Some of the best work of a multi-disciplinary can be accomplished informally – just by meeting together – by building relationships, creating lines of communication, and sharing basic information about each other’s work.
One function that warrants a more formalized or systematic approach relates to accountability: who is going to do what, when, how, and under what circumstances.
The nature of MDT work can lead to role ambiguity in two ways: First, lack of specificity about the expectations members have of each other can lead to misunderstandings about those responsibilities. This confusion might be more likely to happen if several members play parallel professional roles, share the same interest, or hold similar leadership skills.
Ambiguity can also lead to MDT members making inaccurate assumptions that can complicate plan implementation or prevent tasks from being accomplished.
Holding specific people accountable might initially feel uncomfortable, but it allows the team to follow up on their actions. Without being explicit in stating and revisiting expectations, there is no way to ensure that each task is being handled appropriately. In order to best help your community, your team has to be open and consistent about your mutual accountability.
Step 1: Remove any role ambiguity. Before assigning a role or task, be sure you know why that function is important and needs to be assigned. Talk with your team about the expected outcomes of the role and strive for agreement about why and how a task needs to be carried out. Make sure that all members understand the role that is assigned to each person, whether that relates to the work of the MDT or interactions with clients. Summarize why the expectations placed on any individual will be important to the success of the team.
Step 2: Be specific about the expectations for the work. Clear explanations of the tasks are less likely to be misinterpreted. Documenting the expectations in minutes of the MDT meetings provides the team a useful reference for the future.
Step 3: Say the words. One strategy is to wrap up every meeting by summarizing the next steps people are expected to take. That also provides an opportunity to design back up plans of support or designate points of expected collaboration. Similarly, begin the next meeting by asking for updates on progress.
If the MDT creates permanent roles, formalize the expectations in writing. Clarifying the expectations of the position creates ownership and can be referenced in times of confusion. It also helps prevent the duplication of responsibilities, thereby increasing productivity.
Finally, provide follow up on tasks and roles. Consistent constructive feedback and recognition for tasks can help motivate team members. Everyone needs to hold each other accountable rather than placing that responsibility on one person. Make sure your team is aware how accountability is necessary for a successful team. Everyone benefits by understanding each other’s roles, as well as the accountability expectations placed on them.
Margaret Henderson and Rebekah Appleton relied on resources contained within the following to co-author this post:
A Practitioner’s Perspective of Multidisciplinary Teams: Analysis of Potential Barriers and Key Factors for Success.
5 Simple Ways to Improve Accountability in Your Team https://www.thoughtfulleader.com/improve-accountability-in-your-team/
Multidisciplinary Team Working: From Theory to Practice https://www.mhcirl.ie/file/discusspapmultiteam.pdf