Monday, October 30, 2006

Why does our team work?

Our team is going swimmingly; I think the project is coming along fantastically, and Chandra and I love Phil and Hiroo. We sang their praises (LauLima wizards! Glorious user studies! The paper, the paper, the paper!) in class today.

Apparently this is an anomaly; we are the smoothest-running team by far and nobody knows what happened. Why does our team work? My guesses are below.

  1. Preset meeting times. One of the first things we did was set up frequent meeting times for the rest of the project duration. When issues crop up, knowing we'll be face to face in 48 hours helps alleviate a lot of concerns, since we can wait for our teammates to explain things instead of jumping to conclusions.
  2. Preferred modes of communication. "The fastest way to reach us," the email read, "is through email." "Oh - us too!" came the reply. Knowing how your teammates prefer to talk is incredibly helpful - if you speak in their preferred mode of communication, they're more likely to respond.
  3. State limitations up front. Nobody's Superman. If you have a regular football game, let us know; if you can't hear videoconferences, let us know. Far from annoying the rest of the team, it makes us more sensitive and accomodating.
  4. Get to know each other. This is something Chandra has to continually remind me of - asking "hey, how are you doing?" is not a waste of time, since knowing a little about people's lives outside the project lets you understand how that affects the way they're contributing to the project. Plus it's really cool to hear about Phil's job and Chandra's Halloween costume; even if the tangent only lasts 10 minutes, it has a gigantic effect on how we see each other, since we're starting to relate as students and people instead of additional man-hours contributing to this work-unit.
  5. Talk meta. Talk about team dynamics. Set up communication norms. Step back once in a while and ask if this is okay, how are things going - instead of designing a paper cup holder, we're really designing a distributed design experience through designing a cup holder, and I think that this manages to flicker to our consciousness often enough that we're able to find and voice issues before they become a problem.
  6. Optimism. I get the feeling that all four of us came into this project wanting to like each other, and so we did. As Joe (one of our classmates) put it, "you see each other as people, not just teammates."
Any other ideas? I'm running out of steam on this topic, but I'm sure there's got to be more. What are we doing right? What could we do better?


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