The problem that I learnt from this week is that my teams do worse off without me. Some background information; I’m currently enrolled in two papers that have semester-long group projects (this one and an engineering one – “robot” paper). Before this week, I have attended all meetings for both of these groups, and have had a reasonably loud voice in decisions made (and good outcomes had come from them). But yesterday (Thursday), I had two group interview sessions which meant I was unavailable from 9-4pm, and this is not only rollover day, but was the day before the robot had to complete a “technical test”. To cut to the chase, after my interview (4pm), my robot team had not managed to make any progress from when I had left them, and my management team’s profits had significantly dropped after the rollover.
Admittedly, I first thought – “man, can no one do anything without me?” Which is not something I’m proud of. Then I remembered the commitment I had made last week (see my previous learning journal) to knockout defensive reasoning by embracing the fear that I might be in the wrong. So I thought – ”did I not leave good enough instructions?” Was my first response/solution for next time. But then I realised that this solution would only be a temporary, short-term fix – next time I would have to leave better, more exact instructions, but I would have to do this over and over again any time I was necessarily absent. I would be, as Argyris (1991) so aptly styled it, automatically turning on the heat to adjust the temperature of the room – a delayed, multi-cycled response. So my second proposed solution, which I think would fix the root of the problem rather than act in response to it, was that I’m not sharing the processes I go through enough. In my robot group, everything is quite time-sensitive, so I feel like there’s not enough time to explain everything to my team, so they don’t see exactly my thought processes and how I come to the solutions. I think in my mind a lot, when really I should be thinking aloud so that they can see how I eliminated second-rate solutions. Regarding my MikesBikes team, I come up with figures, but I don’t seem to have time (we meet and make all our decisions for only two hours) to explain how I got there. I think a lot of things through in my head – e.g. if we changed this, how would this affect so-and-so? If it changed so-and-so, what else could we change to account for that?
It’s not something that I’m going to be able to change instantly; thinking in my head is a natural habit, and so I will have to work on sharing my thoughts and letting others question and analyse the process. I can start by allowing more time for that so that in the long run, my teams can see what works and what doesn't, and what works for them and what doesn't.
Demonstrating/Leading by example is not enough. Obviously, my teams can’t tell what I’m thinking; they only see the outcome and the decisions. This one’s definitely on me.
Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Reflections, 4(2), 4--15