Despite our best intentions, working together is hard! It’s often harder than working on your own, but the results will be better if you figure out how to take advantage of everyone’s ideas.
Pitfall #1. Nobody’s in charge.
We’re used to organizing around a leader. It can feel sorta directionless when nobody is in charge. Sometimes nobody is and that’s ok. However, this arrangement should be intentional. Figure out how your group will resolve conflict and make decisions, before your faced with either. Will it be through discussion? Voting? Majority rules? Consensus? Write it down in a team charter. A team charter can make or break a group that prefers shared accountability.
Pitfall #2. Everyone thinks they are in charge.
Self-organized groups are often made up of strong, passionate, bright people. If nobody actually is the leader (and you like it this way) see point one. Otherwise, identify and agree on roles and responsibilities in advance so everyone comes to the group with the same understanding of who’s doing what.
Pitfall #3. Everyone wants to be in charge, but they don’t necessarily want to do any work.
Another messy one. One that can be prevented by clarifying the skills and work that each person brings to the project. Make that part of your on-boarding process for including new members.
Pitfall #4. The lifespan of the group outlives it’s usefulness.
It was while reading the numerous insights Clay Shirky has published that I first started thinking of organizations as porous. Always changing. Ephemeral. A good group knows when it’s time to close shop. Finish with grace. Lots of good things come to an end. It’s not a failure. Get some closure. It’s ok to move on.
Pitfall #5. The group folds before it finishes what it set out to do.
This is also not a failure. Maybe the time has not come for this idea; or maybe it’s an idea who’s time has not yet come. Document what you can and put it in a place where other people can find it. Like in the Policy Seed Bank on GCPEDIA.
Unless you actively try to avoid these pitfalls; you may fall into one of them. If anyone has advice for avoiding or handling them, please comment!