A minute for your feedback please

Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting the best out of your MBA peer study group

One thing about an MBA is that while it is quite individualistic in most aspects(one competes fiercely during academics, placements, scholarships etc), the concept of a study group forces you to develop a working relationship with atleast 5 members a year(more if the composition changes for different subjects/terms as it happens for the second year). One should carefully note that the 'study group' is neither a system(where people are interrelated , working towards a common goal) nor a team(with defined roles and hierarchy). A group does transform into a team over time with the informal group processes setting up norms, Dos and Don'ts and implicit power structure. While free riders are not directly penalized(everyone gets the same grade), some professors ask the team members to rate each other's contribution to group activity, and this rating carries some weight on the coursework. And where the groups are reformed periodically OR voluntarily formed for subjects later, then it no longer stays a single shot single period game(in game theory jargon) but translates into a multi period multi shot game. But this assumes people are rationale. If someone has joined Bschool only for self maximization/chilling out, then that sense of responsibility towards group work does erode. I've lost times of the occasions where my group(or even others) experienced issues with this. 

As a dear friend half jokingly mentioned on his Facebook status, "I love free riders because they sharpen my skills'. But remember, this comes at a cost to you-whether you realize it or not. So be wary of bailing out the other group members always. Some things I and others found useful are
  1. Coopt whom you know/someone vouched for-track records is a good indicator of the tendency to free ride in the future!
  2. Smaller group size-for evident reasons, smaller groups easier to manage
  3. Split task into modules, allot to each person/sub group-that ensures accountability
  4. Meet atleast once-it is then easier to coordinate online/over phone
  5. Keep same group across subjects/events if possible-that makes an equitable division more probably if you play multiple shot games with the same team rather than single shot games, and also allows for unexpected adjustments later! Also, one learns more about the group with later stages, and can accordingly predict better about task times.
  6. Have a coordinator-implicit or explicit-while most groups tend to form one, not having that is a recipe for disaster. so someone HAS to take the initiative, atleast for each task and the buck must stop there, else recipe for disaster.
  7. Informal meetings to celebrate good grades/meetings over coffee etc all help build the required rapport, needed when you need to appeal to a member to sacrifice his night's sleep to help finish the group task(for example). 
the above kind of illustrate the issues with managing peers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment