Can the concept of self-management in the workplace be taught successfully?
That was my question, during my Fulbright semester, when building the class agenda for a graduate level introduction to management at the University of Latvia. My conceptual model was the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s musicians coaching a student orchestra to perform a musical concert without a conductor.
Another question, once underway, could I leave the teams alone or would I need to intervene in conductorly ways, like I saw some
Orpheus musician/coaches doing?
Besides a strong curricular emphasis on teamwork, I designed three projects over the semester for three different student teams. In other words, each student was part of three different teams. The third project was to be these students’ concert performance in which they put together all they had learned about teamwork and collaboration.
1. “Books2Eat” team
2. “Women as leaders”
3. “Self-managing team” working on a team-selected topic.
In team project number 3, the self-managing teams (5 or 6 students each) presented their findings and recommendations on the last day of class in Riga on June 3.
Here are their topics:
Team A. ”One library – equal possibilities for everybody.” They developed a submission ready grant proposal to create a “socially accessible environment for every inhabitant of our city.”
Team A’s product was a “funding ready” proposal for improving access for disabled library users.
Team B. (The “Garden of Eden” team!) Women in the profession – A look at economic and prestige aspects of librarianship. The team hypothesized that the “field’s feminization (female predominance in the sector), the traditional treatment of librarian as a secondary profession” result in low salaries for librarians and inordinate salary reductions during economic downturns.
Team C developed ways to make the library more relevant to students and to draw them into the library building. Team C has these goals in mind:
- Draw more young people into public libraries
- Make students more excited about using the public library
- Become more appealing overall to the students and to get them to use the library as a resource more often
- Entertain students while familiarizing them with the library for their future use
To return to my question about teaching self-management. Each team’s plus/delta
(what went well, what could have gone better) gives us insights into the stresses each team endured and survived and the pluses show each team’s success.
As you can see in the attached plus/delta
s, each team has many things they would change and shortcomings they would like to improve upon. Their candid listings suggest to me an elevated understanding by each team of what is desirable behavior and what is required for a successful group project, for a team to be highly effective. The deltas show an understanding of not only what to improve but how to improve - literally, what they would do differently if they were again in a team situation.
These students learned a great deal about teamwork dynamics and what it means to be self-managing. When I contrast my students’ work with the conductor-less student orchestras I find similarities. The student musicians, like the Riga students, delivered a high quality product and yet have a long list of what could have gone better!
Just like the student musicians, some would prefer a boss, a conductor to direct and to demand. Most, if I look at the pluses, see the value of working in teams and derive satisfaction from that process. No team asked me to intervene, either in the plus/delta
s or during the semester. Perhaps I could have done more as a coach, but as a first effort, I am very pleased with and proud of the students
My own delta: give each team one hour to present and respond to comments and questions. Twenty minutes was sufficient for the report, but left little time for questions and discussion. There were numerous questions we could have discussed not the least of which would have been about the plus/delta
s and their meaning.
Appendix: Team Plus/Deltas
Team A Plus/Delta
• Good teamwork.
• New knowledge acquired.
• Clear distribution of assignments and roles.
• Equal contribution to the work.
• Possibility to cooperate and to get acquainted with new people.
• Topical theme (there are very few libraries, which disabled people can visit freely and get in easily).
Concern in the beginning, how successful will be our cooperation with the previously unknown people.
• Small lack of motivation to begin the work out of the project earlier.
• The lack of the leader who will motivate us to aim higher and to perform even better.
• Difficulties to get together.
• Need more teamwork.
• Need to change strategy to get better teamwork.
Team B Plus/Delta
• Team is made of various profiles of people belonging to different levels of knowledge and experience;
• Everyone were informed about the progress of the task activity;
• Actively conducted questionnaire distribution;
• Since the project’s theme was made up, all team members were clear about what to do, about responsibilities;
• The team’s ability to agree on a goal, theme and actions to reach the goal;
• Good ideas;
• Team members’ responsibility taking;
• Responsive members of the team;
• Respondents were also very responsive. We received back a great quantity of questionnaires;
• Duty sharing (distributing among members of the team);
• Collaboration / also had Yes people on the team;
• Good organization using e-mail – communication;
• Constant progress discuss;
• Mistake correcting (each member had an opportunity to correct mistakes);
• Everyone had an opportunity to express ideas, participate in questionnaire analyzing;
• Taking the self-managing team project problem (assignment) very seriously;
• Great planning and time distribution;
• Two bright leaders on the team, who took initiative;
• Each member of the team chose a task (part of the project) for himself, without pressure, independently;
• Everyone has completed his task successfully (according to their capabilities);
• The team had an informal leader, who took initiative in bringing the team together, organization of work and activities;
• Presentation will be very good!
• Before starting working, precise and objective tasks and roles of each member of the team should have been determined;
• Endeavor to listen to each other;
• Limited opportunity to work as a team on a project for every member of the team. The communication was within the groups of two or three people. At the beginning of the project, there were only two or three people involved in a discussion by e-mail;
• A leader was needed for decision making;
• Bad circumstances;
• The form (questionnaire) could have been developed better;
• The team’s spirit appeared in the end of the project’s making;
• Communication could be better;
• Hard to work with people from different institutions;
• Hard to find time to meet;
• Could have met more often with the team;
• Too much focus on details sometimes;
• No clarity about the problem formulating at the beginning;
• Very limited direct-acting communication possibilities;
• Different teamwork building activities weren’t … used („intellectual parties”, collective discussions at the cafes or at someone’s home etc.);
• The more quiet, more restrained team members weren’t fully engaged in teamwork in the beginning (their potential wasn’t fully unlocked and used).
Team C Plus Delta