This tool helps you with ideas to get started, develop into an effective team, find your flow and keep motivated when you get stuck.
It takes time for a team to develop, to find its rhythm, and for everyone to know the skills and styles of others in the team.
Here are some basics to get you started.
Get to know each other. This goes beyond just the course and where you are from. Have a social gathering where you can develop and enrich your team's relationship. Find out about each other; interests outside your formal studies, or, where for you is “home”. This is likely to mean finding time outside the classroom to meet up and get to know each other.
Share email and mobile numbers. Without this information, you’ll find it very difficult to get started. Use your university email account, as this is what clients will be expecting, as well as it being easier when using things like a shared drive.
Agree times to meet. Agree times in the week when you are free and book these ahead of time – a simple shared calendar or a shared drive excel sheet will ensure efficient and collaborative planning.
Check all members understand and accept the objectives. You may have started the project with objectives written down, in say a project brief, or given to you by the client. Once you know a bit more about each other, check that everyone understands and accepts the objectives. If you are not clear about the objectives, then talk to the client and/or your tutor.
Do your background research on the client. Team working is not always about being with each other for all the tasks. Whilst you should use the Researching an Organisation tool, you need to be prepared and up to date – then you can share your knowledge with the rest of the team.
Use the Start-Up Meeting checklist tool. If you have done your prep in terms of knowing each other better, the client can see that you have started the process of developing into a team. If a team member is missing from any meeting or event, take responsibility to find out why – do not simply leave it to the tutor every time to chase up your fellow team members.
Finding your flow
It can take a while to get that rhythm, where things are going well, and ideas flow freely. Tips to get into that “flow” mode efficiently are:
- Keep meeting up regularly, even if you don’t have a tightly defined agenda. Distribute the work evenly, but be flexible, so that you avoid a sense that things are not well balanced.
- Check progress against your objectives; you might find that you are making more progress on one objective than the others. Make sure you document this, and use a visual format, such as excel, a mind map, or a ppt slide.
- Check that at your meetings, you have access to water and snacks.
- You need to start planning the project, entering key dates into your diary - this will reveal any clashes early. Find early gains - this will especially help if you think the project is a bit overwhelming at first.
- Settle down into a way of communicating in the team that suits you all - and if necessary adjust it.
- Avoid relying solely on WhatsApp - are you having regular real-time meetings, e.g. using Zoom, Googlemeet, or Teams?
- Are you copying in all the team on your emails (especially using “reply to all”, not just “reply”).
You are interdependent, even if you think your section of work at a specific point seems to be separated from the rest of the team. Within a group, none of us fully know how others see the full picture - some people will see links that you do not, and vice versa.
Successful collaboration means sharing your work, even at the draft stage. There have been many sad tales of a student working on their own laptop, and the laptop fails - the rest of the team are then held back because the information is lost.
Balancing producing “stuff”, becoming more capable as a team, and having a team experience that is meaningful and rewarding
You need to work on this balance, as it’s easy to focus too much on one of these. If you are not having a good learning experience, you won’t grow as a team, and this will affect productivity. Similarly, focusing on producing things at the experience of having a good experience may demotivate some people.
Using the diversity in the team
This is not just diversity in terms of factors such as gender, gender identity, and ethnicity. It is also about using the differences in the way each of you thinks, and learns (some people don’t need visual forms such as whiteboards, others struggle without these). Some people will be diverging in a “what if” mode, whilst others are in a “let’s narrow down and deliver” mode. Some people will be more attuned to relationships, while others more focused on things and systems. Some people like to see the big picture, whilst others are more focused on the details. Of course, we can individually all adapt our thinking, and span a mix of different styles.
Review both the task and group process at regular intervals.
- How are we doing with the tasks we need to complete?
- How are we doing as a team, and the way we work together?
This might be as simple as taking a break and reflecting on what you have accomplished.
Congratulate each other - a 5 second “you’ve done a great job with the draft script for Act 1” in front of the other team members, builds trust and shows we are taking care of each other, and that we value each other.
Getting stuck, and getting unstuck
There may be times when the team slows down, hits a roadblock or there are conflicting ideas and views; about the best way to do the work. Here are some ideas to get into the flow again, and to keep moving ahead:
- Go back to the brief and the initial plan - check that you are focusing on the agreed project scope and aim.
- Talk to your tutor - they will have advice that may be able to guide you, whether it is a technical or a team issue.
- Ask the client about the priorities, what is the important work to do, and if the client can give an example of the sort of analysis that is needed.
- The team leader can ask each team member what they think is the problem, and what the focus should be.
- When experiencing conflict between team members, use the Building Positive Relationships tool.
- Take a break, take a step back, and look at the situation from a different angle.
Teamwork is a fundamental part of the success of any project, within any differing organisation. This tool will help you be able to develop into a highly effective team, thereby helping you navigate any problems that may arise. The commitment to becoming a truly effective team may take time, but remain persistent and you will succeed.