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Class 3: Teamwork and Collaboration

October 29, 2020

This class is normally given by Sitearm Madonna but, regrettably, John was unable to make the arrangements in time this semester. So, he reviewed the key points in the hope that it might be possible to have the full presentation from Sitearm at a later date, perhaps with some students from other universities teaching in SL.

Poster showing theory of teamwork

Sitearm placed convenient posters around the classroom (check the roof also).

Sitearm had placed some very useful posters around the room which helped illustrate the dynamics of teamwork which, he suggests, is like breathing: more of a process than a one-time event. There are four aspects to understanding how teams function. Firstly, teams have effective members. Each of us brings some commitment and some level of competence. You can compensate for the lack of either in team mates to ensure a positive outcome. Secondly, effective teams develop in stages. Starting with the forming stage where members are getting to know each other and find their place before moving onto what can be the most difficult stage known as storming. This is where everyone is pitching ideas and working out how to proceed. Then teams usually move on the norming stage when the members are beginning to work together comfortably and settle down to performing and getting the project done.

Thirdly, effective teams use best practices. For example, using brainstorming to generate ideas and then agreeing a protocol for deciding how to progress: majority vote, consensus or some other way. You will find that you move back and forth between brainstorming and deciding until the project begins to take shape. When you meet in your teams get into the habit of briefing yourselves. Ask questions like: what are we going to do in this meeting? Then do it. At the end of the meeting leave some time for debriefing: record any decisions made or what happened. Also ask each to member to say what they liked about the meeting and what they wished had happened. This helps your team meetings to become more efficient, effective and enjoyable.

Finally, effective teams share roles: research shows that there are nine key roles for highest performance and success in teamwork. As many teams don’t have nine members it is often necessary for people to take on more than one role. Each of us has a natural affinity to some roles but you can practice taking on new roles also. The disadvantage of this is the discomfort as you move into unfamiliar territory and the extra work involved but the advantage is seen in performance and success on both the personal and team levels.

Collaboration is a technology – proven and time tested with a vast number of academic papers describing the process. Think of it like that and you will find it less daunting.

John reminded the class that it is very important to practice your presentation before the final delivery. You need this dry-run to iron out any difficulties that may arise in moving from a plan or script to the real presentation. Working with technology is not always reliable so it is a good idea to expect catastrophe and have at least one back-up plan, if not two: don’t get caught out! Prepare fully and you will be successful no matter what happens.

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