Communication Failure In Groups

How Group Projects Break Down And Fail

03/24/11

There are a few reasons why group projects often fail, subsequently breaking down, and leading to zero productivity:

A) People often hate group work because they fear not everyone will pull their weight: To alleviate this fear your group needs to accept that's a mathematical given someone will be behind, someone will be last place in terms of work ethic. Sometimes it isn't through faults of their own: pregnancy, death in the family, serious illness, had to move, etc. Remember you don't all need to be superstars or workaholics. You just need to work well together.

B) Someone quits or goes on an extended leave of absence: In sports, it's accepted that a few players will get injured during the course of the season. Rather then lament over the situation, a winning team presses on. You must utilize the same winning attitude when working with groups. You can't get angry over people who quit or disappear, it's a part of life.

C) Skills poorly utilized: In the silly name of equality, you have everyone doing equal portions of each aspect on the project. You have no designated leader or no direction. You're finding out your Utopian little experiment is failing. Utilize people's skills efficiently. Have the best writer amongst your group do all the writing. Have the best researcher do all the research. Have the best mathematician do the budget. Have the best salesperson get the hell out of the office and chat people up.

D) No direction at all: Usually a given that if a team is in violation of aspect C, then aspect D being no direction is certain to follow. You don't have any leadership in your group. There's vast confusion on when stuff should get done, where, and when. People meet up at different times and different places. Nobody has any idea what the heck is planned for the next day. The word "scheduling" is absent from your group's vocabulary.

E) No focus: Your group is stuck in a world of social anarchy. Rather then getting down to business, people are gossiping about the latest celebrities, their children, their significant others, and the football game. While sometimes there is a place for such talk to relieve tension, when such conversations overwhelm your time when you should be working your group is in big trouble.

F) No creativity and an unwillingness to problem solve: Your group is filled with a pile of people who lack any confidence to think for themselves. They answer any question with the words, "I don't know." They refuse to come up with any ideas and constantly make excuses. You need to convince people they don't need to be an artist or a college dropouts in order to utilize creativity and problem solving in real world applications. Yes, your wonderful degree in God knows what probably taught you to memorize passage after passage, and this creativity stuff is hard work, but nothing worthwhile ever came easy!

G) Unwillingness to compromise: Everyone wants to go off and do their own thing. While this can at times work if it's possible to come together and synergise the work, you still need to attend the meetings together to strategically discuss how to synergise the project. You still need to slot time in your schedule to put it all together. Finally, some people need to be told what can and can't be realistically incorporated into a given project.

H) People caught in big spender mode: Some people in the group may have expensive ideas that are just not within budget. When pressed on how to come up with ideas/methods to raise money for these lofty ideas people often show their true colours. They're not willing to do the work. When asked if they know someone willing to donate for such ideas, you'll often get a blank stare where they claim to know some rich people who may or may not give them money. Often such cases are hopeless. Stick within the budget and if a windfall suddenly comes, then plan for something bigger.

I) Ineffective leadership: Often an "unofficial leader" is created in groups. His/her leadership skills are paramount to the success of the group. If you find yourself often taking on the mantle of the leadership role and you're having negative experiences with group work, then perhaps you're not as effective of a leader as you believe. Next time you're in a group, try taking a back seat and wait patiently to see what happens. It's possible your leadership skills are not as good as you thought, we're quite often our own worse judges.

-Donovan D. Westhaver

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