July 8, 2015
Remember when your teachers used to assign group work, and you knew from the get-go that the responsibilities won’t actually be divided equally? You just knew that there will be some who work harder than others, as well as many disagreements and frustrations along the way. Wasn’t that annoying? Of course it was, and that’s because (in many cases) no one set the stage for successful collaboration early on.
It’s natural for team members to have different ideas, expectations, and needs. It’s not possible to expect all issues to be solved early on, but if you think carefully about how the collaboration will be setup before actually starting on the project- it will help avoid many issues and conflicts from arising later.
How to Divide and Conquer
Establish Shared Understanding and Agreements
Have a discussion with your team members about everything, from their personal goals with the project, to their interests and expertise. Everyone needs to understand the multiple objectives, and agree on how each of those objectives will be achieved. Otherwise, team members will end up going different directions, which will make it difficult to pull everything together in the end with everyones agreement.
While having these discussions, be sure to understand what everyone means by different words and concepts, to avoid confusion later on.
Address Needs and Expectations
What are the materials each team member would need to complete their tasks for this project? Products? Data? Research? Software? Some team members may be able to help others out with the materials that are needed, which will certainly be of great help in terms of moving forward more efficiently.
While having this discussion, the team should establish clarity in terms of expectations. What will each person contribute, and by when? Do some people have to pick up where others leave off? Establish what the key milestones would be for the project, and who will be in charge of monitoring progress and delivering.
Finalize Processes and Communication
Who is going to make decisions about different aspects of the project? Who will be the one to take notes, share data, or report on progress? It will save everyone a lot of time if these points are discussed earlier on.
Also, how will group members communicate with one another? Regular (and sometimes consistent) communication will be essential to ensure that everyone stays on the same page so the project runs more smoothly. Bear in mind that different methods will work for different people and projects.
Seek Additional Help
Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. After all, why ask the Analyst to Google email addresses for the spreadsheet when they could use that time to research statistics? Why ask the Writer to make phone calls when they could use that time to create presentations?
Wasting the time of group members equals wasting resources. Make use of anyone and everyone that is willing and able to help, whether it’s an intern, a colleague from another department, or even a close friend.