“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
Teamwork is great – when everyone is moving forward together. As MBA students, working with groups or on teams is necessary. Sometimes, we can create our ideal group which includes professionals from different industries who offer diverse skills sets, and everyone gets along like lifelong friends. Other times, we find ourselves in random groups and have to work with different work styles, personalities and leadership styles. Defining the goals of the project may be straightforward (as in, they’re listed in the syllabus), but the path to the final product can be an epic battle.
Everyone has that one horrible group experience that still makes them shudder when they find out a group project is worth 40% of the final grade. We’ve all worked with the one who loves the sound of his voice so much that your group is penalized for going over the time limit, or the one who cannot finish writing her piece because she is too busy obsessing over PowerPoint animations, or the one who…(insert your awful group member story here).
Please share your experiences and tips for group projects! To get the conversation going, I’ve started a list of tips/ideas for Getting Through Groupwork:
- Assess the situation and get their digits.
Get everyone’s emails and cell phone numbers once you are assigned to work together. Introduce each other and know what everyone does and what they can offer to the team. Knowing you have an IT specialist on your team in your IT strategy class is a little gem of information that you want to know now.
- Get started early (seriously).
Set out a schedule, and work together to decide on dates for deliverables. Some of the group may not appreciate your overzealous planning efforts at first, but in the end, while other groups are scrambling, you can enjoy some time to revise and rehearse if you need to present your work.
Last semester, my group started working on our project six weeks before it was due (was not my idea, okay…but I appreciated it!). Our first meeting was relaxed and we planned out the next six weeks. No one felt rushed and everyone got their parts done on their own time – when we got together to combine all of our work, we had ample time to revise, edit, and even rehearse make sure the entire presentation flowed nicely. It felt like minimal effort and we all brought home an A. Totally the best group experience ever.
- Deal with conflicts with “big picture thinking.”
Not everyone is going to go along with everything the group decides, and some may enjoy playing the other side, every. time. you. discuss. anything. Deal with these team members and conflicts that arise by reminding everyone of the end goal, and how much this project fits into the big picture. This may be a required class that does not apply to anyone’s major, but no one wants to fail.
Also, no one wants to be the nerd in the group, policing everyone else, yes – we know this. But, if you “don’t care,” and “it’s just a project” ….why are you there?
- Understand the value of Google Docs.
Google Docs is fantastic for working in groups. In case you’ve never seen one of these before, a Google Doc is a shared document that is easily accessed using an email address (docs.google.com). They are free and easy to use. Not much else to say about this, other than that I will take a Google Doc over a clogged Inbox full of 73 versions of a PowerPoint presentation any day.