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Groups separated by geography are but one challenge. So, today we’ll discuss tips for how to create commitment among multi-discipline work groups. Apply these tips when facilitating communication among work groups that are widely separated by geography.

Securing Commitment Among Multi-Discipline Work Groups

Multi-discipline Work Groups

Frequent Integration Among Multi-Discipline Work Groups

Very often, a work group comprises several small teams, each in separate locations. Successful teams require cross functional support, integrating their efforts frequently. Regular and frequent integration across functions provides numerous benefits. Integration establishes mutual commitment among multi-discipline work groups. Integration also creates a common repository of knowledge.

Exchange People Within Multi-Discipline Work Groups

Typically, a team in one country has all the necessary technical capabilities, but their “requirements” come in large batches of written documents developed many time zones away. Predictably, when an application is finished several weeks or months after the arrival of the requirements, it isn’t what the customers really wanted. Large separations between customers or analysts and the implementation team seldom works very well. Therefore, consider relocating a couple of people from one team on the other team for extended periods of time, preferably on a rotating basis. One or two team members that understand customer needs could be located with the development team, or alternatively, one or two people who are part of the development team could be located closer to customers. Rotating people through these positions proves to be highly effective.

Daily Proxy For Multi-Discipline Work Groups

Sometimes dispersed teams communicate through a single person. Someone from each site becomes a member of the core team and serves as a proxy for the remainder of their remote team members. The proxy assumes responsibility for a large amount of well-defined work and sends it to the remote team, calling them daily to describe what needs to be done, answer questions, and retrieve completed work. Thus, the remote team maintains rich communication with one person on the core team, and the core team considers the remote team an extension of this proxy, who can help manage work for several people.

Traveling Leader Supporting Multi-Discipline Work Groups

Consider an oobeya or “war room” with big visible charts showing project status and issues. Maintain identical status charts in each of multiple rooms around the world. The program leader should travel from one room to another, holding regular status meetings at each location. Other locations may call in to where the leader is hosting the meeting. Leadership commitment reinforces the mutual commitment of all teams to their common objective.

Caution Among Multi-Discipline Work Groups

Participants may develop the perception that one group is better than the other. For example, when part of a team relies heavily on a different language, or when one group represents subcontractors while another represents the contracting company, or when one group clearly has higher pay or status than the other. Such perceptions quickly destroy the respect, trust, and commitment that are essential for true teamwork. To avoid the perception, or fix the situation, enforce the suggestions above with more people on rotation, more rotations, daily updates, and a leader who facilitates frequently at all locations, not solely the home-based site.


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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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