What if they’re on your team next time? (part 1)

The start of the new semester means new class projects, almost always involving a client from the real world.

You won’t convince me that a simulation or a case study brings the same intensity, or builds the same strengths, as working with a real person with real skin in the game. Or, to quote a past classroom client, in response to a poorly-presented idea: “That idea is going to take food away from my children!”

How do you deal with that?

So I create teams, generally at random. And it seems like no group project is immune: one or two teams in the class will be dysfunctional in some way.

It’s inconvenient but not always bad… I’ve witnessed tension that leads to effort and creativity that too much harmony might otherwise smooth over.

When conflict stifles or obstructs performance, though…. That’s bad. It might be a case where somebody doesn’t do their work or meet deadlines. Or someone refuses to hear others’ ideas… or refuses to share their own.

When this is the case, I’ll sit in on in-class team meetings to offer encouragement and reminders of the team’s common mission. Doesn’t always work but often it does help.

In many cases I’ll be made aware of a problem by a member of the team. I offer an online peer evaluation form throughout the entire project, not just at the end, so I may find out that way. Many times, students will come to me to share their frustration.

How about you? In your workplace, how do you deal with group conflicts and dysfunction?

I’ll be back with some ideas tomorrow.