Sunday, 7 February 2016

Feedback on 119155 communications in Sciences

Cutting to the chase: There were a number of minor, human and understandable irritations, only listed here in the spirit of honest feedback:

  • ·         Some links weren’t correct - Pete very responsive on this and put it right within an hour or so.
  • ·         For topic 3 the link was to the 2010 report. Not the later 2013 report.
  • ·         Jacqui sent out emails with a ‘no reply’ email address so I had to trawl through the administrative guide to find her address.
  • ·         It would have been a great help if lectures were available as MP3 or other format.  I had problems downloading lectures to anything but my laptop. My phone is a mainstream smart phone, only 6 months old and it would have been great to be able to listen in the car during the 10+ hours of driving I do a week.
  • ·         Should be able to run a questionnaire to determine natural Belbin team roles
  • ·         Marks in boxes on assignment feedback were out of alignment. Made it hard to read.

My main issue is with the group assignment. The following criticism is not directed personally at my team mates. It is meant more of a criticism of the group project in its present form.

When things started to go wrong in my group I started to communicate my experience to others who had been to university and been in group projects. My personal opinion, I found, was shared by my boss, my colleagues, and friends from many walks of lives, including my yoga classmate Nicola Campbell who happens to specialise in group psychology. Without fail they felt that the group project idea is fraught with problems particularly when peer to peer evaluated. It encouraged cliques and alliances, bought out insecurities and raised anxiety (i.e. all the makings of a reality TV show) and unless properly managed does not create a good learning environment.

 I can hear you ask “why didn’t you go to your tutor”. There are a number of reasons why. It was too late. By the time my team mates went incommunicado during the final editing it was too late to do anything. Everyone had put in so much effort I didn’t want to distract from the final push.  I did share with Jacqui my lack of trust but she didn’t respond so I thought I should just put on my big girl pants and get on with it.

I stood to lose more by being labelled “the troublesome one”. My main goal was and is to pass the course. Since it was apparent I would be able to achieve that by continuing without complaining, I continued without complaining – though my team mates rating (yay for peer evaluation!) and lower overall mark of the group assignment managed to drag my grades down.

Thank you for the course and your effort. It was interesting and I learnt a lot. Pete and Jacqui were really responsive and positive. You bought a lot to the course with your energy and enthusiasm.  Your grade is B- upgradable to A (mirroring the effect of the group assignment on my grades) if you promise to have a serious look at how the teams are created and managed.

Sunday, 31 January 2016


I’m looking at the notes we made back in week 4 or 5 when I asked the team what Belbin roles they thought they were.

X -tina







Monitor evaluator


Team worker






We never met out 4th member – Christina, the Ukranian figure skater, for all we know she could have been the alter-ego of an obese middle-aged white ware salesman. We just guessed Christina’s character from the few emails we had. Who knows how the dynamic would have developed if she had been present.

After spending a bit of time Cherie I have grown to appreciate her enthusiasm – of course she would look at herself and go “yes” that’s me!  I would give a “yes” to her being the Implementer, a coordinator, Monitor-evaluater  and team worker. He experience and confidence with presentation was a real asset to our team. 

Jindina was the member who had the clearest vision of how the report and seminar should read. She set very high standards for herself and our team which hopefully resulted in better marks all around. (smiley face).
Fortunately  we all had a bit of the completer-finisher in us.( I can’t comment on Christina who was overseas when we were completing and finishing) and I think that kept us focused on the goal – to get out report and seminars out in some kind of order.  Probably the worrying and reluctance to delegate caused conflict as we all wanted to be part of the very final part of writing the report.

On reflection  the worst thing about these groups is that you don’t have enough time to iron out the bumps and actually really appreciate your team members and find a fulfilling (both in terms of outputs and personal growth) way of working together.

I seldom have problems in my job either communicating with my team or my customers. Misunderstandings do occur but nowhere near the frequency they occurred in our group. I was the one who outwardly got most upset on more than one occasion with my team members. When I got upset I made sure they knew about it and made sure they clarified what had actually been agreed.  (Except   Christina -  who missed out on the experience of  having me phoning  to say "that's not what we agreed"). I’m a bit of a shaper – inclined to be blunt.  I’m sorry if Jindina and Cherie weren’t comfortable with that because I do feel it was a privilege to work with them.  I think open communication helped us complete and finish to a high standard and personally it gave me a better understanding into myself, the inflexible implementer. 


Belbin, R. M. (2010). Management teams:  Why they succeed or fail. Oxford,
             United Kingdom: Elsevier.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Belbin roles at work - Blog 8

While never forgetting the genuine affection and regard that seems to miraculously prevail at my workplace, I usually refer to the company as a dysfunctional family.  I knew it was going to be interesting to apply the theories of R Meredith Belbin (2010) to see why things did and didn’t work.  As the company has grown, why did the addition of some team members make such a difference and others not?

I realise of course that my curiosity about ideas such as this would probably identify me as a natural resource-investigator.   As the technical support manager, I am a specialist who contributes within a narrow range in company meetings. I am also called on to complete tasks because I follow up and make sure they are done. That would make me an implementer.

The boss, apart from being kind and ethical is extremely sharp.  After some consultation with managers he will formulate and plan and drive it through –he’s a shaper. He chairs management meetings and generally the only person who disagrees with him is the office manager, P. They are a tight team.  P is on the phone all day - a coordinator.  When I ( the implementer who’s inclined to be inflexible) disagree with P we have learnt to not waste time and take it straight to the boss – he is the only one who can tell her she is wrong.

When J, an implementer joined the team as inventory manager he made a huge impact. Of Chinese decent, he works within the existing structure. He truly works for the company.  He is hard working and well liked. He was the in-house implementer we had been lacking. He was followed by another implementer, a sales manager.

For a few years there was a product manager who was a resource-investigator/ shaper. In the end his frustration motivated him to leave and start his own successful company.  He was replaced by an implementer who is much more well-liked and effective in the role.

Plants don’t seem to thrive very well in my work family though the hardware support manager puts out the odd tendril which is swiftly put into practice by one of the many implementers.  As a small business to business company, our success is determined by our customers.  I think they like dealing with a friendly helpful company, made up mostly of extroverts.  After listening to Susan Cain on the power of introverts I couldn’t help wondering if the company might be more functional if we encouraged our thinkers more and spent less time competing for air space and laughs.


Belbin, R. M. (2010). Management teams:  Why they succeed or fail. Oxford,                                     United Kingdom: Elsevier.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Blog 7 - Cheers for Beers

There is nothing like real ale for bringing out pontification. The idea posited down at vulture’s lane was that beer was a form of food and that it features strongly in human evolution because of its storage and socially conducive characteristics. Could beer actually be good for you? I wasn’t surprised, when I went in search of scholarly resources, to find that a lot of research had been done on it.

Beer - Health and Nutrition (Bamforth, 2004) provided most of the answers:  Beer provides calories and in out obesogenic environment that probably is not a good thing. Through historically it has been important source of energy. The boiling and hopping make it safer than drinking unpurified water.This may explain why in Great Britain in the 17th century people scarcely drank water. It provides vitamins (good source of vitamin B6, B12  and Folate) and minerals (Potassium, Magnesium and selenium)(Bamforth, 2004).

If you study the plethora (by definition: a very large amount or number: an amount that is much greater than what is necessary) of nutritional articles on the internet you will notice 2 recurring themes:
  1. A compound contained in the food or drink that has almost magical health giving properties. I call it the “cult of the superfood”. What could sound more esoteric that Xanthoumol. Found in hops therefore in beer - quantity depending on how it was made.The benefits of Xanthoumol are that it inhibits bone re-absorption – good news for women over 50 when bone density decreases - and it reduces Atherosclerosis (cardio vascular disease)
  2.    Yes (insert food or drink of your choice) is good for you – in moderation. The evidence is that beer is no exception to this golden rule. In moderate amounts it lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and is better than water for flushing kidney stones.

Alcohol is good for mind and spirit. It relaxes and sedates (Bamforth, 2004). Alcohol has been classed as carcinogenic by the WHO but  the link is nowhere near as strong as for smoking (Stuttaford, 1997). In fact the phytoestrogens in beer have been shown to counter breast and prostate cancer (Bamforth, 2004). The problem is that alcohol affects judgement and while enjoying a fine ale and convivial company, discussing the health giving properties of beer your idea of what is moderate may become extremely lenient.


Bamforth, C. W. (2004). Beer Health and Nutrition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Stuttaford, T. (1997). To Your good Health! The wise drinkers guide. London: Faber and Faber.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Blog 6 - you are what you eat

I felt a flu coming on and didn’t want to eat dairy or meat. I tried to keep a straight face while asking in the Taupo cafe what the options were for gluten free vegan breakfasts.  I almost added “and in case you’re wondering, yes, I am from Ponsonby”.

I am gluten free by choice rather than Celiac. It started as a bit of a parlour game at a party. One of the guests, a nutritionist, started giving us free consultations. After looking at my waistline she suggested I give up gluten, the protein found in wheat products. Like Jodi Corbit (Telis, 2014) a month after I stopped eating gluten I had lost weight and I felt emotionally uplifted. That was 4 years ago and apart from the occasional dalliance I haven’t looked back.

Do I feel better (clearer head and more energy) because not eating gluten generally means eating less cakes, biscuits and white bread? How do we measure over- all mood? What do the scientists say about how gluten affects it?

The Profile of mood states (POMS) questionnaire is a subjective measure of your mood states (McNair & Heuchert, 2007). It measures tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion and vigour. Anita C Carr (2012) found many documented cases where there was a clear link to between feeling  worse (using POMS questionnaire) and eating gluten. Carr suggests that the evidence is so strong that it warrants a study into whether the New Zealand wheat based diet is a factor in our high youth suicide rate.  Wow!

Everyday observation makes it clear that the response to gluten is not the same for everyone.  There is also so much evidence of other factors affecting mental health (Telis, 2014). Measuring my own mood, now that I am 99% gluten free, I can see that there are other dietary choices that affect how I feel.  I feel better when I am eating unprocessed food and plenty of fruit and veg at regular intervals. In turn that favourably affects my weight which affects my mood – all good for having a sense of humour about yourself when you request gluten-free paleo-friendly low-fat options down at the lunch bar.

Carr, A. C. (2012). Depressed mood associated with gluten sensitivity—resolution of symptoms with a gluten-free diet The New Zealand Medical Journal, 125(1366), 81-82.
McNair, D., & Heuchert, J. (2007). Profile of Mood States technical update. North Tonawanda: Multi-Health Systems.