Sample Educational Narrative: MDS 450, sample 1

MDS 450 Educational Narrative

[Name redacted; Identifying information altered throughout document]

Throughout my career and personal life, I have had the opportunity to work on many different types of projects that allowed me to experience teamwork and innovation in both the professional and personal realms. It is my intention to lay these experiences out in the hopes that my experience will allow me to challenge the MDS 450 course on Teamwork and Innovation. I have learned something from every team I have worked with. The challenges faced when coming together have allowed me to view problems from different perspectives and learn new ways of communicating, problem solving, and collaborating.  It is my hope that these experiences will demonstrate the knowledge and skills I have picked up over the course of the last 20 years.

  1. Use a personal example to describe the four stages of team development. Name each stage specifically, and tell us the details of that stage, then move on to the next stage until you’ve addressed all four stages. 
  • Also describe the pitfalls at each stage, using higher-level thinking as defined by Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • Identify what signals to you that the team is ready for the next stage.

Several years ago, I volunteered with a charity project called SplashUp. The aim of this project was to show people in the community love by helping meet the needs of the community. It was for adults and children. We would choose a week in the summer and then volunteer throughout the community. The best part was that anyone could sign up to volunteer. You didn’t have to be part of a church organization to participate so we would end up having teams of people with different beliefs and outlooks on life. I had volunteered on the working teams a couple of years in a row. It was a very rewarding experience. I learned a lot about teamwork and cooperation. I also learned how to work with individuals of different mindsets and belief systems.

The most educational experience, however, was when I was invited to help organize the event the following year. This was a completely different dynamic for me. I was so nervous when I showed up for our first meeting. There were about 15 of us. We introduced ourselves, shared a little information about us as individuals, and then were divided into groups of 4. Each group had a job that they were responsible for. In our Forming phase my team was responsible for organizing and finding the physical projects that the volunteers would work on during their SplashUp week. We had 3 women and 1 man on our team. At first it was a very positive experience. Everyone was respectful and polite to each other’s ideas and suggestions. We were remembering to be open minded and understanding to each other. We each generated a list of ideas and spoke openly about what we would like to see happen in our community as a result of this project. With all of us being unfamiliar with each other, I could sense that there was a little uncertainty among us. I would feel uncomfortable sharing or expressing ideas just because I was unsure what the others would think and I wanted to be liked by the team. We also didn’t have an appointed leader. This left room open for more assertive personalities to flex their muscles, which wasn’t always done politely.

As the planning went on, individuals would try to express their ideas. There was one individual who wanted to take charge of the group. As she began to try and assert her authority, conflict began to arise. Here we entered the Storming phase. Since there wasn’t a designated leader, other members of the group would get offended when being told what to do by this individual. I personally felt like any ideas I brought to the table were dismissed and never used. This tension shifted us from Forming to Storming.

Life outside the project would get in the way. We had one person forget to set up a couple of important projects. We had another that was having a hard time making it to our weekly meetings. At one meeting an argument broke out because one person felt that the group as a whole wasn’t very organized. She was a very detailed individual and liked everything to be done a particular way. However, other members of the group had different ways of doing things, and she felt it wasn’t the “right” way. Eventually, all of this caused strife and contention. Some people felt they were doing more work than others. Others felt like they were being bullied by this one individual who was feeling the need to be in charge. We realized we were arguing more than planning. So we decided it was time for an intervention.

There were two specific members of the team that were arguing at every meeting. We asked the two of them to try to work out what was going on between them.. They  spoke privately about their differences and aspirations. Even though they had different ideas on how everything should work, they came together and made peace. This resulted in us being able to come together as a team to accomplish our desired goal, which was setting up projects. The energy shift after that private conversation was infectious. The two of them had developed a healthy compromise to meet the needs of the project. I began to notice that members of the team began to feel more comfortable and appreciated. We set up some ground rules which helped us when there were differences of opinion. Rule 1: Be respectful. Rule 2: Listen. Rule 3: Speak Calmly and if you can’t, take a walk until you can. Rule 4: Highfive when a solution is made. We also made sure that we went out to dinner and socialized once a week so that we were seeing each other as friends instead of just teammates. This helped with the team comradery and made us more productive in the long run.

For instance, we had a local daycare ask if a team could come install some flower beds in the front of the building. They had one day available for the project to take place. One of our team members said we could accommodate, but the problem was that there were not any teams available on that day for the project. At the beginning in our Storming Stage, this situation would have been catastrophic for us as a team. An argument would most definitely have broken out. In our Norming Stage, we worked together to come up with a solution. We took one to two members from a couple of lighter projects and asked them to help at the daycare on the specific day. They agreed and the project was able to be completed in a couple of hours. High Fives all around. We had really begun to enjoy working together. I remember thinking how I was actually going to miss all the time we had spent together. As a team, we had really come through a lot and was not looking forward to the project ending.

As we entered the Performing stage, team members were able to analyze situations and their motives. We were able to work through our disagreements as a team calmly. I believe this was able to be accomplished by listening and hearing one another. Even though there was a little contention at first, we eventually learned how to work together and perform as a team. We would analyze problems, evaluate the circumstances to those problems, and create solutions that accomplished our goals. At times, we as individuals would pick up additional tasks and roles as needed. For instance, one of our team members was unable to make it to a meeting, so I presented a project idea she found for her. In another circumstance, I was asked to help with an assignment in another group, so one of my team members had to fill in for me that week calling potential hosts for projects and making sure they were scheduled.  As a whole, we were more committed to the success of the team and completing our work. We all developed a really strong bond during our time together. It was sad when the SplashUp week was over and we had to say goodbye. We still met once a month for about a year, but eventually lost touch. We were able to create 100 projects that year in our community outreach. I am so thankful for this experience and feel like I learned a lot about team development.

  1. Describe both developmental and detrimental behaviors of team members. After describing a few of each, lead us through an example of detrimental team behavior from your own experience. 
  • Based on what you learned in this experience and others, what personal behaviors do you have that could diminish team unity?
  • What are three goals you have to adjust behavior and be a better teammate?

Some developmental behaviors on a team are communication, responsibility, trust, and encouragement. If team members can’t communicate then any project they work on will be a disaster. Team members have to be able to listen and speak to one another openly and respectfully. It is important that team members have good verbal and written communication skills. It’s also helpful when each team member takes responsibility for their own portions of the workload. They must be able to rely on each other. This is easy to accomplish when job responsibilities are clearly defined and expectations are set. Team members also need to trust each other. It makes things difficult when someone is micromanaging the group and constantly correcting. Everyone has different approaches to work. It’s important to respect these approaches and trust that people are doing their work appropriately. Finally, team members should encourage each other. When people share ideas there should be positive feedback and constructive advice. This will lead to a positive work environment.

Detrimental behaviors such as inconsideration, rudeness, domination, and irresponsibility can lead to major stumbling blocks in the teams performance. Missing deadlines, showing up late, and not answering emails are some examples of how a person can be inconsiderate to the rest of the team.  Speaking poorly about each other or using crude language when communicating can cause major friction between team members as well. Lack of appreciation for the work others are putting in is rude and will hinder team production. So will someone who seeks to control the team or refuses to listen to their teammates. Finally, a team member who lacks responsibility in their actions can drag the whole team down tremendously. It is important for everyone to pull their weight.

One detrimental behavior I experienced was during a vascular surgery case. The team included one doctor, one technologist scrubbed in on the procedure with him, one nurse that was documenting the procedure and giving medication, and myself who was running the x-ray equipment needed for the procedure. I made a mistake and accidentally moved the x-ray machine when the doctor was using it to image. This caused a blurry image and as a result he could not see what he was trying to visualize. He lost his temper and yelled at me, using vulgar language in the process. It sent the rest of the team on edge. They were not sure how I would respond, fearful he would yell at them, and completely uncomfortable. It made everyone in the room incredibly nervous and unsure of their next steps. This was a well formulated team. Usually everyone worked well together, so when this happened it ruined the positive flow that usually existed between the team members. This was awful for me, but he did apologize at the end of the case and flow was restored. I understood where he was coming from. He was frustrated and responded harshly.

When I get frustrated, I do the opposite. I don’t communicate. This leads to stress among my team members and confusion. They will not know if I have completed my tasks or if I need help. It has also led to arguments and misunderstandings. I adjust this by stepping out and taking a few breaths when I am frustrated. I have found that if I tell my teammates I need a few minutes, they are usually respectful and allow me the time to process my emotions. When I step back into the situation, I am able to listen and communicate effectively. I try not to speak until the frustration has subsided. Finally, I put myself in my teammates shoes and try to see myself from their perspective instead of my own. Treating others the way I want to be treated.

  1. Using Kolb’s cycle to outline the experience, tell the story of a team you were part of that achieved innovation in solving a problem. Work your way around Kolb’s cycle, naming each phase and describing your process for being innovative with a team, and what you learned at each stage in order to move on to the next one. 
  • How was this team different from a work group? 
  • What role did diversity play in the team effectiveness?

One of the key components of running a successful Vascular Surgery Suite, is having more than enough supplies to meet the needs that could arise during a case. Inventory checks are very important. It is helpful to know where everything is, where it’s gone, and how much it costs. The team I worked on had been together for a few years before I joined. They had a particular way of keeping track of the inventory, but it was an old system and a bit outdated. Inventory management was performed with half being scanned into a digital database and half being recorded on paper, which was very difficult when you were performing weekly checks. We would have to go into the stockroom with a long list of supplies and check off what we had, didn’t have, or could’t find. It was miserable. In addition, the stockroom was generally a mess. We would leave things in boxes so we could make counting easier. This would usually lead to having high walls of cardboard boxes so it looked like a maze that you were working around. It was confusing trying to keep up with which products went into the database and which ones we checked from a paper list. Our manager could sense our frustration. The system had been incorporated before she began working there, so she just left it as a way to keep the transition less disruptive. When we voiced our concerns, she was open to a change. Also, I think seeing our chaotic stockroom in its full glory gave her nightmares. A small team of us were assembled to come up with a new system. Our team consisted of 2 nurses, 2 technologists, and our Patient Care Technologist who was in charge of ordering and keeping up with soon to expire products. There was one man on the team, an xray  technologist in his 60’s who had been a manager at another facility and was used to dealing with inventory. The nurses were in their mid 30’s and female, both having worked in large hospital systems with a lot of inventory. I was the youngest and least experienced, but was a quick learner and new to the practice so I offered a fresh outlook. We wanted the stockroom to be functional to our needs and workflow. I view this as Employee Innovation.

Even though this was a project at work, this wasn’t necessarily a part of our job responsibilities. We were volunteering to help make our workplace better. A Lot of the planning and organizing around this was done after cases. We sometimes stayed late to complete everything. Our manager started by organizing our small team. She informed us that she had enrolled the practice into a new updated inventory system. We would scan the products into the digital database when we received the items. Then we would be scanning them out after use. Our job was to come up with a new workflow to incorporate this into our daily activities.

The first order of business was to sit down and examine how we were doing things now–in other words, Reflective Observation. I reflected on our days. Looking back, I observed the things that worked, that made things difficult, and what we could improve on. I suggested we brainstorm a list of steps that we could conceptualize and put into practice during our daily routine, which was the Abstract Conceptualization phase. We all felt it was a good idea to start with a clean slate. We scanned all the items we currently had into the digital database, cleaned the stockroom, removed expired items, and organized all the products so that they were easy to read and accessible. Once this goal was met, the next step was to come up with a system that incorporated the scanning elements when we received the items and when we used them during cases. Our new digital system allowed us to attach the products used to the patient in their chart. This was very useful, but we needed to make sure that this was being done right away.

We went back to our brainstorming to discuss what changes we could make. I listened to everyone’s ideas as we thought through our process. I inserted my suggestions in a calm and respectful manner as they came to me. Once we had a good idea of how we wanted to proceed, we experimented with our new flow. When we received products, we would scan them in and put them away on receipt instead of waiting. We would keep the packages of all the products used in a case in a bag with the patient’s name on it. At the end of the day we would scan everything out, being sure to subtract it from our inventory. This was a definite improvement on what we had going previously, but it was not aiding our workflow. In fact, it seemed to hinder it because we were stopping to put inventory away or losing some of the packages. I was concerned with our bag method because we were writing patient information on it. I felt this was a HIPAA violation. I asked the group what they thought of the new system, and they had similar concerns. So we decided as a group to make a few adjustments, and began our Active Experimentation phase.

First change was to scanning out products under patients and the database. We decided that this step should be done as soon as the case was completed or even during the case as items were used. This way we were not losing packages, violating HIPAA, or mixing things up. Next we decided that inventory would be put away and scanned in first thing in the morning. When we received a shipment, we would wait till the following morning to scan the products in. This way we weren’t stopping our day to take care of this task.

Our active experimentation led us, as a team, to coming up with a new way of handling our inventory system. As we gained Concrete Experience using the new system, our workflow improved for the better and our stockroom stayed organized, making our day to day easier. It helped having different levels of experience working on this project together. I was the newest member of the team and had worked in heavy inventory management before. That helped me be able to see things from a different perspective compared to my teammates. My teammates had different inventory experiences, but they had also been with the practice longer. They understood the workflow better so they were able to build on my perspectives as I built on theirs. For example, they understood the importance of scanning the products so that they were attached to the patient’s chart. I could see where it was important to be organized and also where we were potentially creating a HIPAA violation. I have also learned that it works best for me when I can observe the problem and think it over before experimenting with a solution, and communicating my ideas in a calm and rational manner allows me to get my points across without offending anyone. This helped us come up with a system that worked for all of us.

4. Referencing your experience, tell us: what are the best practices for driving innovation with a team? What inhibits or promotes creativity in an organization? What is the role of creativity in an organization’s success?

A few of the best practices for driving innovation with our team was set first and foremost by our manager. She saw the need for a new system, but she allowed us the opportunity to make it happen since we were the ones who had to work with it everyday. Basically, she gave us a reason to care about the inventory and how it was tracked. She kept us informed on what she was doing by meeting with us. She let us know she was updating the inventory system to an electronic version, but then allowed us to participate and have input in how this system would be implemented. This kept us engaged and motivated to come up with new ideas to make our inventory system more efficient. Next, she allowed us to make decisions and act on those decisions. When something didn’t work, we had the freedom to adjust and try something new. No idea was wrong and we weren’t criticized if our first attempt was unsuccessful.  She also didn’t hover over us. She took into consideration that we were doing this on our own time, so we had the space to work with interference. This encouraged us to solve problems on our own. When we saw the HIPAA violation, we were able to fix that without our manager coming in and doing it for us. It also helped that we had time to brainstorm and get creative. It can be hard to come up with new ideas when you are worried about other responsibilities. Having our meetings at specific times of the day or even after our shift ended allowed us the mental capability to think freely.

I believe that we were as successful with our project as we were because of how our manager led us. Unclear direction, poor communication, lack of time, or punishment for mistakes would have greatly inhibited our progress. By giving us time and space to be creative, allowing us to take risks without judgement, encouraging us to self reflect, and allowing diversity on our team, we were able to promote a creative solution to our inventory dilemma.

This was a small opportunity at being creative in our practice. We found an innovative solution to handling inventory and were able to create solutions out of minor problems that fostered a healthier work environment. We had a few obstacles along the way, but we decided not to let them discourage us from our goal. I believe this little challenge brought us together as a team, gave us more ownership in our practice, increased and encouraged interaction between staff and management, allowed us to be more productive, and built up our morale.

5. What does productive collaboration look like for you? In what way do differences within a team affect the way the team collaborates? What sort of activities, methods, guidance, or strategies do you use to promote collaboration? (For example, how do you get a group to brainstorm together effectively? What structures or scenarios do you put in place to encourage participation?)

There are many tools and techniques used for innovation. A few I am familiar with are brainstorming, gamestorming, analogy thinking, and empathy mapping. I like the team brainstorming method because when one person gets stuck there’s someone else to build on ideas, which usually helps promote more creative thinking. I would start by organizing my team with a diversity in skills, ages, roles, and outlooks. I like using a white board so everyone can see what ideas have been given. Then I would appoint someone to record ideas. My next step would be to clearly define the problem or situation and ask everyone to write down their solutions quietly.

Next, we would begin the process of sharing ideas. I’ve seen this done several ways. One way is to pass a foam ball around. One person is thrown the ball, they say their idea, it’s written down, then they throw it to another person. I have also had it where you share your written ideas with the person next to you and they say your idea out loud. There is also the old fashioned raising your hand and sharing technique. I would use the ball method, so it’s kind of fun but also gives everyone a chance to share their ideas.

Once all the ideas were written down, I would encourage discussion. I would help keep the conversation flowing by asking questions and adding stuff in as I think of it. I would give everyone a chance to have input and give breaks as necessary. Then we would analyze our ideas and come up with a solution to try. After we have a plan, we would implement that plan and see how it works. If needed, we come back to the drawing board later with new ideas.

I have a small group of women that I like to go hiking with. We used to work together and have been friends for years. There is a lot of personality in that group. Every year we plan a backpacking trip together. We use the brainstorming method to decide where we want to go and what trail we want to do. This year we met in February. Everyone wrote down their location with trail names on a piece of paper and placed them in a bowl, mixed them up, and began to write them on the white board. Once this was completed, we opened it up for discussion. We didn’t use a ball, but we did openly talk about the logistics for each location and looked at what would be feasible. We didn’t have any communication problems during this “meeting” mainly because we were so happy to be together. We have narrowed it down to two locations: Sawtooth National Forest and Bryce Canyon. We will vote on it the first week of March. My vote will be for Sawtooth National Forest!

Once we choose our location, the next steps will be planning our travel from Georgia. We will need to look into booking a car, a hotel, and a flight. We will also need to stop and pick up supplies that are not plane friendly. We will have a Zoom meeting to go over the planning and get everyone on the same page. If we run into any conflicts during this time or discover any reasons for why our plans will not work out, we will try to find solutions to those problems or choose a new location.

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