Managing practice

Team and service development - Using the team's knowledge, skills and experience

This will help you to:

Traditionally social workers learn their craft as individuals. Supervision is usually on a one to one basis and training courses that remove individuals from their work setting invariably miss out on collective benefits to the team. Learning is often regarded as knowledge from outside imparted in a variety of ways to the individual. Opportunities for workbased learning have redressed this balance but can still default into this mode when training materials repeat "empty vessels to be filled" notions of learning. Paradoxically the expertise available to the team lies within their own experiences at work and with the experts in the problems they are presented with, namely the families and communities that come to them for help. The following exercise presumes that:

Exercise 5

Duration: One a half day
Involve: This exercise can be used with the whole team or with those 'teams within the team' that the previous exercise may have identified.
Resources: Flipchart, paper & pens for each participant

This considers what experience and expertise members bring to the team Each team member has a large sheet of paper on which they draw / list their professional 'path' to date. They can include personal information at their own discretion. They should think about what they have learnt as they have moved along this path, what has influenced their movement along it and any other reflections that come to mind e.g., how straight, twisted, short, long it is etc.

This can then be shared across the team in a variety of ways:

The team should then consider what experiences/ expertise they have become aware of and how they might make more/ better use of this. This exercise works best when given plenty of time, and works well as a team 'awayday' exercise.

As leader of this exercise you may wish to discuss these presumptions with the team as a basis for sharing practice and for developing the skills mix of the team.

Skills Mix in Teams

It is useful to review the skills mix within the team from time to time, especially at times of change. Regular review becomes a normal team activity and encourages you and your team to know about specific and individual strengths. Collective skills and where there may be gaps you want to fill. It offers a good model for team members to build on when considering their own professional development. It helps the team manager make best use of all available resource: NISW's experience is that teams that regularly review their skills mix become more aware of the role that can be played by good office managers. First-line managers and their teams are better able to focus on the content and quality of the services they deliver where they have the benefit of good administrative and financial management support. This is particularly so as more and more organisational maintenance, administrative tasks and financial responsibilities are given to first-line managers.

Exercise 6

Duration: one hour upwards: material for presentation needs to be prepared, distributed and read prior to the session.
Involve: Practitioners

Choose a practice issue that you want to apply your collective wisdom to. In other words, something that a number of you find difficult or intractable. The material for discussion is provided by the direct work undertaken by individual team members. Both the team manager and team members need to help the worker presenting material feel "safe" especially if this is a new experience for them. However, it should also be remembered that presenting and discussing one's work is part of any professional practice. The presentation will describe the initial referral, the worker's aims, actions and decisions taken and the difficulties they currently experience with the work.

Next, the team uses this information to consider:

Once you have looked together at the case(s):

This exercise, is essentially a group supervision session. It does not replace the need for individual staff supervision and should not be viewed as an alternative to individual supervision.