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This third of a four-part series describes a powerful, simple tool that can provide a strong first step for improving project team decision-making.!--h2>
“The diagrams illustrated dramatically exactly how our project team was misfiring.”
The project team selects a member to sit just outside the group. This person works with a large piece of paper or flip chart angled so the group can’t see it. On the paper, the person sketches the team’s seating, using a circle for each team member and a rectangle for the table in the center.
For several five-minute time blocks during the discussion, the person sitting outside the group diagrams the discussion, drawing an arrow each time a team member speaks from that team member to the person the team member is addressing. Five minutes of discussion often yields a diagram that looks like the illustration to the right.
How To Discuss The Diagram
“It’s tempting,” a project team leader we work with explains, “for me to glance at a diagram like this one, quickly conclude what it implies, and rush to implement repairs. However, I’ve learned that it’s much more effective to let the group discuss it. I’ve learned to make sure to hear from every team member when we do this.”
It’s most productive for the group to answer these three questions:
If all group members address these questions, the group usually illustrates the “wisdom of the team” that is deeply embedded in all groups. Team members themselves surface the key issues and devise effective action steps to address them.
A Real Project Team Uses The Diagram
Leader: So, here’s our question. When you look at the diagram, what do you see?
Responses from different team members:
Three Typical Project Team Problems
The project team’s discussion clarified three problems it shares with a wide range of groups and teams. The very familiarity of the three patterns can mask the serious problems they cause:
The Team Takes Action
Following the project team’s identification of the issues the diagram surfaced, the leader asked two final questions:
Pooling the team’s responses to those questions, the leader compiled a short list of actions the team planned to implement in its next meeting:
This is the third of a four-part series on improving project team communications. Parts 1 and 2 described the predictable, recurring problems project teams encounter. This post and part 4 detail actions project teams can take to improve decision-making and problem solving.
Director of the Biotech Leadership Institute William Ronco, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org), consults on leadership, communications, team, and partnering performance in pharmaceutical, biotech, and science organizations.
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