Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Which is more effective - a team or community of practice?

I am writing an abstract for the conference "Breathing new life into maternity care". This conference is a multi-disciplinary conference held in 2010 in Alice Springs, Australia.

Team or community of practice?
One of the main aims of the conference is to bring midwives and obstetricians together to encourage more collaborative teamwork amongst the two professions. I was all set to write an abstract talking about how we can use online communication tools to work more effectively as a virtual team. But I have got side tracked into asking the question: should we be aiming to form virtual teams in maternity services or would it be more appropriate to think in terms of communities of practice? What is the difference? What will work better?

Working in teams
I have to be honest and admit to some suspicion when I hear the call for 'teamwork'. I welcome inter-professional collaboration but my idea of teamwork sometimes differs from that of other health professionals. I'm all for teamwork but in a team where I am an equal partner, bringing my own strengths and perspectives that are valued along with every other member of the team.

Developing communities of practice
So maybe we should be focusing on developing communities of practice as opposed to teams. I see communities of practice being less hierarchical than teams and more inclusive...where members work together to support, mentor and develop each other....and where consumers (and their families) can join and contribute.

What do you think - is there a difference between teams and communities of practice, or is it just a matter of semantics?

Image: '3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept'
www.flickr.com/photos/22177648@N06/2137735924 lumaxart


willie campbell said...

I am inclined to believe teams are an institutional structure. there will be exepctations of roles and their place in a heirarchy. A community of practice is somehow looser and softer in its political impact, BUT may take so much time to work through that maybe a team will get the work done.

Coordinator of the Printernet Project said...

If there is a clear definable goal it's appropriate to organize in a team. The best teams are informal and pretty small with people who have worked together, share the same values and most important are committed to achieving a goal within a specific time frame. It reorganizes when the goal is met.

A community of practice is the best framework from which teams can emerge and disband.

It's a bit like a schoolyard. People hang out, get ot know each other to build trust and a common language.

Then 3 or 5 kids join together to play basketball. On the court, different rules. The point is to win. When the game is over, the individuals get back to helping each other and hanging out.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Willie There's no doubt there are times when you want a team to swing into action, with a clear leader and members who are prepared to get on and do as they are told quickly and efficiently - this is especially true in times of clinical emergencies. However, for longer term collaboration I believe a COP approach will be more effective. Research has shown that teams in maternity services can be dysfunctional because one profession always wants to take the leadership role and other health professionals/team members do not feel valued. We have to get away from hierarchical approaches to collaboration.

The other thing about COPs is that health consumers/patients can become members of that community...or that would be my vision.

@The people involved... Thanks so much for your definition...helped me get my head around the two concepts.

Moira said...

I like the notion of a COP. It ifeels more flexible and inclusive of the needs & changing needs of the client/patient/family/community itself. A team, with it's goals and process and hierarchy feels less wieldy etc + everything you have said about teams. A COP feels like it is easier to have that inclusive pt (etc) centred approach that is not about the team ( read hierarchy etc). By the way - semantics are meaning and words we choose, language, is human's access to convey meaning :)

Custom Essay Writing said...

I guess team work is more effective. If, the team members work for personal development than there is a greater chance of failure. If they work for communal practice by setting apart from personal growth concept then there is a greater chance of achieving your team or communal goals

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello Moira and Essay writing

What research has shown is that teams made up of doctors and midwives can be dysfunctional because of the hierarchical approach in healthcare ie doctors are at the top of the tree and midwives feel undervalued. I would like to see how scenarios in SL can help develop effective teamwork, where you are away from the stresses of real life situations but with the authenticity that SL affords. What I need are some people to collaborate with me on this.

Helen said...

Hi Sarah
I think this is an interesting question, but I am not sure that I understand the difference between the two terms. Can you please explain it a bit more?