Thursday, August 20, 2009

So, a bit more reflection on teamwork is in order. Last night my assignment group had a chat session to consolidate what we had individually managed in terms of the group task. It wasn't the most successful group session.

Firstly, it's hard to multi-task when you're using a chat facility. If you're talking via skype, you can be scanning a website or document on the screen or digging up an article from the pile on your desk, but when you're 'chatting' you need most of your attention trained on reading and typing. That was an issue for us, as someone would seem to drop off the earth for a while, but it was just that they were loading a new document onto google docs, or editing the powerpoint. It was virtually impossible to do two things at once.

The good news is, I learnt something new! I now know how to split my screen in two so that I can have the chat on one half, and another page open on the other half. Yay for me!

Secondly, I'm starting to feel the frustration building amongst the team members. Just little things, but I'm not feeling the love, the way I was when we began! I get the impression that a couple of people are trying really hard to play nice and get along!

In my most recent post about team work, I briefly considered the idea of leadership, noted that our group didn't have a leader, and wondered if we needed one. Well, I think we would be more effective with a leader, but I also think that it is impossible to have one in our case. I don't think anyone would want one of the group to take on that role. So it's not going to happen.

My next reading:

Beck, J. & Yeager, N. (1994). Making teams work: An underused window of opportunity. In The leader's window: Mastering the four styles of leadership to build high-performing teams (pp. 183-206). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Why do teams sometimes fail? We have a culture of individualism. If a teamwork exercise is injected into an organisation which doesn't have structures to support teamwork, the 'team' is a gimmick, rather than something that is integrated with the daily workplace. I can relate...

How can teams succeed? Those in charge of leading teams must learn skills to make their team work. and if you don't have a leader...

Each team goes through developmental stages.
1. Forming
Group members need to know: 'Why we are here?' and 'What's my piece of the action?'.
Communication in this stage should be mostly downward from the leader to the group members. The leader should provide information, clear directions and complete explanations.
Our group is still trying to do this bit without a clear leader.
2. Focusing
This stage centres on buy-in and ownership. Structures, procedures and norms are established here. The leader should encourage questions, ideas and input, and facilitate communication. A lot of the communication at this stage should be upward, from team members to the leader.
Our group provides opportunities to communicate and add ideas and input, but we go around in circles a lot because we don't have a leader.
3. Performing
This stage is characterised by productivity. Group members need responsibility, the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills, and feedback and recognition of their efforts.
We are trying to be productive...
4. Leveling
The group needs a catalyst for change to refocus on new goals. The leader can give group members the opportunity to share in the problem solving process to re-clarify roles and the mission of the team.
Our group will never get to this stage, as we will disband once the assignment is done. (Please Roy, if you read this, I don't really want you to do this, but I think we'd learn a lot more if we were forced to keep our groups and continue to work on more projects.)

So, my main observation from this reading is that our group would perform much better with a leader. Hmmmm.

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