Liam Healy & Associates

chartered occupational psychologists

Dysfunctional Team Intervention 

'How do we make a group of people, non of whom would naturally come together as a team were it not for work, function effectively as a team ?' 


Research shows that when a group of individuals are brought together as a team  to work on a task, the level of performance is less than what we would expect to find if we were to simply measure and then sum their individual effectiveness. Researchers in the field are well aware of this phenomenon and the problems it causes.

Most teams are simply collections of individuals, working at the individual level rather than at the team level. This comes about because each member brings  their own cognitive, emotional and behavioural styles to the team, but fail to become part of  an overall team structure and culture. This results in the team expending a significant proportion of it's energy and resources in non-efficient or non-task related  practices aimed at overcoming individual differences.  These are naturally occurring and predictable phenomena, and represent a significant distraction when the team tries to carry out it's functions and achieve it's goals.

Without expert intervention, most teams will never reach their full potential, and may even leave some of the members worse off on an individual level as they react to negative or disruptive team behaviours.

What Can You Do About It?

Each member of a team is as unique as a fingerprint, and the complex social and emotional interactions that occur between them guarantee that no two teams are ever the same.

Our Team Building Intervention is a highly structured, tried and tested method of  addressing and resolving obstacles to effective team performance. The Team Building Intervention begins by defining the current team structure and culture, before moving onto carefully planned individual and then team level assessment and development. Finally, the effectiveness of the intervention is assessed.

A typical Team Building Intervention Program may include:

  • Carrying out a Team Functioning Analysis to establish a baseline level of team behaviour. This may include an Interaction Process Analysis to establish the team's social-emotional / task orientation split, individual interviews, psychometric assessment, survey/questionnaire investigation, or a team based workshop.  
  • Working at the individual team member level to improve the skills, abilities and other characteristics we know are essential  for effective team functioning, or which the Team Functioning Analysis has identified as a deficit. This typically  involves  individual assessments and practical exercises aimed at highlighting and developing the team working skills of individual team members.  
  • Moving the level of analysis to the team and continuing the process started at the individual level, we then provide structured exercises in a supportive environment to enable the team as a unit to acquire and practice the required skills.  
  • Finally,  an evaluation is carried out comparing the results obtained to the original baseline.

The content of the program is designed around the results of the Team Functioning Analysis  as well as  the client's specific instructions. It may address some or all of the following :  

  • Barriers to effective team performance e.g. groupthink, polarization, conformity.
  • Setting team goals and objectives.
  • Group problem solving and decision making.
  • Creativity and innovation.
  • Adaptability and flexibility.
  • Pro-activity and initiative.
  • Conflict resolution.
  • Team member feedback and development.
  • Coaching and support.
  • Information sharing and communication.
  • The structural and cultural characteristics of teams.
  • Forming and developing an effective team.
  • The role of individual differences within the team.
  • Team leadership skills.
  • Bargaining and negotiation.

An intervention may be designed to work at an actual team level, or with team leaders who may have team development or leadership responsibility. The actual content is agreed with the client beforehand and is based on our analysis of what  the development needs of the team  may be, as well as  the client's requirements.

A dysfunctional or ineffective team needs to learn practical skills. Consequently, the interventions we design are highly practical in nature, and only introduce as much theory as is needed to inform the participants. For the practical exercises we use either our own established case studies and role plays, or design client specific tools based on the actual issues and tasks the team faces in real life.

It is important to understand that some of the information uncovered, and that the interventions and recommendations made, can themselves be difficult for a dysfunctional team to process and deal with - but that in itself is part of the challenge the team may need to face.

There is no fixed length of time for any team development intervention,  as this would defeat the point of doing it in the first place. Each intervention is unique and based around the client and the team's needs. It may range from a single one day activity or an ongoing program lasting for a number of weeks or months.

If you are not facing any actual team crisis, and just need to ensure your team's skills are up to date, we also offer 'Open' Team Training which furnishes  an existing or prospective team with the knowledge and skills required for effective team functioning.