Friday, September 20, 2013

Collaboration like an Assembly Line

An assembly line is a very useful tool. It brings parts together to create a final product. The interesting thing about them  is that productive assembly lines are not created overnight. In some cases they take years to build to the point where they are completely efficient and maximize productivity. 

Successful collaborative teams operate in a systemic fashion similar to an assembly line. They  create common instruction, aligned assessments, targeted intervention and engaging enrichments. Bringing all of the resources, experiences and understandings together can be a difficult challenge. When teams come together, they initially struggle with the concept of putting all the pieces together to generate a powerful product.   

Photo courtesy of
Teams are faced with questions like:
  • What do we talk about when we come together? 
  • Which resource do we start with first? 
  • Who's responsible for doing what?  

The questions go on and on until collaborative teams stop before they ever start. But before teams start building the assembly line of automaticity, there are some very important first steps that they should take before they begin to collaborate.

How can teams function like an efficient assembly-line of learning?

1.  Agree on a common purpose and product
Every member must agree on what their mission is for coming together and what product will be created as a result of coming together.  Every assembly line has a purpose for existing and it spits out a common product.  Teams who fail to do this step will run into trouble later.

2. Clarify Norms
Once teams agree on why they exist and what they must create when they come together, they need some general guidelines for working together to maximize efficiency and manage time wisely.  Creating team norms gives the assembly line guidance for working and behaving together.

3. Distribute responsibilities based on expertise & interest
All members of a team should divide the work and share the load.  The best way to accomplish this task is to tap into the expertise and interests of the members of the team.  Their specific affinities will help give the team its own unique flavor that will help them add meaning to their work.

4. Create your assembly line in a logical progression aligned to your purpose and product
No two assembly lines are the same, but they do have a common progression for creating the common product.  The common product always starts with understanding the standard.  From there, teams can discuss instruction, assessment, intervention and enrichment in an order that best suits the team.

5. Tinker with your assembly-line to remove inefficient steps
Once teams begin the assembly line of collaboration, team members should continually look for ways to make the collaborative process more efficient and effective.  Removing time-wasting activities is crucial to make the collaborative process more meaningful to all members.

6. Reflect
Teams often fail to stop and see how they are doing.  Total Quality Management is a tool that business managers employ to make a better product by engaging workers in a reflection of their roles and the result of their collective efforts.  Reflection helps the team perform better by analyzing the individual efforts of every member.

Assembly Lines

The rise and fall of manufacturers boiled down to the success of the product and its ability to generate a profit.  In collaborative teams, success boils down to one thing and that is student success.  If students are not being successful, the team needs to analyze its work to identify what actions are failing to shore up student learning.  If students are being successful, teams should identify how they can make their work even more effective.  In short, the most collaborative teams create assembly lines of automaticity, efficiency and most important, proficiency.  

No comments:

Post a Comment