If you need to bring together people from different backgrounds and experience in order to take important decisions for the organisation, you need to allow some time for them to develop as a group. In small projects, very basic training or a detailed briefing may be all that is required. In more major undertakings, time invested in developing your team will help ensure you make the right decisions.
It is important to get the right mix of people involved in a team. Most of the projects we refer to involve changing technology or processes. In situations such as this you need a combination of the people who:
- Know why we carry out the process
- Know ‘how we do it now’ inside out and
- Can inject new ideas
If the process is related to the use of technology you also need people who fully understand the technological capabilities as this can be important in helping to impose a sanity check on blue-sky thinking.
Usually within any educational establishment you have a limited choice of people available to carry out projects and often it is the same small pool of individuals that are called upon to fill the posts of all project teams. Belbin Team Roles are the ideal mix of roles for a team. Where team members don’t conveniently fall into each of the roles, then allocating them to individuals can have the same effect.
The phases of team development are commonly referred to as forming, storming, norming and performing.
Your team members may have specialist experience in a particular function but they will also bring to the team their own style of working and problem solving. Try to understand individual approaches so you can make best use of the mix you have available.
Left and right brain thinkers
The two sides of the brain function differently in terms of how they process information.
Left brain skills help people to function well in high tech environments, as they are adapted to analysing things and introducing logic to a problem or challenge.
Right brain thinking is more holistic and intuitive. Left brain thinkers respond well to verbal messages and find it easy to describe and define things whereas right brain thinkers respond better to nonverbal imagery. Whilst left brain thinkers respond well to the meaning and context of words, right brain thinkers are more likely to respond to the actual phrasing and tone of sentences. In effect, skills develop within the left brain and values within the right.
Adaptors and innovators
Professor Michael Kirton, in his adaptation/Innovation theory, suggests that there is a spectrum of creative style – illustrating the different ways in which individuals approach bringing about change or problem-solving. Adaptors are at one end and Innovators are at the other. Adaptors prefer ‘to make improvements in existing ways of doing things’ and Innovators prefer ‘to do things differently’.
Among many other characteristics, the adaptor is likely to:
- Prefer improvement of existing structures over mould-breaking change
- Be methodical and prudent
- Put a high value on being efficient within a system
- Be interested in solving problems rather than looking for them
Whereas the Innovator, unsurprisingly given that they rest at the other side of the spectrum, is likely to:
- Prefer mould-breaking change over improvement of existing structures
- Be seen as undisciplined and reckless
- Put greater value on thinking up new skills than on implementing them
- Enjoy seeking out problems
Adaptors approach problem-solving from the inside, and Innovators from the outside, in relation to the status quo.
Insiders and outsiders
Insiders in this instance are those members of the team who come from within the environment or organisation the team is concentrating on. Outsiders are external to the organisation or at least that part of it. Insiders will understand the status quo thoroughly but can often be too close to the issue in hand to effect major change. Outsiders introduce an element of objectivity and are more ready to question assumptions.