Life is one big group project. True?

Life is one big group project.

My daughter shared her challenges of working in a group for a school project and my husband and I could relate. Group projects, sigh.

Isn’t t it true, life is like one big group project. You always have to work with people who think differently, see the world differently, act differently, process information differently, have different expectations and different ideas of what good looks like. You work together with less groups: your family, your marriage, parenting, your circle of friends, boards or committees, your community…endless group projects. Endless.

In school, group projects are meant to teach students how to collaborate. They learn how to break the project into tasks and assign them, manage their time, communicate and,  how to accept feedback (the good, the bad, the ugly).  I imagine you are all sitting there fondly remembering your school group projects. And you are also nodding your head because you can see how school group projects made future group projects so much easier. Not likely.

Why are group projects so challenging?

  • Is it our desire to be right?
  • Is it our intolerance of people who think differently?
  • Is it our independent nature? Our A-type personality?
  • Is it our lack of listening skills?
  • Is it impatience?
  • Is it a lack of experience in group projects?

As a veteran project manager, I can tell you that I like group projects because that is basically what I do every day — group projects of varying degrees and sizes.  Here are my thoughts on why I like group projects based on an article I read recently (Source).

  • I like the ability to tackle more complex problems than I could on my own. You bet, the big challenges are great opportunities to learn and grow and challenge your group and your project skills.
  • I like delegating roles and responsibilities. I love delegating! But I had to learn how and when to delegate.
  • I appreciate and have learned the value of diverse perspectives. Seeing the world differently or interpreting information differently is actually a huge bonus to a project team. It helps because it assists you in avoiding groupthink and is key to identifying risks or other tasks that might be missed in your siloed thinking.
  • I see how pooling our knowledge and skill sets can make the project run smoother and more successfully. Completely, but you have to know what knowledge and skill set the team has in order to use them for good.
  • I am a fan of holding each other accountable. Yep,  I even like being held accountable, although sometimes it may be hard to tell that I do.
  • Receive social support and encouragement to take risks. This is how we grow as people and professionals. Support and encouragement from our teammates or leader will help us take risks, some calculated, some less so, all necessary to move forward.
  • Develop new approaches to resolving differences. Disagreement and conflict is inevitable. Devising a system that works for you and your team to navigate these known hurdles is prudent. Provide the team with a system or process in which to confront, discuss, and hopefully, resolve a conflict.
  • Establish a shared identity with other group members. This is part of the glue that will help you come together. Having a shared vision is a proven building block for leading teams. Part of that vision is establishing the identity of the team and the roles and responsibilities which further support task assignment. This is where you should start.
  • Find effective peers to emulate. Role models!  They are key ingredients to succession planning and growing your talent. Being a good leader means being a good example so your team can be good followers and also good examples.
  • Develop their own voice and perspectives in relation to peers. This ties back to social support and encouragement, as well as conflict resolution. You have to provide a safe space for your team to discuss their views and express their opinions which may be contrary to their teammates. And you have to ensure the team is listening to each other.  As a leader, you need to exemplify and monitor good listening skills because it builds respect and trust among the team. Conflict, or diverse opinions,  are also a key part of innovation. So, teaching your team to respect each others’ voices will bode well as they try new things and inevitably need to listen to your client or customer’s voice.

As we grow up webegin to (hopefully) understand that collaboration requires compromise, good listening skills, and a desire for the collective good. Collaboration communicates respect, trust, and a willingness to listen and hear the other person’s message. It opens doors and encourages creativity. So, perhaps, a successful group project is more about successful communication than anything else.

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. — Vince Lombardi

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