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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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9.3.4 Plan work with others for achieving the quality outcomes required

If you are doing this to complete a project as part of your study, check if the work is going to be assessed, and make sure you know how marks will be allocated and what criteria will be used. Take time to read carefully any instructions you have been given on group work for the activity – ask your tutor for advice if you are unsure about anything, particularly if this is the first time you have been set a group task. Check whether you will be assessed as a group or as individuals. Will the way the group operates be assessed, as well as the product or solution produced by the group? This will help you prepare effectively both as individuals and as a group. Keep ongoing records of the planning process. If you have been assigned to a team at work, try to establish as clearly as possible what you are expected to do, and where you might get information and support. If you lack a clear picture of what you should be doing, it is difficult to get your job under control.

Once you have this information, you can begin to plan and schedule your work in more detail. You now need to decide who will do what. In allocating and negotiating your own and others’ responsibilities, you may need to make appropriate and sensitive suggestions, backed up with evidence of ability to fulfil these, as well as evidence of similar work undertaken successfully or other work experience.

Think about how often you intend to meet as a group and how you will monitor progress. Remember, you have to keep two important things in mind all the time: the work itself and how you work with others to complete it. It is also worth considering what the group will do if something goes wrong; for example if one member of the group is sick, or finds their allocated task too daunting. How will the group deal with such difficulties? Once you have sorted out the tasks and the timescale, it is a good idea to record the agreed schedule and make sure everyone has a copy. There should then be no confusion over meetings, deadlines, and so on.

Successful team working is possible only if everyone in the group is clear about the target the group is working towards, how this target will be met and how their contribution fits with those of others. All this sounds straightforward, but in practice many factors can, and do, disrupt the planning stage. For example, you may be assigned, or have to assign, tasks that are unpopular, or where you feel there are not the skills or experience within the group to complete the work successfully. You may be leading a group that includes people who are older than you, or more experienced. There are no absolutes when working with others but there are tactics and strategies you can use to help you work successfully with peers. As obvious as these suggestions may seem, many people ignore them. So many people think they are such experts at human relations that they do not bother to think systemically about their behaviour in relation to others. The following suggestions are particularly geared towards developing good relationships with others:

  • adhere to group norms, that is, unofficial standards of the group;

  • express an interest in their work;

  • be a good listener;

  • maintain honest and open relationships;

  • display a helpful, co-operative and courteous attitude;

  • do favours;

  • phrase demands as requests for help; and

  • give recognition to others.

Time out

Make sure you have a record of the actions that need to be taken and by whom and the resources needed. For instance, what timescales are involved, who will do particular tasks and by when, and at what stage might you need to get specific expert advice and support from others? Build in checkpoints so the group can make progress checks.

You may find it useful to refer to the checklist below to make sure that everything has been covered. This lists the sorts of things you need to think about when embarking on a project or piece of work to be completed by working in a group.

Checklist for working on a project in a group
Have we defined the problem and are the targets clear and agreed?
Have we got all the information we need at the moment?
Do we have the resources and equipment we need?
What strategies are in place if the need for further resources emerges later?
Have the tasks and responsibilities been agreed?
Are we communicating clearly and honestly with each other?
Do we need to get assistance or advice from anyone?
Are we prepared to support each other when necessary?
Have we agreed an action plan or way forward?
Is the timescale realistic for each member of the group?
Have we discussed how we might deal with potential difficulties?

At this stage, and as part of your preparation, you may want to look again at your plans for completion of the work. As you begin to do the work, use your checkpoints to monitor progress and look at your strategy and plans. These may change. Keep your strategy and supporting documents up to date with the group's current thinking and ideas.

You will need to consult other members of the group to check that they each have sufficient time to complete all the different aspects of the task on time. Use the activity below to record an outline of your strategy supported by records of your information research, notes of your planning process and statements on the expected quality of outcomes.