Terms of reference a tool and process for clarity and communication
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Terms of Reference: A Tool and Process for Clarity and Communication. Karen A. Blase, PhD & Allison Metz, PhD Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Regional Implementation Team Meeting Minnesota Department of Education Minneapolis, MN

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Terms of Reference: A Tool and Process for Clarity and Communication

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Terms of reference a tool and process for clarity and communication

Terms of Reference: A Tool and Process for Clarity and Communication

Karen A. Blase, PhD & Allison Metz, PhD

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Regional Implementation Team Meeting

Minnesota Department of Education

Minneapolis, MN

June 30, 2009


Setting the stage for multi level group work

Setting the Stage for Multi-Level Group Work

  • Establishing Terms of Reference (ToR)

  • Terms of Reference (ToR) are detailed in a written document

    • Outlining the purpose of the project or group,

    • How it will be structured and implemented.

    • It is like an internal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

  • Helps you clarify communication, mandates, and core features and functions of the group


Terms of reference

Plan

Act

Do

Study

Terms of Reference

  • ToR is quite frequently used in business and planning endeavors

  • Creating a detailed ToR is a critical part of any project

  • The ToR is an important Plan step in a PDSA Cycle for Group Work


Benefits

Benefits

  • ToR can facilitate work because:

    • It establishes common ground and a common understanding of why a group has been formed and what is expected.

    • It is a proactive way to ensure that there is agreement about important dimensions of the project.

    • It clarifies both the role of the team and may also clarify individual roles on the team

    • Increases comfort and legitimacy of “all voices” on the team

    • Such agreement, in the absence of work or issues, helps the group talk more openly about diverse opinions and reach consensus.


Tor for agreement creation common values

ToR for Agreement Creation: Common Values

  • Details “values and ways of work” that the group will abide by/use/review throughout the project

  • An opportunity – in the absence of the actual work to:

    • Surface Challenges

    • Get confusion on the table and move to clarity

    • Reduce the likelihood of ‘distractions’ during the work of the group


Key tor components

Key ToR Components

  • Vision for the Work Together

  • Scope and Objectives

  • Expected Outcomes and Deliverables

  • Boundaries (what it is and is not, when are we done) and Limitations

  • Authority, Accountability and Reporting Requirements

    • Linking Communication Protocols for Alignment (with whom do we communicate, how, and how often and for what purpose)

  • Roles and Functions of individuals (who participates in what ways)

    • Leadership

    • Term

    • Membership

    • Orientation for New Members

  • Resources available to the project

  • Decision-making process

  • Values and Ways of Work

  • Implementation Plans


Use it or lose it do

Plan

Do

Act

Study

Use It or Lose It (Do)

  • If the document is actively used and referenced throughout the life of the project it can:

    • Help maintain focus by:

      • Using the ToR so that the project or group remains on track or on “mission”

      • Serving as an aid to troubleshooting to maintain focus (e.g. “are we still aligned on values and way of work?”, “do we have the authority, people, resources we need right now?”)

      • Serve as a ‘prompt’ before a meeting, a discussion, or a decision.


Use it or lose it do1

Plan

Do

Act

Study

Use It or Lose It (Do)

  • If the document is actively used and referenced throughout the life of the project it can:

    • Help refocus when group dynamics are bumpy (e.g. “I wonder if we should revisit our agreed upon way of work, we said…..but now I am hearing…, So have we changed our way of work or scope of work or have we strayed from our roles/responsibilities, values?”).

    • Support “getting on the balcony” with respect to group process, dynamics, and agreement creation – “let’s think about our end goals”


Revisit reflect revise

Plan

Do

Act

Study

Revisit, Reflect, Revise

  • Nothing is carved in stone

    • Revisit and Reflect (Study)

      • In the absence of actual issues - Get on the Balcony

      • Identify emerging challenges

        • The very “work of the group” may call for a change in the ToR

        • Opportunity to be sure all are heard

    • Revise (Act)

      • Change any elements to improve group functioning or the success of the overall project

      • Go again (PDSA)


Next right steps

Next Right Steps

  • Getting Started

    • How might you go about introducing the idea of Terms of Reference to a group or project team that is just forming (e.g. CPEP’s role in the PEP – PIP cycle, new functions for District and School Leadership Teams)?

    • What “case” could you make?

    • Who would you talk with before ‘making the case’?

  • Getting Re-started

    • Is a current group, committee, or project “stuck” or wrestling with adaptive challenges?

    • Could they benefit from “re-starting” by developing a Terms of Reference document?

    • How and with whom might you begin?


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