I’m not in the position to say our team failed, nor am I in the position to say I failed. What I can do is assess my own performance during our 15 second animation project to make sense of where I feel I went wrong. I’m disappointed in my abilities largely due to the surmounting miscommunication which occurred throughout our production. I sound someone from the Human Resource department, yet by setting out my obstacles and how I tackled them we act as a confidence booster because it will shed light on my learning outcomes.
Firstly, I feel it is only beneficial to highlight my strengths to my team. As someone whose more a primary thinker than doer (I disagree that this is a negative), I feel my main quality what giving close examination to the narrative and art direction. As I said in a prior blog, this year I want to step back from what I perceived from myself as taking on a more ‘leadership’ position because without a clear direction comes the inevitable failure. I never dictated or told people what to do, but I feel like there was a weight on my shoulders I wanted to relieve. This wasn’t true for all my teams as I did find myself in positions outside my comfort zone and this was where other players (let’s go all American on this) had the opportunity to shine as leaders. It worked. For example, in last years project, I was able to lead narrative while someone was able to lead art direction, while another person led other technicalities. You’re balancing the weight of your own responsibilities and as a result, there is a unity found in everyone’s support for each other. If one person struggled with their responsibilities, we’d support and encourage them as being the strongest person for that job.
In this project, everyone put in a significant amount of effort but a voice was lacking. Belbin (2000, pg. 2) highlights that project effectiveness is determined by the relationships between individual players. This right here is why I feel we never hit a brick wall, as we were able to work as an ‘autonomous work group’ (2000, pg. 13), a term given to a team that manages it’s own tasks and practices. Belbin also reignited a point made at the start of last year which was that ‘hierarchical structures throughout history have never used the word team’ (2000, pg. 14). As he further illustrates ‘hierarchies are prone to furnish teams with tasks rather than with real responsibilities’ (2000, pg. 68) – it’s basically counterproductive. Belbin argues that the principles of operating a project team have the same ideals as a sport’s team because of the equal ethic and support of other players (2000, pg. 14). In my view, you can’t play football by yourself… Who are you going to pass the ball to to score the goal. You can’t do it alone as there are numerous obstacles in your path. I love this point and I admire the simplicity of it’s logic – stick together, support each others falls and realise you’re not individuals. I relieves a sense of pressure most of us go through which is that if the project fails, we feel it’s our own fault. ‘Trust and openness’ stomps out ’empowerment’ (the notion of power-hungry authority) (2000, pg. 40).
In my position during the production stage, I felt redundant as I felt my strengths were utilitised with my utmost energy during pre- (ideation, concept, storyboard and layout development) and post- (editing, sound, look development) production. I admit to losing my concentration, confident and motivation during production because I’ve discovered the areas I dislike, but admittedly have to overcome. Cinematography was my key objective to perfect, which I realise I messed up uncontrollably to focus on other technicalities that needed to be addressed to get the work done such as animate, rig and make adjustments to the sound and editing. If I had the same passion as I did walking into the project to begin with, I’d likely have more efficient lighting. I made mistakes I didn’t keep track of and in future I will make a constant note of everything. There was no check list for this project and because of that, I found myself disorganised and uncontrollably shaking at the thought I missed up the film for the team, but as Belbin states, my weight is counteracted by other members’ responsibilities.
More so, a major error I feel that occurred was our natural decisions. Nobody really fought their point and instead, out of the polite nature of respecting each other, everyone simply agrees. I’d be more inclined to discussion each question rather than jump on with a quick consensus. Belbin highlights the exact issue we’ve been facing. Everyone likes to think ‘the colour is Orange’ and that there is a joint consensus on decision-making (2000, pg. 69). In fact, it’s a mere ‘illusion’ as teams tend to reach an ‘agreement’ rather than a ‘decision’ (2000, pg. 69) – it’s down to the whole logic that if ‘everyone’s happy, I’m happy’. That tends to be my philosophy of detachment. What Belbin suggests instead is our exact ‘colour of delegation – ‘Pink’ (2000, pg. 71). In other words, our roles correspond with ‘preferred’ work type and what we ‘assess to be strong[est]’ at (trying not to misquote Belbin!) (2000, pg. 71). I certainly feel we should voice our disagreements with a constructive ‘maturity’ (2000, pg. 71) as it could have potentially allowed us to see another path to truly fulfill our objective. We all sensed a complexity to our idea and feel like we should have further simplified it. But we didn’t want to burden anyone. If this book tells me one thing, it’s burden away, it’ll never be as bad was what’s to come had it went unvoiced.
Meredith Belbin wrote another book reedited from 1981. I’ve found this theory of management interesting as it sets out the observational truths that I’ve encountered in each project I’ve worked in. His theory of Apollo syndrome is of particular merit. The general basis of his theory is that teams with immensely capable members who work at a high standard have a higher chance of failure. Belbin describes how a team constructed of individuals with a ‘high scoring’ ability was designed to flawlessly win at their work when in fact they tended to loss, leading Belbin to investigate why (2010, pg. 14). They failed due to their continuous ‘abortive debate’ by trying to influence their perspectives on to others while nobody wanted to ‘convert’ to their way of thinking (2010, pg. 15), favouring pointing out flaws than solving problems. It was a battle of ego rather than a team of higher able collaborators. The individualistic nature of each member brought about their downfall because they did what they ‘favoured personally, without taking account of what fellow company members were doing’ (2010, pg. 15). They overlooked any direction the team were going for to fulfill their own personal criteria. There was also the issue of showing ‘undue respect’ rather than confrontation (2010, pg. 16). There was a fear of causing further problems that addressing potentially long-term problems, a point that is reinforced in Belbin’s later work (2000).
His biggest highlight of any potential success of the Apollo team was the ‘absence of highly dominate individuals’ (2010, pg. 17). What Belbin suggests is that people of a high ‘Critical Thinking Appraisal (CTA)’ and low ‘Assertive scale of the Personality Inventory’ was favourable because they worked hard without dictating their team (2010, pg. 17). However, he points out that it may cause some members to take a ‘passive role’ and become too laid back to unless ‘there was someone present to pull the whole thing together’ (2010, pg. 17). The Chairman of a team that had an approachable and acceptable leadership style was more than needed to keep morale alive (2010, pg. 17) without making them the authority.
Without going any further, Meredith Belbin highlights the pros and cons to team success, and while this may indeed not link to my learning production techniques, I wholly defend this blog post under the basis that it critically examines the importance of keeping a team together. We were breifed with the notion that ‘a project can fail, a team cannot’. This makes me feel obligated to formally research the structure of team dynamics and understand what is best for the future of a long-term project. From these books, I have learnt the significant balancing weight and responsibilities and the importance of critical objection and discussion in order to find a workflow that suits not only the team, but also the individual aspirations of each member. It’s a collaboration, but it’s also a battle of different ways of thinking which needs to be maintained in order to efficiently operate as a team, and not a group, which from Belbin’s point of view is like flailing your arms with no sense of direction or obligation to the task at hand.
This blog post had taken an alternative direction sense starting to read on project management. I could have easily have sat and critically rebuked myself for my mistakes, when in fact I’ve actually been able to associate my progress with Belbin’s way of thinking. As a result, I’ve been able to find all the mistakes highlighted in his book and can now draw up a plan for future development. What I believe is key to any future project is a ‘strategy’ (1999, pg. 36). I quote this from a book because there’s no point pretending that I know what I’m talking about besides when it comes to team management projects I’ve done outside university. I’m currently writing a development action plan for a European event for over 500 people next year, so I’ve taking influence from my own professional plan and feel I should have appropriately implemented it into my team’s project months ago, I just don’t think acting like a professional in front of your peers suits this point in time. At the start of this project, we had our weekly plan that practically went out the window by week two. In future, it would be best to put forth everyone’s strengths and abilities so that as a team we’re able to assess our delegation during projection. From that we can estimate timings for priorities to be done and figure out long term obstacles that could be addressed now. Maylor highlights a key problem within strategies as the ‘lack of focus’ (1999, pg. 38). He argues that you should never underestimate time and there should be score for ‘flexibility’ (1999, pg. 39). There should be reserved time to ensure that there is a consistent flow. As Maylor highlights, there’s no point to try ‘re-inventing the wheel’ (1999, pg. 39) because it will loss focus, simply get the wheel to turn and keep it turning.
I feel I’ve established my problems with project management and the planning problems that lead to problematic execution can easily be overcome through a level minded team evaluation of the long term project. If there was less emphasis on the end game and focus on the little things in between, there’s no reason why the workflow shouldn’t be more relaxed and consistent.
BELBIN, RM. (2000). Beyond The Team. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
BELBIN, RM. (2010). Management Teams: Why They Succeed Or Fail (3rd ed). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
MAYLOR, H. (1999). Project Management (2nd ed). London: Financial Times