8 Best Team Building Methods Series – Wheelan and Locke Methods

Published Categorized as Project Team
best team building methods
best team building methods

This article is the last part of a 4 segments series on best team building methods. If you have found this article through search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) I would recommend you start by reading the head piece of the series – The 8 best team building methods – to get an overall view on the topic and then follow the links to discover the entire series.

Best Team Building Methods: Wheelan’s Integrated Model Of Group Development

Use this, to deepen your understanding of the developmental stages that groups go through.

Susan Wheelan built on Tuckman’s model and suggested that groups achieve maturity simply through the process of working together. She claims that there is a significant relationship between the length of time that a group has been together and their behavioral patterns. She describes these relationships using a four-stage model based on a life-growth cycle.

  • Maturity: Performance improves as the team becomes clearer about their roles and objectives.
  • Adulthood: Roles and structure are formalized as the team starts to come together.
  • Adolescence: Leadership authority is challenged. Conflict about values emerge, disagreements occur and subgroups and coalitions are formed.
  • Infancy: Team members are dependent on the leader’s direction and support. Conformity is high and members fear rejection.

To accompany the model Wheelan developed a Group Development Observation System (GDOS) which assesses each member’s perception of what stage they think the team is at. Using this information managers can change their management style to match the teams developmental stage and meet its needs.


Use the Group Development Observation System (GDOS) (available online) to assess each member’s perception of what stage they think the team is at.

  • In phase one (infancy) look out for team members who display the characteristics shown in infancy such as dependency, immaturity and a need to be wanted. Invest time and effort with these people. Explain what you want, answer questions, provide support and model the behavior you expect from them.
  • In phase two (adolescence) you can expect conflicts about values, challenges to your authority, disagreements and fights to break out. Remain calm and remember that it’s not personal. Provide both opportunities and time for staff to talk to you and each other. Use these conversations to emphasize the shared values that you expect the team to exhibit.
  • In phase three back off as the team enters young adulthood. If you want the team to reach full maturity, you must resist becoming too involved with the team’s decision making. Act as a facilitator not a director and let the team sort out its own mistakes.
  • Phase four (maturity) is where your team have the confidence and belief to tackle even the most challenging tasks alone. Allow them space, don’t interfere, but keep a familial eye on them and celebrate their achievements. They may have cut the apron strings but (hopefully) they will still respect you and value your advice, praise and appreciation.


  • Do I have the ability to support my team members through each phase?
  • Is there someone outside the team who I can talk to in confidence to help me with this?

Best Team Building Methods : Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

Use when you want to motivate, monitor and control staff by using targets.

Edwin Locke claimed that there was a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal was and how well a team performed. Goal setting principles:

  • Task complexity
  • Feedback
  • Clarity
  • Challenge
  • Commitment

The five principles that underpin successful goal setting:

  • Clarity: When a goal is clear and specific, there is less misunderstanding within the team about who is expected to do what, to what standard and within what time frame.
  • Challenge: Teams are motivated by challenge and achievement. A ‘good’ goal is one which is difficult but do-able and which team members believe will give them great satisfaction when achieved.
  • Commitment: Teams are more likely to ‘buy into’ a goal if they feel they were part of creating the goal.
  • Feedback: Teams react positively to action by the leader that clarifies expectations, adjusts goals and acknowledges achievement.
  • Task complexity: Teams may get excited by working on challenging tasks but they may also get overwhelmed if the task is too complex.

Locke asserts that the underlying purpose of goal setting is to facilitate success. If managers fail to make targets clear and specific they will frustrate and inhibit staff from achieving their objectives.


  • Recognize that if your team isn’t operating as effectively as it should the problem may lie with you. Did you set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited goals (SMART targets)? If not, redraw them. Ensure that each goal is both challenging and realistic. Aim too high and you’ll demotivate your team. Aim too low and the team will become bored and disinterested.
  • Once you have set SMART targets ask staff to set their own individual targets. Have them use the SMART approach and make sure that their targets are compatible with the team’s goals. By doing this, you keep everyone motivated and committed to an integrated set of personal and team goals.
  • Provide regular feedback to both individuals and the team but don’t go overboard. You don’t need daily team meetings or meetings to agree agendas for meetings etc. Instead, provide feedback as and when you come into daily contact with people and hold short, snappy meetings to discuss and record progress.
  • For complex tasks take special care to ensure that you don’t overwhelm the team. Those team members who are used to working on complex tasks may be straining to strut their stuff. But less experienced staff may feel under severe pressure to perform. Keep an eye on them and talk to them regularly.


  • Have I set SMART targets for the team and each person in it?
  • Do my meetings help the team achieve its targets or slow it down?

Closing down this article I will provide you with several links in order to explore all the content on best team building methods. If you want to check out the rest of the series follow the link: 8 Best Team Building Methods You Should Know.

Hope you enjoyed our content, and see you in the next one.

By Alex Puscasu

I am a Project Management practitioner with more than 5 years experience in hardware and software implementation projects. Also a bit of a geek and a great WordPress enthusiast. I hope you enjoy the content, and I encourage you to share your knowledge with the world.