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Entries in teams (2)

Wednesday
Mar092016

More on the dynamics and communication patterns of highly effective groups

Clara’s post last week got me thinking about other research that has been undertaken regarding the dynamics of teams within the workplace, and what that data might contribute to the discussion.

The practice of allowing "Equal Share of Speaking Time" in meetings, or "Conversational Turn-Taking," has also been independently identified by MIT researchers (from my favorite group there, Human Dynamics) as one of a handful of key factor of success for teams (see this article from Harvard Business Review).

According to the MIT research, successful team meetings are characterized by the following:

  1. Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.

  1. Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  2. Members connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader.
  3. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
  4. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.

Personally, I love #4, which busts the myth of the necessity for stern unyielding meeting discipline.

The team at MIT has even developed an online teleconference tool that shows a visualization of the participants: a circle that starts at the middle and gets closer and closer to you if you speak too much; the objective is for the team to "keep the ball at the center.”

Image source: Harvard Business Review

-- Yassine El Ouarzazi

 

Monday
Feb292016

Google, working groups and the nature of work

What happens when a company at the forefront of the digital economy -- one that is known globally for fostering new ways to unleash employee creativity to drive growth -- decides to apply it's expertise in data collection and analysis to improve the performance of its teams? Google undertook this effort, and the short answer is that for a long time, nothing much happened because the data yielded few patterns...and the ones that did emerge were often contradictory.

Ultimately, despite the apparently contradictory data, Google’s intense data collection and number crunching  led it to a conclusion that good managers have intuitively known for a long time: the best teams find ways to listen to each other and read the reactions, moods and feelings of other members.

The team at Google responsible for the ‘‘employee performance optimization’’ research believes the effort was valuable even though its conclusions echo those previously articulated by earlier managers. They argue that it has created a method for talking about our insecurities, fears and aspirations in more constructive ways, and that it also has given us the tools to quickly teach lessons that once took managers decades to absorb.

Just having data that proves to people that these things are worth paying attention to sometimes is the most important step in getting them to actually pay attention." -- Julia Rozovsky, Google

We encourage you to read through the interesting, more complete story in this New York Times feature, What Google Learned From Its Quest To Build The Perfect Team. You can also check out Google's own "curated collection" of tools and lessons learned from its study of the workplace here.

-- Clara Shen