Team Development

A project log for 2020 HDP Dream Team: UCPLA

The 2020 HDP Dream Teams are participating in a two month engineering sprint to address their nonprofit partner. Follow their journey here.

RubenRuben 07/11/2020 at 20:560 Comments

The first part of forming a team

Every team starts with individuals coming together to achieve a common goal. Everyone knows this and most of us have been a part of many different teams throughout our life. Sometimes you get to pick your own team members, but in many cases in our life our team is chosen for us. This was certainly true for the UCPLA Dream Team. The fine folks at SupplyFrame DesignLab interviewed several individuals and teams and very carefully and deliberately formed a Dream Team to crush each project.

A Dream Team

If you have been following our progress from the start, about two weeks ago, it is very apparent that our team is not, well, performing like a "Dream Team".

What's going on here?! After much careful planning and getting a group of enthusiastic individuals together with a common goal, this shouldn't be a problem.

We'll there are several reasons why this could be the case. It isn't always easy to identify what is holding a team back. However, I believe that every team follows a pattern or cycle of team development. I first learned about this idea during a BSA leadership training course known as Woodbadge (A multiple day course on skills and methods for advanced leadership).

Many of the methods I learned in Woodbadge are also taught at many other organizations and companies around the world.

For this log I mainly want to focus on the four stages of team development  and how it relates to our Dream Team development.

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The following content is directly from the Woodbadge workbook I used.
  1. FORMING (“Pickup Sticks”): Teams often begin with high enthusiasm, and high, unrealistic expectations. These expectations are accompanied by some anxiety about how they will fit in, how much they can trust others, and what demands will be placed on them. Team members are also unclear about norms, roles, goals, and timelines. In this stage, there is high dependence on the leadership figure for purpose and direction. Behavior is usually tentative and polite. The major issues are personal well-being, acceptance, and trust.

    In our case an added sense of unrealistic expectations was unintentionally instigated by calling us a "Dream Team". While we had some direction, we were unclear about how to proceed with a project that appears simple, but became increasingly complex the more we learned about the end user (more on this in my next log). Also, in the first week of the project it became apparent that our team was lacking the self driven leadership needed to meet expectations.

  2. STORMING (“At Odds”): As the team gets some experience under its belt, there is a dip in morale as team members experience a discrepancy between their initial expectations and reality. The difficulties in accomplishing the task and in working together lead to confusion and frustration, as well as a growing dissatisfaction with dependence upon the leadership figure. Negative reactions to each other develop, subgroups form, which polarize the team. The breakdown of communication and the inability to problem-solve result in lowered trust. The primary issues in this stage concern power, control, and conflict.

    In our case, we have a deadline to meet, but we were reluctant to make design choices without gathering more information about our users. Also, every team member has a different product idea and we couldn't decide on what path to take. I feel like we are currently in this stage.

  3. NORMING (“Coming Around”): As the issues encountered in the second stage are addressed and resolved, morale begins to rise. Task accomplishment and technical skills increase, which contributes to a positive, even euphoric, feeling. There is increased clarity and commitment to purpose, values norms, roles, and goals. Trust and cohesion grow as communication becomes more open and task oriented. There is a willingness to share responsibility and control. Team members value the differences among themselves. The team starts thinking in terms of “we” rather than “I”. Because the newly developed feelings of trust and cohesion are fragile, team members tend to avoid conflict for fear of losing the positive climate. This reluctance to deal with conflict can slow progress and lead to less effective decisions. Issues at this stage concern the sharing of control and avoidance of conflict.

  4. PERFORMING (“As One”): At this stage, both productivity and morale are high, and they reinforce one another. There is a sense of pride and excitement in being part of a high-performing team. The primary focus is on performance. Purpose, roles and goals are clear. Standards are high, and there is a commitment to not only meeting standards, but to continuous improvement. Team members are confident in their ability to perform and overcome obstacles. They are proud of their work and enjoy working together. Communication is open and leadership is shared. Mutual respect and trust are the norms. Issues include continued refinements and growth.

The time each team spends at each stage varies greatly depending on many factors, like team size, severity of conflict, or other team dynamics. It is also common for teams to repeat all or part of the cycle as new team members and or obstacles are encountered.

I'll be sure to add logs as we progress as a team.