Collaboration and Teamwork
Theoretical Introduction – Theory Behind the Scenarios
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, the number one global workforce trend is Teamwork (Pelster & Schwartz, 2016). Employees are expected to work more collaboratively than ever before. The results of the Skill IT Research conducted within the framework of this project show that the competence ‘Collaboration & Teamwork ‘ is highly valued by employers and is an important feature they are seeking in candidates.
The term Team is derived from sports and games, where it is a well-established concept. When it relates to work, it is of comparatively recent origin (Belbin, 2010). A brief definition of teamwork contains the idea of working with others in order to accomplish a common goal. The definition from P21’s Framework for 21st Century Learning (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2002) states that:
Collaborating with others means to:
- Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
- Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
- Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member
Teamwork is much more than the simple sum of the individual performances of its members. Individual contributions are enriched by interactions between team players and group dynamics. Advanced teamwork is one of the most efficient ways we know of accomplishing complex tasks and missions (Belbin, 2010).
At the foundation of effective teamwork lays openness and respect for diversity. It is essential to perceive the diversity of the members of the team as a gift that adds value to the process of collaboration and to the outcomes of working together. At first, it can be hard to manage these differences between people, it can cause misunderstandings or conflicts, but when facilitated in a proper way it is beneficial for the team; it gives different perspectives on the situation and has a positive influence on the results of the teamwork.
Traditional teamwork emphasized interactions between team members and put a focus on the personal traits of employees working in teams. According to Patrick Lencioni (2016), an ideal team player possesses three virtues – he is humble, hungry, and smart. A humble employee is someone who is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for his or her contributions. A hungry employee is self-motivated and diligent, ready to work harder and to take on more responsibilities when needed for a team’s success. A smart employee knows how to deal with people in the most effective way. While it is still true, nowadays the context of teamwork has changed and it influences how we perceive collaboration.
The development of technology facilitates a new kind of teamwork, it is not only a stationary face-to-face collaboration. The use of online management tools and clouds change the way employees work together and how teams are formed. Cloud storage enables team members to access and share various files; IT software facilitates remote communication. As a result, there is no need to stay at the office all the time. More and more often team members are based in different locations and work remotely. This entails communication and interactions via the Internet and affects group dynamics.
When thinking of youth work and the goal of equipping young people with the competences needed for the job market, we have to take into consideration the use of digital tools which are present in the workplace and to think of combining that with teamwork and collaboration as acompetence. Technology advances very fast; to be up-to-date with this progress, developing a growth mindset – being open and ready to adapt to rapid changes – is a must.
This approach is reflected in Agile, a Project Management methodology. It grew out of the IT world, where speed and flexibility are essential and is now gaining popularity in all sorts of teams, not necessarily connected with software development.
Scrum is an innovative method derived from Agile approach. A set of activities that allow employees to make their own decisions, taking into account their needs and pace of work, while giving the employer a sense of security in terms of achieving satisfactory results. It creates a culture of cooperation and openness, giving the employees freedom in making decisions, taking responsibility for the process, responding to the modern needs of young people, who live in the world of innovation and digitization from the beginning of their lives. This simple and transparent process includes 6 practices that ensure effectiveness and provide a sense of security to the team members:
- Project planning: The initial planning for a project
- Release planning: Planning the next set of product features to release
- Sprint: A short cycle of development of the product (1-4 weeks)
- Sprint planning: A meeting at the beginning of each sprint where the team commits to a sprint goal and identifies the requirements and individual tasks
- Sprint review: A meeting at the end of each sprint to demonstrate the working product functionality completed during the sprint
- Sprint retrospective: A meeting at the end of each sprint where the team discusses what went well, what could be changed, and how to make changes
While Scrum is becoming more and more popular and steps out from the IT environment to other fields and industries, the Agile principles can be applied with success in a learning context. Already, we can spot initiatives like eduScrum that aim to bring agility to the classroom. Non-formal education should follow this path as well and give young people an opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning and enhance their ability to adapt to fast-changing environment. Our role should be to support young people in developing an agile mindset, a universal attitude that serves for more effective teamwork.
What does it include? With an agile mindset you:
- Keep a positive attitude
- Focus more on team success than on individual accomplishment
- Appreciate small accomplishments – it leads to confidence
- Treat mistakes and failures as learning opportunities and a starting point to develop another solution
- Adapt to changes and evolving conditions of work
- Take time for self-reflection and draw conclusions
- Have a passion for learning and strive for continuous improvement
To support the development of Teamwork and Collaboration competence as a complement to a growth mindset, it is important to know how to use specific tools used in the workplace. Nowadays, digital tools are widespread and present in nearly every organization so it is essential to include those in youth work. Young people entering the job market need to be able to cooperate in different teams, take responsibility for accomplishing the common goal, but they also have to be able to decide which are the right digital tools to use and how to deploy them in the most effective manner.
From young people’s perspective acquiring strong Teamwork Skills together with learning how to use digital tools use is an asset. In this way, they will gain both soft and hard skills that are complementary and enable the best work performance. Learning these skills during youth work activities transforms the potential of a young person at the beginning of his/her professional path. It equips him/her with job-related experience that can be demonstrated during a job interview and which are characteristic recruiters are looking for.
To create a learning situation for young people, they should experience working in various teams. To draw conclusions from the experience and reinforce the learning, this must be followed by self-reflection. The experience itself is not enough. The proposed workshops follow this idea. They are based on Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, where the experience is the starting point. The participants will be invited to work in small groups and to reflect on this process later on. Digital tools are used in the workshops to support the learning experience, giving additional value to participants. The young people will not only enhance the teamwork competence needed in job-related situations but also become familiar with digital resources that support working in a team. This focus is crucial in times where more and more often we work in dispersed teams or remotely.
Delivering these workshops requires solid preparation. In order to be able to guide young people through the use of selected digital tools, youth workers have to get to know them in advance. Sometimes some technical preparation is needed e.g. downloading an application, creating an account etc.
References and further reading:
- Belbin, M. (2010). Team Roles at Work, Routledge.
- Howard, L. (2015, April 1). What Does It Mean to Have an Agile Mindset? Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.agileconnection.com/article/what-does-it-mean-have-agile-mindset
- Pelster, B., Schwartz, J. (Eds.). (2016). Global Human Capital Trends 2016. The new organization: Different by design. Oakland, CA: Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from https://documents.deloitte.com/insights/HCTrends2016
- Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Salas, E. (2018). Team development interventions: Evidence-based approaches for improving teamwork. American Psychologist, 73(4), 517-531.
- Lencioni, P. (2016). The ideal team player. How to recognize and cultivate the three essential virtues, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.