Team Productivity Issues

We had some problems this year concerning communication and the formation of what we call a “collective”. These people do whatever they want and sometimes this results in bad times for everybody. This is extremely unfortunate for us (non-collective) because they don’t listen to us or even care that we exist. They change stuff without telling us, as well as just plain ignore us when we complain. They leave practice early and even left the Georgia Dome during nationals without telling anyone! About 40% of the collective are people that actually work (sort-of) during the build team but the other 60% are people that never do anything at all! These people were dropping duties such as scouting and other things. Does anyone have any suggestions or experience with breaking up the collectives?

You definitely should talk with an adult adviser about this if they are not already aware. On 269, we tried to compare FIRST to a sports team. Participants had responsibilities and if they were not met, they could be cut. But it is also the responsibility of team leaders and team mentors to recognize the fact that the lack in participation is most likely not due to carelessness, but by fear. It is a leader’s duty to get these people involved where you can use them. Many high school kids are shy, and most will start to do something when they see their friends doing it.

I find that it is extremely ineffective to hand someone a clipboard and tell them to go scout. Scouting will never be taken seriously if the scouter isn’t. Try and get these people more involved while at the same time, stress the team as a whole during team meetings that it isn’t a entirely a social event, but that each of them has a responsibility to help make the team better.

The other thing you can do is if your school allows students to letter in FIRST, is to only grant letters to those students who deserve them. This acts as kind of a nudge to some that what they are currently doing, is not enough.

Yeah, we’ve already done all of these, and the problem is, we didn’t even know these people left until they had already left and we didn’t have any more scouters! We can’t break them up or turn them against each other because then we would have people bickering instead of working!!!:mad:


I am currently helping another team with a similar problem. Let me get some info first, do you guys have a formulated leadership?

Like the leadership knows what to do and how to acheive their goals?

How many people do you have?

Also, would you consider that the people don’t work didn’t do much during the season or world to help out with the Robot?

IF you prefer to talk over PM, then i sent you a PM, respond to that.

I really hope that before the upcoming season (2009) the “collectives” will break up from the team.

Or I will be breaking up from the team and go coach the FLLs (which will be a shame in my opinion, because I really want to spend my last year in FIRST as a high school student as an FRC member. Not that FLL is bad [not at all! they’re really fun!]).

I was CEO (team leader) last season with these guys. I had to suffer with the first once once in my first year, and I could barley stand these guys this season and I’m not gonna’ spend the last one with them again (even if they “have” to do their seconed year in the project because of school terms).

Yes, I agree with Andy eluded to. Sometimes they may want to help but don’t know what to do and/or how to do it. I know that was the case for me my first year.

It seems that the problem with with social loafing and/or the bystander effect. There are a few small things to get people more productive.

–have some personal incentive. One problem with group work is that people loaf and don’t carry their weight. One way to combate this is have each person’s preformance indentifable. For scouting, you could have the person right thier name on the top of their scouting sheets so they know if they don’t work, people will know.

–Make the group task seem “challenging, appealing, and involving”. These tasks are known to have the opposite effect of social loafing.

– Instead of asking a group of five or so students “does anyone want to help with this”, ask each individual if they want to help. When asking them, use thier name to increase their self-awareness. This will combat the bystander effect.

–Give them a choice of tasks. Instead of asking (telling) them to go scout. Give them a choice between scouting or taking pictures, or between pit and match scouting. This will give them some intrinsic motivation (and cognitive dissonance), which will lead them to do the task better.

– comaraderie also boosts productivity. Its clear that there is a rift in the team. Perhaps some team building excersizes or just doing fun things together will increase the team spirit and then increase productivity.

I agree that it is about fear at times. I’ve found it rather effective to shift the fear rather then disspelling it. Instead of them being afraid to weld, make it so that they are afraid to not weld. I do this through annoyance and persistence. Eventually they will work or they will leave. I don’t care which. Now, I know this sounds mean…but there is a reason that most people don’t like their boss. It is usually how he became the boss. Just an idea.

just make sure you have that seconed guy at hand who’s not a slacker who’ll be able to do the job (be it welding for this case) when the slacker decideds to leave.

I tried being presistent and annoying as much as possible, but it didn’t matter. They were still part of the prjoect and their “work” was allready part of the robot (which anyway took them too much time).
That’s why you gotta’ counter it all before you start.
Do some pre-team selection activites to let those intereseted in the project to learn about it, the important subjects in it and with these activites try to see who fits and who doesn’t.
Even if you’re short on team members for the next season and all the students that applied for next season plus you won’t be “big enough” (over 12 members), tell them the complete siriousness of the team (show them the team rules, explain all the do’s and must’s and explain the circumstances of not complining to the rules). Don’t scare them too much, but the whole idea is to make sure you get the sirious team members you want.
If your team is really all about having fun, it’s still funner to have fun with those who work as hard as you do.

Mentors wanting to create new teams need to make sure they are taking a group of students who are socialy connected somehow (or atleast that won’t have any grudges or do something that will appear negative in front of the rest of the team).

Being the boss, don’t fear any unpleasentary comments that will come. If you work propelly without distartctions and focus on making a successful robot/project (and proving it), noticing all the delays and problems that occur/might occur, the chances of having the worse kind of comments is slimer.

But we’re all allready into this thing that we’re called the robotics nerds and stuff, so these kind of comments shouldn’t affect us at all.

(may I say “my 0.02$”?)

Here’s a few things that might help
1> Organise your team such that the “collective” isn’t all on the same subteam. spread them around so that they have less oppertunity to congregate.
2> Talk to your Teachers / Advisors / Mentors / team leadership. Put in the handbook that those that do not work with the team, will be asked to leave and those that do not act in the best interest of the team will be sanctioned. (this is about teamwork, not personalities)
3> Also add to the handbook that those who do not help will not go to any event (especially the championships).
4> Require that all changes to the design go through a “design review”. Make sure that no one is exempt from this rule (even the adults).

Remember, this is all about teamwork. There is no place for personality conflicts once the season starts (there’s just not enough time for that stuff).

Teamwork is a culture that must be fostered, if you don’t foster and nurture teamwork then factions will develop and may, eventually, undermine the entire team. Like all things in FIRST … this is difficult.

Set clear expectations for performance, make sure they are objectively measureable and time-bound and if they do not meet those expectations they are off the team. Buh-bye.

The acronym is SMART
Specific: What exactly is to be done
Measureable: how to define success
Achieveable: The person has the skills/tools/etc to do it
**Relevant: **How it contributes to the overall operation
Time-bound: When it will be done or checked

Example: Fabricate the arm by cutting the aluminum tubing to plan and finishing so there are no rough edges. Complete this by the end of the day, and give the completed pieces to Tom.

Example: Design the arm by creating a plan with enough information so someone can fabricate it. The design file must be given to Jason by Thursday 6 pm. Include a bill of materials and sources for anything we don’t have in the stockroom. Show your calculations for the lifting strength.

Example: Complete the Chairman’s application by 2 pm on Thursday the 24th, and e-mail it as a Word document to Coach Jones at that time.

Here’s my input.

  1. I agree with some of the others, that people tend to work better when they feel that they are responsible for a certain part of the robot. Not only robot, but sponsorships, volunteer, community outreach. When team members feel like they don’t mean much, they tend to slack off. kinda like communism. :smiley:

  2. Work with the person’s interest. Why put a non programmer on the programming team? If someone is interested in building, then he/she should build, not do something else. Same thing for chairman’s, spirit, PR, etc.

  3. Break people up. If you notice that two people are starting to joke around, break them up. Large groups do have fun, but people are more focused in smaller groups. So, get people working together, but in smaller groups.

  4. Maybe the inevitable, sometimes, it is necessary to ask people to leave. There has been many a times, when the programmers have work, and the builders show up and goof off. Thus, if someone is not needed, or if someone’s not taking the initiative to work, ask them to leave. It may be harsh, but if it’s necessary, it’s got to be done.