Functional groups look for complementary roles

Functional groups find ways to go around, over, or through the weaknesses of members. If you have a teammate who cannot proofread her way out of a paper bag, you proofread her work. If you have a person who collects factual information like nobody’s business, but cannot see the big picture, you break the project down and give him a self-contained piece to do, then help him knit that material into the report as a whole. If someone has poor English writing skills, you can encourage him or her to get assistance from the Writing Centre, but also have the group team up to edit his or her section. Over the years, I have received many papers that contain really great ideas, but the English is terrible. I have to penalize the English, but the group doesn’t. The group can and should edit not just to repair the contributions from individuals, but also to make the “voice” of the paper consistent. In doing this, functional groups are sensitive to the members’ contributions, and involve all members in the final edition. This way, each person sees how their own material was made better by the group process. The functional group turns in work that is more than the sum of the parts.

Author: Kathryn Woodcock

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, teaching, researching, and consulting in the area of human factors engineering / ergonomics particularly applied to amusement rides and attractions (, and to broader occupational and public safety issues of performance, error, investigation and inspection, and to disability and accessibility.