Most teams solve problems, and that means working together in meetings. We meet in conference rooms, in hallways, at copiers, in cafeterias, at vending machines, by telephone, in virtual meeting spaces, on airplanes, and even washrooms (though washroom meetings are vastly over-rated). Working together, we can sometimes forget that we're all people, and that we have a common objective — solving the problem.
Here are nine guidelines that might help us all to remember that when we work together to solve problems, we are all still people.
- Assume that you still don't understand the problem
- You're more likely to be open to new ideas if you accept that your understanding is incomplete. At any point, it's safest to assume that some subtleties have escaped you. See "Problem Defining and Problem Solving," Point Lookout for August 3, 2005, for more.
- Nobody measures status accurately — including you
- How you look to others doesn't matter much, because the few who do keep score are mostly counting their own chips, not yours. They do compare themselves to how they see you, but you can't control how they see you. And your perception of your own status is probably way off, too.
- Waiting for permission or space to participate doesn't work. If you have a worthwhile contribution, make it available. But remember — no elbows. See "What to Do About Organizational Procrastination" for more.
- Make space for everyone
- When teams engage, and some people tend to dominate, they deprive the team of access to the contributions of others. Take responsibility for making space for everyone. See "Plopping," Point Lookout for October 22, 2003, for more.
- Balance task and relationship
- Solving You're more likely to be open
to new ideas if you accept
that your understanding
is incompletethe problem by trashing relationships is failure. Preserving relationships at the expense of solving the problem is also failure. See "If You Weren't So Wrong So Often, I'd Agree with You," Point Lookout for May 8, 2002, for more.
- Give it a rest
- When we work too hard, we tire. We can lose our creative edge. We can hurt one another. To recover creativity and humanity, refresh yourselves. Take breaks. Work in a variety of formats. See "The Shower Effect: Sudden Insights," Point Lookout for January 25, 2006, for more.
- Increasing pressure eventually causes turbulence
- A calm river can handle only so much water. Beyond that, you get white water. A little pressure does help the team, but more leads to conflict, errors, turnover, stress diseases, divorces, and other bad stuff.
- Have special procedures for emergencies
- Usually, we have time for research, detailed discussion, and consensus decision-making. In emergencies, we don't. Time works against us. Have special procedures for "condition red." See "Declaring Condition Red," Point Lookout for August 22, 2001, for more.
- Appreciate differences
- We're all different. We approach problems differently. We see things differently. Our differences ensure that we take all relevant factors into account, and that we try a variety of approaches to solving problems. Those differences are a source of great strength. See "Appreciate Differences," Point Lookout for March 14, 2001, for more.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The True Costs of Cubicles
- Although cubicles do provide facility cost savings compared with walled offices, they do so at the price
of product development delays and increased product development costs. Decisions of facilities planners
can have dramatic project schedule impact.
- Virtual Presentations
- Modern team efforts almost certainly involve teleconferences, and many teleconferences include presentations,
often augmented with video or graphics. Delivering these virtual presentations effectively requires
an approach tailored to the medium.
- Tangled Thread Troubles
- Even when we use a facilitator to manage a discussion, managing a queue for contributors can sometimes
lead to problems. Here's a little catalog of those difficulties.
- Management Debt: I
- Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths
— that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on
management debt? How can we pay it down?
- Congruent Decision-Making: II
- Decision-makers who rely on incomplete or biased information are more likely to make decisions that
don't fit the reality of their organizations. Here's Part II of a framework for making decisions that fit.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 24: Big, Complicated Problems
- Big, complicated problems can be difficult to solve. Even contemplating them can be daunting. But we can survive them if we get advice we can trust, know our resources, recall solutions to past problems, find workarounds, or as a last resort, escape. Available here and by RSS on April 24.
- And on May 1: Full Disclosure
- The term "full disclosure" is now a fairly common phrase, especially in news interviews and in film and fiction thrillers involving government employees or attorneys. It also has relevance in the knowledge workplace, and nuances associated with it can affect your credibility. Available here and by RSS on May 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.