Research and study are often organised as a group activity. In order to work effectively as a member of a group on a project, management skills are a mandatory element of a skill profile. Acquiring and applying management skills, however, is more difficult to achieve because they consist of a mixture of input as well as output characteristics. The effectiveness of a ‘manager’ depends on the behaviour and interests of the group members, and vice versa.
Managing a group always represents s a balancing act between diverging individual interests, competencies and temperaments. The diversity of a group, however, is almost always a necessary – but not sufficient - condition for success. Groups of ‘friends’ are notoriously ineffective; groups of people with the same skill profile often clash or end up in apathy. So the fact that groups are often made up of ‘colleagues’ - people who do not have to like each other in order to collaborate – is not necessarily bad. But collaboration between colleagues requires different skills than when you work with friends. Project groups run into problems when the two identities get mixed up. Or when you aim at acting like friends in a group, whereas a more colleague-like attitude would be more professional and effective - a problem that many students face when they collectively try to work on an assignment. Mastering management and study skills – combined in acts of ‘doing it yourself’ – have greater learning effects than any of the other skills contained in this Skill Sheet collection.
This requires that you be prepared to go through the reflective cycle of effective project management, and that you always take into account the following five phases (Guirdham, 1990):
- Forming – the appropriate team
- Storming – taking the adequate time for brainstorming over possible dimensions (causes as well as consequences) of the project
- Norming – deciding on the basis of more or less objective ‘norms’
- Performing – implementing it
- Adjourning – the team can be adjourned, provided they performed well