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Teamwork and Global Issues in Technical Communication
This chapter continues discussions briefly touched upon in Chapter 1, providing more in-depth
examples and strategies for working effectively in teams and being aware of global issues. In
team-created projects, the process of developing a work product for an audience requires the team
to cooperate and communicate with each other. Most work teams are intercultural and often
distributed across regions and even countries. Therefore, moving team projects forward involves
negotiating differences among team members, including cultural differences, and motivating
others in the team.
After reading this chapter, students will be able to
Organize and manage a team project
Run a successful meeting
Identify and manage team conflicts
Review and edit the work of others on a team
Understand that technical communication is used by international audiences
Many students have had negative experiences with working in teams, sometimes experiencing
conflicts within teams or encountering team members who do not follow through on
commitments. So, right from the start, it’s important to discuss the value of working in teams—
preferably from the students’ experience, whether as part of a school project or at work.
Continuing the Chapter 1 theme of distinguishing between academic writing and technical
communication, you might note the ongoing nature of business relationships and the role of
teamwork in that process. Unlike class teams, which generally involve students who may not ever
see each other again, work teams involve individuals who will likely collaborate on many
different projects over time. One of the key outcomes of effective teamwork today is the ability to
leverage the relationships and skills of team members in a future project or opportunity.
You might also ask students to generate their own list of strategies for working on a team project.
They will find that many of the strategies presented in the book ring true from their own
experience. For their most successful team processes, ask why they think it worked so well. For
the less positive team experiences, ask them for the lessons learned for the future. This last
question helps them shift from focusing on the negative and instead orient their thinking toward
what it takes to create effective teams. This is a helpful discussion to have in smaller groups, with
each group generating its own list of top strategies for working successfully in teams and
reporting back to the class.
Refer to the General Teaching Tips chapter of this instructor’s manual for specific suggestions on
how to design effective team projects.
As with teamwork, students also often have negative experiences with the peer review process,
mostly because they have not been guided properly in previous experiences. You can help by
modeling the strategies described for effectively reviewing and editing the work of others by
bringing in a sample piece of writing and working through a peer review process as a class.
Emphasizing the difference between reviewing and editing is important so that students don’t get
hung up on grammar and spelling issues without addressing the content, organization, design, and
style issues first. Reiterate this as they enter into any peer review processes for class assignments.
Using a sample document, invite students to focus on the ―big picture‖ feedback first. Make sure
they use the appropriate tone and specificity in their comments on these larger issues. Then, you
can focus on the sentence level issues, showing students how to comment on these issues without
correcting every grammar, punctuation, or usage issue.
Global and Cultural Issues
You’ll notice that cross-cultural issues are woven throughout this chapter, not just in the Global
Issues section. This is an important point to explore with students—the key role of cross-cultural
communication in the global economy and pluralistic work team environment. Learning how
cultural similarities and differences affect workplace communication is a critical skill in
developing appropriate context and audience-specific communication strategies.
As mentioned in the text, cultural considerations include not only global issues but also other
potential culture issues such as race and ethnicity, religious or spiritual views, sexual orientation,
physical ability, etc. Even within the United States, there are definite regional differences in
culture. A Minnesotan working on a team with a New Yorker, for example, will encounter very
different regional communication styles. Even within a state, rural and urban cultural differences
affect communication. Since most classes include people from a range of geographical locations,
this is often a good place to start—inviting students to speak from their own experience of
regional differences and similarities.
1. Meeting Evaluation. Attend a meeting and observe the group dynamics. To what extent does
this meeting apply the strategies for organizing, managing, and running a meeting? Write a
short report that evaluates how well the meeting seems to follow those strategies and
indicates how the meeting dynamics might have been improved.
2. Exploring Different Perspectives. Through your personal connections or through an
international student center on your campus, locate a student from a geographical and cultural
background other than yours. In a one-hour interview, explore at least three of the concepts
from the chapter such as
nonverbal (body) language
perceptions of time
quicker, more direct decision-makings versus more methodical, longer processes of
willingness to question or disagree with others
attitudes toward oral versus written communication
value on intuition and ambiguity versus hard evidence/data
attention to the personal relationships as well as the business relationships
Prepare a 5-minute presentation that highlights key discoveries from your interview about the
similarities and differences between your own culture and that of your interviewee.
3. Team Project Strategies. Working with a few classmates, generate an annotated list of 10
online resources that discuss strategies for teamwork. Prepare the list using an electronic
collaborative tool such as Google Docs or a wiki so that you can review and edit your team
members’ contributions. Your annotations should summarize each resource’s contents as well
as provide its url. In a short report to your instructor, explain what you learned about both
collaborating to produce a text as well as reviewing/editing the work of your team members.
Which part was easiest? Which most difficult? Explain your responses.
CHAPTER 2 QUIZ
Indicate whether the statements 1 through 8 are TRUE or FALSE by writing T or F in the blank.
1. ___In collaborating to produce a document, all members of a collaborative team
participate in the actual ―writing.‖
2. ___‖Reviewing‖ is a more precise term for ―editing.‖
3. ___ A meeting leader should take charge by steering the group discussion.
4. ___Teleconferencing is no longer used as a form of virtual communication.
5. ___Paying attention to ―face saving‖ is key to working across cultures.
6. ___Any technical document may be distributed globally.
7. ___Face-to-face meetings are still essential for personal contact.
8. ___ Women who speak up in meetings are often perceived as overbearing, while men
who do so are considered to be leadership-oriented.
In items 9 through 10, choose the letter of the expression that best completes the statement.
9. ___Sources of conflict in collaborative groups include (a) interpersonal differences,
(b) cultural differences, (c) gender differences, (d) all of these, (e) b and c.
10. ___Choose the most accurate statement below about reviewing a team document: (a)
use general language when identifying weaknesses, (b) begin with a positive
comment before suggesting improvements, (c) rewrite the entire document yourself if
needed, (d) dictate advice to the team, (e) evaluate it on the first read.
Additional Fill-In the Blank and Short Answer Questions
11. When ________________ a document, you examine it for accuracy and readability.
12. What are four different virtual collaboration strategies you might use in your own
profession, and how might each be useful to you?
CHAPTER QUIZ ANSWERS
Chapter 1. Introduction to Technical Communication 1. T 2. F 3. F 4. T 5. T 6. T 7. T 8. F 9. e
. Several options possible. Unlike academic papers, technical documents are reader
based, task oriented, context sensitive, and design based. It also utilizes many
—written, visual, digital, and oral.
. Several options possible.
Chapter 2. Teamwork and Global Issues in Technical Communication 1. F 2. F 3. T 4. F 5. T 6. T
12. Several answers are possible—this is an applied question to students’ lives.
Chapter 3. The Research Process in Technical Communication
11. Several answers are possible—this is an applied question to students’ lives.
12. Several answers are possible—this is an applied question for students to consider the
audience inclinations of survey choice. Mailed surveys might, for example, be most
appropriate for populations that do not commonly use the Internet, such as many