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2/28/2017 GuideforWorkinginTeams

ManualforWorkinginTeams
Thismanualcontainsanumberofsuggestionsthathavebeenfoundusefulforworkinginteamsingeneral.
Thesuggestionsarenotparticulartothisclass:theyapplytoworkinginteamsingeneral

1.GettingtoKnowOneAnother

Thismaysoundelementary,butmanyteamsscrewthisup.Onethingyouwilleventuallylearnisthatteam
membershaveverydifferentabilities,motivationsandpersonalities.Forexample,therewillbesometeam
membersthataretotallyinvolved,andothersthatjustwanttodisappear.Ifyouletpeopledisappear,they
becomedeadweightandasourceofresentmentandfrustration.Youmustnotletthishappen!

Hereissomethingthatyoushouldtrytotaketoheart(butwillbeveryhardformanytoaccept):Whenteam
membersdisappear,itisnotentirelytheirfault.Itisyourfaulttoo.Takesomeonewhoisintroverted.They
finditstressfultotalkinagroup.Theyliketothinkthingsthroughbeforetheystarttalking.Theyconsider
others'feelingsanddon'twanttotellthemwhentheyarewrong.Inagroupfullofextroverts,thisperson
cannotfindawaytoparticipate:itisnotintheirnaturetofightforattention.Itistheextroverts'
responsibilitytoconsciouslyincludetheintrovert,tonottalkoverthem,tonottakethefloorawayfrom
them.Ifyouwanttheteamtosucceed,youhavetoacceptthatyoumustactivelymanageothers.Ifyouthink
"WhyshouldIdothat?It'stheirresponsibilitytocarrytheirownweight.I'mdoingmypart,theyshoulddo
theirs"youaredeadmeat:youwillneedallthehumanresourcesatyourdisposal.

Oneofthefirstthingsyoushoulddoasagroupismakesureeverybodyknowseverybody'sname.Don'tjust
introduceyourselvesoncebecausesomepeoplewillimmediatelyforgetthenamesorneverquitehearthem
thefirsttime.Somakesurethateveryonehaswrittendowneverybody'sname.Thengoontotalkabouteach
otherwhatmajor,whereyouliveoncampus,whoyouknow,etc.

Sinceteamsarenot(just)socialgroups,itisalsoimportanttogetanideaaboutwhateachpersonisgoodat,
andwhatresourcestheycanbringtobear.Forexample,onepersonmighthaveaconvenientlylarge
apartmentwherethegroupcanmeet.Anothermighthavegreatcomputerskills,usefulforcreating
presentationsandtypingpapers.

Onethingtorealizeisthatwhenteamsarenew,eachindividualiswonderingabouttheiridentityinthe
group.Identityisacombinationofpersonality,behavior,competencies,andpositioninthesocialstructureof
thegroup.Somepeoplewillfightfordominance.Somewanttobeseenassmart.Othersplaytheroleof
comedian.Otherswanttobeliked.Asyouwatchthisprocessoccur,itishelpfultothinkthatmuchofwhat
peopledoisnotsomuchachoiceasaneedorahabit.Thepersonwhoseemshellbentondominating
everyonehasastrongneedtodothis,andwon'tfeelcomfortablenotdoingit.Thinkingthiswaywillhelp
youtobelessjudgmental,whichinturnwillhelpyoutoavoidunproductivehatreds.Remember:itisjusta
team,notamarriage.

2.Vision
Iftheword"vision"makesyouwanttopuke,thinkinstead"whatarewereallytryingtoaccomplish?
Besidestheexplicittasks,whatareourrealgoals?".Forexample,foraclassteam,doestheteamwanttodo
whateverittakestogetanA?Orishavingacomfortableworkloadmoreimportant?Doestheteamwantto
reallygetinvolvedwitheachothersocially,orkeepinteractionstojustwhat'srequiredtodothework?Does
theteamwantanatmosphereofmilitaryefficiency,ordotheywanttohorsearoundandhaveagoodtime?

Ausefulexerciseistocreateavisionstatement.Thisisbasicallyashortparagraphthatsayswhatyou're
about,whatyourstrategyis,whatyouareultimatelytryingtoaccomplish.Thinkofitasadescriptionof
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yourpositioninginthemarketplace.

Thebestvisionstatementsareusuallythosethatsynthesizeeachindividualsteammember'spersonalvision
forwhattheyaretryingtoaccomplish,notjustintheteambutintheircareers.Inotherwords,eachperson
shouldseparatelyfigureoutwhattheythinktheteamshouldaccomplish,thenthegroupshouldgettogether
andseeifthereareanycommonelementsoutofwhichyoucanbuildasingle,coherentvisionthateach
personcancommitto.Thereasonwhyitishelpfultousecommonelementsoftheindividualvisionsisthat
partofthepurposeofwritingavisionstatementistoprovidecommondirectionandtomotivateteam
members.Butifnobodybelievesinthevisionstatement,itwilljustbewordsonapieceofpaper.Ithastobe
realtobeuseful.

3.Structure
Itisdifficultforteamstosucceedwithoutaleader.Soyoushoulddesignatesomeonetoplaythatrole.
However,youdon'tneedtomaketheleaderomnipotent.Therearecertaintask&maintenancefunctions
thatneedtobeperformed,andyoucanhaveonepersondoallofthem,oryoucansplitupthejobamong
differentpeople.

Onekeyfunctionisthatoffacilitator/coordinator.Thisisapersonwhocallsmeetings,keepspeopleon
track,andpaysattentiontogroupprocesses.Forexample,thefacilitatormakessurethateveryoneis
involvedandnoticeswhensomeoneisupset.Herearesomeofthethingsthatsuccessfulfacilitatorstryto
do:

focusteamontask
engageparticipationfromallmembers
protectindividualsfrompersonalattack
suggestalternativeprocedureswhentheteamisstalled
summarizeandclarifytheteam'sdecisions

Herearesometipsforaccomplishingthesegoals:

stayneutral
don'tletthemeetingruntoolong,evenifit'sgoingwell(orpeoplewilltrytoavoidcomingnexttime)
expressoutloudwhatseemstobehappening(e.g.,"nobodyseemstobesayingmuchsinceJenny
suggested...")
don'tletsnidecomments,putdowns,etcslidebywithoutcomment
afterapersonhasbeenquietforawhile,askthemfortheiropinion

Anotherkeyfunctionisthatofboundarymanager.Thisisapersonwhoservesasliaisonbetweentheteam
andtherestoftheworld(theteam's"stakeholders").Inthecontextofclassteams,thispersoninteractswith
theprofessor,andkeepsaneyeoutforwhattheotherteamsaredoing,theyalsomakethemselvesawareof
theobligationsthatteammembershavetoothers(likeboyfriends/girlfriends,parttimejobs,etc).The
boundarymanagerisresponsibleforlearningwhothekeystakeholdersare(astakeholderissomeonewho
affectstheteam,orisaffectedbytheteam),andworkingoutastrategyfordealingwiththem(e.g.,sucking
uptotheprofessor).

Finally,thereistheprojectmanager.Theprojectmanagerorganizestheworkplanandseesthatitis
implemented.Inthecontextofclassteams,theremightbedifferentprojectmanagersforeachassignment,or
asingleonethatorganizesalltheassignments.Projectmanagersneedtobeabletotakeawholetask,suchas
apaperassignment,andbreakitdownintobitesizedpiecesthatcanbedoledouttopeopletodo.Project
managershavetobeabletofigureouttimebudgetsandgetpeopletodotheirpartattherighttime.

4.Process

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Meetingscanbeuselessifnotdoneright.Onesimplethingthathelpsalotishavinganagenda.Havinga
writtenagendamakesiteasierforthefacilitatortosteerthingsbacktothetask.Otherwise,if,say,two
popularanddominantpeopleinthegroupstarttalkingaboutsports,itmaydifficultforathirdpartywhois
notassociallycentraltobringthemback.Butifthereisanagreeduponagendaandanagreeduponlength
ofmeeting,afacilitatorcansay'Idon'tknowaboutyouguys,butIreallywanttogetouthereat5:ifwe
reallywanttotalkaboutallthethingsontheagendawekindofhavetogetgoing...'.

Thefirstitemonanyagendashouldusuallybea"checkin"whichiswherethefacilitatoraskseachperson
howthingsaregoingandwhetherthereisanythingontheirmindsthatneedstobediscussed.

Forcertainkindsofmeetingsitisusefultogointobrainstormingmode.Brainstormingisaprocessof
generatingideas(e.g.,forapaper).Therearecertaindosanddon'tsforgoodbrainstorming:

don'tevaluateuntilmuchlaterintheprocess.acceptallideas,nomatterhowstupidtheyappear
encouragementalhitchhiking(buildingonother'sideas)
don'tstopatthefirstsilence.justwaitabit,nomatterhowuncomfortable
forhardproblems,ithelpstosummarizetheproblem,thenletpeoplethinkontheirownandwrite
downsomeanswers,thengettogetherandpoolthemonablackboard
afteryougetabunchofideas,askeachpersontovotefortwoorthreeofthem.Takealltheideasthat
getatleastonevote,andstartclassifyingthemaccordingtosimilarity.Thiswillusuallygetyoudown
tojustafewbasictypesofideas,whichyoucanthenmakedecisionsabout.

Therewillbemanysituationsinwhichyouneedtogivefeedbacktoothersintheteam.Like,theyhavejust
writtenadraftofateampaper,andyouneedtosuggestchangesandpointoutproblems.Whenyougive
feedbackitisextremelyimportanttoavoidanynegativecommentthatwouldseemtobeabouttheperson,
ratherthantheworkorthebehavior.Youshouldalsofocusonyourselfandyourobjectionratherthanon
themandtheirproblem.Forexample,youmightsay"Idon'tunderstandwhyonthispagewejumpfromthis
topictothat,andthencomebacktothefirsttopic"insteadof"Youmadeamistakeonthispage"or"Youare
notbeinglogicalhere".Themomentyousay"You"people'sdefensesgoup.

Itisveryimportantthatteamsassesstheirperformancefromtimetotime.Mostteamsstartoutok,andthen
driftawayfromtheiroriginalgoalsandeventuallyfallapart.Thisismuchlesslikelytohappeniffromtime
totime,theteamfacilitatororleaderaskseveryonehowtheyarefeelingabouttheteam,anddoesapublic
checkoftheperformanceoftheteamagainstthemission/visionstatement.

Goodluck!

SteveBorgatti

Copyright19962004SteveBorgatti.Feelfreeto
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