May 23, 2008

Meta-reflections 4: team management issues

Filed under: Repositories — Neil Godfrey @ 2:24 pm

Till I resume paid work I’m taking time to go over some of the metadata things I learned and did in my last job here. It feels like I’m reflecting on a past life in the Ark, especially since at the same time I’m attempting to catch up with reading what’s what in new developments and projects. I’m in a schizoid zone — a luxury that comes with reviewing one’s past work for job applications and attempting to keep up with new developments for job applications.

Reflecting here on a critical ingredient for the success of a project team like RUBRIC was. It worked best when there were regular weekly meetings where the current immediate goal would be clarified, and each member of the team would leave with a specific set of tasks toward that end, and also aware of each other team member’s tasks. Sitting in the same room and being able to talk directly with each other was almost as good as Instant Messaging. This enabled real team-work — we’d consult with each other to ensure that the metadata issues were effectively applied within the requirements of the IT issues and vice versa. And the immediate goal we were working on was the next stage of assisting repository managers to implement their repository.

That sort of communication continued, but circumstances happen and the weather sometimes changes. It is only in hindsight I can see that some misunderstandings and tensions, normal at times in any collaborative effort, between repository managers and the central team may have been bypassed had that starting model of the weekly meetings continued. New repository managers are grappling with a wide variety of issues, from technical to business to public relations and more. When they raise an issue with a member of a technical team they may be seeking an answer to something that has broader ramifications than the technical issue itself. It would seem logical that the chances of the team being able to meet their real needs would be enhanced by having all members who are working on some aspect of each manager’s work to share the manager’s issues with each other. Without this, the tech team and metadata person seemed (in hindsight now) to be playing catch up with each other. Cooperation was increasingly a matter of resolving post hoc requests. Each doing one’s own thing inevitably led to some collisions up ahead that needed further resolving.

Maybe this is a biased view of some of the slight wonkiness that seemed to enter relationships between the central team and some of the different university partners. The model on which the project began was similar to the model I had introduced when I had a chance to be the acting head of a small cataloguing team. (Not that the early RUBRIC model had anything to do with that.) Regular meetings that called for the involvement and contributions of all members in tandem with re-evaluation of the immediate priorities, and in between the constant team referral back to these priorities and related tasks at hand. (Thinking back in the Ark still, I’d like to write up a detailed description of that too.)

The need for cooperation and team work in a pioneering field, especially one that calls on expertise from widely varying sources, should be a truism, but managing to achieve it does take disciplined effort. A spinoff is good morale all round. But that’s a banal truism too. But it’s nice when it happens just the same.


  1. […] recommending a post by Neil Godfrey, Metalogger, Meta-reflections 4: team management issues. This is one in a series of reflections Neil is writing on his experiences with metadata and the […]

    Pingback by Carnival of the Infosciences #90 - that’s a wrap | Libraries Interact — May 26, 2008 @ 6:05 am

  2. Reality almost as good as instant messaging??? Dunno if I’d go that far….

    Comment by Katie — May 30, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

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