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Wikis are everywhere. Now that global media institutions have started embracing the phenomenon, wikis have become more than a buzzword. Wikis are at the leading edge of what tomorrow's internet will look like.
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2006/10/29

Focus on Teamworking

In many modern companies, the matrix has become the norm. It means that, most of the time, an employee will have to be part of a team created for a specific purpose (such as completing a project) to perform his daily work. This creates challenges and opportunities that can both be faced and worked out by using a wiki.

Basics of Teamworking

A team is group which members are aware they belong to. It has a definable membership structure (one supposedly knows whether or not he is part of a team) and a shared purpose (in a corporate setting, it will often be a piece of work that has to be completed collectively by members from different departments). This creates a challenge, for it means that a group of people who are unfamiliar with one another will have to behave collectively in a consistent manner in order to build something coherent. And this is why teamworking so often fails, for coordination has to be worked on and does not emerge from parallels behaviours.

Why a wiki makes things easier

When it comes to coordination, a wiki is near from a perfect form of answer. Here is a tool that allow people to work together on the same documents (no problems of shared information), at the same time (you do not have to find out who kept the last version of the proposition draft home). If you are tired of members taking excuse of a bad information and coordination system to get away with a low share of real work, using a wiki is a good way to improve situation.

Decide before acting

One of the main reasons for which teams fail is for they lacked a clearly defined goal to begin with. In order to be successful, a team has to spend time on chosing what are its objectives and how to pursue them. A wiki provides a space where members can review the last version of their objectives and comment on them. Therefore you will not be faced any longer with complaints that the guidelines were not clearly settled or updated. Once the task is properly defined (which will be quicker than with e-mail forwarding or even a meeting for this requires a high amount of organization time), the team can start working.

Roles in teamworking

Most managers met Meredith Belbin's classification of roles in a team at one time or another in their careers. For those who have not came through it yet, Belbin's classification offers a quick orverview of what are the functions that members of a group have to fulfill in order for that group to be succesful. Belbin lists 9 roles :
  • Company worker/implementer : the person who creates system that will produce what the team want
  • Chairman/co-ordinator : checks that everyone's point of view has been taken into account
  • Shaper : provides drive and impetus to the team, keep things going
  • Plant : is a source of creative ideas (sometimes too abstract for the others)
  • Resource investigator : he is the networker of the group and is linked to other groups, he can provide the group with what it needs
  • Monitor evaluator : the person responsible for questioning unfounded assumptions
  • Team worker : take care of relationships within the team
  • Completer finisher : the person that keeps an eye on details
  • Specialist : brings knowledge to the team

Now that these roles have been presented, it becomes clear that a collaborative interface where team members can interact and edit each other work is highly useful : the evaluator can immediatly point out in a comment what has to be worked on, the plant can propose ideas in an area where they will be discussed with others, the shaper can evaluate the level of everyone's work and what has to be done... A wiki offers a space for everyone voice to be heard, which facilitates the role of the coordinator.

Although most of the time individuals have a preference for a particular role, a wiki allows teammembers to play various roles at one time. Peer reviewing is made easier, a space for new ideas is easy to set up, and the strenghts of each member can be tapped into more easily.

A platform for more efficient teamworking

A wiki is not by itself a perfect solution for teamworking. It should rather be considered as a platform that allows usual teamworking issues to be tackled with more efficiency, more quickly. It eases the role of many members by centralizing information and documents and allowing them to coordinate with others effectively. By cutting on email (sometimes as much as 40%) it speeds up a whole process. Coupled with a blog, it can provide current information and replace a mailing list. RSS feeds make it easy to find out what is new and who has contributed recently. Try it, and you won't consider teamworking as a punition any longer.

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC