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Modern day operations at petrochemical plants require effective team interaction. Most modern process plants (those with distributed control systems) have crew structures which are based on control operators interacting with outside operators to control a process. In this situation, all operators share a common task of monitoring and adjusting the equipment. To perform this task successfully, they must exchange information and assist each other. Working as a team offers the advantages of having available a greater amount and variety of knowledge and skills and allows pooling of information, sharing of resources, and checking for errors in the decision process.

One recent study (J.A. Driskell, E. Sallas, "Collective Behavior and Team Performance," Human Factors, Vol. 34, No. 3, June 1992) developed a procedure which differentiates between people who are and those who are not effective team performers, and also examined some of their related character traits. In one part of the study, two subjects were isolated in separate rooms and presented a set of binary choice problems. The task they performed consisted of viewing a checkerboard pattern and judging whether the top or bottom of the pattern contained more white squares. However, the patterns always contained equal numbers of white squares in both top and bottom portions, meaning that there was no right answer to the question. After each pattern presentation, subjects exchanged information with their partner relating to their initial choice, and then each offered a final choice. In this type of situation (where there is no right answer), when disagreements occur a 50/50 decision rule is expected (I'll use my partner's advice 50% of the time, and use my own 50% of the time). The members who are less team oriented will reject their partner's input more often and instead use their own.

People who were judged to be less team oriented took their partner's advice an average of 16% of the time compared to 40% for team oriented individuals. The study also identified personality traits of the groups through the use of questionnaires. The study reported when disagreements occurred, non-team oriented individuals did not completely ignore their partner's input; they were, however, less likely to use or act on the information. These individuals also found their partner's input less valuable than team oriented members, and also believed it to be less useful to work as a team. However, when asked how satisfied they were to work with the group, there was no significant difference between team and non-team oriented individuals. This suggests non-team oriented individuals do not dislike working in groups, they just find them of little use.

The study also advanced the concept that bad team players are even worse team leaders. When the non-team oriented individual is placed in a position of coordinating group activities, the group is less likely to capitalize on the skills and viewpoints available from other team members.

Copyright © 1992 Beville Engineering, Inc. , All Rights Reserved


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This year's Fall meeting for the Center for Operator Performance will be October 24-26 in Corpus Christi. For more information, please contact Lisa Via. Guests are always welcome!


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