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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 learnReflections, 4(2), 4--15


  1. I'd also like some feedback to see if I'm on track for summative, so Peter if you'd be able to have a quick read whenever you have a moment (no rush of course)? Thanks (smile)

    Or if I'm in the line somewhere, just ignore this!

    1. Let me frame this first by saying, that when I comment and say things like "I think your on track ..." or "I'm not sure how you are going to be able be successful doing the summative learning journal", I am thinking about two things. First, I'm looking at the quality of thinking. To a lesser extent, I'm also looking at the quality of the data.  What I'm definitely NOT saying is "Write something like this for the summative learning journal and you'll be okay".

      I did check with Sarah to see how firmly she wanted me to push back on this journal. So, the gloves are off, but she is ready for it. I would not normally be this direct.

      With that caveat noted, I'll warm up with some comments on this journal as a source of data for your summative learning journal ... Overall, you are on track and I would expect you be able to wield this (and your other journals, it they are of a similar quality) into a solid summative learning journal.

      As a demonstration of your thinking .... I think this demonstrates single-loop learning. Sophisticated single-loop learning, but single-loop nevertheless. And in you case, I think you are capable of much more than that. Let me try and walk you through some thoughts.

      First, most reasonably performing teams should be able to perform better than their best member. There are a few exceptions to this (around domain specific expertise), but for something like MikesBikes collectively you should be better than any individual.

      Secondly, and I'll return to this theme later in week 12, "Where you go, there you are". This problem is happening with too teams. Would I be wrong to think that you've experienced this before with other teams.

      Third, the biggest inhibitor to mode II thinking (look it up if it's not in the readings) is defensive reasoning (win, not loose).

      This all starts me thinking, is it them or is it you that is the problem? I am wondering, is there something you are doing that is stopping the team from performing well without you (or are you really that smart). Are you doing something that is inhibiting your team? For example, and I've not watched your team dynamics (so this is just wild speculation) are you too much of a take-charge sort of a person? Do you stop them from thinking for themselves?

      As you go through the reflective process, I would have hoped that your would have noticed that pattern of solutions and stepped back and considered if you were asking the right question in the first place. Instead of "my teams do worse off without me", perhaps there is a better question, such as "What am I doing that stops teams from performing when I'm not there". That would produce an entirely different solution set to the problem.

      To reiterate, I'm unconcerned about your ability to do a solid summative learning journal. But I think you have it in you to do an A+ journal. But you'll need to generate some more robust insights from a more considered reflective process.




  2. Hi Sarah,

    Your journal entry was very interesting and unique from the many I have provided feedback on. You have strictly followed Daudelin's model, but I particularly liked how you went straight to the point (immediately addressed your problem). This allowed time for you to analytically discuss why you came about with the problem, how you could have done it differently and actions that you will now take. It would also be great to see you apply one of week eight's readings to your journal entry, for example one of the readings discussed how human skills is one of the three must have skills an administrator should have. In your case effective communication skills is essential to get the instructions through to your team members in both your groups. In regards to your team work, I think that specialisation would be beneficial. According to your journal, it seems like you are making mostly all of the decisions in your group, whereas if you specialise and each manager come up with decisions in their own departments there would less on your plate. This way your job as CFO will not be overly stressful. I hope this helps.


    Charity (smile)

  3. I feel that your reflection is on the right track. You've identified that perhaps you're not communicating as effectively with your team as you could and it's affecting the team's performance when your absent. However, after reading about the situation that unfolded last week it seems that you might be missing an even bigger problem, that your team is dependent on you and (perhaps) largely unable to make effective decisions without you. When I'm talking to people about my ideas and I'm trying to get them on the same page as me I find that it helps to ask them leading questions so that they can come to the same logical conclusion that I've come to. Doing that will also help them to develop the skills to make decisions on their own when you're not around by transferring your process to them. I think this is sort of what you're getting at in your post when you talk about needing to be more vocal about the process of how you came to your ideas. By asking leading questions you can transfer some of that process to your group.

  4. Hi Sarah,

    Firstly id like to say i found your journal very interesting. You clearly articulate and use Daudelin's steps for effective reflection and in particular thought it was effective introducing and getting right into the problem you have been experiencing this week. from my knowledge it seems like you are leading your teams and decision making seems reliant on your input, which i dont think will be beneficial for your yourself or your teams if it carries on. The previous sets of feedback outline and identify effective methods to communicate stronger with team members and will help to take the work load off yourself and help other team members to give effective work and input.