People make progress and teamwork makes the dream work

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By Professor Barry Drust

The of end another calendar year. I guess there is no other topic for a post at this time than reflecting on the previous months and trying to make sense of some of my thoughts on progress that we are making with the GSSPP. Reflection is something that is frequently talked about but something that is not always done by people in a systematic way. I do try and make it a key part of my daily routine as I personally believe that it is invaluable in firstly making sense of situations and secondly planning for future action. This post is not really about reflection so excuse the quick break from the expected content; just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to promote reflection while it was there! 

The GSSPP concept has been around for a couple of years at the university but has only really got going as a project in the last few months. A key question I’ve been asking myself is “why did it take so long and why has it now got moving?”. I won’t go on about my ability to procrastinate and failure to effectively manage my workload which I am sure are contributing factors (I might save those topics for another blog). I think I’d rather put the progress in recent months down to several different factors.  The initial stimulus in my view was the opportunity for key staff linked to the project to move away from our single occupancy offices to a group workspace. This may not sound that radicle but for academics this is actually a big shift in the way they work as personal space is highly valued to allow time to be spent on individual tasks that often require a solo focus. This gave a chance for those closely involved in The GSSPP to have more regular informal connections around the project helping generate the much-needed momentum to get things moving. 

Projects and actions that had been ongoing and stuck in the pipeline for a long time suddenly seemed to start making progress as well. I think it would be fair to say that the processes of change at universities are often slow and so projects can frequently take a long time to work through the different stages of organisational approval that are required before they can be operationalised. We also finally managed to create meeting structures and follow ups that have seemed to function effectively. These meetings enabled people to present their projects and receive feedback from the group. This not only created additional impetus for individuals to prioritise these projects but also enabled tasks to be shared a little more effectively. In this way the collective wisdom of the group could be accessed more quickly, and tasks seem to become the property of the group not the individual.  

While the office change and movement in long term projects have both contributed to the increased activity in the last weeks the biggest step change has really come about as a function of the qualities of the individuals that are closely involved in the GSSPP. The people I get to work with on this project have shown some amazing characteristics to facilitate not only the progress of their own tasks but also the GSSPP project as a whole. While this group obviously possess high levels of technical expertise that helps them plan, implement and evaluate specific projects their biggest skill, in my opinion, has been their prosocial behaviour. These behaviours, and attitudes, have facilitated the effective functioning of a team; something that was sometimes missing in the early stages of the GSSPP. It’s been their willingness to think differently, act differently and to act collaboratively in relation to a common goal that has been the real driver behind the progress that has been made this year.  

Effective teamwork is not something that is developed once and then maintained for evermore but rather something that is fragile and requires all involved to work hard to maintain the conditions required for it to flourish.  I guess the key moving forward will be to try and work with these great people to ensure we continue to create opportunities for everyone to demonstrate their prosocial skills and behaviours and to maximise their natural tendencies to work together. Its these things that we are also trying to incorporate into the academic programmes that the GSSPP delivers. We believe that helping the students that we work with to develop these prosocial skills will help them not only be more successful in their study but also impact the professional environments in which they do/will work.

1 thought on “People make progress and teamwork makes the dream work”

  1. The progress made with the GSSPP this year is truly commendable, and your reflection on the factors contributing to this success offers valuable insights. The shift from single occupancy offices to a group workspace seems to have played a significant role in fostering collaboration and momentum, which is fascinating considering the traditional academic work environment. It’s also inspiring to hear about the qualities of the individuals involved in the project and how their prosocial behaviour has been a driving force in the project’s advancement. Your emphasis on effective teamwork and the continuous effort required to maintain it is a crucial reminder for any collaborative endeavour. Integrating these prosocial skills into academic programs is an excellent approach, as it prepares students not just academically but also for the collaborative nature of the professional world. Thank you for sharing these reflections and best of luck with the GSSPP’s continued development!

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