To Hack or Not to Hack

by tribekat

This morning for training we had a conversation about the time we spend at the beginning of the day when most of us are outside waiting for school groups to arrive.  One person is “on clipboard”, which means they are in charge of greeting groups as they arrive, getting them organized and dispatching explainers to give them orientations.  Everyone else is basically… waiting for something to do.  Sometimes we don’t have to wait long, and the kids start pouring in.  But sometimes ten or fifteen minutes can go by and we’re still waiting.

While we wait, some of us kick around a hacky sack.  This tradition started long before I came onboard.  I don’t hack well.  Ok, I barely hack at all.  But I love circling up with my fellow explainers, waking up my mind and body in the sunshine, while there is sunshine out to enjoy.

I’m not sure if I understood this morning’s conversation very well.  Maybe it’s because I missed the beginning, or maybe it’s because my mind wasn’t fully awake yet.  But there was a question about what our goals are during this “waiting” portion of the morning, and whether or not playing hacky sack effectively meets those goals.

The meeting left me feeling strange, and that strange feeling followed me all day.  I haven’t been able to fully pinpoint what exactly feels so strange, or why, and so I am curious.  I see this as an opportunity to learn about myself and my peers and my job.

As I think about my unease after today’s conversation, I realize that it has little to do with the choice of whether or not to play hacky sack in the morning.  It has more to do with this group that we are, and that we are becoming.  Although some of us are returning Explainers, most of us are new to this group.  There are group behaviors, both formal and informal, that we have inherited from previous Explainer groups, like how we sign in each morning, the Lunch Club and the hacky sack games.  But most of us are new to each other, and we are still learning who we are as a group and how each person “fits” in the group.

I’m reminded of the Tuckman model of team development.  This guy studied group behavior and said that groups go through four stages as they develop: Forming, storming, norming and performing.  For us, forming was the two weeks of training.  We looked to Anne and Sylvia as our leaders, individual roles were murky and we were all getting on the same page about our overall purpose and connection to the rest of the museum.

What we were attempting to do this morning was find agreement and consensus as a group regarding a pretty specific and subtle matter – the nuances of the morning “waiting” period.  Groups find agreement in the Norming stage.  But healthily developing groups don’t skip from Forming to Norming.  They have to go through some Storming first.  Here’s what Tuckman says about Storming:

“Decisions don’t come easily within group. Team members vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves in relation to other team members and the leader, who might receive challenges from team members. Clarity of purpose increases but plenty of uncertainties persist. Cliques and factions form and there may be power struggles. The team needs to be focused on its goals to avoid becoming distracted by relationships and emotional issues. Compromises may be required to enable progress. ”

If this sounds familiar, I think it’s because we are still in the Storming phase.  Tuckman would say that we have to go through this phase in order to settle in and normalize.  Only after we normalize can we then kick ass.  I mean, perform as a team.

So, I guess what feels strange to me is asking a group still in the process of figuring itself out to come to a consensus on a subject that is still a new experience for the majority of the group.  I am not suggesting that we can’t or shouldn’t try to reach collective agreements, or discuss group goals;  that difficult task is bound to spur us along into the Storming stage.  But in the meantime, I look forward to getting to know my fellow Explainers, in the hacky sack circle, on the floor, at our meetings and outside the museum.