Putting It Together: Collaboration in and across teams

Let’s look back at Pedro’s team project he was working to arrange at the beginning of this module. The project is now complete. The six core team members submitted the 15-page proposal attached to an email just last evening. In two more weeks, the team will learn if they made the cut to the final round.

Pedro and all the team are thankful for each other’s help in this exciting project. Being able to break the project into smaller, manageable sections by leveraging the teammates was important. Without the work of each team member, they never would have been able to collect all the data and ideas needed to create the exciting new story layout proposal. Having more hands on the project certainly was important to the submission, but more important was the expertise they each brought. Before this project, Pedro had not fully appreciated or understood the cost of heating and cooling for store products and how it routed under floors. It seemed to surprise others that coupons were now sent to customers based on past buying behavior.

Luckily, the team quickly realized that their initial plan of having a twenty-person core team made communication and decision-making far too difficult. That first meeting of twenty people calling out ideas and trying to dominate the conversation really disintegrated into a mess as the individual emails started afterward. The re-forming of the team to six core individuals with each managing a sub-group kept the power of ideas but cut down on the complexity of communication.

Pedro also learned quite a bit about his employees’ passion. It turns out that enthusiasm can lead to lots of conflict as each team member advocated for his or her own ideas. It helped when they started segmenting activities around the goal to be achieved at each step. Even those who were angry could come back to focus on the group’s goal over individual gain. At first, it was not intentional when various team members stepped into various roles that kept the project rolling along but it was helpful. Angel’s collection of “lessons learned” during the project to turn over to future teams was a great idea. While Pedro was declared the leader, it was important to have others intentionally help bring ideas forward, track ideas, and support  the emotional needs of team members.

Perhaps the most productive time of the team was in the final few weeks as the document was written. Right after the first outline was sent out for review, it became apparent that emailing a Word document of the outline would not work. Within the space of three days, it was impossible to tell which changes were incorporated and which document was most current. That was when the team started using Google Docs, as suggested by Lisa. It allowed the outline to be developed with input from the core team. With the revision marking, it was possible to look back to prior ideas so that nothing was lost and all changes were available immediately.

While the team waited for corporate’s response, there was a tension in the air. Rather than let the team wallow in the stress, it was time to thank everyone for their overtime on this project. Pedro booked the large back room at a local restaurant for three hours on a Thursday night. He planned enough appetizers to almost count as dinner. Alcohol would be served along with water, tea, and strawberry lemonade. Pedro planned on making some opening thank you remarks. He even had a few simple company-branded items to provide, partially as a joke but also to convey his sincere thanks as he talked about the stories of their journey so far. This was one more bonding step for the team.