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Team Defensiveness: A Neglected Root Cause

Summary: This study assessed the presence and impact of team defensiveness in a quality-minded organization. Team defensive routines were defined as mechanisms that team members may initiate to protect themselves against embarrassments or threats and, at the same time, prevent the team members from tackling the root causes of their defensive behavior. A multiple-case, single-site strategy was designed within an action research program to collect qualitative evidence from the top two management teams in an ISO 9001-certified European software organization. Multiple methods were used to collect hard qualitative data on the multiple traits of defensiveness and its correlates. The methods included team members' scenarios, a response collage of unspoken exchanges, taped interviews, the researcher's notes, and a traditional corporatewide attitudinal survey. Further, results were cross-validated using causal loop diagrams and discussion sessions with the two teams. Findings support the hypothesis that the top management teams operated under defensiveness, and that defensiveness resulted in counterproductive consequences for the teams and the quality-minded organization. The dynamic relationships between defensiveness, TQM, and teamwork, as well as a nomological net of the defensiveness construct, are examined both theoretically and empirically. This study is the first in a larger research program designed to engage and reduce team defensiveness.

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  • Topics: Teams, Software Quality
  • Keywords: Cause and effect analysis,Cross functional teams,Team effectiveness,Learning,Software quality,Statistical methods
  • Author: Mazen, Abdelmagid
  • Journal: Quality Management Journal