Individual Characteristics and Unit Performance

A Review of Research and Methods

by James P. Kahan, Noreen M. Webb, Richard J. Shavelson, Ross Stolzenberg


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This study is an initial effort to understand how characteristics of individuals influence the effectiveness and efficiency with which the military units to which they belong perform their missions. It was undertaken as a systematic review of existing knowledge about the relationship between individual characteristics and group performance. It identified five general categories of predictors of group performance: (1) individual characteristics (general ability, task proficiency, and personality characteristics); (2) leadership; (3) group structural composition, or the mix of individual characteristics; (4) group processes (cohesiveness, attraction); and (5) training techniques (feedback vs. no feedback, and feedback about group vs. individual performance). Among its conclusions, the study finds that the relationship between ability and performance depends on the nature of the task, and that feedback, both on the level of the individual member's performance and on the level of unit performance, is very important.

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