Today, or rather this evening, was the first part of the short Management, Leadership and Teamworking course I’ve joined. Organised by the University, it’s designed for early career Post-Docs, but PhD candidates like me were invited too.
There are twenty of us on the course, from all over the world. My team of five (up the Reds!) includes people from China, Iran (via Turkey) and Spain. After our briefing, and a far better YMCA supper than I was expecting. We completed our first five challenges:
- Balancing four of us on a breezeblock.
- Walking through the woods blindfolded, looking for parts of a door and remembering in what order we discovered them,
- Trying to get one of our team and a “precious cargo” (a brick in a bucket) over a mined electric fence,
- Building a nuclear fallout tent (with only one of us not blindfolded), and
- Confronting a poacher.
Needless to say we failed at all but one. But on the way we learned a lot about each other and about how we might have better approached the challenges.
Keeping time, for example, was something we forgot about. We had twenty minutes for each task, and of course time flew by, but none of us was actually keeping track of time at all. (Which would have helped.) But quite apart from that we learned that a pisspoor performance can be avoided through PISPAR:
Problem – understanding what is actually being asked of us. For example, we didn’t need to build the tent, just get inside it, like a bag.
Information – we rushed into each task without gathering all the information that we might have done.
Solutions – we didn’t take time to share and evaluate possible different ways to tackle the task.
Planning – when we’d decided what to do, we didn’t for example, allocate tasks very well, or plan our time (see above)
Action – we did plenty of this, without much of the prep.
Reflecting – well we all had time to reflect afterwards of course. But we might occasionally have paused to reflect on the progress of each challenge, while we still had time to do something about it.
We weren’t total failures though. We (I) quickly worked out that the “poacher” we discovered was actually the gamekeeper, which our facilitator said very few teams manage. And the final activity was a “ski race” which we didn’t just win, we won by a country mile! (Go Reds!)