Posts Tagged teamwork

Stop deciding and start doing

Foghorn Leghorn, the cartoon rooster of Warner Brothers fame, once observed of his young protégé, “You’re doing a lot of chopping, but I don’t see any chips flying’!”  So it can be for some collaborative engagements.

One of the critical stages of a collaborative effort is the formation of the overall goals and intended outcomes.  In a healthy effort, this part of the process can get quite lively with a lot of discussion and perhaps even argument.  Still, there comes a time in the cycle when the team has to, to quote a colleague, “chirp or get off the twig.”  That is the time when discussion stops and action begins.

As each program is unique, the method by which this step is invoked can vary.  Environmental factors can help the team determine the best way to keep the engagement on track.  Proper attention to the timely evolution of the initiative is a critical factor of the teams’ collaborative quotient.

  • Consensus.  Some teams will arrive at a common, well-understood set of goals naturally.  This might happen when the desired outcome is obvious or when the synergies of the team are high.  In other engagements consensus might take somewhat longer to achieve.  Don’t turn this into a corporate game of Survivor, however, where the members of the team who don’t share the views of the majority are cast off.
  • Schedule. In a time-sensitive situation, the team can adopt a scheduled approach where the time allotted to each phase of the effort is planned.  In this environment the urgency of the deadline can serve as an incentive for team members to become more flexible in their assumptions.
  • Edict.  Despite the promise of a democratic corporate environment, some initiatives exist at the direction or leisure of an executive or board.  in these cases the higher-ups may invoke executive privilege and short circuit the decision process.
  • Opt out.  In rare cases the team might reach the corporate equivalent of the hung jury, with the individual members unable to reach a satisfactory decision.  Rather than embark upon a doomed project, the team might elect to start over with new constituents.

Decide how your project is to be managed early in the engagement and hold the team to the plan.

There is another important thing to keep in mind.  Once the engagement strategy has been determined, every member of the team has to commit in order to increase the potential for success.

What group decision strategies have you found to work best?

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Second Life and team effectiveness

The folks at Leading Virtually are getting ready to release the findings of some primary research they did on group effectiveness, and the preliminary results are discussed in a post from last week.

The research had two main parts.  One evaluated the impact of critical and supportive communication on the effectiveness of group problem solving, and the other sought to determine if virtual world technology, such as Second Life, would impact the tone of communication.

Not surprisingly, groups that experienced higher levels of critical commentary, that is to say more disagreements with team members’ ideas, did not perform as well as the groups where exchanges were generally supportive.  The inference here is that teams that can adjust their methods of communication to be less overtly critical can effectively raise their collaborative quotient.

This works because less confrontation and disagreement increases the cohesiveness of the team, ultimately improving their ability to reach consensus.

As far as the impact of Second Life at influencing the tone of communication, well:

Suffice it to say that Second Life was not associated with higher incidence of supportive communication or lower incidence of critical communication relative to instant messaging.

This is interesting to me.  I would have thought that the generally impersonal nature of instant messaging would result in more terse and direct communication that would skip the niceties and tend towards the critical, a manifestation of keyboard courage, if you will.

Still, I don’t care how well rendered the avatars in Second Life are, they give the impression of cartoons.  I find it hard to take a business meeting seriously when I’m sitting across the table, not from Barb and Simon from engineering and accounting, but from characters who favor Lara Croft and the Juggernaut.

But I mean that in the most positive way.

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