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The DO's And DON'Ts Of Group Work

One group's experience producing a business plan with a strict team charter

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DO: Get to know your teammates

Knowing strengths and weaknesses and how people operate is imperative

Right off the bat the team identified each others strengths, weaknesses and preferences. For example, Ana enjoys more "number" based work so she was tasked accordingly. This came in handy later on when dividing the project. It is also helpful to know each others working styles.

DON'T: Fail to evenly divide the project

Having one person take control and do the whole project is doing a disservice to the whole report.

Each week as a group we would discuss our goals for each section and then divide each section up. This ensured one person was not overwhelmed and another doing nothing. In the end we produced a report that each person contributed to equally.

DO: Have and open and active communication channel

Making sure everyone is aware of what is happening at all times is key

One point we made very clear in our charter was having an open and active communication channel. We used Slack and it proved to be a great way to talk as a group, upload documents, etc. Upon reflection, we can see just how important this group was in keeping everyone up to date and on the same page.

DON'T: Forget to recognize your peers good work

Complimenting or thanking your peers for a job well done is just as important as constructive criticism.

We think praise is something that should be added into a group charter. In hindsight we would like to add complimenting your peers as a section of our charter. It is often very easy to critique but recognizing your peers for their efforts goes a long way in building a stronger team.

DO: Create a concrete meeting schedule

This weekly check-in will ensure everyone is still on the same page

We created a meeting schedule (time and location). We would meet weekly on Wednesdays at 10:30 in the Student Centre. We have now discovered it took a couple extra meetings to get the project done so our charter should have accounted for the extra time needed in "unscheduled" time slots.

DON'T: Underestimate the unexpected

Things happen that can sometimes throw your plan off course, prepare for them.

Sometimes all our other courses became higher on our priority list and would throw us slightly off projected course. Our charter should have included a plan B for each week, for example if we got behind one week, what we would do to put ourselves back on track.

DO: Develop a clear plan for conflict resolution

Maybe conflict never arises, but knowing as a group how to handle it could be enough to avoid it all together.

We did develop a plan for conflict resolution that involved an open and transparent conversation amongst group members. Thankfully we didn't need this but recognize its importance in group work. In addition, we like that our conflict resolution was kept in the team rather than involving outside parties. We did not however develop a plan that addressed how we would handle conflict if a conversation within the group couldn't solve the issue. A conflict resolution plan should also identify escalation tactics.

DON'T: Make excuses

If you haven't done what you are supposed to or have failed to get it done on time be transparent and honest with your group.

We did not have this issue either, but in hindsight we think it would be helpful to include a section in a group charter that identifies how individuals should deal with mistakes. Having someone apologize and fix their mistake is so much more helpful than constant excuse making.

DO: Remember that you have a whole group you can turn to for help

There is no shame for asking for direction or clarification.

We should have written in a clause that detailed every group member is responsible for offering help when needed. We didn't really have an issue that a group member was ignoring another's request for help but it should have been included in the charter anyway. For example, Kim was delegated the balance sheets, she brought her concerns and challenges with them to the group and together we figured out how to best handle them.

DON'T: Forget you are in this together!

Everyone is stressed and everyone is responsible for the same assignment, you are not alone.

It is really easy to feel stressed with your workload, remembering you have a team to lean on is so important. Sometimes even taking 5 minutes of our group meeting to allow for non-work related chatting was a great way to relieve some stress. It would be beneficial to indicate in the charter that we recognize the necessity to destress and ways to accomodate that as a group.

DO: Follow your charter and succeed

As long as your group charter is being adhered to, success is almost guaranteed!

Our group followed our charter pretty closely and feel we can consider ourselves successful based on our original objectives to learn, contribute evenly, communicate effectively and to be present at all times.

Our charter was not perfect, but was a great start. Overall adding a few more minor elements would make this charter applicable and usable for any group or group project.

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