Fostering team alignment and productivity with the GRPI model

Authored by Cynthia Oliver for MagnoliaTree

In today’s fast-paced business environment, team effectiveness and productivity are key facets to organizational success. As such, ensuring that alignment is created amongst team members is a foundational step in project management and execution. Throughout time, a number of models have been developed to foster team alignment. This article will introduce the GRPI model and how it is used in the workplace.

Developed in 1972 by Organizational theorist Richard Beckhard, The GRPI model was created to structure group efforts and diagnose problems within teams. In the model, the key factors that teams need to function in an effective way are outlined:

Conflicts within groups can be attributed to

  • Unclear goals – 80% of the time
  • Unclear roles – 16% of the time
  • Unclear processes – 3% of the time
  • Interpersonal relationships – 1% of the time

In his work in developing the GRPI model, Beckhard found that 80% of team conflicts are due to lack of goal clarity; the other 20% are split between the remaining three factors of the model. In order for teams to work effectively, there must be mutual understanding and consistent communication regarding these four factors. Ambiguity at any time related to these factors may cause conflict to arise throughout project journeys.

For teams embarking on large-scale projects, creating work plans based on the GRPI model is an effective way to ensure everyone is on the same page. While every team might structure their planning differently, addressing these four factors enables the right work to take place from the get-go.

In addition to this, the GRPI model serves as an excellent diagnostic tool throughout a project journey. If conflict or negative group dynamics exist, using questionnaires designed around the GRPI model can help identify the root cause of these challenges. These questionnaires ask team members to write down their understanding of the four GRPI factors, and also rank team alignment and dynamics on a scale.

Through the analysis of the gathered responses, there will be an understanding of where there is perceived alignment, and where individual answers differ amongst team members. With this data collected and analyzed, it will be evident where clarity needs to be recreated and energy needs to be shifted to get the work back on track.

A necessary driver in using the GRPI model is strong leadership at the helm of the work. As team members strive to complete their individual portions of projects, having leaders monitoring the bigger picture will ensure all facets of the model are enabling the right work environment. 

A strong leader must play a crucial role in defining and communicating organizational goals and motivates team members to achieve their best. By ensuring that team goals are in alignment with the broader vision, leaders set the stage for success. Leaders need to articulate the ‘why’ behind each goal, fostering a sense of purpose and commitment among team members. 

The GRPI model serves as a comprehensive framework for optimizing team performance. When combined with effective leadership and execution, it can create a clear work plan for successful team development and ensure a trajectory of continual growth and achievement. As leaders start their teams in a structured manner, they enable the right progress to unfold, and create a team dynamic that is able to tackle challenges as they emerge.

Looking to use the GRPI Model in your team’s work plan? Reach out to us here to learn how MagnoliaTree can help facilitate this work.

The 4-day week

Why change might make sense

According to a survey by Deloitte[1] 22% of millennials plan to quit their jobs because they are dissatisfied with their work-life balance. Never before has it been so important for a working generation to have a work-life balance. This makes a focus on this matter all the more important. If this is not taken into account, it will have a huge impact on talent acquisition and employee retention. After all, work-life balance and personal well-being are already more important to Generation Z than they are to Millennials. Paid time off and mental health days are essential for them.

“The Millennial generation has a different set of values than the generations before it. We are moving toward a post-material economy. People value intangible experiences more than money, and they need time for those experiences,” says Benjamin Hunnicutt, a professor at the University of Iowa who studies work and leisure.

This societal shift is not entirely surprising, given that the “standard” of work has changed repeatedly over time and the 8-hour workday is not an inherent “law of nature.” Let’s take a look at history.

The arrival of the 5-day, 40-work-hour workweek

Until 1908, the 6-day workweek was the norm. Only on Sundays could the workers take a rest day. Then, in 1908, a mill in the U.S. changed its system to a 5-day week because its employees, most of whom were Jewish, asked to be allowed to keep the Sabbath on Saturdays. This example was followed by many other companies. In the 1930s, the 5-day week was finally introduced across the board. The new work week with five days and 40 hours was also intended to combat unemployment.

In Germany, the development of the 5-day week was due to a regulation for factories in 1918, which was introduced under the leadership of social politician Ferdinand Hanusch and enshrined in law in 1918. At that time, however, it was still the rule to work up to 60 hours per 5-day workweek. In the following years, working hours were successively reduced: on February 1st, 1959, from 48 to 45 working hours and, from 1969 to 1975, gradually to 40 hours per week.

The 4-day workweek put to the test

The 4-day workweek is not a spontaneous trend in the business world. It has been tested or introduced by several companies. Microsoft Japan, for example, tested the concept in the summer of 2019 and found quite positive results: productivity increased by 40 percent as a result of the 4-day work week. Iceland has been studying the effects of the shortened working week in detail in a large experiment since 2015. The first test run involved up to 2,500 workers. In the second test run, more than 400 people participated, starting in 2017.

Iceland’s five findings from these test phases

  • Performance and productivity have remained constant with the 4-day week.
  • Overtime did not increase excessively compared to the 5-day week.
  • Conversion to the 4-day week is not as burdensome as feared.
  • Employees took less sick leave overall compared to the 40-hour week.
  • The 4-day week meant that many employees used their free time (more) wisely.

After the trial was completed, Icelandic unions and associations negotiated permanent reductions in working hours. Overall, about 86% of the total Icelandic working population now has the right to reduced working hours.

The benefits of the 4-day week at a glance

Increased motivation and health

Employees have longer recovery periods. This provides a great boost to motivation and can increase the willingness to work overtime on the four working days per week. Working time is used productively, and superfluous time wasters are usually eliminated. The three days for relaxation in turn have a positive effect on health. 

Employees have more time to sleep in, pursue hobbies, or spend time with their families. This has a positive effect on mental and physical health, and illnesses can be better cured or even prevented during the 4-day work week. Sickness-related absences are reduced as a result. A study by Henley Business School[2] shows that in companies that have introduced a four-day workweek, more than three-quarters of employees (78%) are happier, have less stress (70%), and take fewer sick days (62%).

The free working day can be used sensibly and without downtime in companies

If a visit to the doctor or the office is due, or if the car has to go to the workshop, the working day freed up by the 4-day week can be used for this purpose. This means that employees will not be absent from work.

Companies become more attractive to job seekers

The 4-day week has not yet become generally accepted in the labor market. Thus, companies can positively emphasize this offer when looking for employees and appear particularly innovative and flexible. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of employers said that introducing a four-day week has helped them attract and retain talent. [3] In addition, the 4-day week increases employee retention, as employees are less likely to quit due to the increased work-life balance.

4-day week increases productivity

As mentioned above, Microsoft was able to demonstrate a 40% increase in productivity during the test phase of the 4-day week in Japan. A New Zealand trust company switched to a 4-day work week and saw a 27% decrease in work stress, a 20% increase in productivity, and a 45% improvement in work-life balance.[4]

The 4-day week has a positive impact on climate and gender equality

UK workers estimate that they would drive on average just under 900km less per week, resulting in fewer transport emissions. [5] Applied to the entire globe, the four-day week thus appears to be a promising weapon in the fight against global warming. A study by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, predicts, “If we spent 10% less time working, our carbon footprint would be reduced by 14.6%, largely due to less commuting or reaching for high-carbon convenience foods during our breaks. So a full day off during the week would reduce our carbon footprint by nearly 30%. [6] But it’s not just the climate that would benefit.

A switch would also have a positive impact on gender equality. A recent report argues that it could help women by sharing childcare responsibilities more equally between women and men. It would also enable greater flexibility for parents to use their extra day off to run necessary errands and take care of other family matters, allowing them to be more focused and productive during work hours.[7]

Are there any disadvantages?

The primary disadvantage stems from the industrial age mindset that work doesn’t get done when employees aren’t physically present on all 5 days a week, and that essential customer relationships could suffer as a result. But with COVID and the rise of remote work, we’ve learned that the ability to get one’s work done successfully doesn’t necessarily hinge on a round-the-clock presence in organizations. The biggest challenge is in the mindsets of managers. It’s not about working less or the decline in work ethic. It’s just about a different way of thinking about work.

The shift to a 4-day work week. How it can work.

Switching to a 4-day workweek needs good preparation. It cannot work overnight.

  • It needs a good transition phase. Appropriate time must be planned for this.
  • Employees need to be involved and a common strategy needs to be developed to make the 4-day week work.
  • Good external communications are needed with customers and business partners.
  • In many industries, a sophisticated shift system is needed to ensure that service, production, and availability continue to be guaranteed within the working week.
  • Managers should lead by example and also work only four days per week.

The introduction of the 4-day week does not automatically have to be accompanied by a reduction in working hours. There is both the 4 x 10-hour and the 4 x 8-hour model. Which model makes sense for companies has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. After motivation and productivity are increased by a 4-day week, a reduction in working hours may well be possible.

At MagnoliaTree, we give a lot of thought to the work-life balance. We offer our employees flexible time and work models, and we feel it’s a win-win situation for everyone.








Why Change Management fails so often

Excerpt of Sabine Gromer’s Thesis at the Columbia University for Change Leadership

According to a BCG study from 2017 the change management industry has been growing at a pace of 5% yearly with a worldwide spending of $10 billion a year on change management consultancy (Intelligence, 2016). Yet, still evidence in this study suggests that 50% of change programs fail to achieve their objectives and for more complex change efforts the failure rate rises to 75%. What’s more: despite extensive research in the field, these failure rates have virtually remained unchanged (Tollman, et al., 2017).

As part of my final thesis, I looked into the question of why there are such high failure rates.

Could it be that we simply start change efforts in the wrong element or function in a system?

Unlike the experience in the Analytical Functions, Change Efforts were embraced in the COO a lot faster and changes could be seen quicker. For them the change we had to bring, even the most basic communication efforts around it, was met with much appetite for change and accelerated speed of adoption. This was, I believe, fundamentally driven by a vision of a betterment of their situation.

Are change management efforts more successful in parts of organizations with fewer privileges and power?

A question I quickly came across: Could launching change efforts in parts of organizations with less privilege and power lead to more successful change effort implementations and thereby

  • prevent homeostasis because these functions do not want to go back to ‘business as usual’ and
  • create interest from the privileged parts through the investments made in a previously undervalued part of the organization resulting in a fear of losing out and losing privilege that creates a pull effect. This creates …
  • … a ripple effect of surprise in the organization that allows changes to take place more easily in other parts of the organization.

It is my belief this different approach could be more successful than the traditional one. It combines a number of different elements in change theory: the systems view, power & influence, homeostasis while still leveraging our knowledge in ideal change process.
That said I believe there are three conditions that need to be met for this to be successful:

  • Buy-in and commitment of support from the very top of the organization (executive committee, board) and ready to publicly support, communicate, advertise the change efforts.
  • Choosing a part of the organization that is acting as a hub in the system – connected to and working with every or almost all parts of the organization, and
  • this part having been considered as less privileged than whatever is considered the front-office in the organization. 

What is homeostasis?

Homeostasis is the tendency of an organism or system to maintain a balanced and constant internal state.

That can be compared well with a mobile, which will always come back to the original state, no matter how strong the influence from outside is.

33 hypothesis why change is resisted

Many people do not like changes or approach them only half-heartedly. They like what they know, they are reluctant to leave the comfort zone, even if it is not at all comfortable.

Driving forces vs restraining forces

Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis

Lewin describes two forces, driving forces or forces toward and forces away from or restraining forces. He posists that in order to allow successful change efforts to happen, the most important forces to tackle, or better said to remove, are restraining forces (Lewin, 1947).

One of the most critical restraining force:

… is the stable state or state of origin of a system. In systems theory describes the desire of a system to employ (strong) sorces to get back to this state which makes sustainable change more difficult to achieve.

32 further restraining forces

  • Stare decisis (status quo is right)
  • Inertia (the larger the system the more force is needed for change)
  • Satisfaction
  • Lack of ripeness
  • Fear
  • Self-interest
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Future shock
  • Futility (felt like a charade)
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Human nature to be greedy
  • Cynicism
  • Perversity (unintended consequences)
  • Individual genius vs group mediocrity
  • Ego
  • Short-term thinking
  • Myopia (wish not to see)
  • Sleepwalking
  • Snow blindness (social conformity)
  • Collective fantasy
  • Chauvinistic conditioning
  • Fallacy of the exception
  • Ideology
  • Institutionalism
  • Natural pace of change
  • The rectitude of the powerful
  • Change has no constituency
  • Determinism
  • Scientism
  • Habit
  • The despotism of custom
  • Human mindlessness

Quelle: O’Toole (1996), “Leading Change.”, New York: Random House