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Belbin team roles are behavioral tools that provide an understanding of team member traits. Its application in project management allows a cluster of project activities with team members behaviorally suited to handle such activities, and helps in the formation of balanced teams.
The nine roles described by in the Belbin team role theory group is divided into three major categories: Action-oriented roles, people-oriented roles, and thought-oriented roles.
Image Credit: flickr.com/Ralph Mocklinghoff
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Action Oriented Roles
The shaper describes an energetic and highly motivated task-focused leader who displays drive and courage to handle pressure and overcome challenges and obstacles. He inspires others to the accomplishment of tasks through his or her dynamism.
The Shaper is prone to provocation, and displays aggression, which may offend other’s feelings. Project teams would do well to have a shaper, but the presence of more than one shaper could mean face offs between them, leading to in-fighting.
Implementers are disciplined, reliable, and conscientious individuals who work relentlessly to fulfill team obligations, or to implement ideas. They derive strength from their tough-minded and practical attitude.
Implementers remain inflexible and conservative and slow to respond to new possibilities. Any project team nevertheless requires implementers to turn ideas or aims into practical action.
Completer or Finisher
The Completer or Finisher brings conscientiousness into the team. Like Implementers, they consistently focus on fulfilling tasks, and paying attention to detail, focused on doing a thorough job in a time bound manner. Much like implementers, Completers or Finishers play a critical role in project execution. Finishers tend to remain anxious and worry unduly, however.
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People Oriented Roles
Coordinators are matured and confident chairpersons who clarify goals, promote decision-making, and delegate tasks to other team members. The coordinator thrives through his or her confidence and ability to sympathize with others but still reject their demands, and elicit work out of such persons at the same time. Such traits, while allowing them to perform, usually gives them a tag of a manipulator who offloads personal work. The project team leader or project manager is usually the Coordinator.
Team Workers are cooperative, mild, perceptive, and diplomatic individuals who enable difficult characters within the team to use their skills to positive ends, promote cooperation among team members, and intervene to avert potential friction. Team Workers thrive because of their superior listening skills, ability to remain social with awkward people, and remain sensitive to other's concerns. They work through their diplomatic skills and sense of humor.
The major shortcomings of Team Builders are their indecisive moments in a crisis and reluctance to do things that might hurt others. Such people play a major role in resolving day-to-day conflicts and ensuring smooth progress of work to meet project deliverables.
Resource Investigators are extroverts and communicative team members who explore opportunities and develop contacts. They seek out information and support and develop ideas that work. They thrive through their negotiation skills, social skills, and enthusiasm.
Resource Investigators are good initiators but lose their enthusiasm once the actual work starts. They also tend to be over optimistic.
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Thought Oriented Roles
The Plant solves complex problems through a creative, imaginative, and unorthodox approach. They take a radical approach to macro level team functioning and problems, without bothering about the incidentals. They tend to disregard practical realities, and remain preoccupied with their tasks to communicate effectively. Plants nevertheless play a key role in complex and uncertain projects and are considered to be essential when looking at Belbin team roles.
Monitor or Evaluator
Monitors or Evaluators are sober, discerning, judicious, prudent, and intelligent people with low achievement orientation. They bring forth blunt and objective judgment of the situation after considering all perspectives. Their ability to see the full picture and evaluate complete proposals makes them invaluable during times of crucial decision-making.
Monitors or Evaluators remain slow in decision-making owing to their tendency to consider things repeatedly. While making discerning judgments, they lack the ability to inspire others.
The Specialist role is a later addition to the original Belbin team roles. Specialists are dedicated, committed, single-minded, and self-starting individuals who provide the team with special or focused knowledge and skills in rare supply.
Specialists tend to dwell on the technicalities, and contribute only to a narrow area. They have their relevance in highly focused projects that require technical expertise.
Image Credit: geograph.ie/Albert Bridge
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The Belbin team roles describe the primary role of a team member, and back the concept with an inventory that allows evaluation of a team member’s dominant trait. Such awareness allows a company to deploy the right person for the right project, and for individual team members to work with their strengths and manage their weakness. The Belbin team model also allows project teams to identify gaps and overlaps in roles, and make necessary changes.
The hallmark of a successful team is balance. An ideal team generally has a Coordinator or a Shaper but not both, a Plant to stimulate ideas, a Monitor/Evaluator to maintain honesty and clarity, and one or more Implementor, Team Worker, Resource Investigator and/or Completer to drive work.
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The advantages of Belbin team model notwithstanding, the model has some limitations. For instance, it does not consider hierarchical relations between people or interpersonal equations that may make or mar team performance.
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"Belbin Team Roles". http://www.belbin.com/. Retrieved 13 January 2011