How to work together in a group?
Make sure that it is clear and concrete what the result of the group work should be. Don’t speak about your group work in vague terms but analyse what your group work should look like and what the goal of the group work really is. This information can often be found in the course sheet. Which skills do you need to prove and in which way so through this group work?
Now that you know what to do and why, the question that remains is how?. What is the process that leads to that result? Divide the process into very specific steps and tasks. Draw up a plan with deadlines in order to avoid procrastination. Make sure that your deadlines are concrete and realistic.
Before the Christmas holidays, we need to finish the literature review. We will try to finish the experiments by the end of April. After this, we will leave the lab and we will write down our results. The submission deadline is 1 June.
15 October: progress meeting
1 November: Achmed, Berend and Caroline each deliver their parts of the literature review on the statistics, the production methods and the applications respectively.
15 November: progress meeting
1 December: Dilma combines and integrates the different parts of the literature review.
1 February: meeting before the start of the experiments.
1 March: progress meetings, experiments A – D are completed
15 March: Berend and Caroline write the result section for experiments A – D.
1 April: Achmed and Caroline write the result section for experiments E – F.
15 April: Dilma combines and integrates all results.
1 May: Dilma sends a first draft of the entire thesis.
10 May: Everybody gives feedback on the first draft.
15 May: Dilma sends a second draft of the entire thesis.
20 May: Everybody gives feedback for the last time.
25 May: Dilma finalises the work.
31 May: Dilma submits the work.
1 June: submission deadline
Choose a team leader
A group leader is a person who is chosen by the entire group. The group leader should lead meetings and make sure that everybody is heard during those meetings. This is really important because a group in which everybody feels valued will have more motivation to work. The main task of a group leader is to make sure that the targets are achieved. In order to do this, the group leader will motivate the other group members and help wherever possible.
Divide the tasks
You can either choose to give every group member one task or you can form teams of two for every task. Avoid working on one task with more than two people. The more people are working on the same task, the more energy and time should go to communication.
Divide the other roles
It’s also a good idea to choose a person who will take notes during your group meetings. This way, your agreements and deadlines are noted, which means that they can be consulted later on if that would be necessary. Sometimes it is also useful to appoint somebody who makes sure that deadlines are being met. This person can address other group members from time to time and sometimes give incentives when necessary. Obviously you can also appoint somebody who is in charge of activities to relax. Not everything needs to be strictly professional. But of course, efficiency is key.
Make clear agreements
If there are no clear guidelines drawn up at the start, things will turn sour at one point in time. Different communication channels are used, decisions are made without everybody’s approval, etc. These things lead to discontent and frustration within the group.
Choose one communication channel
As a communication channel for your group work, email is usually the best choice. Facebook and Whatsapp groups are also very user-friendly but they usually get out of hand. It is very difficult to find messages afterwards when using those types of channels and this way, things could go wrong. It is also a good exercise to learn how to write short and clear emails.
Listen to everybody
Working together in a team can only work if a consensus is found. Try to find solutions which everybody supports as much as possible. Voting could create two sides and this will definitely affect the working atmosphere. Voting is only a good idea if you really can’t find a solution that everybody likes.
If you feel like something is not going the way it should or if there are things that really bother you, discuss them openly in your group. If you do so, always remember to be constructive. Don’t just complain but immediately offer possible solutions. Instead of gossiping about somebody who works less, address that person in a polite way and try to find a solution that feels good for the entire group, including the person you addressed in the first place as well of course.
Flanders has a meeting culture that got out of hand a bit. The more we meet, the less we decide. It is, therefore, important to keep meetings short and efficient.
Be efficient in your meetings
The first time that you meet, it is useful to discuss everything of course. Afterwards, however, meetings should be organised to address specific problems or to inform each other. Everybody should be heard but try to avoid discussions. It is usually impossible to find solutions in large groups. That is why it is a good idea to come up with a solution in a smaller group and then present your idea to the group during the meeting. A brainstorm with 15 people is usually just a waste of time.
Keep your meetings short
Don’t only set a time to start your meeting but also to end it. The group leader leads the meeting and should keep the pace steady to make sure that a meeting of an hour doesn’t go on for two hours. Making your meetings short and efficient is an important skill that you will be able to use in the future as well. Try to stay on track without cutting people off when they are speaking. This is not only the responsibility of the group leader, everybody can contribute to this of course.