I came across an article from The Piper’s Box, Pipe Band Annoyances. The article is not as in depth as I anticipated and is more or less a small list of pet peeves. It was an entertaining reminder that even experienced pipers have their mild annoyances in a group setting.
I imagine a continuing source of conflict in any police or fire fighter pipe band is the dominant nature of their members’ personality. Most people who have chosen either of these vocations tend to be type-a personalities and often don’t bode well with being told what to do, or worse yet, told they’re wrong. Most of us identify as musicians in some secondary fashion, if not even as a tertiary self descriptor. Compound this with the likely fact that getting adults with busy work schedules, family obligations, mortgage payments, and a slew of other endless demands, to practice can be just as challenging ensuring a child gets in their twenty minutes of practice a day. There have been countless books on the adverse effect of shift work in the first responder field. Adults are just like children in that they will always be able to find something more pressing to do, they will easily justify some reason to not practice.
I take comfort in remembering every team must face challenges in order to grow. An effective team cannot deliver results without having to face problems and find their solutions together.
Bruce Tuckman’s theory of Group Dynamics explores the system of behaviors and psychological occurrences within social groups, such as pipe bands. The stages of Tuckman’s Group Development Model are: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
During the forming phase, members are first learning about the goal they set out to accomplish. They are also learning what it will take to get there. In the early stages of forming, the objectives may not be clear. There tends to be a lot of un-involvement from members and in the early stages some people may be totally uncommitted. Unclear objectives can lead to confusion; compounded with the frustration of uncommitted members, the forming stage can foster hidden feelings among members and lead to low morale.
Every group must inevitably endure the storming phase. Shared conflict is a necessity in building group morale and developing unit cohesion. As the band continues to work, disagreements will emerge regarding the structure of the group. During the storming phase there is a general lack of cohesion and growing inconsistency. Conflicts potentially lead to resentment and anger, which could give way to confrontations. During this phase, hidden agendas may start to emerge. Failure is inevitable, though not necessarily a bad thing. Failure can keep egos in check. Failure can inspire better performance through the desire to overcome setback.
The group moves past the storming phase and establishes more explicit or even implicit rules. Communication issues continue to be addressed. During the norming phase, members should begin to question their own performance and be able to objectively review their progress. Goals will either change or be reaffirmed. Member strengths and weaknesses will be identified as the group begins to test new ground. During the norming phase the band is starting to come together.
In a pipe band the performing phase can literally mean performing although playing music in public isn’t necessarily limited to this phase. Playing in public before the band is truly in the performance phase can be a great way to test the group’s capabilities and limitations. However, there is a fine line between getting by and appearing incompetent. Taking on more than the group can handle could lead to resentment and diminished morale. As the band comes together and starts to perform, the members become more flexible and take a greater pride in what they’re doing. Assertiveness among members can lead to confidence and overall high morale.
Recognizing these changes can be a valuable asset to understanding the band’s development and member behavior. Groups or bands cannot always be continually high performing. Conflict and cohesion may ebb and flow as the group faces different challenges. It is important to keep open and clear communication where everyone can manage trust and conflict issues. Effective decision making based on rational and intuition where group members are actively involved, work best in an atmosphere were each member understands what they must do and what they must not do to support the team and overall objective. Recognition important.
Police and Fire bands blur the lines of high performance team theory and often step foot in different worlds when it comes to group organization. These bands exist as a subset of paramilitary culture where chain of command is highly regarded, and responsibility may reluctantly be delegated. Most of these bands also fall under the umbrella of non-profit organizations, wherein a president and committee or board are required. Though most police and fire pipe bands are not competitive like their civilian counterparts there is no reason they cannot learn from what makes other high performance groups work. Whether they be competition bands, non profit organizations, or corporate organizations.