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Army Crew - Management In Organizations

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The Army Crew team has two boats, one for the Junior Varsity team and the other for the Varsity team; each boat consists of eight team members. The team members train indoors during the winter off-season where they train for strength, technique, and endurance, which are the key factors in their performance. Physiologists indicate that a 2000-meter race is comparable to that of playing two back-to-back basketball games. Before the two teams were formed, a series of tests were carefully conducted, measuring each member’s speed, strength, and coordination. Coach P. also measured the success of the individual team members using an Ergometer, which measures the output of each individual rower over a given distance or period of time as part of the selection process. The top eight rowers were then placed on the Varsity team and the bottom eight were placed on the Junior Varsity team.

To succeed in the sport of rowing, the members need to develop not just as individuals, but also as a team. The boats are up to 60-feet long and are very narrow with the center of gravity above the water line. The oar’s entry into the water has to be within hundredths of a second of each other, according to John Smith, a crew coach in the late 1800’s. Because of the design of the boat, synchronization and teamwork are extremely important. The boat can be thrown off balance by one of the members simply tossing his head to move hair out of his eyes, which can result in one of the other members’ oar touching the water. This can cause significant deceleration of the boat. If the boat does get out of synchronization, then the rest of the team members need to trust that the person who is out of sync will correct himself.

There needs to be a high level of trust and confidence among the team members resulting in enhanced personal and group confidence. A tremendous amount of harmonized collaboration of individual efforts is required to reach synchronization in rowing. When a boat is synchronized, there is not as much strength needed, making rowing seem effortless. Therefore, winning teams are usually the most synchronized teams with exemplary collaboration among rowers. Crew racing is a test of immense strength, coordination and endurance; however, past studies have cited the importance of psychological variables and mental strength of the crew members as the most essential aspect of a successful crew.

An important fact to note is that while selecting the teams, Coach Preczewski used an objective process of measuring athletes’ individual strength and conditioning without focusing on the interpersonal skills of the team members. During the selection process, Coach P. conducted a series of races in which various combinations of two, four, and even six rowers competed against each other. However, Coach P. never made groups of eight before the team assignments were finalized. A crucial element in the sport of rowing is the performance of the team in totality. When the teams were formed, Coach P. had the Varsity and JV teams compete against each other. By making Varsity and Junior Varsity compete against one another, Coach P. may have inadvertently created a feeling of “us” versus “them”, thus preventing team members from learning from each other.

As the season progressed, the difference in performance between the two teams became more apparent. In an attempt to diagnose the problem, Coach P. constructed a matrix of 16 rowers listing their strengths and weaknesses on various dimensions. It revealed that even though the Varsity boat members have the best technical skills and conditioning among the rowers, they didn’t have anyone classified as team leader, while several of them were categorized as team disrupters. In contrast, the JV team had no team disrupters and the teamwork was flourishing among members.

In order to develop mutual relationships among the members of each team, Coach P. encouraged the members of each team to exchange emails to support each others’ efforts. The sample of emails from the JV team clearly indicated accountability and trust within the team in contrast to the Varsity team whose emails consisted of criticism for each other. The Varsity team, a potentially great team with strong individual contributors, was losing consistently to the JV team due to the issues related to trust, conflict, team accountability and inter-group rivalries. It is said that the competition between groups can provide motivation. But if the competition becomes too strong, it can inhibit co-operation and eventually lead to team dysfunction.

The Varsity team is suffering from internal and external attribution problems and the members blame themselves and others in their boat for the team’s poor performance. Some held the coach responsible for making them compete against the Junior Varsity team, and others blamed the river that they practiced



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