People & Culture
Title: About making a team
Location: Bristol UX Conference 2018, UK
I gave the above five min 'lightning talk' at @UXBristol. The event had fantastic speakers and workshops. Can't recommend it enough.

It went something like this:

Teams are alive and they will evolve whether you like it or not.
As a service designer I work with many different professionals and experts (users included) who are nothing more than people with emotions and points of view.

Considering that we are all complicated beings and many studies have been made on how groups evolve — I like to be prepared and use Dr Susan Wheelan's IMGD* model to navigate my way (and behaviours) towards an effective performing team, regardless of my own and other people's emotions and points of view. This is how you can do it too:

1. Confront the cocktail party
You start working with people, you get to know each other and try really hard to be liked. As a group you depend massively on the appointed 'lead' of the group or the 'boss'… or the loudest person sometimes.

What to do now?: Have meals together. Nothing accelerates the 'getting to know each other' part like having a relaxing time together.

2. Beg to differ
One day… you'll feel comfortable enough to disagree. The catch is that others will too — meaning conflict will be alive and well. It's unlikely you'll survive this stage and regressing to the cocktail party may be safer.

What to do now?: Hand over the pressure. Have an external party facilitate a difficult chat. It's ok to disagree! Create space to discover what people are needing the most from each other.

3. Trust
Yay! You all survived the fights. You're on top of the world. The established trust may be reinforced by mature disagreements or broken by emotional bursts. It'll be up to the individual's emotional self regulation and the teams group tolerance to define.

What to do now?: Accept that this is a honeymoon period and take advantage of the frictionless environment to introduce feedback. Speak about what works and doesn't work for you — always focusing on what's best for the work and for your wellbeing.

4. Epic teamwork

You know that movie scene when a rocket pushes past all the space debris? Its like that. But with people you trust and a project you care about. At this stage conflict is easily managed and the team self organises. Direction from a leader is always useful, however the team dynamics have been forged.

People will be focusing on the work, not on each other or on being liked. Conversations will be productive and very little time will be wasted.

What to do now?: Keep on keeping on. When I've gotten to this stage with people around me it's lasted a little, but not long. Because some disagreements may challenge the group and require space and a facilitator. I've learnt to recognise that as a regression and take it seriously, because stage 4 is too good to leave.

I'm sure Dr Susan Wheelan won't mind me changing the titles of the stages or sharing the theory. You can read a more adult and well-linked up version of this article here, by Alexey Ivanov — awesome Hyper fellow student.

What matters to me is that more people acknowledge that teams are alive. Especially when we all need to work together to tackle really big problems around us. I for one, with this knowledge, consider it a duty to my wellbeing and those around me to care and act accordingly. Join me.

*IMGD stands for Integrated model of group development.
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