Questions to Ask Before Starting a Team Project

My daughter is in high school, and every time her class has a group project, I am sure to hear about it. Why? Because sometimes her archrival happens to be in her group, and other times her best friend is (happy days ahead). No matter what, I’ll hear about the group slacker, and definitely about that controlling person ordering everyone around.

Do these roles sound familiar to you? Many of us can relate, which is unfortunate because teamwork is such an essential soft skill. Some jobs require more teamwork than others, but there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself as part of a team at some point during your life.

Many advice articles about teamwork focus on communication (which is another essential soft skill – check it out in this blog post). These skills are connected, but before you can have success in communication, you need to ensure you’re organizing a team in the best way possible by asking a few questions. You’d be surprised how many people DON’T ask these three essential questions before embarking on a team project.

Is this better as an individual project? Some tasks are simply not conducive to teamwork. For example, assigning teams to fill out a worksheet. This is not a project that requires teamwork; rather it’s an individual task that is being split up. This is a simple example, but if you want a surefire way to see a team fail, give them a project that is not made to be worked on together.

How many people should be on the team? Assign too many people and you will be guaranteed a built-in slacker role. Assign too few people and you will have a frustrated team doing too much and low work quality. An ideal number for successful teamwork is around six members. But remember, this will vary depending on the team and work to be accomplished.

Are there clearly defined roles? So, you have a project that requires a team and have decided on the number of members. Now is the time to clearly define who will be doing what. When team members feel they don’t have a purpose, they will not be a productive group member. This is different than simply assigning titles. A group member might be designated as the leader, but what exactly is the purpose of that role? Define what is expected and what an example of success should look like.

Whether you (or your student) is the classmate that looks forward to teamwork or the one that gets a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, remember to answer these questions. Doing so will ensure that you and your team can achieve teamwork success right from the start!

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