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Team building and climate setting

Constructivist assumptions and techniques are particularly relevant when groups of employees are first formed, or re-constituted. It is normally assumed in organisation development (O.D.) work that effective collaboration in a group requires complementarity of personal skills, views and perspectives rather than similarity or identity (see e.g. Belbin, 1981), and a personal construct approach which addresses issues of individuality, commonality, and especially, sociality is particularly apposite.

Repertory grids can be used where an exchange and sharing of precisely expressed personal views and assumptions about issues of shared importance is required. More usefully, though, it is the process by which participants explore their construing, rather than any statistically-based comparison of constructs based on similarity and differences of grid ratings, which is valuable. Often, the simple identification of the elements the individuals use as applicable to a topic, and the use of a flipchart to display and publicly share those elements, leads to valuable insights and fruitful discussion. Constructs might be elicited and shared in the same way, their actual content, rather than their use as dimensions for a rating scale exercise, being the focus of attention.

And thus a variety of constructivist techniques might be used. Jones (1996; 1998) used various small-group exercises, training inputs, personal-and group-reflective analysis methods such as self-characterisation technique and personal assignments based on fixed-role-therapy rationale, alongside individual repertory grids, to encourage medical consultants and hospital managers (two notoriously ill-articulated groups) to understand each others’ perspectives and develop more collaborative working practices.

It has been suggested (Eden, 1988) that repertory grids are too constrained and inflexible a technique to be effective when working with senior managers. These are people who prefer a more flexible way of identifying patterns in their collaborative construing than the repertory grid can provide for. Eden advocates directed graph technique instead. This computes means-end implicational relationships, using graphically simple and user-friendly diagrams of ‘what leads to what’ and ‘what depends on what’ as input. And, again, it is less the statistical analysis, and more the exchange of views on each other’s initial diagram, which is beneficial. Nevertheless, the analysis does provide for a flexible identification of categories of constructs for their strategic implications as participants examine the policy alternatives associated with their way of construing the issue in question.


  • Belbin, R.M. (1981) Management Teams: why they Succeed or Fail. London: Heinemann.
  • Eden, C. (1988) Cognitive mapping: a review. European Journal of Operational Research 36, 1-13.
  • Jones, H. (1996) Engaging doctors. In White, A. (ed.) A Textbook of Management for Doctors. London: Churchill Livingstone.
  • Jones, H. & Jankowicz A.D. (1998) Bringing two worlds together: personal and management development in the Health Service. Human Resource Development International 1, 3, 342-346.

Devi Jankowicz

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004