Working with Top Management Teams: Conversations Contributing to Board Development

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Sheffield Hallam University for the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Richard D Field OBE - April 2005


There has been much written about top teams, that is, existing teams that have the executive responsibility for leading their organisations each day, not specifically focused on one project or one change programme. However, little research has been carried out on meetings processes within ongoing top management teams and almost no research has been carried out over an extended period which has involved top management team members in their own Action Research. This research covers the period from early-2000 until mid-2004, and includes fieldwork with three organisations: Yorkshire Water, Loop Customer Management and A4e Work. An ‘Iterative Meetings Model’ has been developed that identifies what areas emerge when addressing team meetings; and within this model there has been developed a ‘Dialogue Process for Top Management Team Meetings’ which identifies how to communicate in meetings, if team members wish to be more effective. The dialogue process entails initially setting guidelines to be followed, which are replaced as team members gain confidence and awareness of themselves and what their own specific process and relationship principles need to be if they are to be even more effective. Their perceived progress, or lack of it, is also measured by using the four-stage group development model which, together with a specific review model, provide material for team discussion and a deeper understanding of the process, of relationship principles, of other team members, and of themselves. During the research, further insights were gained, amongst these were: that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) plays a key role; the importance in having a top team purpose, as distinct from that of the organisation; the quality of conflict within the team changes as members progress through their stages of development; and there is an ongoing need for team relationship building.

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