Team and service development - Using the team's knowledge, skills and experience
This will help you to:
- learn from the team's collective experience, knowledge and skills
- establish current best practice in the team
- support a collective approach to the work of the team
- define the development needs of the team
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:
- There are no easy answers: if there were, your clients would not need you.
- Struggling with intractable and complex situations does not mean that you are doing your job badly.
- By focusing on the difficulties that workers experience in isolation, the team can think about the collective skills and knowledge they can draw on for the problems they are asked to deal with.
- You are of most use to your clients as a problem solver, not a solution provider, although providing services may be a part of what you do.
|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:
- With a partner who also asks further questions and who then presents it to the rest of the team
- By each member presenting their own career path to their colleagues
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.
|Duration:||one hour upwards: material for presentation needs to be prepared, distributed and read prior to the session.|
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:
- Who is involved: the social and the professional networks.
- The different perspectives of these people, including their concerns. How would a worker know? Has the worker spoken to each individual involved?
- What the service user or family wants and why and how would a worker know this?
- The worker's role: is the worker to be a solution provider or a problem solver? A problem solver is someone from outside the immediate situation with a fresh point of view.
- What do the participants think the worker's role is? What has the worker told them? What should the worker tell them?
- The social situation that has led to the referral and how a worker could give this outsider view to the people involved. How can a worker acknowledge the feelings of the individuals involved and the part feelings play in its problem?
- What does the team know about working with this type of referral? How can they use this knowledge and experience to help them in this case?
Once you have looked together at the case(s):
- What kind of conversations does the worker need to have to undertake an assessment of need?
- What information and knowledge will help the individual worker?
- What information does the worker need to give to the participants?
- How might you 'capture' the knowledge you have produced from your collective experience?
- Have you identified any gaps in the team's skills that could be strengthened either by team members' contributions or from outsiders?
- If knowledge could be strengthened by people from outside the team, what are the routes available in your organisation for obtaining this expertise? Inviting appropriate staff from other teams or organisations to present their work at your team meeting can be useful, stimulating and will increase the team's knowledge base.
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.