Upcoming Team Workshops

In the upcoming months, we’ll have the consultant Fred Schmitt on campus doing some work with our teams. In advance of his arrival, I thought it useful to outline what we’ve asked Fred to help us with. We have two major objectives:

1. We want everyone in LIS who has not yet gone through ‘team training’ to spend half a day becoming familiar with the concepts, the roles, and the vocabulary of teams. This will be useful for those who are presently on teams but have not yet been trained. Since we imagine that at some point nearly everyone in LIS will be on a team, we think it useful to have everyone trained. Many who have gone through these workshops have reported that the principles apply equally well to traditional work within a workgroup.

2. We want to re-align the existing teams. We’ve been using teams as a way to accomplish important work that spans our workgroups and areas structure. Having this experience, we need to figure out how to answer questions that we now have about roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities; communication; balancing work in a team with work in a workgroup. We also want to re-confirm the charges for the teams.

You’ll soon be getting more information about this, and invitations to meetings. In advance, if you have specific questions or concerns that you would like to make sure we cover, please feel free to email me, and I will make sure that they are included in these workshops.

Terry Simpkins wrote up a handy FAQ that may help answer questions you may have about teams:

Q. When will the team training be?
A. Probably on Fridays during the management training weeks, but this is not set in stone yet.

Q. Will there be a team leader component?
A. Yes, there will be a discussion of the various roles (member, leader, sponsor, director group, workgroup manager) that are involved in the teams.

Q. Can teams revisit their membership when finished with their charge?
A.  This seems reasonable, and it feels like an appropriate time to look at team memberships.  However, teams are not limited to this, and should revisit membership whenever it is necessary, for any reason.

Q. Should we require anyone without team training to take it, even if not currently slated to be on a team?
A. Yes, that is the plan.

Q. Can we implement a system for rotating members off teams?
A. This issue definitely needs more thought and clarity.  Membership on a team was never intended to be a life sentence, and we certainly want team members to be enthusiastic about being on the team.  Whether or not we institute a (renewable) term length is an open question, but at any rate we should clarify this idea (that serving on a team can have an end date) so everyone is aware of it.

Q. Is team membership an implicit requirement for staff? Are certain staff members “exempt” from teams?
A. All staff should be considered as potential candidates for teams.  We try to match organizational needs with staff interests whenever possible, and we have to consider workloads as well, so staff involved with a particularly large project may be temporarily exempt from serving on a team.  But no one gets a permanent pass.

Q. Do all teams really last forever?  What’s that all about?
A. Teams are intended to address ongoing needs that can not be effectively handled by individual workgroups or areas.  Unlike, say, the intern program, they are not intended to simply deal with a short-term project need.  So the assumption is that most teams will be ongoing, until such time as the work changes, or the work becomes “routine-ized” to the extent that it is integrated (or there is a plan to integrate it, like the work of the digital archives team) into a workgroup’s duties.  However, the changing tech landscape, college priorities, etc. can all effect the team’s work and lifespan.

One interesting thing from our discussion about these issues was something Fred said.  Basically, it’s not the idea of the “team” itself that is important, but rather, the important thing is creating a culture of teamwork and “unmanaged harmony.” We might get to a point where collaboration is so second-nature to us that we no longer need teams.  That would probably be the ideal situation!  But I found it very interesting to hear this.

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