Slowing Down To Make Your Team More Efficient: Dawna Ballard on Coordinating Child Advocacy

In a crisis, we wrongly think that talk is cheap and action matters most. By improving coordination, slowing down can speed us up.

Dr. Dawna Ballard, Associate Professor at the University of Texas Department of Communication Studies

Prosecution of child protection cases used to be difficult because agencies with different cultures considered themselves too busy on urgent cases to coordinate effectively

Dawna sets the stage by describing research on how team coordination can shape people’s understanding of time, job satisfaction and performance. She describes two ways of thinking of time in teams. In one view, time is fungible, where time units are exchangeable. That’s not true- a minute at 2am means something different than a time at 2pm. In contrast, an epochal view imagines time as composed of events (see Ishak & Ballard 2012). Any complex project includes both plannable, fungible components and event-driven, epochal components.

Understanding The Complex Network of Child Protection

How to Study the Coordination of Extreme Action Teams

To study continuous adaptation by extreme action teams for child protection, Dr. Ballard and her collaborators visited five centers (urban, suburban, rural), followed 7 case briefings, observed 217 hours of activity, joined staff trainings, reviewed training documents, held focus groups, and surveyed over 1,400 people. They then used a multi-method approach to study the data they collected, including timelining, linguistic matching, and statistical models of surveys.

What Project Timelines Reveal About Coordination



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J. Nathan Matias

Citizen social science to improve digital life & hold tech accountable. Assistant Prof, Cornell. Prev: Princeton, MIT. Guatemalan-American