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Am I SMRTer? Lessons Learned

Women in Mac Eng Blog

To round up the last part of our Social Media Research & Techniques (#SMRTCCE) class, our instructor, Jared Lenover (@autoblot) asked each of us to answer a few questions about our experience working in groups on our final case studies.

My team created a blog, which you can enjoy at http://womeninmaceng.wordpress.com . Following is a summary of my “Lessons Learned”.  Feel free to comment ~ let me know what you think!

What you learned about working as part of a team.

The best kind of team…

… engages with a project from the beginning, whether or not the topic or focus is of interest to them personally. A strong team looks at the overall scope of a project, determines if a leader is required and then assesses each member’s strengths. Whether using a democratic process, personal volunteering or delegation, in order to make any true progress, sections must be allocated to each member as if they are a ‘project lead’ on that particular task.  Then the team members should take turns reviewing each other’s work to provide feedback and then perhaps add or edit the material to improve on quality. Even if someone is ‘assigned’ a certain area of a project, it’s important that they are aware of what all the members are working on or else there will be a lack of consistency and the integrity of  the overall project will be threatened. It is tricky to work separately and then come together to dovetail research and communications plans to create a solid, impressive outcome.

During this project I learned that people have very different working styles and bring different skills and experience to the table. It’s important to take advantage of these strengths, rather than see any particular lack of experience as a disadvantage. I especially respect a team member who was honest about not having a background in a particular area but who was willing to learn and do whatever it took to achieve what was needed. She has an amazing attitude and was a valuable team player.

Alice, Allyson & Deborah

Alice, Allyson & Deborah

The success of an overall project in any team situation is dependent upon the commitment and engagement of the participants. If any of the workload balance or engagement levels are uneven, personal conflicts may arise and then either someone has to step up and oversee more than their share of work or allows it to remain as is. There is a very subjective point where one must decide whether one has contributed as much as is ethically reasonable. I propose, however, that when team members are committed and engaged, this kind of dilemma would not naturally occur. The most exciting team is made up of people who are equally invested in the success of the project.

The best kind of tools…

… in my opinion, social media platforms are increasingly popular because of the opportunity they provide for people to connect, to collaborate and to produce high quality content independently. We no longer need to hire graphic designers, ad companies, video producers and the like to achieve what we, as creative individuals, wish to do. It’s so exciting to be able to affordably create a video or animated presentation using free tools and space to post them ‘in the cloud’. For example, our “Women in Mac Eng” project, incorporated multiple sources of media, and we were able to create our own YouTube video, Prezi animations, a faux Women in Mac Eng website, a faux Twitter identity and put it all together in one beautiful blog with no cost to our team other than time and some ‘elbow grease’.

I have to credit Google docs with providing an essential set of project management tools and a space that became our creative ‘hub’. We started with a Google spreadsheet: tracking research, posting a growing list of tasks and goals and managing links to our assets. This was effective in keeping the project on task and on time, as we could all check to see what had been accomplished and what was still pending at any given time we chose to login.

When it was time to ‘get down to writing’ as one team member liked to put it, we were able to work (even simultaneously at times) in a Google document to build content for our blog. Through the revision history, we could see when each other had accessed the document and review the evolution of our thoughts and work. It was highly effective to communicate key ideas with each other in highlighted colours, rather than in separate emails. We could leave spaces or reminders for areas that required further analysis and development. And we could see different members’ contributions so that any one of us could edit and revise the copy to communicate even more strategic ideas as we progressed. Finally, it was possible to highlight what had been posted to our project blog as we went. Final edits and tweaks were done in the WordPress environment, but the Google doc was wonderfully accessible no matter where we were working from, even if in a café.

What you learned about your personal abilities, work habits & behaviours.

I have always been a hardy researcher, who definitely goes above and beyond a reasonable scope at times. I am a zealous worker, always looking to put the pieces of a puzzle together and find ‘the masterpiece’. I am aware that I sometimes spend far too much time researching and then must push myself to get into a ‘writing state of mind’. I appreciated my team mate Alice, as she kept reminding me when we needed to step back from the minutiae and move the project forward with concrete deliverables. It’s valuable to have all kinds of workers on a team and perhaps sometimes I am a bit too much of a visionary, enjoying the creative problem solving and hesitant to commit to the final product direction. When I work on a project, I don’t usually measure the amount of time (unless meeting a deadline requires it) and say ‘that’s enough…I don’t need to do any more’. But sometimes I wonder if that drive can push me too far in the speculative phase of a project and actually create a type of ‘writer’s block’?

What you will do differently in the future to be more effective both as an individual contributor and as a team member?

In terms of projects, in many areas of my life I have been in leadership roles and I sometimes find I must slow down and consider the contributions of others. I really practiced that with my group this time and it was a good challenge, since the topic of McMaster University admissions and public relations was originally my topic (and is my current career focus).

It is tempting when you’re a subject expert to assume you can do something better than someone else who doesn’t have the same experience or information you do. But I realize that getting the perspective of and considering the ideas of unbiased contributors is very valuable.

It is also important to give credit to your appropriate resources and to remain transparent when quoting other people’s thoughts, research or writing. I really like the Institute for Public Relations article on “Ethics and Public Relations” if you’re interested in that topic. SIDE NOTE: In fact, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) just recently released a new definition of ethical public relations, which applies strongly to the concepts taught in this course regarding social media communications. It is, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” This also applies to the type of relationships required in an effective project team.

In fact, there were areas of the project that I allowed my partner to take the lead and I realized how nice it is to sometimes take on the role of individual contributor. I enjoy leading, but in the future I want to practice learning from others and seeing the value in following someone else’s lead when appropriate.

Also, I noticed in this project how much I enjoy editing but have to sometimes allow communications from others that are not as I would submit them. Everyone writes and thinks differently and no one person is ‘right’. However, I cannot resist grammar or layout issues. I realize I am a perfectionist who loves when the final product is appealing as possible.

In a collaborative project, it’s key to have patience with each other and communicate clearly in order for everyone to feel valued and respected. This project, more than any I’ve ever worked on, showed me how important clear communication and face-to-face conversations/work sessions are when you want an excellent outcome.

In conclusion we were asked to describe what we would ‘stop‘, ‘start‘ and ‘continue‘ as a result of our lessons learned. Here is my ‘take’!

For those of you who have read ALL my posts on this blog and checked out the Women in Mac Eng blog, thank you from my heart for coming along on this journey!

Stop

Worrying so much about creating perfection and just jump into the heart of a project.

Start

Considering more than one way of solving a problem or presenting an idea.

Continue

To appreciate the contributions of team members who are engaged and excited to find the fun in working together.

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2 comments on “Am I SMRTer? Lessons Learned

  1. Enjoyed reading your article… good advice for our Integrated Marketing Communications group at Mac CCE. I believe Allyson is in our class this semester.

  2. It is interesting to me that I was actually able to guess the outcome, but I’m convinced it was only because this is a puzzler, and I was expecting so Click https://twitter.com/moooker1

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