Thursday, September 27, 2012

Teamwork and Leadership

     Will Felps designed and conducted an experiment to see if a ‘bad apple’ would decrease the productivity of a group in a laboratory study.  He hired an actor to play one of three ‘bad apple’ roles; jerk, slacker or depressive pessimist.  For the vast majority of the groups, they adopted the one bad apples’ attitude and productivity dropped 30-40%.  There was one group, which he goes into at the end of the section that was able to defuse any negativity.  This mainly reflected on the group leader and his abilities.  Felps’ next study was going to determine if the opposite effect, if a good leader would increase productivity, was true.

     Without seeing any sort of results, I would venture to say that a good leader would increase productivity.  Take Michael Jordan for example.  As a basketball player for the Bulls, he was able to lead the team to six championships.  He was able to elevate the way his team played.  There are numerous examples like this across any sport.  The other examples lay both in the military and corporate worlds.  In all three spheres of teamwork (sports, military and corporate) there are three specific themes that appear with the good leader.  The first is good team cohesion.  That is not saying that everyone is friends, but will work together without personal issues getting in the way.  The second is discipline.  The discipline to do the job that the team member was assigned and not do someone else’s job.  The leader needs to display a certain amount of discipline in order to keep the group focused and understand the dynamic of the group.  By understanding the dynamic of the team, the leader can make judgment calls that can either help or hinder the group’s progress.  With the proper amount of discipline, the leader will know to make the correct call, not just the popular one.  The third is trust.  The team leader needs to trust the team members to do their work, and let them do it.  The team leader should not just sit there micro managing the team members.

     Link to Felp’s experiment (first part of broadcast):


Weekly Meetings: Yes or No?

Meetings are an important aspect to any business or team. They allow a team and its managers to stay informed on the current and future happenings of a project. Also, meetings offer a time where any pressing issues can be discussed and solutions can be thought out. In class we discussed many methods to ensure a meeting will be value added and not just a waste of time. We discussed techniques like using agendas to maintain order and how to solve inter-team conflicts. However, one topic that was briefly discussed was the importance and value of weekly meetings. While the benefits of having weekly meetings are somewhat obvious, there are times when weekly meetings can actually hurt productivity.
During my internship with Flextronics, I would attend three meetings every week: staff, zero defects, and production. The meetings were all separated by a day and each one had its own agenda. The meetings were scheduled for an hour and fifteen minutes but sometimes were let out early. They were productive for the most part, and things got done. During these meetings, my input was valued and heard but was rarely asked for because I was just an intern. I understood my position and assumed the role of being more of an observer.  
As I sat in on meetings, I was able to really get an understanding of how they were handled and what everybody’s’ feelings about the meetings were. I noticed a common link between all of the engineers:  nobody ever wanted to go to the meetings. At first I thought, “Well of course, who wants to go sit down and listen to their boss yell and complain for an hour?” However, I was surprised to get the same response after I brought it up to a few of the engineers I was shadowing throughout my internship. The meetings were not a waste of time, or even about having your boss criticize your work(constructively of course!). Rather, the same answer I got was the fact that they were so busy with current projects or customer problems that they did not see the value in sitting down for an hour; when they should be on the floor fixing a problem. When you are maintaining four cells per customer and have sometimes three or four customers; your day is already full once you walk in the door. Adding an hour of meetings to the day means that you get home at 8 or 9PM instead of 6PM. 
The responses are interesting and poise an actual real life conflict in the working world. There is plenty of truth behind the responses. In hindsight, it is easy to see how the meetings were constructed ‘poorly’. I noticed that while there was an agenda for each meeting, it was always a general concept that left it open to some imagination. Also, meetings would drag on sometimes waiting for peoples’ input. Applying some techniques learned in class have the potential to work these problems out and have successful future meetings. For example, apply the 30 minute rule to the meetings, but schedule the room for a full hour if it is necessary. Then, within the 30 minutes, have and follow a strict agenda. Focus on the facts and go around the room and get everyones’ input. However, even with all of this, nothing can get done without communication amongst all of the team members.

                     -Matt Deye September 27, 2012-


As engineering students it is critical that we be able to work as part of a team.  This also applies for after we graduate and are out in industry.  Teams aren’t always great, they take effort.  All teams have different dynamics because each group member brings something different to the table.  First recognizing each member’s personal identity is important to determine how the team can function as a whole.  Once the importance each member will play in the team is identified, there is a complete recipe for success of the group.
This recipe includes: clarity in team goals, an improvement plan, clear communication, beneficial team behaviors, a well-defined decision procedure, balanced participation, established ground rules, awareness of the group process, and use of the scientific approach.  By effectively using this recipe, working in teams at any level should lead to success.

The Importance of Ground Rules

Establishing ground rules is crucial to a group’s success.   If ground rules are not established at the beginning meetings, I think that it is important to find if they are needed.  A good way to gauge this is to see if everyone in the group is fully participating.  If a group member is refraining from adding ideas or seems left out.  One way of making this left out teammate feel necessary or respected would be to set up ground rules.
For example, in one group project that I have encountered, one of the girls who’s personality was pretty outgoing in normal class environments, did not participate for the first month of our group meetings.  I knew that she had valuable ideas, but just wouldn’t elaborate on them and seemed sort of bothered by something during team meetings.  It turned one of the leaders in the group was being mean to her and no one even realized it. He would make comments about her being a good secretary and her note taking abilities consistently for the first month.  It got to the point where she had to go see the professor of the class.  When the professor called the team members to his office the first thing that he talked about was setting up ground rules and common team goals.  After this meeting between the entire group and the professor, we ended up completing the project working better together as a team.  Most of all, everyone collaborated and respected each other from that point forward.
If I see this type of interaction again between group members, I think that it will be important to talk to the entire group right away and make sure that everyone is aware of various issues between group members and that they will not affect the completion of the project.   
So if ground rules are not a part of a team’s project it’s important for someone in the group, whether it is the person who is the leader or another person in the group to speak up and make sure that the entire team is operating on the same page.   It’s every teammate’s responsibility and not just the main leader or group organizer.  Establishing ground rules is a simple step while seeking quality teamwork and it is EVERY single group member’s responsibility.  Ideally setting up ground rules in the first meeting is essential to every project.


Communication in Industry and Life

Meetings, Teamwork, and Communication are extremely important in the workplace as well as in daily life.  You could not function regularly in a single day without exercising at least one of these three concepts.  As college students, these become even more important as we have class time, homework, group meetings, and projects over the course of a semester.  Staying up to date and ‘in the loop’ is critical if passing grades are desired.
            In industry, these principles are imperative to a successfully functioning workplace.  Meetings are frequent when dealing with about any type of business.  When assigned to a problem or project, seldom or never will it be an independent project.  Teamwork and communication (through meetings, telephone, email, etc.) mean everyone knowing what is going on, and everyone opinions/ideas getting distributed throughout the team.  There is also the hierarchical communication aspect in industry, where you report to your boss who reports to his boss and so on.  Keeping good communication lines means a higher percentage for good executive decisions regarding the company’s welfare.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being an engineer requires people to be able to work in teams. In the Engineering world when dealing with issues or problems, most often a team is assigned to fix the problem at hand not just one engineer. Team work requires a lot of communication and effort from each team member to make it a successful functioning group. When team members act up it can have an effect on the other team members' work ethic. Communication is key to making the group work, however communication can be counterproductive at times. For example, groups have to meet and sit down to discuss the problem at hand and figure out how they will fix it. The problem with meetings is that the conversation can get off task easily, that's why a meeting agenda is necessary for the team to be effective and stay on task. In my experience working on teams in school, I have found that if the team has set goals for that meeting, the flow of the meeting is better and the team is more effective in getting the tasks complete. Good communication amongst the group is the key to completing the project. With these set meeting agendas and good communication, the group has a much higher chance of completing the project on time.

What Makes The Best Group?

Through out life people need to interact with one another. When humans work together people can do many wonderful things, for example putting a man on the moon. Prior to that event the idea of putting someone on the moon would be ludicrous idea. This came from great team work and a collaboration of great minds. This brings up the idea of what makes a good team? Is the ideal team based on smarts, personality, work ethic, or is it something else? There are several things that go into what makes a good team but I’m going to talk about two things that I think make a team successful.
            The First, to me, is time management and using time wisely. Time management is something that most people struggle with on a daily basis. The importance of meeting a deadline and accounting for ones actions is hard. Through effectively using the time allocated and not wasting it is important. Most people complain about time wasted in meetings during a project. Some groups talk about how they meet all the time and never get anything done. It might be a matter of quality not quantity. Through having quality meetings with the best people from a team you could save time wasted. Through having a large quantity you may just waste time as many people tend to complain about.  I know I constantly go to meetings where things are not organized and there is no agenda that happens and then my time and the time of my fellow team mates is wasted. I found that people tend to think that we need to meet all the time and that will solve the problem. That might not always be the case it is more about what you do during the meetings and what you as a group get out of the meetings planed. This is a time management thing that is important to gain quality in every action when meeting a deadline.
            The second is having motivation to do the job right. In most groups people may not have all the right skills needed to do the job. The important part is that your group members have the right attitude and also that they do the job right the first time.  In some groups people just do the job to complete it and not put quality in their work. In a case study that was conducted the personnel that you have can have an effect the group as a whole.  If someone seems to be depressed, apathetic, or argumentative all the time this can have a huge effect on the entire team. It could cause the team to not do as well of a job as they could have done with everyone motivated to do the job right the first time. The members in the team can have a great effect on one whether or not a team will be successful. It isn’t just about having the right people for the job but also having the right attitude for the job.  
            In conclusion there are many factors that can be defined in having a successful team. Through time management you optimize the time that is allotted to you to complete the project. It also will minimize the amount of wasted time that happens in so many groups. Secondly the attitude of our members is important. The importance of having the right attitude for the job can make or break a team. Especially in engineering where quality of work is so important having the right members is very important to success. If there is one “bad apple” this could hurt the team and in effect cause the project to go off as planned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Effective Communication

Communication is something that has been innate to our human nature since birth.  As babies, we cried when we were hungry, needed changing, or just to get attention.  As we get older, our styles of communication get much broader.  As we learned to speak and write, our communication skills increased exponentially, into what they are today.  In a competitive market such as todays, effective communication is a must in any work setting.  It doesn’t matter what our majors were, what our GPA was, or what our job title is, communication between co-workers can’t happen often enough.  It is important to not only relay messages, but convey thoughts and ideas to our peers and superiors.  This in turn keeps everyone on the same page. 
It seems far too often that just talking about things isn’t enough. Email and notes are becoming huge due to their physical aspect, which makes things easier to remember.  Being a part of a few internships, and having just gotten a job offer, I can say that companies are always evaluating our communication skills, and don’t forget nonverbal ones too.  The companies and employers want to know that they are hiring on someone that can get the message across all barriers and to all employees affected. 
In closing, we all know that communication is important, but actually doing it is a completely different thing.  Staying on top of assignments and projects through may make the difference between a raise or bonus. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

3 Techniques for running an effective meeting

3 Techniques for Running an Effective Meeting

1.      The meeting needs an objective. An effective meeting serves a useful purpose. You need to achieve a desired outcome. At the end of the meeting the leader should close with “I want the group to…” with a end result clearly defined.

2.      Meetings need to use the time wisely. No one wants their time wasted. Starting with your team objective everything that happens in the meeting itself should further that objective. To ensure you cover only what is on the agenda you need to stick to relevant activities. Stick to talking about these 7 factors:

a.       Priorities

b.      Results

c.       Participants

d.      Sequence

e.       Timing

f.       Date and Time

g.      Place

A important aspect of running an effective meeting is to respect the allotted time. Start the meeting on time and do not spend time recapping for latecomers and finish on time.

3.      Get everyone to participate. Make a point of asking others for their ideas. At the end of each agenda item quickly summarize what was said and ask people to confirm that that’s a fair summary. Watch for body language and make adjustments if necessary. Ensure that the meeting stays on topic. At the close of the meeting quickly go over next tasks and inform everyone that you will be sending out a meeting summary.