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How to Solve Group Problems

Working as a group can be hard, but there are ways to make it easier.

By
Stever Robbins,
December 20, 2010
Episode #160

Melissa has a common problem dealing with her colleagues and their calendars. Her office uses a calendar that gets shared over their network. Colleagues let her see the busy status on their calendars, but they block details so she doesn’t know where they are when she needs them for something important. She has a public and private calendar and wants to know how she can get her colleagues to do the same.

Melissa has just discovered one of the hidden truths about productivity: sometimes your own productivity depends on your office mates. Begging them to help doesn’t necessarily work. Going on team-building exercises and catching them on a “trust fall” doesn’t work; they trust you, but that doesn’t mean they want to help you. Even if you drop them, they don’t necessarily want to help. Of course, drop them hard enough and you can induce amnesia and convince them you’re their life-long pal. Then they’ll help. Only their memory has a way of coming back at the most inopportune times. Don’t ask how I know this.

How to Solve Group Problems

Your problem is that everyone has a calendar system that works best for them, but for the team to work well, it really requires everyone subordinate their personal style to a common tool. In effect, you want them to become part of the Borg, only in the real-life workplace, resistance isn’t futile. At least, not for them.

People aren’t nice. You’ll have to persuade them. You do that by raising the problems to the group and framing the problems as group problems. Then you let the group choose a solution. Feel free to propose your solution—everyone keep private and public calendars—as one possibility, but you’ll only get people to buy-in if they have a hand in designing or choosing the system you use.

Have the Group Solve the Problem

First, you need to get everyone all scared and worried about the problem.

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