Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Teamwork

On a potentially more cheerful note, let's talk about teamwork which, along with "leadership", is the most over-used term in MBA land ever. I am proof that teamophobes can survive an MBA, at least at the GSB. Unfortunately, all the reasons that I hated working in teams (namely free-riding) in my past life, persist even when surrounded by alleged overachieving, organized types. Fortunately, the GSB allows you to pick your own teams and, in some courses, minimize it's role in homework completion. I especially like the professors which encourage us to discuss the case in groups but submit most write-ups individually (Marketing) or givefree-riders the boot (Managing the Workplace).

First, a definition. By teamwork, I don't mean general communication skills and friendliness - responding to emails promptly, taking the time to explain your ideas in person, etc. I mean sitting down in a room and not coming out until all participants agree on the final product, or collaborating on a project on which everyone must contribute equally and as peers.

Teams, when done well, are fantastic. You share ideas and brilliant insights, enhance your learning, make friends and share the burden of homework. Or, at least, you each have an equal opportunity to free-ride on the others' work. Teams, when done poorly, are a inescapable time-suck, creating enmity where once there was only amiability, and burdening you with regularly completing homeworks on behalf of perfectly competent classmates (who tend to be busy securing ibanking internships at Goldman ... ahem). I find that I have one group of each type each quarter. And despite my best attempts to ferret out the free-riders, the problem is inescapable ... and a great source of annoyance.

I try to be mindful about communicating expectations and delineating responsibilities and generally upholding my end of the bargain but my good teams this year were good simply because my fellow teammates helped make it work. So, unless you are capable of changing your classmates' core personalities, beyond picking the right group members in the first place (so important but so hard to to!), I don't think there's much a poor MBA student can do to salvage a wayward group. So while it seems MBA heresy to say so, as bad groups seem unavoidable, I prefer to avoid groups altogether. I am more a fan of the, let's share ideas and chat amongst ourselves but in the end you eat your own work scheme. Which, happily, seems doable in IM.


Anonymous said...

I know couple of people in other b-schools. I can google their names find them on b-school sites. I know many people from chi gsb. I can no where find any references to them on b-school sites. Is information about students in clubs restricted?

Iday said...

Hey - congrats on BoB!

The.Grey.One said...

Congrats on the win !!!
I greatly enjoyed your thoughts (posts), and was sure that you will come out on top.
And I would have certainly tried to rig the election in your favor if we guys were allowed to vote :)
Keep the good work going.