Working in teams – tips for success

So it’s around that time in the semester when the dreaded group assignment looms.

A good team can produce better results than individuals working alone, and teamwork can improve the abilities of each individual, teach you to cope with challenge and criticism and help you to consider different perspectives.

However, due to the nature of group work, group members can sometimes find that they are not working effectively. Some of the most common problems that occur in group assignments include –

  • Misunderstandings about responsibilities
  • (Perceived) lack of commitment in some group members
  • Personality clashes
  • One person doing all the work

Sound familiar?

To give your group the best possible chance at success, try the following process –

  • Take the time to introduce yourselves– this might sound obvious, but talk about your skills, assign roles and duties to each group member, and swap contact details.
  • Meet as soon as possible – meet regularly and set an agenda. Record the minutes and actions, and make sure all group members acknowledge and agree to timelines.

You can download meeting agenda and minutes templates from Studywell > Working in Teams

  • Set ground rules – this means agreeing on and setting up expectations for attendance, confidentiality of group information, consideration of group members, amount of effort to be given to the assignment and timelines for completion. Write them down and distribute to all group members so there are no misunderstandings.
  • Analyse the assignment task – make sure all group members are clear about the task and divide duties (try dividing duties according to each group member’s strengths).  Set deadlines, and build a review of the group’s progress into each meeting – this helps to avoid last minute panic.
  • Assign functional roles – each team member can take on a variety of functional roles such as – coordinator (keeps track of the project); initiator (suggests new ideas and plans); information seeker (performs research); goal setter (evaluates and set targets for the group); evaluator (critically analyses the assignment); planner (organises schedules); finisher (edits and proofreads)
  • Create strategies for dealing with problems – decide on how decisions will be made (e.g. consensus, majority, compromise). Consider the perspectives and personal situations of other team members and record all decisions, actions and incidents in your meeting minutes. Finally, consult with your tutor or lecturer if your group cannot resolve the problem.

Find out more about working in teams on Studywell  > Working in Teams

Remember that proactive people + planned process = successful team! And you might just make some wonderful new friends in the process…

Top tips for group assignments

Group assignments can be a stressful part of the semester. These are our top tips to get stuff done and avoid any major conflicts.

1. Get Together. Meeting on campus is usually the most convenient for all group members. Coffee can be a nice way to bond early in a project; a library study room can be more practical for computer access and completing a project. Avoid wasting time looking for a free space, by booking a study room in advance online or through the QUT iPhone app.

2. Divide and Record. Sharing the workload is the advantage of group work, but miscommunication about who is doing what by when is a cause of problems. Writing down and circulating your planning, means that everyone is on the same page, literally. There are even templates to make this simple.

3.  Keep in touch. Being proactive about communication helps avoid blow ups, which is often a better solution than resolving conflict.  Proactive steps include: swapping contact details at the beginning of project; deciding in advance how issues will be resolved (compromise, majority, consensus); and maintaining open communication outside the group, e.g. with lecturers and tutors. For more effective teamwork strategies, check out Studywell.

4. Share. A lot can happen between weekly group meetings (and not necessarily the project). Sharing documents online, where everyone can monitor changes and contribute can save time. As well as cut down on email confusion and multiple versions.  We’ve used Google docs, wikis, and experimented with zoho, but there are lots of alternatives freely available on the web.

We’d like to hear what other solutions you have for working with group documents online. Do you use wiki spaces? Do you find Google docs easier to use?
Or have you got everything in a shared Dropbox folder?

students working at QUT Library