Game development is teamwork. This series of blog posts investigates elements of teamwork through the eyes of the students. Topics are project management, teamwork, communications, change management, teamwork skills and teamwork development. The CRGP Producers from Laurea University of Applied Sciences are presented in previous blogpost.
Jesse-Jonas Ollikainen: A Starting leader’s quick guide to change management
During my time as a project manager in a couple of Laurea’s P2P-projects and as a producer of a Capital Region Game Project (CRGP) game development team, I have developed a few different perspectives for leadership, especially with different team line-ups. Laurea’s project implementation or the CRGP work however, are not quite fully comparable to the corporate culture and management of a big company, although some of the tools used to manage company teams do apply.
Most projects face various changes during their lifespan. As the team’s roles and even project objectives change, the renewal of team and project contracts is needed. Re-writing contract papers is merely a formality, the real change requires “professional” change management by students.
Why changes are needed?
Change is needed when there is a crisis, when problems are detected, or opportunities are found. The problems do not solve themselves, and the fools do not take the opportunity, except if there is a fool “taking the opportunity” at the start-up phase taking up the role of the project manager without any hunch about the planning and implementation of the project format.
I’ve experienced a change when I got removed from project leader position and replaced by a more experienced student. This is an example of change management by a student team. A manifesting disaster is being avoided by taking action. This change was unanimous among the team and none rose against the decision. But what if there was objection? The student project’s supervising instructors were surprised that such a sudden but unanimous change was made among the student team. They were also rightly concerned, as hidden changes from the instructors are often a sign of an internal division in the team. (1.)
Switching the project manager is a big change, but I have witnessed other changes and additions to the team members too. The extremely small teams have gained more members and last-minute leaves have also been seen, but how do these changes influence the change in leadership? From my own experience, I’d say there shouldn’t be any change.
Leadership and communication
Leadership and communication should be clear from the start in any teamwork situation, even if there were no change in the team. Whether it is a project or a business, leading towards change remains essential. Transformational leadership should be clear to all the teammates. There is always a risk of misinterpretation in communication, and the manager must avoid blurring the message.
The project manager leads meetings and is often the most vocal person in communication channels. The project manager can preplan things and find solutions that require change in the team’s operations. These plans should always be presented to the team as early as possible, as the teammates may take the initiative and carry out tasks or errands that may unwillingly go against these new plans. (2.)
Clear change communication supports clear transformational leadership. The leader’s investment is also particularly important for team inspiration. Inspiring leadership is assuring the team that the change is needed or helping the team to cope in a crisis by sharing hope.
Capabilities of a Leader
What kind of leader is ideal and charismatic? Honesty will take you a long way. Getting caught lying can easily ruin your reputation and honesty is also a better alternative to yarning. People have the habit of filling silence with rambling, especially if they are asked about something they do not know about. Rambling, instead of answering, can easily be interpreted as ignorance and stupidity, so it is much more dignified to say, “I do not know”, or “I have to think about it” if you are not sure of your own answer. (3.)
Leadership is to discard uncertainty, even if it would indicate, that you are certain of your own ignorance. Ignorance can be remedied, but arrogance will stain your reputation much easier. However, it should be noted that strong leadership is not arrogance. Especially when attempts are made to make change, uncertain leadership in passive gestures cannot replace direct commands such as: “Jukka edits the project schedule and Tiina prepares the agenda for tomorrow.”
However, my own leadership is not so set to the stone, as I want to ensure that the person tending to the task does not have a better suggestion before the tasks are locked. This is how I try to minimize the group’s internal polarization, where the especially active and loud members may overwhelm the not so active but more considerate team members. (3.)
We have addressed the importance of communication and leadership. Now we know what are the success factors in transformational leadership, but how is the change management accomplished when communication and leadership are in good shape?
Change management is used for 2 things:
1. Increasing the desire for change, i.e. survival anxiety, and
2. Reducing the resistance to change, i.e. learning anxiety (3.)
Change management is achieving a real change that has been sought after, which arises when the team’s internal desire for change grows larger than the resistance against it.
If we were to strive for a change, the inspirational leader’s presence and example will help to show the way. Increasing the knowledge and changing the team culture can also affect the team’s opinion on change. Especially when the information is useful, it can convince the team members to change their minds, like if something unusually good about a team’s skills is noted, the team’s specialization in that field may turn out to be much more promising than keeping with the same operations. Training increases the desire for change as well as decreases the resistance of change. Personal chemistry and management of the social systems play an important role in accomplishing change, so the contrarians can turn out to be extremely problematic.
I have not stumbled upon in my projects any objector whose actions would have called for extreme procedures to accomplish the change. There are serious means for such a situation: the change is to be done either by implementing it without them knowing, they will have to be pressured by the group, or possibly removed from the group if change is of the utmost importance. (1.)
1) Kilpinen, P. 2008. [Helsinki] : Ajatus Kirjat
2) Ylikoski K. & M. 2009. [Helsinki] : Työturvallisuuskeskus TTK
3) Myllymäki, R. 2018. Tuusula : Ketterät Kirjat Oy
4. Developing competence or: How I learned to stop worrying and love writing – Riku Kivimäki
At the very start, I want to make it very clear, that I have never been the best writer. Not in blog format or in general. It might be even ironic to some readers, that a person, who openly admits at the very beginning, that he is at best mediocre writer, is giving you insights in the subject of competence development. But I personally disagree to some degree. I might even be arguably one of the best for this subject, since as I’ve written this blog I’ve had to face my weakness at the art of writing, and because of this I had to develop my understating of said subject and evolve as a writer. I had to get better. I had to develop my competence in the said subject.
We can start by going through what exactly is competence and what makes up competence. Kristian Mäkelä (1) describes to us at his thesis with terms “expertise” and freely translated “set of skills”. In practical terms, when we talk about competence, we don’t just mean knowing one thing well. We are talking about knowing many sets of skills to make up competence. Mäkelä used fantastic example on his thesis about cycling. In order for you to cycle, you need to know how to pedal, to keep your balance, you need to have sense of directions, you need to know how to turn etc. Even if you knew how to pedal so well that you could do it in your sleep, you’re not going to conquer Le Tour de France with just that. Same kind of principal’s work for other topics also, including game industry. Artist need to have grasp of how to use depth, shading, to bring perspective to his/her work. Musician must use scales, to use chords, to bring melodies, to understand velocity to bring that piece of music to life. Programmer understands programming languages, needs to know many other programs throughout and needs to be creative to maximize his/her productivity. Game producer needs to know how to crunch numbers, needs to be able to keep things in schedule, know budgeting, handle business side of things, must be assertive to get to get point across at any point of project and to know gave development phases. Competence is made of parts.
Every skill is only a part of competence and every skill is its own entirety. Every part is important and is supporting other skills. Let’s breakdown competence to three separate main groups. 1. Knowledge. 2. Acquirements and 3. Personal qualities. With knowledge we mean every information that you’ve gathered while reading and what you’ve learned through school and through experience. Acquirements, your skills, mature along when you use knowledge you’ve collected and apply them to real life situations. Personal qualities might be trickier to develop further, as they are bind to your personality. That doesn’t mean in any way that you cannot enhance this, might just be slightly more challenging. For an example I would like to use myself and I as an example. Beginning to write this blog seemed like a mountain I should climb over without any climbing gear. I have never been comfortable in my own skin writing longer texts. I’m modest man to a core. Arguably even too much. Objectively even too much. I’ve never had that moment when I’ve wanted to bring my own thoughts to a paper and share my thoughts to a world. As I’ve not developed this competence forward through years, I’ve only now had to make sure this piece, this blog text, is as good as I possibly can do. Many of my other fellow producer students are masters of this art. They have long sentences along with shorter once to create symphony to words. They use synonyms to liven up the text. This is competence.
Even though I started to ramble little bit there, I thought that this was an important subject to go through. Now that we’ve been through what competence is, and what makes it, how can we get better and advance with our skills. How can I, as a poor man’s Perez Hilton, get my text to feel more alive and to get writing to feel more natural?
This may feel like a cop out, but I assure you, it is not. In general, that is the only way to get better at something. Okay, you’ve read everything about subject ‘A’ and you are convinced, that you are the master of topic. We can even say, that you are formally competent at the subject. In example when you graduate from school you are formally competent. But what happens when you bring your formal competence to workplace? At this point your true competence starts to show its form, and this competence matures and ripens when you work in the projects and at real environment. Your work needs to meet requirements and qualification that has been set. There are things that you cannot get by only reading.
Developing yourself starts by getting to know yourself and finding yourself. Find your weaknesses, find you strengths. This is the best way in my opinion to make use of your best qualities, as well as getting to strengthen your “not-so-good” attributes. SWOT-analysis (2), acronym for ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’, is fantastic way for starting this and can be powerful tool. Once you’ve written down everything from good to bad, it’s easy to come back to see what’s changed in course of time. In order to get most out of SWOT-analysis, you need to be absolutely honest with yourself. Don’t let Dunning-Kruger effect, illusory superiority that makes you evaluate your skills higher than they are, have effect in your analysis. Nor should you underestimate your skills by any means. Honesty is where it all starts to get to know yourself.
So, knowing yourself is alpha and it is omega. Behind every weakness lies new opportunity and strength. Have courage to do things and to improve yourself. Don’t get stuck on your “bad” qualities, that is the absolute best way to get your motivation down, so don’t let this enemy take hold of you. You want to learn how to do 3D-graphics, but you’ve only ever knew how to make 2D-art? Get yourself a 3D-program and start practicing, read how to get better at it and expand your skills. This will probably make you also better at 2D-art, as you’ve now increased your perspective. You want to be better musician, but writer’s block is strong, and you can’t write anything. Get new instrument, practice new scales, get yourself a new genre! You have everything it takes to get betters. You can develop your competence. I made it to write this text, you can also climb your own mountain.
Even though is was fairly certain, that I’m not going to write this text from the perspective of a game producer, I’ve changed my mind at the end. Everything I’ve written can be applied to game industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s cycling or is it music, you can develop further at everything. My hobby has been gaming since I can remember. Some could say I’ve played too much. Nah, I disagree, gaming is great and if I could roll back time I would play even more. That being said, I think I have a gist of what I want in games and what I want from gaming in general. While I’m doing my studies as Bachelor of Business Administration, I have gotten to use all these skills in our game project. My love for gaming has become a part of my competence and I think that is absolutely fantastic. Knowledge I’ve gained from school, my formal competence, has been processed to true competence as I’ve worked with our fantastic team. I made SWOT-analysis for my self and this has helped me tremendously. This is how I would personally suggest start developing yourself and your competence. I’m sure that You, the reader, might have other ideas how to start this process. Good! I would love to hear about them, so feel free to express them!
I would like my final chapter to be about teams, teamwork and how important these things are. From week to week I’ve been amazed how our team of 9 people has been so successful at surpassing themselves every time I meet them. Everyone is doing their best to be better than they were last week. Even though developing yourself is important and it is an ongoing process that never ends, you can never underestimate importance of people around you, your team. Have courage and dare to take support from other members and at the same time be support for them also. This ensures that everyone can to their best and so the quality of work is also better. With these wholesome words I want to end this blog and I wish you all great times getting to know yourselves slightly better!
1) virtualstrategist, 2016, How to Perform a SWOT Analysis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_6AVRGLXGA
2)Mäkelä Kristian, 2012, PROJEKTIOSAAMINEN – Työelämälähtöisten projektiopintojenkehittäminen TuAMK:ssa, https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/47012/Kristian_Makela_Projektiosaaminen_Tyoelamalahtoisten_projektiopintojen_kehittaminen_TuAMKssa.pdf?sequence=1
5 Communication in a team – Aili Tervonen
Ten ways to be the team’s worst conversation partner
We all have a personality type with who we don´t get along at all. You may fall into despair if you find yourself working with that personality type in the same team. What if the problem is not in your team member but in you? Could you try to work with everyone neutrally even if your team member arouses strong emotions in you?Next I will present the problems of communication in the teams. I will present the problems through both negative and positive thinking. I start with the negative aspect because it is a typical way of thinking by Finnish. 😉
The team’s worst member is doing all the following things:
2. Do not listen
3. Ending other phrases with your own guess
4. Highlighting your own ideas
5. Ignore the others team member
6. Throw cold water on the others idea right away
7. Surf on the internet at the same time when you listening others team members.
8. Laugh at the others opinion
9. Glare others
10. Be arrogant
Bad communication affects the team spirit and motivation. Nowadays the problem is weak mental presence. We have computers and phones in front of us on the meetings and the concentration is disturbed. Small acts (like shutting down your computer) make it easier to concentrate and it has been researched that relaxation improves thinking. (1.)
The best team member is good because of the following things:
1. You listen well and appreciate your conversation partner.
2. Emotions are allowed in good interaction. You should be able to be who you really are in the communication situation.
3. A constructive criticism develops thinking.
4. Do not interrupt somebody elses statement. Each team member feels themselves necessary and important in a good interaction situation.
5. Do not form your own opinion based on your own old opinions. Let yourself be able to form a new opinion slowly while you listen to another floor. (1)
How can I develope to be a better converstation partner?
Don´t be prejudiced. Don´t doubt either yourself. Your prejudices and your attitudes towards a person affects how things are heard. Our facial expressions have a significant effect on what kind of feeling others get from you. (1.)
How do I receive my team members opinion?
Do I listen openly without any prejudices? Do I look frustrated?
Marcial Losada has researched company teams. She has researched interaction through both positive and negative perspective. The sense of space in a group means how many different emotions are allowed in the group. Losada has researched also how effectively teams are utilizing emotions. She has founded that effective teams have more positive interaction than negative. So, keep a positive attitude! (2.)
Feedback should be seen as a gift. The feedback provider has been hard- working when thinking about feedback for you. Is your challenge how to use feedback? Do you offend or do you take that feedback honestly and thinking it with time. And do I learn from it? Feedback is one way to learn new things. Teamwork thinking and communication has been compared to choral singing. The polyphonic singing is much more interesting than the monophonic singing. The same goes for thinking and communicating. If your team member thinks differently than you, appreciate it! (3.)
And finally, only you are responsible that you and your team members make me decisions that are best for your team. Try to coach your team meambers to do their best. If you succeed; your team can solve problems, learn new skills and you have fun to work together!
1) Heinonen, R; Klingberg, R; Pentti, P. 2011. WSOYpro Oy
2)Losada Line Consulting 2012, What is the Losada Line? What is Meta Learning? Referred 31.10.2018 https://www.losadalineconsulting.net/losadaline
3) MindTools, Essential skills for an excellent career. Management training and leadership training, online. Referred 31.10.2018