A Series of Workshops for Staff and Supervisors

Information Technology, Human Resources, and the Creativity Center are working collaboratively to identify training opportunities and other sessions that can help all of us at the College deal with the challenges of having more work than time.

The first initiative in this continuing series is a “Brainswarming: Looking at Workload” workshop on Thursday, December 5, 2013, in FPH Lounge from 10-11 am. At this innovative workshop, supervisors and staff can look at the issues around having more work than time to do it. Professor Tony McCaffrey will lead the session using a technique called “Brainswarming.” The Brainswarming process in this workshop will allow us to identify the broad spectrum of factors that come to play with workload issues, from organizational skills to supervisor prioritization of work to the College budget.

We encourage both supervisors and non-exempt and exempt staff to attend, whether you are struggling with your workload, see someone in your department or school who is, think you have some perspectives or ideas to share, or all of the above. Supervisors, please provide time for your staff to attend this valuable workshop.

If you would like to try Brainswarming and work to solve the question of how to get work done within the limits of a 35-hour work week, please plan to attend the workshop led by Tony McCaffrey on Thursday, December 5, 2013, in the FPH Lounge from 10-11 am. Please rsvp to hr@hampshire.edu by Monday, December 2 to let us know you will be attending.

Brainswarming borrows insights from how swarms of insects successfully solve problems together. Participants in this exercise learn how to generate ideas together without initially talking. Participants silently add Post-It notes to a special problem-solving graph that organically grows as contributions are added and finally becomes connected as solutions (or possible solutions) are matched to problems. Discussion then follows with the group of participants.

The great part about not talking during the initial part of Brainswarming is that it levels the playing field of all the participants as all ideas are generated and presented without one person or the loudest person dominating the direction of the ideas put forth.

More workshops:

An Intro to “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” 

“Getting Things Done” is a methodology for staying organized while lowering stress at the same time. A little strategy goes a long way when there are not enough hours in the day!

IT invites exempt and non-exempt staff and their supervisors to an overview session of “Getting Things Done”- a system for keeping up with your tasks and lowering stress at the same time. We’ll go over the basic concepts and look at some tech tools to help you put them into place.

Presented by Bob Crowley, Ben Fellows, and Asha Kinney of IT
Thursday, December 12th, 10-11:30 a.m.
RSVP to asaklad@hampshire.edu

Agile Project Management: An Introduction to Scrum

You may be familiar with the concepts of traditional project management, and you may even be a very strong project manager. “Scrum” represents another very effective tool in your toolbox of project management techniques. For projects in which the requirements are continuously changing, you may need a more proactive project management approach.

The definition of “project” has a wide range – anything from making a sandwich to building a house constitutes a project. If you work on projects of any size and want to get tips on managing projects in a way that allows for moving targets and good “customer” relations, “Scrum” is for you.

We will use our time in class to work through the stages of a sample project.

Presented by Bob Crowley and Ben Fellows of IT.
Wednesday, January 15th, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
RSVP to asaklad@hampshire.edu

Agile Project Management Class

Are you swamped with projects?

Do you have a hard time keeping track of what is important?

Are you doing the most valuable work given the resources you have available?

Hampshire College IT Director Bob Crowley and Senior Programming Analyst Ben Fellows invite you to attend their Agile Project Management class being held at Amherst College.

This will be the first in a series of classes we will offer this year on project management. This class is open to anyone, but we have reserved some seats for Hampshire folks, so come join us.

Class Description

You may be familiar with the concepts of traditional project management. Scrum represents another very effective tool in your toolbox of project management techniques.

For projects in which the requirements are continuously changing, you may need a more proactive project management approach.

In this course, you will use Agile project management and focus on Scrum as a project management technique. We will use our time in class to work through the stages of a sample project.

This course is intended for anyone who wants to efficiently manage projects that experience frequent changes in user requirements.

There will be a follow-up session one month after the training so participants can discuss their experiences using the course content, specifically what they learned, what they thought went well, what did not go according to their expectations, and what they think can be improved.

Pre-work: Participants are encouraged to read “The Power of Scrum” by Jeff Sutherland  (isbn:1463578067), available on Kindle or in print. Please read the text prior to the first class.

Date Time Location
Tuesday, November 5 8:30 am – 12:00 Alumni House, Amherst College
Tuesday, December 3 9:00 am – 10:00 Alumni House, Amherst College

Register online »

Go Team or Go Group?

Twenty miles per hour and I am guessing my heart rate is way into the anaerobic zone. Stop looking at the speedometer and concentrate, I tell myself, you need to focus on the task at hand.

The sound of hard breathing and skinny tires whizzing over pavement mixes with the rush of the wind, and that sound level increases markedly if I drift outside of the invisible draft tube that I am riding in. I am riding in a pace line of eight bicycle riders and we are tearing along Falls road in Montague, Mass.  It is exciting and fairly frightening to think my dermis’s continued continuity relies on a group of riders, many of whom I just met, working as a “Team”.

Or are we a group?

Katzenbach and Smith (2011) in their Harvard Business Review article The Discipline of Teams outline ways to tell working groups apart from teams.

Groups exhibit:

  • Individual work products
  • Clearly focused strong leadership
  • Focus is on individual accountability

Teams exhibit:

  • Shared leadership roles
  • Collective work products
  • Measurement of performance by collective output

If we examine the characteristics of both, one could argue that the pace line is in fact a team. Katzenbach and Smith further state that “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” (Katzenbach and Smith, HBR, 2011, location 437.)

Certainly this group of people working together is bound by a common purpose. Moving fast and not getting road rash seem to be a worthy goal and purpose. The end result is group speed and reduced rider effort that cannot be achieved by a single rider alone. But if we look at this group we are lacking one key element that Gratton and Erikson (2011) in their Harvard Business Review article Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams state is key to sustaining high functioning teams: building on heritage relationships. The authors argue that having team members who are familiar with each other is very desirable. There is something to be said for allowing teams time to develop good social and working relationships. By allowing this “forming” time, teams develop a higher level of trust: an essential ingredient and, some might argue, the key to developing high performing teams.

This pace line that we are examining was formed from a collection of riders that really don’t know one another. It is a group that gets formed every Tuesday, and is composed of whoever shows up to do the Bike Shop’s group ride. There of course is some chance that you will get to know the regulars, but there are always a fair amount of “newbies” that show up. We don’t go over rules of behavior, roles or responsibilities; we mill around, jump on our bikes and ride. Granted it takes a while for the pace lines to form, and there is a certain level of sorting that takes place, but it is truly dynamic in nature.

Amy Edmonson in her Harvard Business Review article Teamwork on the Fly talks about a new model of team formation and team development. She states that “Teaming is teamwork on the fly: a pickup basketball game rather than plays run by a team that has trained as a unit for years. It’s a way to gather experts in temporary groups to solve problems they’re encountering for the first and perhaps only time.” (Edmonson,HBR, 2012,p.1)  I feel that this is important new thinking on the subject of team development and creation.

“Moore’s law” is a term coined around 1970 by Gordon Moore, one of the co-founders of Intel Corporation.  His basic law states that the number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years, thus increasing power exponentially. Nice, but how does that law apply to teams? Well it turns out that Moore’s law reflects not only the change in computing power and speed of technological advances, but it also mirrors the speed at which those changes influence societal changes. Simply put, if we were to graph the speed at which we experience change in our lives, the curve at this point would be almost vertical. We develop products and innovate rapidly and as a result need to form and dissolve teams at a dizzying pace.

Edmonson talks about stable teams and the Simmons bedding company whose teams were examples of very high performing teams. “But Simmons had what many companies today lack: reasonably stable customer preferences, purely domestic operations, and no significant boundaries that had to be crossed to get the job done.”  (Edmonson,HBR, 2012,P.1)   The world as we know it has changed, and the requirement for new methods of team development has arisen. Teaming paints a picture of rapidly developed teams who have no time to form trust relationships and have no or little stability. Teams are built and torn down as needed, to address specific and complex tasks. Teaming addresses the fast paced complex environment that exists today for many businesses.

Does this throw out conventional wisdom regarding team formation? It turns out that some traditional team development requirements actually serve this new model quite nicely.  We still need to develop a common mission for our teams and it actually becomes a very important factor, as we try to bond together, for a common purpose these diverse groups of people. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities will allow these new teams to “ hit the ground running”- we no longer can waste time in the Forming phase. We must work to remove as many obstacles as possible for teams to move through the development cycle of form, storm, norm, and perform quickly. Good working structure and a team support environment become critical.

We need to also make clear to team members that it is okay to fail, and there is no time to build trust, so we must assure team members that we will support them and build what Edmonson calls a “psychological safety net”. (Edmonson,HBR, 2012,P.2) Team members must be assured that we are measuring performance and results on collective output.

We will need to apply good project management processes like Agile in order to help these teams to get up to speed quickly and have tool sets that allow them to react to quickly changing requirements.

Methods of developing, sustaining, managing teams and working groups are changing rapidly and this requires new approaches like Teaming. Teaming and more traditional team building methods have to be mixed and combined when necessary as requirements dictate.  Alloys have different properties that the components from which they are derived. Mixing of methods and application of teams, groups or even hybrid team/group formations may result in an “Alloy” that is greater that the sum of its parts. Now more than ever proper application of team building science is required.

Bob C


Katzenbach,J.Smith,D.(2011). The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Buisness Review on Building Better Teams. [Kindle iPad Verison] Retrived from Amazon.com

Gratton,L.Erikson,T.(2011). The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Buisness Review on Building Better Teams. [Kindle iPad Verison] Retrived from Amazon.com

Edmonson, Amy. “Teamwork on the Fly.” Harvard Business Review. April 2012: n. page. Print.