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Team reflection time – luxury or necessity?

by Michele WhiteMichael West

Michele White
19 April 2018

Increasing the amount of time your team takes to review and adapt its performance when you’re working under pressure or adversity requires a leap of faith. But all the research suggests that your leap of faith will have positive results.

Assessing reflexivity

When we assess teams for their potential to deliver effective performance, one dimension, from the eighteen measured, consistently attracts one of the lowest scores – that dimension is team reflexivity.

Team reflexivity is the extent to which teams take the time to stop and reflect together on what it is they are trying to achieve and how they are going about it. This is typically an area that teams neglect. They do so at their peril.

Michael West on reflexivity

Many research studies into team effectiveness, including Michael West’s work in healthcare, reveal that reflexive teams are more productive, effective and innovative than those that don’t reflect on a regular basis. In fact taking time out as a team leads to an average 25% uplift in performance.

“taking time out as a team leads to an average 25% uplift in performance”

Along with clear objectives and role interdependence, meeting regularly to review performance is one of the three basic characteristics of a team. According to Michael West’s research, around 50 to 60% of NHS teams lack one or more of these features. 

What team doesn’t want to be more effective and innovative?


If reflexivity matters so much, why does it feel like such a luxury?

In our busy healthcare system it often seems impossible to take precious time out to review and adapt your team’s performance.

Teams can also be adept at avoiding the discomfort that can occur when we challenge habitual ways of working and behaving, preferring instead the established norms that make life comfortable for team members.

Developing your team’s reflexivity

Don’t let reflection be prompted by an incident or crisis. Your team needs to build the reflective skills and mutual trust that regular reflection creates. The more complex the task or environment within which the team operates, the more frequently the team should take time out to reflect.


  • Ensure that regular structured meetings are planned throughout the year to review objectives and performance, at least every six months
  • Focus on the positive as well as reviewing errors and challenges
  • Always focus the team on ‘planning to succeed’
  • Use all opportunities for developing reflexivity as a way of life in the team

Agenda for a team review session

How should you structure an effective team review?

One solution is to use questions around team objectives, strategies and plans, processes, working methods and recent events, to prompt your team discussion.

Allow at least 2 hours, more if the team environment has changed significantly since the last review. Ask team members to reflect on your questions individually beforehand to save time.

Example questions:

  • What has happened since our last review session that we are really proud of?
  • What’s working well and what can we learn from that?
  • What is not working well and how do we need to change it?
  • Has anything happened to make any of us feel less committed to our objectives over the past few months?
  • What activities could we move to other teams to enable us to focus more on our primary objectives?
  • Do we exchange information effectively – are we focussed on accurate and relevant information that meets the needs of the task?
  • What has happened since our last session that has shown how well we can work as a team to achieve the team task?
  • How can we support other teams more effectively within the organisational system?

For more on team reflexivity and a full list of suggested questions, go to Improve Constructive Debate in the Affina Team Journey or call us on 01252 727270 for more information.

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