Problems like risk shift and group think are dangerous to teams. So are weak leaders. Learn how to get ahead of problems before they hurt teamwork.
- Now, research into teams has identified two related problems called risky shift and groupthink. Risky shift is the tendency for teams to choose more risky plans than individuals would have chosen. Groupthink is where teams start to all think alike and nobody questions the plan until afterwards. Let's have a quick look at why these happen and whether they matter and what can be done if they do. First, risky shift. I think it's fairly obvious why a team would tend to make more risky decisions.
Since nobody has individual accountability if the risk doesn't pan out. Also, the more cautious ones will probably be quieter and therefore have less of a say. Does it matter? Well, yes! Taking undue risks can have really bad consequences so we must make sure that decisions are made properly and not by a gung ho group. Always make sure that someone's name is on every decision. Then there's groupthink. Where the team all starts to think the same way.
Ask yourself, in your company or organization, do you have a way of thinking that people maybe don't have when they first join but which becomes the way you work almost without you realizing? Coupled with this is the tendency for people to keep quiet about possible problems because they don't want to appear negative or different. It's often the quiet ones who are the thinkers. But it's only afterwards that someone will say "Actually I was a bit worried about that." When you say "Why didn't you say anything?" They say, "You didn't ask." Annoying. But actually, why didn't you ask? Maybe you should have a system where before you take action on something important and risky you ask the quiet thinker types "Can you see any snags with this plan, Lauren?".
Then, give them a chance to be heard. I mentioned earlier that Edward de Bono a has variant of this where he suggests that people take it in turns to be the negative one. He calls it wearing the black hat. The black hat wearer of the day has permission to be negative. It's okay it's their job. Someone always has to be wearing the imaginary black hat. The final thought about this, what if you have a weak leader who isn't doing this? As a good team player, what should you do? I think the answer is that anybody can suggest that someone wears the black hat.
Anybody can ask, "Hey Lauren, you're good at spotting the flaws in the plans. Can you see any risk points in this one?". Or even that we go around everyone and each person has a chance to talk about the possible benefits and the possible risks of the plan. Something like that so that nobody gets picked on but you do get to hear from that quiet person. What's your team like at spotting the flaws in plans? Does your team become too confident and risk taking? Who in your team is good at spotting potential problems? Could you imagine asking them what they think of the plan? I think that would be an easy thing to do and it could really make a difference.
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- Getting the job done
- Dividing up the work
- Cultivating communication
- Handling conflict
- Delivering reliably
- Playing more than one role
- Using your strengths and dealing with your weaknesses