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Monday, September 27, 2010

Making Teams Effective

Working in teams is a "way of life" in the modern food industry -- as a means of being more effective in a competitive world. A good team has diversity of backgrounds, providing an opportunity to utilize the particular strengths of each individual to permit the team to achieve what can not be achieved by a single individual working alone. For the team to be successful, it is essential that each student contribute to the overall effort of the group.

The success of a team is frequently secured through the organizing ability of the team leader. The leader, with concurrence of the team members will divide the responsibilities for each project -- using the particular background of each individual. [For example - one person might take primary responsible for planning, another take major responsibility for organizing processing and a third lead the work on product evaluation. All team members should review the project report before it is submitted.]


Effective teams do not just happen. It takes real effort of the team leader and the team members. For most students, working in a team is a new experience. It can be frustrating, especially in the beginning, as the student learns how to be effective in the group setting. The following are some suggestions for making the team an effective and satisfying experience.

Working together to a common goal:
  • Remember that each member of the team has something of value to contribute.
  • Each member of the team is an individual -- to be more effective, get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and special capabilities.
  • As a member of a group, you have to be willing to share the "ownership" of your concepts with others of the group.
  • The diversity of the team may be frustrating at first, but it is one of the greatest strengths of working in a group
  • Be respectful of each member's feelings, thoughts and ideas
  • Be willing to compromise
  • Don't just complain about problems; see what can be done about them. Discuss as a group about how to solve the problems that will arise. If all else fails, seek an arbitrator before the problem gets out of hand and interferes with your final grade
  • Remember that a team can become a "family" working together for the common good. 

Rules for Operation of the Team:

To minimize problems, decide on some operation rules at the very beginning -- it will make for a smoother operating team.

As problems arise, develop a set of rules to live by. It will be helpful to decide this as a group during the first laboratory and to put it in writing. Some questions to answer include -- How will you handle:
  • Members not being on time?
  • People who don't show up?
  • Conflict - without hurting feelings?
  • Bossy people?
  • Shy people?
  • People who talk too much?
  • People who never talk?
  • People who don't carry out assignments on time?
  • What role do you want the instructor to play? Let him/her know if you expect him to be an arbitrator. Use the instructor only as a last resort -- it is much better if you solve your own problems-----you may not like the instructor's solutions.
Organizing you team operations:
  • Set up a plan -- divide responsibilities -- build on individual strengths
  • Be specific and fair about assignments -- try to use individual strengths and backgrounds
  • Allow plenty of time for group effort -- getting started with a group is more time consuming than doing it alone. Once operating effectively, the team will accomplish much more than any individual can working alone.
  • Withhold judgment about ideas until all information is available
  • Be flexible
  • The team leader for each project needs to lead, and the team members need to be supportive and let her/him lead.
  • Be specific about deadlines for planning, operations and report preparation -- consider a written schedule

When it Comes Time to Prepare the Team Report:

The report is the finished article of several weeks' work and will be used to assess the performance of the team in respect to the laboratory exercise.

It is up to the team to determine how to prepare the report. You might want one person to write up the report; or different people may want to work on different parts of it and bring it together for editing.

Remember that that whoever writes the report, the grade on the report is the grade for the entire team. All team members should take time to look at the report before turning it in to the instructor