Interdisciplinary Collaborations Module 3: Project Execution

Execution of the Project

"Interdisciplinary projects are inherently difficult, and keeping them going is challenging."

Lee Ryan, Ph.D.
Interviewed, November 2003
Neuropsychologist, University of Arizona

Motivations and Obstacles

  • Facilitators
    • Deadlines (Kraut et al., 1988)
    • Guilt or fear of disappointing of partner (Kraut et al., 1988)
    • Dependence on others to further work (Kraut et al., 1988)
    • Fellow collaborators' encouragement (Kraut et al., 1988)
    • Intellectual benefits of the collaboration
    • Social benefits of the collaboration

Motivations and Obstacles

  • Obstacles (Kraut et al., 1988)
    • Procrastination
    • Technology
    • Conflicting commitments

How Work Survives

  • Work set out must be accomplished (Kraut et al., 1988)
  • Maintain good interpersonal relationships (Kraut et al., 1988)
  • Group should permit "directness, active listening, trust, mutual support, and humor" (Andrews, 1990)
  • Have regular contact

Efficient Meetings (McDermott et al., 1998)

  • On schedule
  • All key players present
  • Every member permitted to contribute
  • Stick to agenda
  • Complete discussion of one item before addressing next item
  • Translate abstract thoughts into action items (Derry et al., 1998)
  • Create plan of action to guide activities between meetings
  • Keep minutes, notes, and lists, as a reference (early discussion most vulnerable to omission) (Derry et al., 1998)

Characteristics of an Effective Team (Parker, 1990)

  • Clear purpose
  • Informality
  • Capacity to listen
  • Civilized disagreement
  • Open communication
  • Clear roles and work assignments
  • Shared leadership
  • Self assessment

Signs of Trouble (Parker, 1990)

  • You cannot easily describe the team's mission
  • Meetings are formal, stuffy, or tense
  • There is a great deal of participation but little accomplishment
  • There is talk but not much communication
  • Disagreements are aired in private conversations after the meeting

Signs of Trouble (Parker, 1990)

  • Members are not open with each other because trust is low
  • Confusion or disagreement about roles or work assignments
  • Team has been in existence for over three months and has never assessed its functioning
  • Decisions are made by team leader with little involvement from other members

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