This essay analyses our team work activity that was designed to provide us with an opportunity to explore the barriers that inhibit how we communicate with others. This team work activity also provided us with proven techniques that will assist us in communicating more effectively with team members. The working principle of the team-like any other organization- was to be made by compliance with commitment between the participants. Communication between the team members was therefore the first step in taking corrective actions geared at succeeding in the group activity. Responsibility, authority, and competence were also vital in this principle (Hardina, 2007). Without responsibility and authority in performing the dedicated duties in teamwork, then the teams become incompetent and the organization would hardly achieve its goals (Franklyn, 1998).
Our group was a team formed by peers who had a common sense of purpose, working together in agreement to develop expertise, share information, build knowledge and solve problems. The group was characterized by the members’ willingness to participate and their ongoing interaction was aimed at developing a specific area of practice. The establishment of the group and its facilitation was not a random process, but it followed certain guidelines which outlined the value contribution to be provided by the group and also highlighting its role as a consultative forum and also as information conduit in support of the strategic priorities. Some time was spent in creating a good working environment and members were given a chance to interact with each other. Although it seemed a bit confusing at begin, members settle in and eventually, we started looking for ideas on how to approach the assigned activity.
The following questions were the guidelines to setting up the group:
- What is the central purpose of the group? What are the secondary purposes?
- What kinds of activities will the group undertake to accomplish its goals?
- Who should be the members of this group and how many?
- Which terms of reference and operating principles should apply to the group?
- What kinds of leadership roles should be designated to the leaders?
- What kind of environment will the group operate?
- What terms of engagement and facilitation?
- In what ways can we evaluate and measure the group success?
On reflection, coming up with the topic that is manageable and interesting was the most challenging task. We had first to familiarize our selves with NTIS website as well as browsing the library’s book collection. I think that for the group to fully and effectively participate in the team activity, every member should be involved in preliminary discussions in search and selection of the topic. This will help team members to be clear about the overall group expectations.
In evaluating the documented Team Meetings, I am of the opinion that our group was characterized by the members’ willingness to participate, and their ongoing interaction was geared towards developing a specific area of practice according to the teamwork objectives. I would recommend that such a group be formed and facilitated following certain guidelines which outlines the value contribution provided by the group and also highlights their role as a consultative forum and also as information conduit in support of predetermined strategic priorities (Wenger, et al., 2002).
Communication was a very important tool for the success of the group (Robson & Tourish, 2005; Greenberg et al., 2007). I noticed that none of the team members operated in isolation. This communication in turn provided a good working environment whereby every member was free to express his or her creativity, contributions, and skills effectively, and supported by other members.
During the establishment phase of the group, the members had to understand and expect the opportunities and challenges ahead. Before they got started, they had to establish what they had to give up (trade-offs) for the benefits they were to get in return. My assessment suggested that without effective communication skills, it would be very hard to solve conflicts, sharing or even creating the goals and mission of the team, since the goals and the mission involve team working. Conflicts in work teams could also be very difficult to solve and with conflicts, no meaningful creation would be achieved (Greenberg et al., 2007). Accordingly, Team communication does not mean being able to stand before the team and pass a message (Robson & Tourish, 2005). It really means sharing a message with certain outstanding qualities. These qualities include; a message that can be heard understood and appreciated by the team members.
I was therefore quite disappointed when our team failed to achieve the expected level of communication right from the beginning. This was as a result of some members’ inactivity as well as absenteeism of one of the members. This disrupted our progress and frustrated as our team went through growth phases. Just like humans, our group had to go through phases or cycles. The brief history of the groups shows that they go through stages which can compare to childhood, adolescence, adulthood and may be old age (Franklyn, 1998). At the infancy or child hood phase, our group needed to be more vigilant. Thus, as recommended by Franklyn (1998), it is at this stage that members’ needs be identified and goals, terms of reference and operating principles as well as rules are established. The following points should guide in the evaluation:
- The level of participation in discussion, presentations and meetings;
- The level of involvement;
- Attendance of meetings;
- Outputs achieved, including better practice checklists and toolkits;
- Members’ satisfaction.
After agreeing on a topic, members participated in setting the group objectives, although time was limited. We considered the objectives to be useful because we felt that they clearly stated what we-as the learners-must demonstrate for mastery a knowledge, attitude, or skill area. In formulation of the objectives, common pitfalls and frequent errors that are normally made by novices were avoided (Hunter et al., 1995). In general, our objectives were a success because they were specific about what is to be achieved; measurable in terms of quality by including the degree and level of mastery expected; they were attainable; realistic, this is resources in terms of personnel, facilities and equipments were available to achieve objectives; and timely
Nevertheless, I felt the overall objectives had some familiar weaknesses too. Some objectives appeared too soft in terms of input and processes. There was also a possibility of an information overload which could probably be caused by incapacity to make use of or deal with all the information generated through performance measurement activities. However, majority of the team members “strongly agreed” that these objectives were appropriate/had been met.
For the team training session, we were using a metaphor that explains the active process of perception within communication. This metaphor examine perception, an important process in all communication encounters, and looks at the stages you go through in perceiving, the processes that influence persons perceptions and communications, and the ways in which a team can make communication to be more accurate. This activity was designed to demonstrate a few key points in relation to communication within teams.
In this, participants are divided into two teams and roles are nominated – each team has a Team Leader, runner, builder and observers. The team leader will have a picture that must be replicated by the builder. To make it difficult the Leader is the only person to see this picture. A timeframe of 10 minutes is allocated for this task.
The runner takes directions only from the team leader and can’t speak to the builder. The runner can only pass on the message given by the team leader. The builder sits in a different part of the room to the Team Leader. The runner then passes on the building instructions, without touching the building blocks. The runner can make as many trips as required within the time allowed for the exercise. Team Members must not move from their designated workstations. Each of the teams is allocated a different picture so there is no cheating! There should be no communication between the opposing teams. At the end of the 10 minutes, the groups compared what they have managed to achieve.
In terms of the structure, we drew on several frameworks. In choosing an appropriate activity, the facilitator had to identify with the goal and the purpose and the exercise. The activity used in this training session was quick and easy. The activity itself took a little time-10 minutes. The discussion that followed took a little bit longer. The activity was also participative. This is it involved the entire team. This helped the participants to focus their energies and attention, therefore making them think, interact, and have fun-all while learning to be better team players. The activity was also entertaining.
Several factors evidently impacted the overall effectiveness of the team activity. Communication skills emerged to be very critical. Creativity and problem solving skills came into play, as well as interpersonal skills such as development of rapport and trust. Discovering that ones person’s actions can influence the effectiveness of the entire team was a great learning experience.
The role of the facilitator was important, with three skills necessary to the task:
- Keen observation skills, to provide insight to the team during the debrief discussion
- The ability to ask thought provoking Questions, to maximise the lessons of the team activity
- The ability to fully involve everyone in the discussion, to build confidence and collaboration
First, an ice-breaker activity was undertaken to help shift participants focus into the event, as recommended by Clegg and Birch (1998). This session was designed to break down the barriers between the participants to break the common barriers to effective team work such as nervousness and shyness. This was also important since the activity was being held in the afternoon and there was a chance that the members focus may be a bit disrupted. The Ice breaking activity made sure that all members were alert and it was marked as ‘very successful’ and effective.
The ice-breaker activity was success because it helped the participants in becoming familiar with the program format and the learning strategies/styles of the trainer and other participants. It was a component of the program orientation that helped alleviate tensions and anxieties associated with being placed what most found to be unfamiliar situation, which had a set tone for the training experience (Jeffrey, 1997).
When assessing our team’s development needs, we referred to Bloom's Taxonomy of learning domains (Marzano & Kendall, 2007) and Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle (Dixon, 1999), which offered us a practical checklist or template for scheming and assessing all sorts of learning and training activities. The four learning styles and frameworks were also considered for various learning activities (Sadler-Smith, 1997).
In general, a brief explanation and background for the game provided a context for the activity to help the team see where it fits into the program’s agenda. The participants were also given a chance to discuss how they would use the resources and share appropriate information, such as any rules or guidelines. In addition to debrief questions provided with the instructions, members were encouraged to prepare other questions that are more tailored to suit the debrief discussion.
On reflection, I think that few participants did not learn the skill as well as we had hoped. Some participant viewed the game as being overly simplistic, while the majority found them to be relevant and vivid. According to Harrison (1997), you need to gauge where your group is in relation to the game proposed (Page & Donelan, 2003). I would recommend building this in by pre-test the game on one or two participants.
While observing participants to see whether they had learned the skills, it was evident that some members perceived the game as cute. This made them to be distracted from the overall goal of the team meeting. I would recommend that the participants be encouraged to contribute answers for questions of ‘What is it for us,’ ‘So what,’ ‘Now what?’ for each activity, and there should be more substantiative answers. The questions and the answers should not be overly complicated, nor should they be in any way allowed to become personally threatening to any member.
Overall, I think the order of the group activity’s content worked well because the roles of the designated team members were well defined for this group. There are three levels of participation in the group, each with a given role. Operating principles in this group helped the members clarify their expectations of each other.
Overall, the delivery and impact was strong because these exercise enabled the participants to see where their learning styles or attitudes need improvements. The learning process was more experiential in its application. This is; the participants were required to do something and come up with some kind of results or answers.
In conclusion, this team work activity provided us with proven techniques that will assist us in communicating more effectively with team members. The success of our group work activity was as a result of the willingness of team members to participate, in addition to their ongoing interaction that was geared towards developing a specific area of practice according to the teamwork objectives (Charlotte, 2005). I would recommend that such a group be formed and facilitated following certain guidelines which outlines the value contribution provided by the group and also highlights their role as a consultative forum and also as information conduit in support of predetermined strategic priorities.