Debbie Buchanan Book Review
EDU 713
November 3, 2010

Susan Wheelan’s Creating Effective Teams: A Guide for Members and Leaders, discusses the idea that all members of society, whether in business, education, or churches have groups that must work together to be successful. She begins with an argument about the difference between a work group and a team. Specific descriptions are given for how groups are established, and the stages of groups. Wheelan suggests that work groups can become a team by going through these four stages which will improve the group’s effectiveness and help them be successful in reaching their goal. She explains the roles of the leader and the members of the work group and eventually the team. She ends her argument for teams over work groups by giving suggestions for problem solving ideas so that groups or ultimately teams will remain productive. The end of the book has practical skills to help people move beyond work groups to teams by using scenarios from real world situations.
The author is a psychologist and former professor of psychological studies at Temple University who is now a consultant for training groups and creating effective teams. Since she works directly with business and education groups, I think it gives her book credibility. She also has spent many years researching work groups and teams. To further the accuracy of the book, research is given with theory and background for the application based materials. The bibliography is divided into sections such as group development, organization, productivity, and effective members and leaders which provides the reader with easy reference. In Creating Effective Teams, Wheelan explains the need for collaborative groups in the 21st century and how people must work together as never before to get things accomplished. Her discussion of having a shared goal and developing effective organizational structures was very accurate in the way education and businesses perform today. She gives the reader a vision of what a group needs to be successful by explaining in detail the need for having meaningful tasks, defined work areas, continuous learning, and technical and human resources. Her argument about the difference between work groups and teams makes sense because a group that works together may only be performing a task that the leader has deemed necessary with no input from the group. The work group does not have the same depth of experience or knowledge as a team nor are work groups as effective as a team. It is also important to note that in both work groups and teams the author explains the need for frequent feedback and goal setting without too much support from trainers and consultants. To that end, she has provided the reader with helpful checklists and self-evaluations where they can reflect on their role as a leader or a member of a group allowing them to continuously improve.
I also thought it was interesting that Wheelan expressed more of desire to write about members of a group than leaders. In my opinion, more should be written on the role of members of a group. The leader does not do everything in the group and everyone must have a specific job to do or nothing gets done. Her chapter about effective team members explains this idea well.
The book has given me a greater understanding of the role of members of a team. I have attended leadership conferences and read much on the role of the leader, but this was the first time I have read about the role of the members in the group. The members of the group are important and although there must be a leader, and as Wheelan stated, they should be collaborative not authoritative. Effective and productive teams have leader/member collaboration to meet their goals. I also had not thought much about the difference between a work group and a team. We are often placed in “teams” but I believe they are really “work groups” which, if we are lucky will become a team.
I would recommend the book to others wanting to make their work groups perform as a team. The “What to Do” section of the book, could be very helpful in giving strategies for different situations in the workplace. The checklists and self-evaluations for leaders, members and team performance is also an excellent way to keep everyone focused on the team and their goals.


Wheelan, S.A. (2010). Creating effective teams: a guide for members and leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.