When I attended the Banff Science Communications program in 2009, I was fascinated by the concept of beginning our small group project with a serious contract negotiation even though we were a volunteer team.
Leslie Reid, the Chair of Science Education at the University of Alberta, joined us for the first part of the workshop and walked us through the process for using the Project Team Contract (below), which was very helpful.
Our group, “Team DNA,” discussed and agreed upon every element of the Project Team Contract, which certainly did come in handy over the next few days as we all scrambled to complete and deliver the various elements of the project for which we were responsible as individuals.
My most vivid memory of contract negotiations with this group of incredibly smart, well-educated, highly-motivated and competitive keeners was the final section, “Consequences for Failing to Follow Procedures and Fulfill Expectations.”
Team DNA didn’t even need 10 seconds to think about this. “Shame and humiliation!” one man offered.
“Professional embarrassment!” suggested another.
“Ridicule and condemnation!” someone else offered enthusiastically.
Faced with such painful consequences, there was clearly very little risk that any member of Team DNA was going to drop the ball or miss a deadline. In fact, by the end of our week together, we had bonded through exhaustion and adversity and truly became a team; we stay in touch to this day, which is really nice.
In Carnegie, we stress often the fact that money is NOT the main motivator of performance; admiration, appreciation, and maintaining the good opinion of our co-workers is hugely important, too. Also avoiding ridicule and condemnation, although we do not have a workshop with exactly those words in the title.
The Project Team Contract was provided to us courtesy Leslie Reid, Tamaratt Chair in Science Education, University of Alberta; it is a modification of a document originally created by Dr. Wielke De Boer of the University of Arizona.
I have used it with great success several times since; you may find it helpful when planning your next project launch with a group, paid or volunteer.
Project Team Contract
The purpose of this team contract is to accelerate your team’s development, to increase individual accountability for team tasks, and to reduce the possibility for team conflict. This contract should be completed by the end of the first day of your group work.
Your team contract template is divided into three major sections:
- Establishing team procedures
- Identifying expectations
- Specifying the protocol and consequences for failing to follow procedures and fulfill expectations
Use the team contract template to discuss and finalize your team roles, procedures, and standards.
Once your team contract has been developed, your team is ready to begin work. However, you may soon find that your team is not working as well as you had hoped. This is normal but needs to be attended to immediately. Perhaps your team is simply not following the established contract procedures or roles as strictly as you should be, or perhaps you need to change some of the procedures or roles as outlined in your contract. Call a team meeting immediately to discuss and resolve the challenges your team is facing; do not delay. Seek guidance from a faculty person to resolve any conflicts so that you will have the most positive team experience possible.
Team Name: _____________________________________________________
- Day, time, and place for regular team meetings:
- Preferred method of communication (e.g., e-mail, cell phone, face-to-face, voice mail, meal times, in the assigned team breakout room, Writer’s Lounge mailboxes, notice board outside Writer’s Lounge) in order to inform each other of team meetings, announcement, updates, reminders, problems:
- Decision-making policy (by consensus? by majority vote?):
- Method for setting and following meeting agendas (Who will set each agenda? When? How will team members be notified/reminded? Who will be responsible for the team following the agenda during a team meeting? What will be done to keep the team on track during a meeting?):
- Method of record keeping (Who will be responsible for recording notes? How and when will notes be disseminated? Where will all notes and project development items be kept?
- Project standards (What is a realistic level of quality for team presentations, collaborative writing, individual research, preparation of drafts, peer reviews, etc.?):
- Strategies to fulfill these standards:
- Strategies to ensure cooperation and equal distribution of tasks:
- Strategies for encouraging/including ideas from all team members (team maintenance):
- Strategies for keeping on task (task maintenance):
- Preferences for leadership (informal, formal, individual, shared):
- Expected individual attendance, punctuality, and participation at all team meetings:
- Expected level of responsibility for fulfilling team assignments, timelines, and deadlines:
- Expected level of communication with other team members:
- Expected level of commitment to team decisions and tasks.
|Consequences for Failing to Follow Procedures and Fulfill Expectations|
- Describe, as a group, you would handle infractions of any of the obligations of this team contract:
- Describe what your team will do if the infractions continue:
- I participated in formulating the standards, roles, and procedures as stated in this contract.
- I understand that I am obligated to abide by these terms and conditions.
- I understand that if I do not abide by these terms and conditions, I will suffer the consequences as stated in this contract.