I have to admit that it was with mixed feelings that I entered into the course material on “Teamwork” for LIBR 203. Part of me was excited about the discussion because I recognize that the fault of many online courses is the lack of actual interaction with real human beings. It’s funny, but I already feel that I’m already interacting more with my classmates than I would in a traditional class – but that is an aside. I also entered into the discussion with the thought of “are you kidding me? Do we even have to discuss this?” But I’m a music teacher of 20 years and contrary to what Enid Erwin said, athletics is not the only place where teamwork is an essential, expected and embraced part of the activity.
I get it. I was never keen on group work in my early years. Although I’m better with it now, I still have a tendency to want to know what it is I have to do, go away and put my nose to the grindstone. My best experiences with teamwork, outside of music, have all come in the last year as a new headmaster at our school has resurrected Strategic Plan work and the development of a clearly stated educational philosophy for our school. I participated in as much of that work as I could. So it is on this backdrop that I come at my thoughts on teamwork.
Although all of the resources around personal skills were useful, the highlight for me was Dr. Haycock’s presentation (if you are reading this post and are not an SJSU SLIS student but would like to hear this presentation, you can access it here.) Throughout it, I found myself reflecting on past experiences working in teams. At times, I have been the silent one along for the ride. At other times, I’ve been head cynic. And, on occasion, I’ve been the one to say “screw you guys!’ and do the work myself. What stood out for me was the “Four Stages of Team Development” and Dr. Haycock’s reflections on each. I found a lot of truth in what he had to say but have never thought of teamwork in these terms. I like the concepts of Storming and Norming, the natural process of dissatisfaction after a group is formed and a task assigned and then the need to find the common ground in terms of goals and process before the group can move forward. As I write, it strikes me that these four stages are the same stages that any musical ensemble must go through. John Trepp, a choral conductor in Vancouver once told me that each choir must find it’s own sound. The nature of the human voice is that no two choirs will sound the same and it is this Norming process that allows the group to recognize and value the sound that it alone can produce because of the unique contributions of each choir member. In a large musical ensemble, it is typically someone else who forms the group and God knows there is a lot of Storming that goes on, but once the Norming process begins, the true sound of the ensemble emerges and the music making is it’s most enjoyable. I also recognize that in any team, musical or otherwise, a product is often produced while the group is yet able to Perform as a unit.
I look forward to applying much of what Dr. Haycock said in his presentation in my working life and I know that I will return to his material again and again.
Enid Erwin presented on the same topic and there was a fair amount of repetition in concept with what Dr. Haycock had offered. There were a couple of points that resounded with me and they both had to do with respect for your teammates. I liked Erwin’s reference to Tim Russert of NBC and his Responsibilities. They are:
To the team
always show up
always do the job
always prepare for meetings
To the teammates
always communicate with each other
always respect each other
always support each other
I recognize that can be summed up in a simple, “respect your teammates,” and this should be obvious to everyone, but it is amazing how many times these simple rules are broken. These rules may go up somewhere prominent in my school library! The comment about using collaborative tools wisely and to ensure that they are being used to include the ideas and work of all team members also reflects this idea of respect.
The tech tools themselves are all brilliant. I use most if not all of them with teachers and students at my school and although they all have their strengths and weaknesses, the fact that they can break down walls of geography and time to work together more easily is the true benefit of current web based technology. The one point of advice I would give to anyone using collaborative tools for the first time is to check your ego at the door. The first time I wrote a wiki entry for an encyclopedic type wiki, I spent a lot of time preparing a “finished product” and was quite hurt when I returned to it the next day to find it rewritten. Much of what goes on in collaborative work spaces is a group effort. Count on your word not being the last one and always try to take a step back and view the groups work with perspective. If you feel that your contribution made the final product better than what currently exists, you can always go back a step or tw in the document’s history or discuss the issue and find a third version that is a compromise.
All in all, the cynicism and angst that I may have felt launching into this topic has dissipated and been replaced with enthusiasm and an eagerness to explore some of these concepts at a deeper level both in my studies and work life.