Working Professionally

Although this section is geared towards future WPI Project Teams in Cape Town, it can also give insight and advice for all working teams.

Strong team dynamics are essential to a functional working team especially when interacting with professionals. Conducting oneself professionally helps to gain respect from sponsors and networks. In our experience as a ten person project team, communication was challenging.  As often the project is broader and more complex in larger groups, whole team meetings can be long and tedious.  A few methods we found to alleviate this useful are listed below:

  1. Update your entire group regularly on progress. We found this is most effectively accomplished through dividing the group into committees that focus on specific objectives.  A committee head from each group met to share progress and organize plans for the following days. Then, the committee head communicated the team’s progress back to the other members of their group.
  2. Utilize working documents to record progress effectively.  For example, as we created a network of local organizations, NGO’s, and government departments, we updated a resource list until we had accomplished all our goals with each party and were prepared to create a formal Resource Binder.
  3. For stakeholder meetings, and whole team meetings, ensure the entire team is prepared and organized.  Make agendas, prepare working documents, take minutes, and use visuals.
  4. Be on time, but be aware that the local culture has a different expectation on what is considered, “on time.”
  5. Create and update a Task List each week. Include major goals and deliverables and assign actions as necessary.
  6. Have one person in charge of delegating and collecting deliverables.  The same goes for scenes, edits, and collecting pictures.
  7. Remember that all team members are valuable and although everyone has strengths and weaknesses, it is important to always respect each other. Listen to each other’s opinions, and let everyone have a say in the process. Facilitating a working relationship with team members will make you look more professional in front of your sponsors and advisors.

Through our time in Cape Town, we discovered how South African culture is different from the Northeast. In the United States, professionals tend to communicate primarily via email, but in South Africa phone calls are far more prevalent.  Additionally, many organizations go on holiday in mid-December.  Being assertive and explicit about meeting times can help achieve your goals.