Part the First: The Meat in Team
Oh man. Teamwork. I hate it. At least, I think I do. Or, I thought I did.
See, when I think about teamwork in a school setting, I’m instantly transported to high school, where being keen on good grades was out and seeming bored and disinterested and only doing the bare minimum work to prevent open rebellion and exile was totally in. I think of my biology class, where we were put in teams, er, “teams”. Remember how everyone would scramble to get the smart girl in their group so that she would look after the actual science bit and everyone else could just paste paper to the display board and color in a picture of a frog? I sure do (I was the girl with the pencil crayons and glue stick). Maybe that was just me. Maybe your experience of teamwork in high school was a harmonic symphony that ended with a grand presentation, fast friendships and an A+ for everyone. But probably not.
When I think of academic team work, that’s what I think of. But I think that my mental image of “team work” and the reality are actually quite divorced. I was watching the Haycock lecture and as he talked about the difference between horizontal and vertical teams I started thinking about my old workplace. There I met regularly with my boss, and my boss’s boss. We would go through the budget, discuss what we needed to buy and when, and set goals and priorities. Hey, that’s a vertical team!
And I got thinking about horizontal teams and realized that, crazy though it seems, my work book club is a horizontal team. We certainly went through all the stages Haycock lists. Here’s how it went: Everyone was excited about forming the club (forming) but not everyone wanted to read the first book on the list by the date and getting together to talk about it was a bit of a struggle (storming), then we all got feeling bad about letting one another down and finally got ourselves organized and did it (norming). Now we meet regularly, even with folks who’ve gone on to other careers. If that’s not performing, I dunno what you call it. Haycock wasn’t kidding when he said that every team goes through those stages!
When I think of teamwork, I am exactly like the students Irwin is envisioning. I do roll my eyes, I do groan (inwardly, or quietly, but groan none the less) and I do get a feeling of dread. I’m sure it’s because I’m instantly back in Biology, slacking off, or in Social Studies, doing everyone’s work so that I can get a good grade. But when I think about what teamwork means for me, here and now, and all the different sort of teams she mentions, I stop feeling dread and I start to feel interested and excited (I’m actually stoked to start Libr 202 – she says the students get to build a team database. Sounds like a challenge, and a fun one). That’s because I work in teams all the time, and I happen to think do my best work in teams too. I reach my goals more often, I feel more satisfied with the final result, and I’m more willing to take on complex or difficult projects (especially at work!).
So, it looks like I don’t actually dislike teams. Weirdly, it looks like I actually seek them out and enjoy being in them. Madness! Who knew? Up till last night, I certainly didn’t.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find I actually like teams. Now that I’ve had teams defined and explained and learned the stages of teamwork, I realized that I actually work and I play in them all the time. And, as Irwin says, I’m going to be using them to enhance my learning experience and, in turn, use that experience to enhance my work. That’s where the, um, meat is in a team; it’s virtuous, the feedback loop is endless. The skills you learn, the experience you gain, the friendships you forge, the work you get done, and the milestones you meet, they’re not just for school – they’re for life. Most people can read and summarize a textbook, but how many people can build a database with twenty other people? That is something I’m actually looking forward to. Go figure.