Note: Team Rock-it formed a few weeks late, which delayed our storming stage.

Course Materials

The two main instigators of the ‘Storming’ period are the mystery and inaccessibility of the prototype and participation in the team charter. I pushed the team to all contribute to a team charter, I felt that a charter will support everyone through the storming phase and start to understand one another. A team charter is not only a mandatory part of the curriculum for Co-Creative Development but research indicates a major contributor to success. “We found teams that use the charter have a statistically significant higher level of the many facets of teamwork quality” (McDowell 2011). “Our results support the assertion that the introduction of team charters do, in fact, manifest in improved intermediary process outcomes, including communication, effort, mutual support and cohesion” (McDowell 2011). Some members are keen to complete a team charter, the majority of the team feel there is no need.

The Team Charter

I found and shared with the team ‘Alex Ivanov’s The Team Canvas Template’ that is based on McDowell’s “Charting the Course: The Effects of Team Charters on Performance and Satisfaction in Global Virtual Teams’ (2011). The Team Charter supports the alignment of our team, our goals and our practices.

Team Charter Research: Each Team Member individually goes through the following 9 categories:

  • Purpose: What is the team’s purpose: the Why behind your goals? 10 mins
  • People & Roles: What are the names and the roles of each member? 5 mins
  • Common Goals: What are the goals for the whole team? 10 mins
  • Personal Goals: What are the individual goals of each team member? 5 mins
  • Values: What are the core values that your share? 10 mins
  • Needs & Expectations: What are your needs and expectation from the team? 10 mins
  • Rules & Activities: What are the ground rules that you want to agree on? How are you going to communicate, make decisions, execute and give feedback? 5 mins
  • Strengths & Assets: What are your strengths: things that would move you forward? 15 mins
  • Weaknesses & Risks: What are your weaknesses: things that would hinder you? 15 mins

(Ivanov 2021)

The team charter was completed by all team members after an emergency meeting was held, unfortunately encouraging everyone to complete the document did not solve our team dysfunction.

Fig 1. Team Rock-it 2021. Team Charter #1 (Pre the team split)

Reflection on The Team Charter

Defining our values, goals and roles is instrumental to the forming stages. I think had we created a team charter and begun to collaboratively work on the document in the early 3 to 4 weeks the team may have resolved many of the issues earlier.

Conflict resolution Spark Forum and personal reflections

Think about your own experiences with conflict resolution and write a short paragraph about a time when you effectively resolved conflict (no more than 250 words). To help you structure your summary, and to ensure that others can gain insight from your experiences, consider using the 5W1H approach listed below (Falmouth University 2021): 

I enjoy healthy competition, discussion and the people in my life that constantly challenge me. I desire honesty and openness in all my personal relationships, but in a team setting, it’s important to adjust to your team’s way of communicating, working and collaborating.

My general approach to conflict resolution is to dig deeper and see if something else is going on. Often it’s fear, anxiety, insecurity and so on that might be leading someone to refuse to meet you or anyone else in the middle. Most of the time offering additional support, trying to see someone’s point of view or showing an interest in who they are and where they are coming from fixes a disagreement. There are examples where changing the conversation for a bit and discussing family, hobbies, work and so on has solved a conflict. I’ll try my best to make that person feel comfortable in opening up and being honest with me. Once I understand their position in more depth, I might change my mind, and take on their point of view or I might be able to persuade them to mine now we know each other better.

I have found myself on very rare occasions at an impasse, neither person wanting to shift from their opinion. Avoiding conflict does not necessarily equate to a ‘good thing’ in my view, there are times that we need to step up and say that we disagree. There are numerous studies on social compliance, authority and the terrifying implications of avoiding questioning the actions of ourselves and others. Derren Brown’s The Push (2018), and The Milgram Experiment (Milgram 1961) all come to mind. An example might be discriminative views from someone, which I have experienced in a work setting. I can’t continue to work, where someone will continue to express hateful views. Depending on the extent of their views I might try and change their mind but I won’t continue to speak to someone that holds beliefs fundamentally abhorrent to me. In this situation, I tend to leave holding firmly in the ideals I hold strong like kindness and inclusivity.

Outside of discriminative beliefs, I find time is the truest tool for resolving conflict. Perspectives shift needs change and usually, you can work it out when everyone has been given time.

Challenge Activity ‘6 Thinking hats

A common strategy for overcoming adversity is to encourage the team to see things from different points of view and empathise with the opposition. Taking this one step further, Dr Edward de Bono devised the Six Thinking Hats as a tool to facilitate parallel thinking and encourage all team members to try on different perspectives as part of the decision-making process (Falmouth University 2021).

Fig 2. Masters 2021. 6 Thinking Hats

I set up a 6 Thinking Hats Activity should we need one at any stage. While we’ve suggested carrying out a 6 Thinking Hats session a few times, we’ve not managed to coordinate the team to complete one.

The fact we could not get the entire team to participate in the ‘6 Thinking Hats’ exercise did ring alarm bells.

We’ve not managed to get every person to participate in any group activity beyond team meetings.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Fig 3. Lencioni 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team [chart]

Team Rock-it are a diverse and balanced team in my opinion, and I hoped that would support our group through the storming stage. “According to Belbin, in order for a team to be successful, there must be a diverse yet balanced group of individuals that fulfil different ‘team roles” (Belbin 1991). I feel Team Rock-it never moved past ‘The Absence of Trust’. “Teams who lack trust conceal weaknesses and mistakes, hesitate to ask for help, jump to conclusions about the intentions of others, hold grudges and dread meetings” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team 2021). I found myself experiencing many of these feelings.

Absence of Trust
  • Secrecy around the prototype – Secrecy around the prototype, not allowing all members to contribute to the prototype. In total the team waited five weeks before asking to see the prototype. I joined the team late and was the main person asking to see the Unity project, so I could continue my work without being blocked. This meant I spent a total of three weeks asking politely and then more directly about the prototype.
  • Decision Making – Decisions were made in secret by individual members, which affected the whole team. Two people decided the project would be built in Unity 5, an old version of Unity released in 2015 that is no longer available. This decision would block 3 out of 5 of the members of the team from contributing to the project.
  • A Serious Lack of Communication – Some team members have ignored all communications sent to them on Slack, and then arrived at meetings and pretended to be collaborating. I did not raise this as an issue during the meetings for fear of de-railing progress, that I might be miss-understanding the situation. I reached out to different members of the group, to try and undersand why my messages were being ignored and if there was anything I could do to solve the situation but there is no clear answer. The whole team are confused about progress, roles and our goal for CDD730. Team members have suggested documentation for communication and consitency to support the team to the norming phase but these ideas are not acknowledged.
One in five women say they’ve felt ignore or overlooked by colleagues during video calls (Connley 2020)

Why did I not speak my mind during our team meetings?

Within the team, emphasis was placed on team meetings and making all our important decisions in this format. I am an introverted person who struggles with verbal communication and always find meetings stressful. “In the recent survey of 1,100 U.S. working adults over the age of 18, Catalyst, a nonprofit that works to accelerate women into leadership, found that 45% of women business leaders say it’s difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings and one in five women say they’ve felt ignored or overlooked by colleagues during video calls” (Connley 2020). While this may be a situation where my team are not aware of how women and people might feel during video calls the statistic is alarming.

The emergency meeting was not the first time I felt overlooked during a meeting, and this feeling was exasperated by members of our team (while there are understandable external obstacles for some) ignoring my communications. The situation led to a stressful and emotional meeting. I did not feel comfortable and found myself upset and struggling to communicate coherently.

Fear of Conflict
  • Raising issues – The team do not feel comfortable talking openly and honestly about the communication and organisation issues.
  • Artificial Harmony: Facilitating Behaviours and Trust: While still forming as a team, I worried the team are all polite conscientious people, who might be avoiding conflict and creating artificial harmony. “If we don’t trust one another, then we aren’t going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. And we’ll just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony” (Lencioni 2002). I have found myself feeling afraid of conflict, failure and constantly questioning my decisions, not opening up to trust everyone to recieve constructive and honest feedback.
Avoidance of Accountability
  • Avoiding Sharing Progress: Our Team Leader set up a Trello Board and I organised the board into a simple kanban board: Backlog: Future Sprints | To Do: Current Sprint | Doing: Current Sprint | Done. We discussed making our progress clear by adding our tasks to the board unfortunately not all team members participated and this created confusion and avoidance of accountability. No one knew who was working on what, or why.
  • Avoiding Participation in Planning: Participation in Miro & Document Planning: Again not all members would participate in asynchronous planning and communication. This lead to confusion about roles, tasks and the concept we were trying to pitch and build.
  • Avoiding Communication Guidelines: Communication Approach: Considering the nature of remote working, I have pushed ideas for asynchronous ideas to improve communication, like stand-ups on Slack/Miro, a communication guide, retrospectives and so on. The team generally have not participated in activities set up and the communication has suffered as a result.
  • Avoidance of Identifying Roles: Team Charter – hesitancy to clarify roles

Emergency Team Meeting

The team is experiencing some key team dysfunctions, a member of the team organised an emergency meeting to find out where the prototype was, what the plan for the prototype is, and how we can all access the prototype. The agenda also included the Team Charter, Practice Pitch and Collaborative Working Practices.

Fig 4. Meeting Agenda [screenshot by author]

We discovered during the meeting:

  • There was no prototype (we think) – there is still some confusion about whether a project was set up by one member in Unity 5, and why they lead the team to believe they were working on the prototype while directly de-railing anyone else from setting up a project in a software that allows everyone to contribute. At this stage, we are all in agreeance that whatever the reason we should all move on, and set up a new prototype
  • The plan for the Unity 5 game/ prototype was one member builds a 3D Model to demo for 3 minutes and everyone else researches in their chosen specialism. The question of how our concept art, research or anything else might contribute to the project was also not answered.

The marking criteria specifically asks that

  • You have contributed considerable domain specific knowledge to the project.
  • Your specialist research interests are clearly defined and have helped to shape the direction of the team efforts.
  • Appropriate software tools, techniques and processes have been applied to meet the requirements of the project.
  • You have been a key player in all aspects of the project.

On all these four points (not exclusively) we are essentially being barred from passing, this was something I felt required a fast solution.

We should all contribute to the prototype

During the meeting, I explained how I feel strongly that my and other members of the team’s skills were seriously underutilised in this prototype plan that had not been discussed with the whole team.

Resolution from the meeting:

We formulated a new strategy, where everyone could be involved that was still very close to the original idea during the meeting. We would build a store, a model and I can now start to build a 3D environment for the model to stand/dance in. We agreed during the meeting that version control was a necessary part of collaborative working and that the team should all contribute to planning, documentation and better collaboration and communication practices.

Reflection

Reflection in-action: The team formed later in the module, and I felt confident we would all be able to weather our conflicts through ‘storming’. I’ve worked in teams before and feel confident about my ability to work as a productive team member. I am aware that I can be overly enthusiastic and my efficiency can be overwhelming. Once the team better understands one another, hopefully, we will feel comfortable in being honest.

Reflection on-action: Determined for the team to succeed and everyone pass this module together I have been balancing my workload and the organisation of the team in collaboration with another member while simultaneously terrified I might step on toes. The situation has created feelings of paranoia and mistrust, and I still feel strongly that roles should be clearly defined moving forward. I have not addressed this imbalance of work that myself and another team member have taken on without recognition because I still fear that pointing this out will create further conflict. Team members also continue to ignore all this planning and collaborative work we are doing, which does start to make you feel unappreciated.

Reflection for action: On reflection of the team meeting, I feel that I tried my absolute best to create an atmosphere that was pleasant for everyone although not without mistakes. I made an effort to ensure some team members who wanted to use their skills in illustration and other talents could do so, while still keeping to the idea we had chosen. During and after the meeting, I did not communicate clearly why I was changing the idea around a little. I think some team members thought I was doing this for my own benefit. I think if they had understood why I wanted to include some small tasks for members to contribute with things they enjoy, they may have been on board. I love the idea for Klubbing and I want to create a 3D environment and I know I can do so. I was trying to bring everyone together, unfortunately, it did not have the desired effect and I worry I caused further tension.

The storming phase for our team created a significant amount of stress for me because of external factors and I know that for some and possibly every single team member they also had external situations and needed support. I am concerned about my ambitions and qualification but my reasons for asking about the prototype and why I was being pushed out of development come back to a matter of principle. As I reflected on personally earlier in this post, avoiding conflict does not necessarily equate to harmony. Do I feel convinced that my every action was the best course? No. Without a time machine, I don’t know if another approach may have been successful in keeping a unified team.

My ambition is to study for a PhD and start my own small indie game studio and this module has already taught me about creating an atmosphere where a team can thrive. I may have made many mistakes over the last few weeks but now, while learning is the time to make them and correct them.

List of Figures

Figure 1. Team Rock-it 2021. Team Charter #1 (Pre the team split).

Figure 2. Sarah MASTERS 2021. 6 Thinking Hats.

Figure 3. Patrick, LENCIONI. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team [chart]. From: Patrick Lencioni. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Fransico: Jossey-Bass.

Figure 4. Meeting Agenda [screenshot by author].

References

BELBIN, Dr R.M. 1991. ‘Design Innovation and the Team’. Design Management Journal, 2(3), 39-42.

BROWN, Derren. 2018. The Push [film].

CONNLEY, Courtney. 2020. ‘45% of Women Business Leaders Say It’s Difficult for Women to Speak up in Virtual Meetings’. CNBC [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/03/45percent-of-women-business-leaders-say-its-difficult-for-women-to-speak-up-in-virtual-meetings.html [accessed 10 June 2021].

DE BONO, Edward. 1999. Six Thinking Hats. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Falmouth University. 2021. GDD730 Co-Creative Design & Development Practice. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/913 [accessed on 20 June 2021]

IVANOV, Alex. 2021. ‘The Team Canvas’ [online]. Available at: https://miro.com/miroverse/the-team-canvas [accessed 29 Jun 2021].

JOHNSON, William H.A. et al. 2021. ‘Do Team Charters Help Team-Based Projects? The Effects of Team Charters on Performance and Satisfaction in Global Virtual Teams’. Academy of Management Learning & Education amle.2020.0332.

LENCIONI, Patrick. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Fransico: Jossey-Bass

MCDOWELL William, Andrew HERDMAN, and Joshua AARON. 2011. Charting the Course: The Effects of Team Charters on Emergent Behavioral Norms. Organizational Development Journal. 29. 79-89.

MILGRAM, Stanley. 1963. ‘Behavioral Study of Obedience.’ The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67(4), 371–8.