April 14, 2011

Communication is key to teamwork

The title might sound trite, and obvious, but it has been an interesting cognitive realisation for me the last few days, working on the KBAM task. We were having real trouble for a while. We had all been working on the different parts, but when it came to linking it all together, there was a sense that we were utterly lost. How do you about combatting this, with such a huge task in front of you?

Happily, our approach soon became obvious to us. We really needed to TALK to each other. Like I said, that sounds obvious, but it can be really hard to do when everyone has different areas of expertise, and everybody is mainly interested in their own work. Once this became clear to me, I realised we were committing the ultimate sin - there was no systems thinking going on! We were going to end up with sub-optimised output.

Well, I'm the leader, so this was my fault, and I tried to set about correcting it. We wrote all the different areas that we were working on, on the board at once, so everybody in the team could see every area that we were trying to cover as part of our presentation to the board. At this stage, I told everybody to forget their sections, but look at the areas that everyone else was working on, and spend a few minutes asking each other person questions about what they were working on, and about areas of intersection between topics. In this way, we started to build up a picture of the system as a whole, and we could start making higher quality assumptions and deciding on plans together. The task became about the imagined reality of WaveRiders, and no longer about underlying theory. I feel like this was an important breakthrough, without which you would all have been facing a pretty disjointed presentation on Friday.

It is an important reflection for me. A criticism I have of LE is that every leadership opportunity was short-term, even in the mini-projects, because everyone was leading a project, and we switched between them quickly. This was why I was keen to take the role in KBAM - it's an extended, much more challenging test for me. You feel real elements of pressure when things are not going well, and as much as you might try to distribute leadership, you always feel the weight that little bit more.

So, in summary, goodbye Point 9, hello Point 14. If you're as much of an MBE geek as me, that will make perfect sense to you...:P


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. well down,,,as something happened the same in our group that…communication and patient is the most important thing…leaders will be under big pressure and chanllenge to deal with such a situation that everyone insist their own ideas…

    15 Apr 2011, 23:14

  2. Hey Yanik, I agree (with no ‘but’ ;) that what you did one that meeting could have been a breakthrough.
    What I also was reminded by our mini project was the power of words as ‘words are like bullets’ (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively)

    16 Apr 2011, 10:53

  3. I would like to build on Yanik’s reflection and Marcin’s comment; how words can influence communication within a team. What happens when there is a communication gap and words are transformed into bullets? So, I believe that it is not enough to have communication within a team, but effective communication among the team members is the key to disseminate knowledge. Maybe there are information indicated that are not observed or misinterpreted and we have to clarify them. Hence, if each team member has his own understanding of information how can we know that all team members have the same knowledge? But can two persons have the same amount of knowledge although they have the same information? Based on each person’s heuristics and biases we form a different aspect of knowledge.

    16 Apr 2011, 17:29

  4. hahahaha yes Mia, we know all about it ;)
    excellent post Yanik. and yes, the way we are treated and feel about the situation we are in really affects our performance

    17 Apr 2011, 23:26


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