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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Group work – the good, the bad and the ugly

Group work – the good, the bad and the ugly

Working closely in a group can be a challenging, rewarding and sometimes extremely difficult experience.

However, there’s no “I” in TEAM – so if you’re assigned a group task at uni or in the workplace, you need to be able to work effectively with others.

Here are 10 tips for working successfully in a group.

1  Find the best way to communicate. Nobody wants to work in a group where two people make all the decisions without consulting the rest of the group, who then feel out of the loop. Whether it is via a Facebook group, group email, Google Messenger or group text message, find a platform you can use to discuss ideas and provide updates. Also discuss how often and when you will communicate using your chosen platform.

2  Realise that not everyone works the same way. I used to work with someone who always did their work at the last minute, whereas I much prefer to finish work well before it is due to allow time to refine it. Acknowledge that everyone works differently and plan for it, so that you’re not stressing out when it’s 10pm the night before the project is due and that person still hasn’t finished their work.

3  Do a SWOT analysis.

What are your group’s strengths? Find out what your colleagues are good at. Encourage everyone to provide a short verbal description of their skills at the start of the project so you can divvy up the work to best suit everyone’s strengths. Group members could have useful skills or experience that may not be immediately obvious.

What are your group’s weaknesses? Do you need to seek expertise from someone outside the group to help complete the task? If so, brainstorm your group’s collective network and identify who to approach for assistance.

What opportunities are there for your group? What can you do to make the project even better?  Think outside the square. For example, if you’re doing a presentation, why not make a short video, such as a vox pop on the topic, to break up your Powerpoint.

What are the threats? Be aware of anything that could potentially derail the success of the project. Is the government considering introducing a bill that could render your project irrelevant? Is a team member going on holidays and returning the day before the case goes to court? Or perhaps everyone in the group is attending a big party scheduled for the night before the due date. Think about the possibilities and make sure you have some contingency plans to head off any threats.

4  Allocate roles. Common roles in a group include leader, secretary, progress chaser, time keeper, editor, proofreader, presenter and mediator. Try to allocate roles based on people’s strengths (see above).

5  Distribute the workload evenly. Allocate tasks so that every group member has something specific to do. Provide the group with a record of tasks that each member can refer to, so that there is no confusion when it’s time to deliver. There’s nothing more frustrating than when one group member ends up spending far more time on the project than the others or when a crucial element is missing or work duplicated because people got confused.

6  Set deadlines – lots of them. Set a series of mini deadlines in the lead up to the final project deadline. Compile them in a “to do” list with dates. This way you can chart your group’s progress, and identify any issues and deal with them well before the due date. And we all know how satisfying it is crossing completed items off a list.

7  Remember that conflict can be positive. Sometimes disagreement can force you to take a step back and re-evaluate the project. By finding a resolution and taking all viewpoints into consideration the end result may be far better than if everyone had agreed. Stick to your guns and a lightbulb may go off in the middle of the debate.

8  Give constructive feedback. When reviewing other group members’ work, remember to be constructive rather than negative. Give the group member an opportunity to update their work with the group’s input and support, rather than just taking over and redoing it yourself.

9  Don’t take criticism to heart. When it’s your work that’s being critiqued, ask questions to deconstruct the feedback, and improve your work rather than engaging in an argument or reacting defensively. It becomes hard to really “hear” people’s advice if you have already put up a defensive shield.

10  Build a strong relationship with your team members. Group work is a great way to develop strong interpersonal skills ­– an invaluable asset that will allow you to work and get along with many different types of people. Your team will be more dynamic and effective if everyone is happy to be working together, and the foundation will be created for future projects. A team member may also become a potential referee, who can vouch for your fantastic work on that project in future.

Group work can bring out the best in everyone, and be an educational, fun experience. After all, there are no celebratory drinks or lunches after the completion of a solo project!

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Geoff Bowyer
Great blog and sensible practical tips and a reminder to me of not taking a well established group and its members for granted.
4/08/2015 12:29:42 PM

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