(First published, April 2003)
In a reflective teamwork activity (RTA), the process and the content merge with each other. Participants work through an activity and use the outcomes to evaluate the process they used. Here's an RTA that explores challenges associated with losing and gaining team members in the midst of a project.
30 minutes to an hour
10 to 40
Organize teams. Divide participants into an even number of teams, each with 4 to 7 members. It does not matter if a few teams have an extra member. Seat the teams as far away from each other as possible.
Example: You have 22 participants and you divide them into four teams. Two of the teams have five members and the other two have six members. You send the four teams to four separate breakout rooms.
Assign topics for brainstorming. Ask half of the teams to discuss this topic:
How can we handle problems associated with losing some members of a team in the midst of a project?
Ask the other half of the teams to discuss this topic:
How can we handle problems associated with new members being assigned to a team in the midst of a project?
Tell teams that they will have 12 minutes to complete their discussion and to record their ideas on a flip chart.
Example: The first two teams are assigned the “losing” topic (how to handle losing some team members). The other two teams are assigned the “gaining” topic (how to handle new members).
Switch team members. After the teams have been brainstorming for about 6 minutes, randomly select one or two members from each “losing” team and ask them to join a “gaining” team. Do this switch without attracting too much attention.
Example: You go to the first team that is discussing the “losing” topic and ask two of its members to follow you. You take them to the room where a team is discussing the “gaining” topic. You ask the two members to join this team and to work on the “gaining” topic. You now return to the original team and inform that two of its members have been given another important assignment. You repeat the same procedure with the other pair of teams.
Conclude the brainstorming activity. At the end of 12 minutes, assemble all teams at the same location. Explain that two of the teams lost its members and other two gained some members in the midst of the activity. Point out that the team working on the “losing” topic lost some members while the team working on the “gaining” topic gained some members.
Conduct a reflective debriefing. Ask each team to reflect on how they reacted to losing or gaining members. Invite each team to review its list of brainstormed ideas and discuss these questions:
- When your team lost or gained some members, did you use the ideas that you had generated? If you did not use the ideas, what prevented you from using them? If you did use the ideas, what was the effect?
- What are the disadvantages of losing some team members in the middle of the project? What are the disadvantages of gaining new team members in the middle of a project?
- Which is worse: losing team members or gaining new members?
- Are there any advantages to losing team members in the middle of a project? What are they? What are the advantages of gaining new members?
- In your workplace, have you ever been on a project team that lost some members? Have you been on a team that gained new members? Why did these changes occur? What was the impact of these change?
- Which of your brainstormed ideas has the greatest application for improving the teamwork in your organization?