Posts Tagged 'group project'

5 MBA Consulting Project Success Tips

Last week, I mentioned my interest in CSUF’s MBA capstone course.  I’ve been looking forward to the course since I attended the MBA information session.  The capstone course (taken in one’s final semester) centers around a student consultant project.  Local Orange County businesses hire students through CSUF as business consultants, who then help tackle problems and develop new strategies for these companies.  Since I work in the public sector, I feel the capstone would provide an excellent opportunity to practice all my newly acquired MBA skills.  Luckily for me, I get to experience the consulting project ahead of schedule; each of my courses this semester requires one.

(Courtesy of Flickr)

I have been assigned to groups in each class and know which clients the groups will be working for.  This past Saturday, my Marketing Management group met with our client and needless to say I thought it was an overwhelming experience.  We met for 3 hours, learning about our client’s challenges.  In particular, the company has numerous marketing channels they use to communicate with their customers.  They want us to determine which of these channels most effectively attract customers, and then develop a marketing plan to entice more customers to their business.

It was particularly overwhelming learning as much information as we could about the client.  We absorbed details about their operations, toured their site, met with staff, and discussed their vision for our project.  After going through that initial meeting, I walked away with 5 tips that will be valuable for future consulting projects.

Get everyone’s phone number.  And email and any additional contact information.  This probably seems obvious, and it should be the first thing a project group leader does after the group is created.  But having everyone’s contact information is immensely helpful for staying in communication with everyone.  As the group leader for this consulting project, I made sure to ask for everyone’s current work situation and their undergraduate and MBA degree specializations.  My hope is those pieces of information will help us down the road when dividing up responsibilities and coordinating meeting times.

Share documents in the cloud.  Immediately after forming our group, I created a group Google account and distributed the log-in information to everyone.  I’ve used Google Drive in the past, and it’s been amazingly helpful for coordinating project edits and sharing documents.  I upload important information there, and it helps us cut down on lengthy email chains that can grow to ridiculous lengths.  Dropbox is another great tool groups can use to help manage their numerous project documents.

Set up meeting schedules.  In my 10-person group, more than half the participants work full-time.  That makes meeting scheduling a challenging task.  Group leaders should find a time soon after forming the group to decide when everyone can meet, and whether it’s easier to meet in-person or online.  Services like Skype make meeting over the internet free and simple.  Our group is planning on meeting for 30-45 minutes before each weekly class session, in order to touch base and find out how each member is doing with their assigned responsibilities.

Remember you ABC’s.  In this case, ABC stands for “Always Be Communicating.”  I made sure to start calling our client immediately after forming the group, and I contacted our assigned coach as well to begin brainstorming with him.  Communicating early and often helps with scheduling that initial meeting, and my talks with our coach help me think through the next steps I need to take as project leader.

Check out other groups’ projects.  Mihaylo’s Center for Entrepreneurship allows consulting students to visit its office and look through previous projects.  I visited the office this past Monday, and was able to get a better feel for exactly what will be expected for our final presentation.  I recommended our group members visit the Center and check out the samples as well.  Hopefully that will help get everyone on the same page when we meet to discuss the project in the future, and each member will better understand what’s expected of him or her for our final product.

I know these tips will be immensely helpful in my other course this semester, and our group has already started implementing these strategies for that project.  I know I will continue to refine these tips as our groups progress with the projects, and I will share additional insights and developments as the semester marches on.

Have you participated in a similar MBA client project?  What tips or strategies did you find most useful when working on your project?  Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or tweet me @orangecountymba.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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.