Group Work and Teams.

I have just finished the reading for group and team work which included the Moon article, the Vandeveer article and the Katzenbach and Douglas Smith article. I enjoyed this reading as I felt it was relevant to the amount of group work we are required to do for the various modules on the course. I felt that the Katzenbach and Douglas Smith article “Discipline of Teams” resonated with me due to my previous work experience as a retail sales assistant. I think that distinguishing between a group and a team is an important point to make. The word “team” is thrown around a lot in the area of retail sales with managers referring to the entire staff as a “team.” However, it is my experience, that there is a huge disconnect between management and staff and it would be far more productive for management to emphasize the difference between different teams, i.e. the customer service team, the product team, the management team etc.  Trying to create a team dynamic when these different groups of people do not have the same roles and goals is counter-productive as without the same goals there is no feeling of “teamwork” and people become disillusioned. Staff in my previous company were given roles in different areas but management did not separate the teams and set out goals for giving each team purpose. Generalised goals, e.g. good customer service were spoken about; however, in such a large group of people there was no specific targets for people in similar roles and lower level staff were not made aware of progress or lack thereof which led to lack of productivity and lack of accountability. I also found that I agreed with the article in that I believe groups are created and teams develop over time as common commitment and mutual accountability is something which has to grow within a group.

As Vandeveer points out, “A simple and irrefutable fact is that all of us working together can do more than any one of us working alone.” Working as part of a group at some point in our lives is probably inevitable. I found the stages set out by the Vandeveer article to be very helpful, in that I feel it is important that groups do go through each stage. Sometimes when it comes to group-work there are time constraints and natural leaders take over the group and stages such as “storming” do not happen. I appreciate every stage outlined has a place in group work and project development. If, for example, the “storming” does not happen, it could be that only one or two of the group put ideas forward and this can have a negative effect whereby good ideas by other group members may not be heard and members of the group become alienated and there is no cohesion, trust or mutual accountability. I think this is where the Moon article about assertiveness plays a role. I propose that this article or even a short seminar on this area should be made available to students starting their undergraduate degrees. Unfortunately, in Ireland, we have a tendency to refrain from speaking our minds if we feel it is not polite to do so and this can lead to us being overshadowed in a group situation or in conversation with someone we think is an authority over us. I think it is important for students to realise that they have the right to have their voice heard and that there are ways they can work on being assertive without being aggressive. In my own situation, I came from a very small school with a class of only 20 in Leaving Certificate and started as an undergraduate in Cork where there was 800 people in my English class. This situation was very intimidating and I wish someone had encouraged me to be more open with my opinions and to ask for help if I needed it. I have learned to be more assertive over time but some people become more shy and reluctant to express themselves and this is a pity as they may have something very interesting to say.

Finally, as regards having to work as part of a group this year, of course I have reservations and worries. I find it difficult that we do not choose our own groups and that they are assigned to us and I, like most of you, worry that I will find myself in a group where people will not pull their weight or someone will try to take control. However, from reading these pieces, I have realised that there are things that I need to work on to make myself a better team-player. Sometimes when someone in a group doesn’t understand something we might tend towards telling them not to worry about that section, when really we should try to help them and give them the time to understand because they are part of the group. Doing the VARK test made me realise that people learn in different ways. To learn that I am multimodal makes sense to me but I now know that other people learn in very different ways and there is no right or wrong way to learn and because of this I believe tolerance for different ways of doing and understanding things is something I can work on in my dealings with my various groups. I also hope to encourage quieter members of the group to speak as I know from experience how hard it can be to feel intimidated and unable to express yourself.

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