Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bad teamwork can produce good results

(Cartoon via Jayson Joseph Chacko)

In Ghana I once did a casestudy of a multi-cultural team with difficulties. I discovered a lot of emotions underneath the surface of collaboration, working together and team meetings. Lots of misunderstandings. Lots of unspoken and untested ideas. I thought I could relate this team's functioning with the outcomes of the team's work, which weren't always impressive.

Recently I had two experiences of teams that were having similar difficulties. I was part of a Dutch team organising a conference. I was not part of the second team but was helping them in their work. For both teams, I felt the teams were not doing well in terms of teamwork, not leveraging the individual strengths of its members, and not able to work through the important differences in opinion about the work and the working modalities. In both cases individual team members held underlying assumptions that were not discussed, due to time constraints. (this ofcourse means not prioritising this).

To my surprise, however, (and contrary to my beliefs) both teams produced quite good results. The team I was part of did a learning history. The learning history showed me that I still had some strong frustrations about the team process, but because of the good result (the conference) I can live with it. The other team is going downwards in its performance. Combining both experiences, I now feel that it is possible to be opportunistic, focus on the end result and live with a suboptimal teamprocess. However, in the long run, you do need to address the emotions of the teammembers to be able to function well as a team over a longer period of time.


hoong said...

I once volunteered as a student of an online-course (we used Moodle).

The last project was Mapping. I had a partner who is very familiar with Mapping. Whereas I was just OK. She works full-time while I studied full-time. She lives in Germany, me here in NL. We had problems finding time to CHAT, to coordinate.

What ended up was, during the weekend, she finished the project on her own. I had a feeling of let-down. I feel that we did not achieve what we volunteered for: The focus of the project was not about Mapping, BUT how to work online doing a project. Therefore YES, we completed the project (rather she did), but we did not achieve what we were suppose to achieve.

This kind of situation happens all the time. I see many projects ended up doing an OK job BECAUSE our focus were on HOW FAST to complete, and not about quality. We forget about the 3 factors of a well managed project.

Perhaps here is my suggestion to our e-Collaboration next meeting. How about an exercise to collaborate a project? Not in 30 minutes, but over a period of 1 month or so, and write a report on the experience and then meet and discuss?

Joitske said...

Hi Cindy, that's a great suggestion for the ecollaboration meeting. We could think of small tasks to do and start small teams... The problem is if you want to collaborate well, you have to add time to discuss your collaboration!

hoong said...

well, I think that was the 'complains' of one or two persons about the nature of e-collaboration. They are looking for 'how to e-collaborate'.

Time is always the problems, and I think with virtual it is even more problematic. But, that would be good learning curves and adjustments.

Unknown said...

I tend to agree with your conclusion Joitske, and believe this is also related to the wider issue: that the development sector is seen as a 'talking sector' (babbelcultuur) with cooperation for cooperation sake (and still poor harmonization), participation for participation sake, too much talking and too few results. I feel in some cases it is better to 'just focus on what you want to achieve' and make sure it is done, than on following all the correct processes.
(this sounds out of place in a context of (e)collaboration, but I mean it as a matter of balance).