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WORKING AS A TEAM-II

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WORKING AS A TEAM-II

  1. 1. THE MAKING OF A DESIGN TEAM By: Ronald Lazisky February 7, 2008 Summary: It has always been my practice, and it is often useful perhaps inevitable, for a sub-group of a working group to develop and propose to solve particular design and personnel problems. Such a sub-group, in most cases, is commonly known as a “Design Team”. A design team is normally made up of different design disciplines; from small- Process, Mechanical and Electrical; to the more commonly lager size – Process, Mechanical, architectural, Chemical (if needed), Structural, Instrumentation and Controls, IT, Biology (if needed), Safety, and QC. Different companies have different requirement; therefore may have a different set of disciplines, as well as different sets of teams. In order for a design team to remain diminutive and agile, it is acceptable to have occasional closed private meetings. Design team communications may rang from an informal chat between members in a hallway to a formal setting of experts that may be appointed to attack controversial problems for any particular project. However keep in mind, the output of a design team is always subject to approval, modification, or rejection by outside the team superiors. Team members will inevitably come from different professional backgrounds. Each should be an expert in his/her respective field and that expertise must be acknowledged and respected by all other members. A highly professional team is a collaboration of peers of which all skills are equally necessary for the team’s success. In fact, the crosspollination of different perspectives is one of the most powerful advantages of teams. Communication: What this author has observed and believes to be significant; is the communication or lack thereof between team members in many different companies, as well as in the office environment. Of course my main concern is focusing on the design team. Small group communication is, of course, the communication that is carried out within a small group of team members. As this author has always seen it; a small group is generally defined as a group that consists of at lease three members and a maximum of 10 to 12 members. During this author’s 20 years of experience he has seen, and been a part of, many small professional groups within many companies from manufacturing to small and large consulting firms. Communication is about expressing and conveying our thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas to another person or persons. Good communication skills can help us keep our heads and confidently take charge of unfamiliar situations. We are most likely to listen to one another if we can express ourselves well, and this is particularly useful in influencing and negotiating important people with business and project design matters. This also comes in handy when dealing with resolving a conflict(s) with difficult people.
  2. 2. Some of us are born with effective communication skills; others need to develop them. Developing effective communication skills requires repeated practice, which we can do by placing ourselves frequently in situations where we have to interact with a variety of people. One practice that many of us have found helpful is joining social clubs or community organizations. Public speaking or debate clubs will help polish communication skills as well. As mentioned previously, most companies have their employees working in small teams. This has been found to be more effective and productive than a single individual laboring away at a design project within their discipline. When we have three or more people together in a meeting, we will ensure that the review of a project will be focused on and creating corrective value that is complete before exposing any work to a client or customer. In addition, we will have the distinct advantage of accessing more ideas and solutions for any given design project. We would have a better system for checking safeguards against any flaws in a plan, and of being able to establish more network connections. A team acting together as one is also more likely to take on and complete large-scale, complex design projects. The Do’s and Don’ts: We can foster effective team communication in a small group by a mix of old-fashioned good manners, good attention and open-mindedness. Following are a few tips on the dos and don’ts that have been proven to be more helpful for all members of any Design Team: • Make sure everyone understands what the team’s goals are. • Ask for positive feedback from all team members. • Listen to what the other person is saying and if you do not understand make sure it is made clear for you... • Don't interrupt until the speaking party has finished. • Speak slowly and clearly, you will earn more respect this way then trying to show how much you know by “speed talking”. • Make your points clear and logical in a manner everyone will be pleased with. • Include facts and details, and make sure they are all accurate. Do not speak with negatives just to strengthen your position. • Don't ramble on. Be concise. Stick to the matter at hand. The attention span of the listener can be very short if the listener has already got your point. • Make sure every member of the team gets their chance to speak. • Be open minded. If you've come to the meeting with your mind already made up, there's little point in having a discussion. • When responding to someone's question or statement, repeat it to make sure you have heard and understood correctly. • If you are taking a certain stand, take full responsibility for it. • Do not disparage anyone for their views; and don't refute any point by taking personal shots at the speaker. This is an issue that should not be tolerated; and will most definitely break down the design team causing less to no communication which will virtually divide the members away from others. 2
  3. 3. • Watch your body language. It is sometimes more effective as a distraction than what you say. So if you are angry you will look angry, and that is going to convey itself to the other members in your small group. Most of the time your body language can speak less than the speaker’s knowledge. • Don't make rash decisions or issue any statements when you are angry. Give yourself time to cool down. learning is a continual process that never ends. • If there are any misunderstandings, clear them up in a calm manner; and be sure to address clearing it up immediately, do not belabor the clarification of a misunderstood issue. • If you don't understand any point, speak up and ask questions. Get it clarified before you all move on. • If at all possible, do not correct another team member in a demeaning manner in front of an attending client or customer. • When considering the pros and cons of any issue, consider the exact pros and cons, not opinion only. • If you have an opinion, express it as such, with the reasons behind it, not as an iron-clad fact. • Always give explanations when you disagree or cannot make meetings, it is only common respect to others in a team. • Place bad issues of the past behind you, and learn from it. “To dwell in past will ensure that you will rob the present; however, if you try to forget the past issues you will certainly ensure robbing the future.” • Be polite at all times. • And most important: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate…………… Try not jumping to conclusion if a team member does not disclose certain information you feel is necessary to have. Team members don't normally withhold information on purpose. Failure to share information is usually the result of not knowing what others need, or assuming what might happen if and when certain kinds of information are shared. Inevitably, disputes ranging from minor differences in opinion, to fundamental differences in ideology, will arise. All team members should handle such disagreements constructively, ensuring that the team remains focused on achieving its goal. Encourage other team members to stand back from any disagreement and view situations objectively. By doing this, any differences between team members will be resolved and possible conflicts avoided. Now let us consider team communication with regard to all of us in our workplace environment. It is our responsibility as a team to work as a team. We should work collectively to assist with the solving of any and all problems a team member or members may have. We should not at any time place blame, insult or criticize another team member; or create an atmosphere where a team member may feel uncomfortable coming to another for help. We cannot hold responsible client/customers for not follow our communication and procedural protocols. If a client discusses a design or; gives out information to one member of the team, than it is that member who is responsible for communicating to all other members who need to know. If this is not applied than it is us who fail, not our clients/customers. Motivation: 3
  4. 4. In simple terms, motivation can be considered as the amount of effort a team member is willing to put into their work as a team. Therefore, it is important to ensure that any team is highly motivated towards their work. A lack of motivation in any member of a team can have a negative affect, reducing the group's effectiveness and possibly leading to the shutting down of others. Given the fact that different people are motivated in different ways, the problem we face is to create an environment in which each individual fulfils their potential. One of the many functions of a design team is holding the team together. By doing this we will ensure project goals are met; to ensure a full team effort; and most importantly, keeping the design team happy. After all, a team should only be as happy as the unhappiest team member. When we mentally shift gears from deliberation to implementation, from contemplation to action; there are motivational changes which is more than the just way we see the decision at hand. While working out the plan for implementation, we feel more confident and more impregnable about ourselves in general. That's because implementation is an indication for our brains to focus in on how to get the job done and to tune out the self-doubt and vulnerability that inhibit action Most design teams give incentives to members on a target basis. It is important to give incentives on a timely basis so that employees can see the immediate benefit of accomplishing their goal. One common incentive is very simple: “Praise”, a simple pat on the back, or a verbal expression such as “Good Job” can go a long way with the motivational practices of a design team. One must understand that each employee has his/her own characteristics and each team member has different motivational needs. The business your in can actually be taken to a new level if you develop a sense of understanding about how you should motivate other team members. Incentives, by far, motivate most types of people to a certain extent. Incentives also play an important role to retain employees for the company; the design team is working for. In some cases, Design Teams often devise their own incentive programs. To sum it up: Every individual needs motivation to work. Be it natural motivation that he/she generates himself/herself or extrinsic motivation that he/she gets from an external environment. Nonetheless, motivation is a huge factor in a Team organization. The Email System: Emails are easy, fast, cheap and easily stored. Most importantly, our email system is one of the most significant communication tools we have today. If used correctly our email system will mitigate a lot of unnecessary waste of productive time. If a member of the team, or anyone else outside our team parameters’, has a question or is looking for guidance in any shape or form; we should respond within a reasonable punctual time not matter what. Waiting for unreasonable lengths of time to respond to a team member’s request for assistance, is most certainly unacceptable and disables the “easy, fast and cheap” ideology of the email system. This not only may cause the appealing participant to be held in suspension of time, and subsequently delaying his or her work; it is very disrespectful as well. 4
  5. 5. The Silent Communicator: Another form of communication is silent but very significant; and that is through our documenting drawing revisions. This author has found it very difficult to review any history to design changes within a drawing, when there is not record of such change. Especially if said drawing belongs to the designer’s. Understand that our work environment for most companies is fast paced to say the least. When work is complete on a particular design and turn it in for internal redlining or review, sometimes the designer does not draft the changes, someone else may do this. This is an acceptable with one exception: The designer does not see any and all changes made to his/her own design. This has caused many problems within the design team circle; and further grows outside the design team’s circle and infiltrates other departments of a company. The industry standards for revisions are followed by high percentages of manufacturing and consulting companies. This standard has remained a standard for a very long time for specific reasons, one being historical documentation. The following is a generic version of the industry revision standard. The Alpha Internal Revision: In summary; Revisions to internal review drawings should be controlled by identification with an alpha designation starting with “A” once the drawing has reached a controlled status, which is usually after the internal approved concept design. When the drawing is issued for outside approval, the drawing revision status is changed to a numeric designation starting with “0.” Subsequent revisions are identified by ascending numeric characters. This internal review process can be as of a signal manager; or from an internal review team, with all designers and CE personnel. The redline is then turned over to one of the designers for edit drafting. When drafting the redline edits, each revision should be clouded with revision number triangle which should be used to surround the last revisions made to a drawing. The clouds are only to appear for the last revision, previous revisions should have their clouds removed. If redlines are too extensive (which I have seen many times) then in the revision block description it would read “through out”. This way the drawing will not be covered in so many clouds. The Numerical External Revision: The external revision is when drawings go out to the client/customer. It is here where the alpha revision turns to the numerical revision. The same procedure here is that of the “Alpha Internal Revision”, with the exception of the following: 1. Rev-0 is always “issued to client/customer for review” and “issued to client/customer” means the minute it is known that the client will be viewing said drawings. 2. Internally, it should be common knowledge that rev-0 is always in-house, in process. Rev-0 is also, in the hands of the designer. 3. All alpha triangles, clouds, and revision blocks should be cleared from all drawing and documents. 4. No drawings should be issued to the client/customer with alpha triangles or clouds at any time. The client/customer should never see how many revision it took to design their product or process. 5
  6. 6. The above procedure cannot be an affective tool for communication is this procedure is not complied to. The engineer and/or the designer should always be aware of all revisions to his/her design. The Engineer/Designer may implement certain design features for good reasons not known to others. Certain implementation of design features may be client driven with the Engineer/Designer also not known by others. This is were the clouds come into the process of communication. The clouds show the history of the revisions and who drafted the markup designs as well. The Team Leader: In design firms, a director usually fills the role of the leader, although a senior professional from another discipline might also serve in this capacity. In general, leaders of design teams do not take a “top dog” approach, acting like bosses and telling people precisely what to do. To be more precise, they serve more as facilitators and someone who will make changes happen. A leader must motivate team members, clarify difficult issues, and orchestrate everyone’s efforts. This means exploring alternatives, pushing boundaries, keeping the whole team involved, and moving the group toward harmony. Which means getting members to share and preventing the team from diverging into the individualist of separate disciplines? Leaders pull the entire team together at key milestones, by conducting brainstorming sessions. The team leader must also be sensitive to the needs and goals of individual team members. A good leader will serve as a mentor, encouraging others to extend creatively. To be a mentor, the team leader must have credibility; and the proven ability and relevant industry experience to the position. Leaders must establish and maintain mutual respect. This requires honesty, trust, and a genuine and consistent emphasis on us/we/ our. Good leaders tend to have a decentralized approach to authority, allowing individuals to work independently on tasks, and then bringing their work back to the group for evaluation and integration. This will move most projects forward through a cycle of fast prototyping and incremental changes. Fun is a powerful motivator, and strong team leaders acknowledge this. It puts things into new contexts and leads to fresh ideas. Every design firm faces a paradox here. What is the right balance between freedom and discipline? True innovation requires creative risk. It involves experimentation and making mistakes. At the same time, however, design teams must be provided with just the right amount of structure. They must take a mature and responsible approach to budgets and schedules. In this respect, a team leader can greatly benefit from a capable project manager. As long as the project manager communicates with the team leader by following the advice of this author’s presentation of “The Making of a Design Team”. The end. 6
  7. 7. The above procedure cannot be an affective tool for communication is this procedure is not complied to. The engineer and/or the designer should always be aware of all revisions to his/her design. The Engineer/Designer may implement certain design features for good reasons not known to others. Certain implementation of design features may be client driven with the Engineer/Designer also not known by others. This is were the clouds come into the process of communication. The clouds show the history of the revisions and who drafted the markup designs as well. The Team Leader: In design firms, a director usually fills the role of the leader, although a senior professional from another discipline might also serve in this capacity. In general, leaders of design teams do not take a “top dog” approach, acting like bosses and telling people precisely what to do. To be more precise, they serve more as facilitators and someone who will make changes happen. A leader must motivate team members, clarify difficult issues, and orchestrate everyone’s efforts. This means exploring alternatives, pushing boundaries, keeping the whole team involved, and moving the group toward harmony. Which means getting members to share and preventing the team from diverging into the individualist of separate disciplines? Leaders pull the entire team together at key milestones, by conducting brainstorming sessions. The team leader must also be sensitive to the needs and goals of individual team members. A good leader will serve as a mentor, encouraging others to extend creatively. To be a mentor, the team leader must have credibility; and the proven ability and relevant industry experience to the position. Leaders must establish and maintain mutual respect. This requires honesty, trust, and a genuine and consistent emphasis on us/we/ our. Good leaders tend to have a decentralized approach to authority, allowing individuals to work independently on tasks, and then bringing their work back to the group for evaluation and integration. This will move most projects forward through a cycle of fast prototyping and incremental changes. Fun is a powerful motivator, and strong team leaders acknowledge this. It puts things into new contexts and leads to fresh ideas. Every design firm faces a paradox here. What is the right balance between freedom and discipline? True innovation requires creative risk. It involves experimentation and making mistakes. At the same time, however, design teams must be provided with just the right amount of structure. They must take a mature and responsible approach to budgets and schedules. In this respect, a team leader can greatly benefit from a capable project manager. As long as the project manager communicates with the team leader by following the advice of this author’s presentation of “The Making of a Design Team”. The end. 6

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