Collaboration and workflow: how to get the most out of group projects

Whether its for school or the workplace, group projects can be… interesting. Sometimes you’ll find you work amazingly well together, everything goes to plan and you churn out the work with relative ease. And sometimes it goes south real quick.

Making clear desicions early on and communicating this to the whole group is essential to a productive collaboration. If you’re looking to work in journalism, you need to get these skills up to scratch in order to work effectively with your team and editors. Help is at hand though – heres a few pointers to kick start your project and ensure you make the most of the experience.

  1. Pick a communication platform and stick to it.
    group communication
    Talk to your group members regularly to keep everyone up-to-date.

    If your project is in the workplace, you may already have a set system of communication. Most likely you’ll be using staff emails or maybe you have a specific facebook group for this kind of thing. If that’s the norm, stick to it. Everyone will be familiar with it and you should have contact details to hand.

    If, on  the other hand, you are working as a group as part of your studies, make sure everyone has decided on a platform, be it facebook, whatsapp, email or anything else, get everyones details, and don’t use anything else. It may seem inflexible, but it will help. You won’t waste time trying to figure out which platform someone is active on, messages won’t get missed as often, and it will generally save you having to chase each other up.

  2. Use a workflow app.

    Trello is a wonderful app. I am completely enamoured with it.

    It’s pretty straight forward to use, just create cards and drag and drop them to change their status accordingly, but heres a handy guide to get you started.

    Creating categories such as ‘commisioned’ , ‘editing’ and ‘published’ and attaching cards with a description of a story lets keep track of every aspect of your project and the work of each group member. You can also attach other material to this card such as photos or graphics to be used in the story.

    Of course, there are other similar apps you can use but I haven’t yet found one that beats Trello for ease of use.

  3. Google Doc it!
    files files files
    No one wants to waste time tracking down the right version of a file, so make use of google docs.

    Stop sending me word files! Sometimes it’s necessary I know, but for a commission sheet or copy that needs editing, send me a Google Doc link (you can also attach these to Trello cards for easy access). It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s accessible from any online device.If I have your Google Doc link I can make changes or suggestions directly to your work without having to download and send you changes every time. There’s less to-ing and fro-ing and changes get made quicker. Plus, this way, everyone who needs to be involved can be.

    I cannot stress enough how useful this is when editing and it can be so useful for group presentations too. Need data for that presentation? Send it over as a Google Doc or Sheet. Need to work collaboratively on the presentation itself but can’t meet up (or dont want to)? Using Google Slides means you can all work in tandem! No need to work one at a time, sending files back and forth, just open it up and go. You can see who you’re working with and the changes they make as they happen. Happy days!

  4. Be patient but not lax.

    solve disputes
    Sometimes life gets in the way but if you need to step back, make sure everyone knows.

    Sometimes life gets in the way. It happens to all of us – maybe you over estimated the time you had to do something, or maybe something else just really needs your attention right now. Don’t get het-up about someone needing to take a step back from a project. This is part of working as a team. Be patient, be understanding and you’ll have a much better experience than if you constantly hound someone to pull their weight.

    That being said, if you think someone should be doing more, say so. Communication is key. Maybe that person didn’t realise they needed to take on a particular task or that you were doing too much. Maybe they just need a reminder about the deadline. If they still don’t step up, be a little more authoritative and explain that they need to do more. Chances are they’ll get right on it once they realise and you’ll end up having a good experience all round.

Published by OwenL

Natural sciences communicator.

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