Here are some resources and activities to help you reflect on groups you are a member of…
two practical things that you’ve found helpful in your group
one problem you’ve found working in groups, for example, on a university course
Practical helpful things: we use a shared communication platform (We use a closed Facebook group), and also we support each other when we are under pressure
One problem: one of our group members doesn’t really contribute to the group
A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH to group performance
What is the purpose of the task?
What will the end product look like?
What has to be done?
Action plan with timings
Carry out the plans
Modify if necessary along the way
What did we achieve?
How did we achieve it?
(Source: Bob Thomson, University of Warwick)
Activity: The Marshmellow Challenge
This is a group/team exercise that really gets to the heart of how groups work more or less well together.
You have twenty minutes to build a structure which will suspend a marshmallow above your table.
The marshmallow must be at least ten centimetres above the table.
You can only use the materials provided.
The structure must be free standing.
The group which suspends their marshmallow highest is the winner.
Reflections on the Challenge:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how pleased are you with the quality of your end product?
What behaviours helped the group to do this task?
What does the group need to do differently to be more effective on a future task?
WHAT IS A TEAM?
A team is a small number of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose, performance goals and ways of working together for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith
The Wisdom of Teams
Qualities of High Performance Teams
(Katzenbach and Smith – read more here)
All teams need a sense of purpose and a clear cut mission.
All teams need the mission to be broken down into meaningful performance goals for each team member to pursue.
All teams need to develop certain work approaches, procedures and processes to ensure that they accomplish a task efficiently and effectively.
All teams have to support the common mission and take their individual responsibility seriously to do their part in accomplishing a task.
All teams need a mix of skills, experience and expertise, in order to meet the challenges of the team task.
Chairing a Group Meeting
Group meetings are usually better when they are disciplined, when they follow an agenda, and when someone leads or chairs them. Here’s a useful model to help you remember. It’s the POST model.
Purpose – Write down the purpose of the meeting.
Outcomes – What do we want to achieve by the end of the meeting?
Structure or agenda – What are the issues or questions we need to address to achieve these outcomes?
Timings – appropriate time to cover each item on the agenda
(Source Bob Thomson, University of Warwick )
ACTIVITY: Exploring group problems
First, appoint someone to chair your meeting for the next fifteen minutes.
Choose one of the problems in group working which was you thought of earlier earlier – this may have been your own or one from another group
Write on a piece of paper or flip chart which shows:
The problem you’re addressing
The effects that this problem produces – why does it matter?
Three practical things that a syndicate can do to ease or eliminate the problem
Use some of the ideas presented above.
ASSESSING CONTRIBUTION TO GROUP WORK
Many organisations are piloting a new process which asks people to assess their behaviour in a group and to assess the behaviour of the other members of their syndicate.
This will produce useful feedback to each person on their contribution and on how their colleagues see their behaviour in the group.
It can also help the group to discuss how they have been working and to identify how they can be more effective
Let’s try this out now. Work through these positive behaviours…
INTERACTING WITH TEAM MATES
Please rate yourself against each behaviour pattern
Asks for and shows an interest in team mates’ ideas and contributions
Improves communication among team mates. Provides encouragement or enthusiasm to the team.
Asks team mates for feedback and uses their suggestions to improve.
Listens to team mates and respects their contributions.
Communicates clearly. Shares information with team mates. Participates fully in team activities.
Respects and responds to feedback from team mates.
And what about these more negative behaviours…?
Interrupts, ignores, bosses or makes fun of team mates.
Takes actions that affect team mates without their input. Does not share information.
Complains, makes excuses, or does not interact with team mates. Accepts no help or advice.
Based on these answers, reflect on your individual group behaviour and then discuss each answer with your group (if you all feel safe to do so)
Further interesting links (specifically for student group work and projects)
Ten Tips for Working in Student Teams
Dealing with Team Conflict
How to design an agenda for an effective meeting
Ways of dealing with free riders in groups
A form for discussing team performance and giving each other feedback