MBA Group Projects Aren’t Actually That Bad…

Back when I was an undergraduate student, I was never a fan of group projects.  I always felt I could accomplish all the project work on my own, and very often that was the case.  While earning my undergraduate degree though, I wasn’t working full-time and I had the ability to devote as much time as I wanted to my studies.  I haven’t had those same advantages while earning my CSUF MBA, and thus have learned to view group projects as something to appreciate (not something I should dread).

This change of heart was illustrated this past week the group in my information technology class.  I was partnered with three classmates on a project that we turned in on Tuesday.  Now in the past, I felt I could do all the work needed to complete a group project, and I also couldn’t stand working in a group where not everyone pulled their own weight.  I was extremely pleased to learn through my MBA experiences that those long-held beliefs don’t seem as accurate in graduate school.

I think it’s safe to assume most MBA students want to earn their degree and are willing to work hard to do so.  Many students (like myself) are often paying for the degree themselves, and therefore want to get the greatest educational value out of their experience.  When I work with classmates on group projects, I notice these factors have weeded out students who aren’t genuinely interested in learning and earning their MBA.  Everyone in my group wanted to earn an A+ on the project, and prove we had learned the material and could apply it to a “real-life” business situation.  I felt the project work was divided evenly, and everyone focused on areas that complemented their unique skill sets.

Our project involved a lot of computations on Excel, and I know those activities don’t exactly complement my skill set.  Luckily though, the other group members felt confident doing the computations, so they tackled that part of the project.  I know I can write well, and so I volunteered to write the final report.  The other group members developed the Excel models, tested them, and used them to solve the project problems.  I then took their computations and turned them into a clean, detailed, concise final report.  Everyone was able to focus on project tasks that complimented their skills, and the result was a very good grade.

My feelings towards group projects have definitely changed, and I’ve gleaned some insights I believe also apply to team projects at work:

  • First and most importantly, everyone on the team needs to buy into its purpose.  This puts everyone on the same page towards accomplishing a shared goal.
  • Incentives need to be structured so everyone is willing to do an appropriate share of the work.  In the case of our project, we were going to share in the final grade so it was in our best interests to ensure everyone did their job and made significant contributions.
  • Group diversity in extremely important.  The critical factor here is to have a variety of skills and experiences in the group, so members collectively can tackle any hurdle they may face while working on the project.

These insights are one of my favorite parts of the MBA program.  I relish learning new ideas, theories and skills that I can apply to my work in an effort to become both a better leader and employee.  I’m hoping for many more experiences like this during my next three semesters at CSUF.

Have you had any great (or terrible) group project experiences (either at school or at work)?  Share them in the comments section below.

Here’s an article I read this week that I found interesting:

“How to Curate Your Own Personal Job Feed” – This article offers 3 great pieces of advice for improving your job search.  Unemployment may be high, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy locating a job.  These techniques could help better narrow your focus to find that perfect job you’ve been hunting for.

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