Working in multi-disciplinary teams

We are acting in various multi-disciplinary teams. At home we deal with our partner, parents or kids. During social activities we interact with friends. At work we cooperate with several colleagues, internally and externally. Since we are limited as humans, we need others to complete a mission. The multi-disciplinary teams will help us to reach our goals and to finish successfully.

My activities are not always running smoothly. I wonder when working in a multi-disciplinary team will fail or succeed. To reach the final goal, it is crucial that my goal is clear and unambiguous to each team member. Different goals will lead to different expectations and different actions from the team members. What are the primary processes, critical aspects and limitations for reaching the goal? This should be clear before working on  details.

All team members need to be capable and know their contribution to is reaching the goal. The team needs to rely on the knowledge of the expert, however, be open  to critically questioning the expert. A team can only operate optimally when everyone is respected and included to reach the final goal successfully.The team should be aware of personal and professional differences in finding solutions. Not understanding the solution does not mean that the idea is wrong. Misalignments will pop-up by reviewing ,discussions and questioning each other’s work. Be open for the idea and commit both of you to find the root cause of the different insights. Discussions will help setting the issues clear and results in better decisions. Team members will have their own field of expertise and related responsibilities. This can results in conflicting intermediate goals. The experts should make an effort to understand different points of view and find out the overall best solution. Conflicting issues can link to the initiation of the project. Is the goal still clear, did critical aspects change?

I have worked on several projects. Most projects are challenging because of state of the art technical solutions, high demanding project timelines, big teams and changing goals during the project.

It requires continuous attention to have my own role clear during the whole project. My choices should always be focused on reaching the end goal. My role is most of the times on the borderline between the technical and compliance aspects of the project. I have to ask myself critical questions. Do I understand my task and role? Do I have the skills to be part of this project? Do I have the required knowledge or will I be able to gain this knowledge? I should be aware of my responsibilities and limitations, but also limit myself only to my own responsibilities for the project. I should be aware that team members do not always know and understand my point of view directly. On the other hand, I need to understand and respect other people’s perspectives. I do not have to feel stupid or dumb to ask for explanation or help when I do not understand certain details.

I would like to end this article with a short evaluation on the multi-disciplinary team that is in myself. I am stuttering as long as I can remember. Almost 10 year ago I followed the McGuire program to get control over my speech. There I learned to control technical and emotional aspects of my speech. I learned to be able to have the different team members in my body in line to speak without uncontrolled stutters. I know how to control my breath and air flow, relax my vocal chords, tongue and articulators. How to have my thoughts controlled, have my believes, perceptions and emotions aligned with my intentions, behaviour and physical state. I have learned and improved a lot in recent years. But having team members aligned, all goals clear in my mind and using learned techniques in different situations, speaking remains challenging. When having an uncontrolled stammer I try to correct myself and do it better next time. I accept the errors that I make. I am realistic, disciplined and critical. Overall, I and believe in my team and I am proud of our successes.

I believe these aspects do not only apply to me but to all of us,  working on a multi-disciplinary project solely or with a big, diverse team. Most projects will present many challenges. By being open, disciplined and constructive projects will finish successfully. My advice is to learn from the mistakes, be proud of everything that is realized by the project team and most of all, to have fun with each other!

Rene Huijnen

René Huijnen

Senior Consultant
r.huijnen@progress-pme.nl