Army Crew TeamRunning head: ARMY CREW TEAM THE ARMY CREW TEAM Dwight M. Brewington Fayetteville State University MGMT 605 October 23, 2011 Dr. Kathleen Gurley Abstract The case is centered on events of the Army crew team’s annual crew season in May 2002, four days before The Nationals, a 2000 meter race where crew teams row for the best time in an intercollegiate competition. The varsity team has been consistently beaten by the junior varsity team, even though, the eight Varsity rowers are supposed to be the top eight performers of the team and the Junior Varsity is comprised of the bottom eight performers.
Coach Preczewski’s dilemma forces him to a decision point where he has to decide between three options which are: 1. Switch Varsity and Junior Varsity boats. 2. Switch individual boat members. 3. Intervene to improve the Varsity boat’s performance. THE ARMY CREW TEAM The Army Crew Team case study introduces The Army Crew Team in rowing from The United States Military Academy at West Point and their nine year coach Colonel Stas Preczewski.
Coach P and the Army Crew Team find themselves at an impasse late in the 2001-2002 season where the Junior Varsity crew team is has been outperforming the Varsity crew team all year long causing the Varsity team to appear to fall apart four days before The Nationals instead of working toward becoming a more cohesive team unit. 1. Why does the Varsity team lose to the JV team? Look for the root causes below the surface dynamics. Surface dynamics are the finger pointing and dislike team members have for each other. Why is this occurring?
One of the root causes why the Varsity team loses to the JV team are the absence of leaders and the presence of team disrupters. From the case study, crew team members were rated subjectively in a matrix of strengths and weaknesses on various dimensions where the complement to leader was follower as team builder was the complement to team disruptor. In a sport where team synergy is paramount just the presence of team disruptors alone is reason enough for the varsity crew team to experience a situation where “the whole is less than the sum of the parts”. Snook, 2004) The absence of a leader on the Varsity team created more of a collective of individuals following their own lead rather than followers united behind a leader that continually communicates the shared vision. This evidence can be supported by the fact seen in the consistency of the slogan by the JV crew team and the variations of the slogans by the varsity where the JV team was always on the same page and the Varsity seemed to be all over the place.
It is also my opinion that Coach P makes team coaching decisions based too much on objective data and is not giving results of subjective data the enough merit. Another root cause can be attributed to the loss of trust among the Varsity crew team after the first loss to the JV team. The placement of crew members in the top eight sets the expectation that the top eight logically should outperform the bottom eight, so, when this expectation is not met, members are more likely to mistrust each other and in turn doubt and animosity feed negative energy into the team environment.
The Varsity team probably felt that the losses were due to certain individual “weak links” (Snook, 2004) that did not belong on the top tier while the JV coming out victorious wanted no part of the rejects form the Varsity team which ramped up the competitive environment even more. Also the communication failures between the coach and the Varsity team and among the Varsity team members themselves seemed not to be recognized as being a problem when indeed it was a major problem.
For instance, the case described how Coach P championed the idea of rowing with their eyes closed so they could reach “a rower’s paradise” (Snook, 2004), however through feedback communication channels the Varsity team members vented frustration about putting in hard work individually and feeling no coordination from the rest of the team. The occurrence of finger pointing and team members disliking each other were the symptoms of the root causes I have just explained.
In my opinion these surface dynamics are a scapegoat and a ploy for the Varsity crew members to save face. 2. What should Coach P. have done differently earlier in the season to resolve this problem? At exactly what point should he have intervened differently? Relate your answer to how the change you are suggesting eliminates some of the root causes. To resolve problems earlier in the season Coach P should have corrected the absence of leadership on the Varsity team.
Instead of focusing more on the objective data, Coach P should have took a more balanced approach by equally considering the results of the subjective data gathered in the matrix of strengths and weaknesses as well as the objective data. In focusing on both the objective and subjective data the absence of leadership that the Varsity team displayed could have been corrected and in addressing this root cause in turn would have effectively addressed the problem with team disruptors as well.
It was at this point that Coach P should have used the suboptimum option to intervene to improve the Varsity boat’s performance by creating strength from shoring up a weakness. It is my thoughts that the absence of leadership is too important an issue to not address, so, once Coach P was aware of this information he should have acted immediately. Coach P as a coach could have delayed placing title on the two teams after considering the subjective data and more eight man team performance.
The root cause of mistrust between the Varsity crew members among themselves and the apprehension to accept Varsity rejects by the JV crew members after the first Varsity crew loss would have been lessened had Coach P not given the two groups of eight titles so early in the season and had allowed for the individuals to build strong trust between each other that would have multiplied when finally placing titles to a team. Again, it is apparent Coach P has overly focused on the objective data and should have weighed more factors before choosing teams.
The root cause of mistrust between the upper eight and the lower eight and the team as whole could have been exchanged for an environment that fostered trust had Coach P not so hastily assigned titles to the Army crew team. Since the JV crew team win over the Varsity crew team were unprecedented, Coach P could have “reset” the eight man team selection and set equal expectations for individuals regardless of the group they were assigned and effectively eliminate the negative energy associated with animosity replaced doubt with hope, breeding an environment of trust.
The coordination between the Varsity crew team was definitely problematic, as the discussed, it wasn’t that the JV crew team was putting out better times, it was that the Varsity team appeared to be working against each other and were not achieving the swing that they so easily demonstrated in the first race of the spring season. If the Varsity crew team actively listened to the coach, each other and had the coxswain actively communicated which individuals needed to make adjustments, outcomes could have been very different for the varsity crew team.
The root cause of communication failure seemed to go unnoticed by Coach P and the team members. The e-mails to the coach and the feedback sessions of the team were very telling that the varsity team communication failure was affecting their coordination and team cohesion. These feedback sessions and e-mails would have also been the opportunity for Coach P to step in to intervene in real time so as to not allow for communication failure to occur and be ongoing only drowned by the noise of more miscommunication. 3.
At the end of the case, what action should Coach P. take on Tuesday? Why do you recommend this action? How should he implement this action? On Tuesday Coach P. should switch Varsity and Junior Varsity boats. I support this recommendation because the root causes that I addressed above cannot be mitigated in a four day period. Coach P should use his power and influence over the team to convince them the whole team that it is in the best interest of the two teams to switch titles based on the experiences during the seasons.
Coach P can also use the fact that coach at Cornell had done the same back in the 1990’s. Efforts had already been made to improve the Varsity crew team’s performance and had been an epic fail most of the season and switching individual crew members too late in the season may take away from team synchrony when it counts the most. On another note, Coach P could sell the idea that the underperforming Varsity crew team has just not reached their maturity as a team and that the JV team has met that expectation quicker and deserves the title because they have earned it. . What lessons can we learn from the Army Crew team that can be applied to other types of organizational teams? You should be able to come up with at least three lessons learned. Organization teams can learn from the Army Crew Team’s lessons in the importance of establishing a group leader, starting from an environment of trust and avoiding the trap of mistrust, and looking at the effectiveness of coordination to gauge possible failures in communication.
The Varsity crew team did not benefit from the absence of leadership, instead a team leader was replaced with a team disruptor and no organizational team can be successful in such a situation. The lesson of trust possibly learned by organizations from the Army Crew Team case should be that a trusting environment is necessary to maintain lasting relationships among team members if not then the team will fall apart.
Team Organizations can look to the Army Crew Team and see the lesson in active listening. Without active listening coordination of activities is reduced due to not paying attention to the “minutiae”. (Snook, 2004) Conclusion Coach P and the Army Crew Team were at decision point where the Varsity crew team, the supposedly top performers, had to be considered as second best to the JV crew team that performed extraordinarily during the 2001-2002 rowing season.
After discussing the team experience during this annual season, it is discovered that the varsity team has a lack of leadership, mistrust among team members and a failure to communicate that in turn is impeding coordination. Being too late in the season to address these root causes, it is my recommendation that Coach P switch the titles of the JV Crew team to Varsity and leet the Varsity team compete as the team. References Snook, S, & Polzer, J (March 30, 2004). THE ARMY CREW TEAM. Harvard Business Publishing, 9(403-131), 23-33, Inline Citation — (Snook & Polzer, March 30, 2004)