Twc Chapter 15 Working In Teams

Summary

Chapter 15 introduces working in teams. The chapter is systematically broken down into sections modeled after Bruce Tuckman’s model of how teams learn to work together(pg 441). The chapter also dedicates several pages to show in-depth examples of the documents associated with working in teams.

The first stage of working in teams is known as forming. In this planning stage, you must first start with forming your team by getting to know your group’s strengths and weaknesses. As you continue forming the team you must plan out your project through a series of steps in order to reduce stress and frustration later on. Step one is to define the project mission and outcome. Every team member should be clear on the subject, purpose, audience, and context of the project. This can be done by writing a mission statement that defines your purpose and by writing a list of objectives that state the end goals of the project. Step two is to identify the tangible project outcomes based on the list of objectives created in the previous step. Step three is to define team responsibilities. Each team member should state their abilities based on previous experience and use them to assign roles to each member. In this step it is also important to talk through any limitations, conflicts or time constraints. Step four is to create a project calendar to keep up with deadlines. One way of doing this is with a method known as backward planning. This is simply starting with the date of the deadline and placing each task that needs to be completed on a specific day in reverse. Step five is to write out a work plan explaining step by step how the project will be completed taking into account the mission objective, project calendar, and expected results that were previously decided. Step six is to agree on how conflicts will be resolved before conflicts arise.

The next stage described is known as storming. Working with others naturally leads to conflicts. Some team members may think they are doing more work than others or may not agree with the team’s objectives. An effective way of tackling such problems is to run effective meetings. This includes enforcing roles, keeping the minutes, and being punctual about the start and end times. To resolve the smaller conflicts, it is advised that you use the methods that were decided upon in step six of the forming stage. Then use other conflict resolution methods such as voting or appealing to the supervisor. If conflicts are still not resolved you should use the steps of mediation. The steps in mediating are to first choose a mediator, then ask both sides to clearly state their position. After that, identify what the issues are and prioritize the issues by importance. Next, address each issue separately and try to reach a compromise. Last, write down the agreement that is reached. If a team member is not doing their share of work, he or she may need to be fired.

The next phase described is the norming phase, when members accept their responsibilities and roles. Roles should come naturally in accordance to an individual’s personalities, capabilities, and interests. The chapter lists several roles an individual may take on. Cerebral roles such as the monitor/evaluator, plant, or specialist are for those who have the ability to make creative, expert decisions on the project. Those who are good at managing the other group members should choose people-oriented roles like the coordinator, resource investigator and team worker. Action-oriented roles are for those who are in charge of getting things done. Team members may wish to take on two or more of these roles, depending on the project.

The last phase is the performing phase when the whole team is comfortable working efficiently in their roles. You may come up with ways to improve your work at this point. One way is by regularly comparing outcomes to project objectives. Another is to get feedback from a “focus group” of customers. You can even have a team performance review to evaluate the team and find the areas you need to improve on.

As the book mentions, going through these phases in the order that it is listed will not yield the best results; teams must move back and forth to successfully complete the task at hand.

Notable Quotes

“It would be nice if people worked well together from the start. But in reality, team members often need time to set goals and adjust to each other’s working styles and abilities”(pg 441).

“You should not shy away from conflict in your team, because conflict is a natural part of the teaming process” (pg 446).

“The secret to successful mediation is a focus on issues, not personalities or perceived wrongs.” (pg. 454).

“By identifying team roles, you can take advantage of each member’s natural strengths and interests.” (pg. 457).

“The keys to good teaming are good planning and effective communication” (pg 459).

Analysis & Response

I felt like this chapter really broke down the processes of forming and creating teams. When I first started reading the chapter, I thought to myself “are they going to try to unsuccessfully break another topic up into silly steps?” However, as I began reading the chapter, I found that it was extremely organized in its presentation. I assume that this is because there is a clear-cut model to work from. I really like how this chapter elaborates on each of Tuckman’s four phases in great detail. What the chapter suggests is an extremely organized and methodological approach to teamwork. For example, it breaks up the “forming” stage into 6 distinct steps. I think it’s important to know that working in teams is never this methodological and straightforward. Although it’s nice to work off a model, true teamwork should be less structured and much more situational. The chapter hints towards this as many of the “steps” are simply repeated in different wording throughout the chapter.

Intertwined with Tuckman’s model of how teams should work are various examples of the genres and documents associated with teamwork. On top of this, the chapter has various charts that allow readers to actually see what they are reading about. An example of this would be on page 453, where the chapter talks about mediating conflicts. A chart summarizes the ideas presented in this section so that they are easily accessible. This is extremely helpful as someone who is looking through this section will find the data summarized neatly in charts or excellent examples to build from.

My only real major complaint with the chapter is the placement of the “Virtual Teaming” section. Instead of being placed in its own distinctive category, it is placed right in the middle of one of Tuckman’s steps. This makes this part of the chapter extremely unclear and forces the reader realize that the chapter is going into a tangent about how a virtual team operates, not on the different types of team roles as the chapter begins to write about. This is especially confusing because the font used for the “Virtual Teaming” section is exactly the same as the rest of the chapter, right down to the heading fonts and sizes.

Overall, the section is well written. It is an excellent way of looking at how teams operate and work and presents the information clearly and in an organized manner. I found the chapter to be ultimately successful in its goal to inform readers about the technical details in working in teams.

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