral characteristics are truly a function of the eye of the beholder.
Although the results of this study were inconsistent across the three aviation teams, one trend did emerge. That is, for all three aviation platforms, low-experience team members placed a greater emphasis on difficulty of performing a team behavior relative to high-experience team members when rendering judgments regarding the overall importance of a team behavior. Therefore, at least in aviation teams, difficulty of performing a team behavior may be a very salient characteristic for inexperienced team members when defining effective team performance, as opposed to difficulty of learning (i.e., as posited by the first hypothesis). These results are different from the results of Sanchez and lend support to the notion that results from research on individual-level tasks may not generalize to the team level. Furthermore, the behaviors that define effective team performance may change as team members gain team task experience (i.e., for cargo helicopter teams, emphasis on time spent performing the team behavior increased with team member experience, which provided support for the second hypothesis). These results lend additional evidence to the proposition that teams evolve and mature over time. Furthermore, these results provide evidence regarding the complexity of team behavior, which has been highlighted by a number of researchers.