Time to go wild: How to conceptualize and measure process dynamics in real teams with high-resolution

Florian Klonek, Fabiola Heike Gerpott, Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, Sharon K. Parker
  • Organizational Psychology Review, November 2019, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/2041386619886674

Understanding dynamics in teams over time with new non-traditional methods

What is it about?

We reviewed 42 studies that tried to understand the role of “time” on team dynamics. With dynamics, we mean changes in the way that teams are interacting with each other over time. Furthermore, we looked at various types of "real" teams (surgical teams, flight crews, military teams, collaboration between online crowd-sourcing workers, but also research teams that go on Mars missions for multiple months). Our goal was to better understand: 1) What novel methods currently exist to study team dynamics? 2) How do researchers think about "time" when they approach team dynamics? 3) How can we help this field of research to move forward? What did we find? 1) Team dynamics have been studied with various methods, such as video-recordings teams while they are working on a task, analyzing logged online activities from virtual teams, or the use archival sports performance records from professional sport teams (e.g., NBA or ice-hockey). 2) Team dynamics occur over significantly different time spans (spanning from seconds to multiple years) and dynamic shifts are often relevant for team effectiveness. As an example, for micro team dynamics, the reviewed literature has shown that action teams change their interaction patterns when they face a crisis (this is often relevant in safety related contexts, such as aviation or nuclear power plant operators) As an example, for macro-dynamics, the reviewed literature has shown that dynamics of team resilience (i.e., the ability of a team to bounce back from an adverse event, e.g., when an important team members leaves the team) affects team performance trajectories over multiple months. 3) To help the field move forward, we provide a "how-to" guide that helps to study team dynamics with high resolution.

Why is it important?

Our review is important for the larger scientific field of “team science” as we have outlined various methodological approaches (and how researchers can use them) which will help researchers in tracking how teams are operating while working on important tasks. Our research clarified how we can better study these complex social processes and how researchers can come up with more precise models that can tell when specific issues are going to arise within a team and what can be done about it. Our review is also important for organizations and people working in teams as our review shows that changes in interpersonal and task-related dynamics affect team performance. Furthermore, organizations learn that it is important to monitor both short-term and long-term team dynamics as this is crucial for the success of many team tasks (e.g., dealing with unexpected events when flying a plane, but also dealing with conflicts during a multi-month mission on Mars).


Florian Klonek
Curtin University

I am very proud about this work. There are many novel non-traditional methods that researchers can use to track various dynamic processes that happen in teams, but our field has very little knowledge how to use these methods nor at what time frames dynamics happen in teams. I hope that this article helps to systematically study phenomena that occur in teams and that are inherently interesting.

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The following have contributed to this page: Florian Klonek and Fabiola Heike Gerpott