Dream Teams Don’t Just Happen

Jeanne L. Hites Anderson

If you are involved with health care, education, research, industry, non-profits or community change initiatives, you probably work on a team, at least part of the time. But teams do not always function optimally.

For instance, health care professionals that work on teams can provide more effective care than if they work as individuals. Every patient deserves a medical team that works effectively, however peak demand for COVID-19 hospital care is pressuring hospitals to hire traveling healthcare professionals from across the country when possible. Imagine a nurse arriving at an assigned hospital and needing to get up to speed and work with existing teams with little time for introductions.

Teams seldom “click” immediately when a group is first formed. What makes those individuals into a productive team that can collaborate to accomplish team objectives?

  • Members of a productive team understand their individual roles in accomplishing team goals.
  • They take joint ownership of conditions causing or influencing problems or opportunities.
  • They include the perspectives of beneficiaries of their work (such as patients) in their problem-solving (Lofquist, 1989; Anderson & Pyle, 2021).

Turning individuals into a team

The complexity of a teamwork system is currently being explored by researchers (Weir, 2018). Research results show that there are several factors that influence how well a team works together, such as the team composition, the skills and attitudes of the individuals. However, probably more important are the ways team members relate to one another, their feelings and behaviors.

When time allows, it is possible to assist team members to develop positive relationships, attitudes and behaviors. First, you will have to define the “ice” that isolates individuals from one another, for instance, unique regional or cultural differences. Then, plan experiences to melt the ice and move existing “I” attitudes to “We.” Here a few ideas for doing that:

  • Welcome: A facilitator or team leader might welcome the new team member as they walk in the door and provide positive messages of empathy and encouragement. For example, a hospital administrator or their designee might ask the traveling nurse or doctor about their travel to the hiring hospital.  This helps communicate to the new team member that they matter. It can also help show the new member they can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
  • Introductions: In a meeting, each existing team member might describe their favorite places in the community and why they like them. This introduction can welcome a newcomer to the community, as well as become familiar with other team members.
  • Activity based on meeting topic: Time spent on group activities doesn’t come easy, so basing the activity on the meeting topic helps it do double-duty. An effective activity I have used asks team members in small groups to describe “what’s happening now” with respect to team goals. This information is shared with the larger group, then a discussion follows identifying innovative ideas for solutions. This activity helps engender a sense of common purpose, group belonging and trust. It is also an interim assessment of the situation. In a high stress situation such as healthcare in the pandemic, this activity can provide new team members a snapshot of the organization progress and work context in terms of individual, team, and organization stressors.

The objectives for these actions are to help new team members:

  • Sense group belonging.
  • Understand and commit to the goals of the group.
  • Trust each of the other team members enough to risk sharing different viewpoints and ideas (Mears & Voehl, 1994).
  • Make good decisions as a team.
  • Consciously and continuously assess team process and progress (Anderson & Pyle, 2021).

Whether you work in healthcare or another context, creating a “dream team” takes effort, but it can be well worth the time.


Anderson, J. L. H. & Pyle, M. H. (2021). Making Change: Facilitating Community Action. New York: Routledge.

Lofquist, W. A. (1989). Technology of prevention workbook. Tucson, AZ: AYD Publications.

Mears, P., & Voehl, F. (1994). Team building: A structured learning approach. Delray Beach, FL: St. Lucie Press.

Weir, K. (2018, September). What Makes Teams Work? Monitor on Psychology, 49(8) p. 46. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/09/cover-teams

The American Psychologist has an excellent special issue on teamwork. To read it, go to http://psycnet.apa.org/PsycARTICLES/journal/amp/73/4.

Design Thinking and Performance Improvement

An image of the design thinking process, illustrating the non-linear nature of the process. Steps include Emphasize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
Copyright holder: Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Design Thinking is getting a lot of attention in a variety of disciplines. What is the relationship between Design Thinking and Performance Improvement? It’s a very appealing addition to our set of interdisciplinary tools.

My attraction to the concept of design thinking is that it’s a problem-solving approach. Like most problem-solving approaches, it guides us to go beyond our own understanding of the situation and seek out diverse perspectives in order to find the solution set that best fits our target users. It also encourages us to challenge our own patterns of thinking and get input from users. Design Thinking is an iterative and non-linear process. (For a thorough introduction to the concept, check out What Is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?)

It’s fairly easy to see how design thinking can relate to instructional design. In Design Thinking for Training and Development, Sharon Boller and Laura Fletcher introduce design thinking as a human-centered concept, and they differentiate it from business-centered concepts. This is a very powerful distinction because it assumes that when we put people first, the desired performance results will follow. Boller and Fletcher illustrate this in the context of learning with this diagram:

An image of a Venn diagram showing the intersection of three circles: Learner wants and needs, business needs, and constraints. There is a heart where these three intersect to show the sweet spot.
Design Thinking is a human-centered concept.

Design thinking, as a human-centered concept, comprises three overlapping circles: Learner wants and needs, business needs, constraints. The “sweet spot” is where all three circles overlap (Boller & Fletcher, 2020, p. 7).

They then explain that design thinking maximizes the designer’s ability to address performance gaps because “performance gaps are multi-faceted and traditional models don’t recognize this complexity.” (p. 15).

Tim Brock makes this same point in his three-part series on Worthy Performance (Brock, 2020). He argues that design thinking is a viable way to approach performance-focused innovation. By comparing models side by side, he also points out that there is a “complementary and credible relationship” between a principles-based design thinking approach and ISPI’s 10 Standards for Human Performance Technology. With apologies to Dr. Brock, I am going to restate and expand on some of the main comparisons that I find most interesting:

  • HPT is an eclectic profession, using a plethora of models and techniques to achieve worthy performance. We practitioners know that Gilbert was right—there is more than one way to look at the world. Design thinking broadens our lens by exploring the user experience as a main focal point.
  • Innovation is driven by the results achieved and the value returned on the investment. Design thinking is lauded for its ability to help us get out of our own way and solve problems in different ways and meet new opportunities and challenges. According to Liedtka (2018), it’s a “social technology that blends practical tools with insights into human nature.”
  • Design thinking is a systematic approach that describes activities that align needs to business results and outcomes. No matter what evaluation model you use, if we miss meeting the needs of the individual performer, the solution will not meet the needs of the organization.

I have added design thinking to my arsenal of performance improvement techniques. So far, it has been most useful in contexts where organizations have excluded the voices of the performers or when it’s time for an innovative approach to business as usual. I will be experimenting with how to add design thinking frameworks to other performance improvement ideas. Please reach out and share your experiences and ideas!

Liedtka, J. (2018). Why Design Thinking Works. Harvard Business Review, 96(5), 72.

Boller, S., & Fletcher, L. (2020). Design Thinking for Training and Development: creating learning journeys that get results. American Society for Training & Development.

Brock, T.R. (2020). The State of Engineering Worthy Performance and the 10 Standards: Part 2. Performance Improvement, 59(1), 16.

Is This the Country Our Founders Envisioned?

            This is a question that must be answered with grace and poise because the answer would be a resounding No!  When America was started,  it was supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave—this didn’t exactly happen that way.  When the authors of the Declaration of Independence wrote “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”; however, it was anything but that– because women and people of color were treated inferior.  It took many years and the abolishment of slavery and  persistence in allowing the elimination of women’s suffrage to make any overall strides in having people become more equal.  

Additionally, our founding fathers were against war.  James Madison, the fourth president of the United States made a statement that said, “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  Looking back at history, seemingly the U.S. has been at war much more than needed and we have one of the largest army’s in the world.  Listening to people such as my friend, that is a Vietnam veteran, talking about the senseless war in Vietnam and how it was not even needed.  Did we as Americans put ourselves in conflicts that we did not even need to be in?  This is such a frustrating question to get answered.  The following are the words from the American Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Have we really insured tranquility?  Have we promoted the general welfare of our people?  Are we as Americans really living up to our founders’ vision for this country?  I should say not.  Many Americans are below the poverty line.  Some of our politicians are being given money for their campaigns from companies that want to influence our country and these politicians– later in their careers.  The influence may not be a good influence.  This isn’t tranquility.

            Lastly, we must ask ourselves, “how can we as Americans get back on track with what our founder’s envisioned?  One of the ways it to rebuild our confidence in government.  So many people, seem not to trust the government.  We seem to go from crisis to crisis.  Possibly, we can focus on eliminating much of the poverty; bridging the gap with other cultures and races; reinforcing the value of providing quality education for all of our children; putting together a tax system that allows for economic growth and our posterity; allowing young people to have a greater voice on what is happening and giving ideas on how to resolve some of the crises that are happening in the United States.  This – is how I think our founders envisioned America.

3 Questions Answered By An L&D Giant: Jane Bozarth

Earlier this year Mirjam Neelen and I supported the L&D Conference organized by Matt Richter and Will Thalheimer by producing 9 short videos, where we asked 3 Key Questions:

The Nine Giants

Jane Bozarth – Dick Clark – Julie Dirksen – Paul Kirschner – Richard Mayer – Jeroen van Merriënboer – Dana Robinson – Patti Shank – Harold Stolovitch.

Today we are posting the first of those 9 videos, with the remaining videos to be posted over the next 8 weeks, on Tuesdays.

Our first video:

Jane Bozarth

Jane Bozarth, the director of research for The eLearning Guild, is a veteran classroom trainer who transitioned to eLearning in the late 1990s and never looked back.

In her previous job as leader of the State of North Carolina’s award-winning eLearning program, Jane specialized in finding low-cost ways of providing online training solutions.

She is the author of several books, including eLearning Solutions on a ShoestringSocial Media for Trainers, and Show Your Work: The Payoffs and How-To’s of Working Out Loud.

A popular conference presenter, Jane holds a doctorate in training and development and is the recipient of many awards, including the Guild Master Award in 2013 for her accomplishments and contributions to the eLearning community.

LDA – Learning & Development Accelerator

Matt and Will have extended that initial effort and have created LDA – the Learning & Development Accelerator … which will be going live online sometime today – at:


Bookmark it now!


HPT Video Weekend Matinee: Laurin 2008

The HPT Video Weekend Matinee series is intended to introduce you to the library, with over 100 videos, in the hopes that you’ll share them further into your professional networks, as you see appropriate. And if you have videos to share with us, please forward them to the site administrators.

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Perfectionist That Writing?
Maybe Not

Gerd Altmann

If you occasionally agonize over your writing, never fear.

After being asked, many times, “How do you know when you’re done editing?” Stefanie Flaxman, of Copyblogger, offers helpful advice in When Are You Done Editing? A 5-Point Blueprint for (Recovering) Perfectionists.

First, in the absence of the possibility of perfection, she suggests that we consider “good enough” to actually be good enough. And then she advises us to check these five things:

  1. Paragraphs
  2. Sentences
  3. Grammar
  4. Punctuation
  5. Faux Pas

For each of these areas, she provides a short list of checks along with links to other posts where one can find additional info.

My favorite part of her post is when she gives permission to “go rogue with grammar occasionally.”

Even if you don’t suffer from perfectionism, you may find the list of writing checks in her article to be useful.

Flaxman, S. (October 14, 2020). When are you done editing? A 5-point blueprint for (recovering) perfectionists. Copyblogger. https:copyblogger.com/when-are-you-done-editing/