Task Distribution to Build Communities Print
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Written by Corina Mihaela Paraschiv   
Wednesday, 05 December 2007 22:48

 

One of the mandates presidents and project managers have in common, regardless of what organizationthey belong to, is the distribution of the workload amongst different members. Sharing those tasks is important because it makes it possible to achieve ambitious projects, it helps stimulate creativity (many people focus on a single problem), and it makes sure that projects are not relying on a single person (who could fall sick, go on vacation, change jobs...). But here's a way of looking at task distributions differently : What if the sense of community within your club depended on the way you appointed tasks? The goal of community building is critical as it increases engagement in the community through fostering a sense of belonging; members who feel part of a community often engage in it with more ease. Beyond relationships between people in your club, which is often the prime factor in whether or not a member will feel part of a community, the way to distribute tasks amongst the different members can impact their sense of belonging.

 

Institutionalizing collaboration

 


One of the way the work environment can be more positive is if some of the measurements of performence targeted collaboration, or goodwill amongst people. Student associations are particularly difficult in terms of team challenges; the more ethnically diverse and the more educated people are on a team, the more difficult it is for them to share information, to learn from each other, to help others to make their deadlines, and to share resouces, even though the very same attributes are essential to successful teams. That is because people collaborate most when they can recognize the other person as being alike. In those circumstances, it is the leaders' job to foster this recognition of the other as being “alike”, of everyone belonging to a same community.

 

 

 

Official Positions that create communities

Several ways can help reach that goal. One of them is through the creation of Social Officer, whose task is to organize events that bring together the members of the club outside of a work context. As seen previously, the positive interactions that happen in trifling moments build trust and connection. Although clubs sometimes struggling with membership may be reluctant to place a Social Officer when help is needed elsewhere, it has been the Rotaract Club of Montreal's experience that a focus on community can drastically increase membership. Between October 2006 and October 2007, their membership has increased by 700% after restructuring their activities around fellowship.

 

 

Another position that may be helpful to that regard is the VP Membership, a position which is in charge of following up on new members and helping them integrate into the club from the moment they enter until they are comfortable with the group. This executive member is also responsible for taking the pulse of the club, finding out satisfaction or points to be bettered within the members of the club.

 

 

 

Complementarity of tasks for better interactions

 

A second method that is commonly used is to distribute tasks in a way that makes it impossible for team members to work on their own. I have seen both extremes done in working groups. While working for a French summer camp, councelors were asked to provide a game night for the children. The night's responsible asked each of us to think of a game, to make our own signs and to stand behind a table, giving out tokens to the winners, which could be cashed in for prizes. I felt no added value to my presence whatsoever, and I did not felt linked to the organization as a whole, as there was absolutely no communication and no collaboration needed between my co-workers and I. This was a result of the way projects and tasks were appointed in that company.

 

In contrast, the World Scout Jamboree built its activity sequence so that each interaction with the participants was built on the interaction of the previous leader with them. The Zone Manager recalls : “ By day two the whole of Challenge Valley worked like a well oiled machine.” He goes on explaining that the Meet and Greet team, responsible of explaing to the participants how to use the equipment safely, did a great job at instructing on the activities, which in turns helped the team leaders on the field guide the participants through the activities. The safe and adequate use of the equipment also made it easier on the Technical Team to make repairs in the evenings and this in turn, made the playground safer without their intervention throughout the days of activities. As a result, there were fewer incidents at the World Scout Jamboree with 40,000 participants than at EuroJam with the 18,000 participants.

 


 

Final Reflexions

 

 

Not only did the management's way of dividing work help make a successful Jamboree event, but it also ensured that the team was inclusive of every scout leader, because without the input of every single team, the other teams could not complete their work on time and efficiently. There might have been many different ways in which the same tasks could have been appointed, but no other way would have resulted in such positive working interactions.

 

 

Rotaract leaders, whenever possible, should strive to engage their Rotaract peers in collaborative behaviors through the appropriate division of tasks. Instoring an official position such as VP Membership, responsible to see that all members are well integrated and happy, or VP Socials, responsible for creating opportunities for members to interact outside of a work context, is also critical in building a community and making your club distinctively different from every other one on campus.

 

You may visit your library for the following titles which inspired this article :

  • Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, Lynda Gratton, Tamara J. Erickson, Harvard Business Review, 12p., November 01, 2007
  • Making Relationships Work: A Conversation with Psychologist John M. Gottman, John M. Gottman, Diane Coutu, Harvard Business Review, 8p, December, 2007
Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 December 2007 02:26 )