There is a vast amount of research available to support all kinds of organizational teams. When we look at the data of human behavior and apply statistics, patterns began to emerge. These patterns give us insight into how teams function. This information is useful because it provides us with a better understanding of people and how they interact with other people. For example, a colleague, mentor and good friend of mine, Dr. Marilyn Dudley-Rowley, conducted research surrounding deviant behavior. When she was evaluating her research data an incredible phenomenon or pattern began to emerge. She called the phenomenon “the third quarter phenomenon”.
The third quarter phenomenon has to do with team design and the outcome that impacts team performance. The third quarter phenomenon is about similarities and differences between team members and how these factors play a role in influencing a team’s performance. The research that Marilyn conducted considered organizational teams working in extreme environments. For example, one team could have been on a military submarine mission, another team on a ship working in the arctic and another team working in space. The common thread in all of these teams was that they were working in isolation. The nearest land or available supplies were several months out of reach.
Her research identified that when teams were more similar in all aspects of knowledge, skill sets, abilities, including where they went to school and other factors, the team worked very well together. She found that these type of closely aligned teams showed high performance scores. Whereas teams that shared less similarities in aspects of knowledge, skill sets, abilities, school, and other factors, basically they had less in common, their performance scores were much lower.
However, as she continued evaluating the data that is when she discovered the third quarter phenomenon. In every team she evaluated she noticed that three quarters of the way through a project the teams that were more similar in all aspects began to show signs of low performance and the teams that shared less similarities began to show signs of higher performance scores in the same third quarter. Eventually their performance scores completely flipped and teams that were originally slow in performance began to outperform teams that started out strong. She contributed her findings to several human factors. Some of these included communication, assumptions, and an unspoken communication that developed between team members.
Author: Dr. Eduardo Diaz, helping you exceed expectations.