Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2013 TKR: TEAM: Group Projects: Tools for getting it done: action items

Group Projects:
Tools for getting it done: 
Action items
If meetings don't follow good practices, you hear:
  • The meetings are just a waste of time.
  • They just talk, go in circles, get nowhere.
  • Lots of good ideas get ignored.
Here is something you can do about that
Action Items
Concrete actions to be done by a specific person.  Any action needed for progress on the group project can become an action item.  Common action items are: 
Get information
Get approval
Prepare a list of ideas, 
Prepare a plan for implementation of an idea; 
Evaluate plans for an idea.
Action item, accepted
A concrete task accepted as a responsibility by a specific person.  The task may include organizing a Special Working Group to complete the task.  Normally the person accepting the action item will give progress reports to the main group until the task is completed. 
Where do action items come from?  
Suggesting action items is a standard maintenance role for task oriented groups.  Anyone can do it.  It is a standard tool for ending "pointless" discussions.
"We don't have enough information about that.  Will somebody take an action item to find out and report back?" 
"We don't know whether we can do  that.  Will somebody take an action item to find out and report back?"
"This sounds like an interesting idea, but some of us are wondering about devils in the details   Will somebody take an action item to develop a concrete plan and report back?"  
What if nobody takes the action item?
If the issue is not worth anybody's time, it is certainly not worth the group's time. Calling for an action item gives the group a clear cue: If nobody wants to work on it, move on.
What marks a good action item?
The result/product is described well enough that every one can tell when it is done and delivered.  Nobody does anything in the abstract
How do you use action Items?  
  • If an issue is not ready for action now, provide for further effort to get it ready 
  • Arrange for the people most interested in the issue to develop it on their own 
  • Expect a status report at each meeting until the item is complete or abandoned.
  • Give a time prod to people working on the issue.
  • Report should cite blockers and estimate time to completion.
  • Group should seek ways to help on blockers.  
  • Meeting Agenda.  TODO list for the meeting. 
  • Personal agenda.   Goals of a particular person for the meeting 
  • Group roles.   Type of actions that regularly appear in task oriented meetings
  • Group Maintenance Roles.  Types of actions that regularly foster cooperation in a group
  • Group Task Roles.  Types of actions that regularly foster progress on the task of a group
  • Group Leadership Roles: Types of actions related to organizing and managing the group operations.
  • Facilitator.  Person responsible for encouraging the group to take actions known to foster  effective functioning.
  • Action Items.  Concrete actions to be done by a specific person
  • Action item, accepted.  A concrete task accepted as a responsibility by a specific person.
  • Brainstorming.   A technique for generating ideas in a small group.
  • Planning: Develop list of concrete actions needed to reach the project goal.
  • Evaluate plans: Assess the benefits, costs, and prospects of alternative plans
  • Special Working Group (SWG):  Ad hoc group taking a single action item.
  • Delegate: Turn over a task or group role to a specific person or SWG 
Essential group maintenance roles
  • Time KeeperWatches the time reminds the group of time limitations.
  • Recorder:  Keeps and distributes record of group decisions
Self managed teams
The main idea of the self-managed team is that the leader does not operate with positional authority. In a traditional management role, the manager is responsible for providing instruction, conducting communication, developing plans, giving orders, and disciplining and rewarding employees, and making decisions by virtue of his or her position. In this organisational model, the manager delegates specific responsibility and decision-making authority to the team itself, in the hope that the group will make better decisions than any individual. Neither a manager nor the team leader make independent decisions in the delegated responsibility area. Decisions are typically made by consensus in successful self-managed teams, by voting in very large or formal teams, and by hectoring and bullying in unsuccessful teams. The team as a whole is accountable for the outcome of its decisions and actions.
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  1. Hi Selby,

    When conducting meetings within Second Life, do you see any challenges presented by the environment to maintaining this time-saving approach to meetings?

    Do you use any strategies specific to the SL environment to achieve this focus on actioning?

  2. Good question. I'll probably do a post on that soon. People are at home and subject to distractions. I think people spontaneously use typed chat to keep a kind of live minutes -- so people who miss something can skim the chat history and catch up. I will watch for more such and post on this later -- thanks for the idea,

  3. Here is something I posted on the resources available
    Working together apart, virtual worlds, social media