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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


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