Quite some time back, I was doing team development training for one of the better known MNCs. Based on Belbin analysis, it became apparent that this organization was critically deficient in one of the team roles, and I raised an alarm. I pointed out to HR Head who took me to (expat) MD. I told him my concerns that going by what I found, this organization may seriously suffer in market share in India, even though this MNC was no. 2 globally. He could not appreciate the connect and said that he would refer my observations to Global HQ for necessary advice. He did ask how this happens. I explained that such deficiencies are not unusual because people recruit people who fit into their concept of who is the ‘right type’. Some of them justify such selection under the ‘umbrella’ of culture fit. So when an organization is set up, top person recruits persons of his/her type and then his recruits repeat the pattern, right up to the lowest executives. This results in certain strengths of the organization as well as certain weaknesses. I call these weaknesses genetic because they are organization-wide and become a part of the organization from the very beginning. Because of organization’s strengths, it may become very successful but ‘genetic’ weaknesses can become the nemesis of the organization.
In the organization quoted above, in the entire top team of 36 people, there was hardly anyone who could fit into the ‘Plant’ role (one of the roles in Belbin typology) and, therefore, though there were brilliant executors, etc., there was a lack of creativity in the company. Obviously, this deficiency did not affect the company in technology edge because the design etc. would come from the home base abroad. But the company could not innovate the right strategies in the changing market place in time and hence struggled to 5th and 6th position in the market share till close to a decade.
I did not hear from them later; in any case, I was just a training vendor. HR Head also left after some time.
Belbin Assessments continue to be gold standard in team diagnosis and audit. I generally use Belbin in conjunction with FIRO-B or FIRO-Business because more often than not, people per se are not good or bad, it is the chemistry between the two or a group of people. This doesn’t mean that a team has to have people of similar traits. In fact, more diverse and balanced the team, the better the chances of long term success.
Many assessment companies have developed their assessment models based on Belbin work. Some other companies like Hogan have projected team picture based on aggregation of team members’ motivation, values & preferences, personality factors and derailers.
I have also learned that progression from single-person coaching to team diagnostics and coaching is not linear or automatic. Team related work requires a lot more sensitivity, understanding and skill including tools, In order that 1+1 becomes anywhere from 3 to 11.