An Organized Team is a Happy Team
Teams often need help in establishing patterns for how they will operate. Each of the following issues is developed in detail in other documents. However, to help provide a solid foundation at the beginning, an instructor may want to mention the following issues.
Time Management Procrastination can be a problem for anyone, but bad things can happen when it occurs in a team! First, tendencies of individual team members to procrastinate can feed on each other (“It must not be a problem since they are not worried yet.”). Second, a procrastinator may be perceived as a slacker or freeloader (they have not done their part yet) and disregarded, discounted, or ignored. Third, if individuals are performing a sequence of tasks, delays of only two days in accomplishing each task can delay the final product by two weeks or more.
Effective Communication Encourage teams to recognize that communicating well requires speaking and listening in addition to writing and reading. Speaking and listening, especially listening, are often largely untaught skills.10 A crucial requirement for teams is to have team members who listen to one another and who fully consider the views of their fellow team members. Paying attention to how you listen and speak to others helps students understand each other and avoid hurt feelings. Although students spend a large amount of time listening to lectures, their active listening skills can be improved considerably. Refer to Effective Communication for more information.
Effective Meetings and Decision Processes Raise the following issues with your students at the beginning.
Agendas Encourage them to establish agendas before the meeting. A simple agenda may answer when, where, and why? A more complete agenda may address the following questions: When? Where? How long? What do we intend to accomplish? Who is bringing what materials that might be needed?
Fix a Time to End Without an agreement to end meetings at a fixed time, some teams will coerce members to simply continue (all night, if necessary) until the job is done. All team members have a right to be able to plan the part of their life that is unrelated to this class. Stress will build between the team member who has another commitment and the member who lives for the team.
Minutes At the end of the meeting a recorder should have compiled at least a list of decisions, conclusions, and action items, i.e., as a result of this meeting, who is going to do what by when. Each team may want to keep a notebook or alternative record to collect and preserve minutes. Strategies for recording may differ for beginning and experienced teams.
More information is available in Effective Meetings and Decision Processes.
Work Assignment and Work Division Professionals frequently sketch a plan or an outline for an assigned task without completing all the details so that others can use the outline to complete their tasks. Students may require support and guidance for learning to draft a solution that enables the entire team to work together effectively.