Monday, September 5, 2011

The MBA Project: Team Work

Teamwork is the cornerstone of any MBA program.  That may seem counter-intuitive at first, given the competitive nature of the free market business world, but the reality is that even people who are going to go off and become the sole proprietors of a small business still need to know how to work effectively with others.  You have to learn how to engage with other people from varying backgrounds, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  In many business school courses, team projects are a significant portion of your grade.

For me, team work is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, I generally enjoy working on solo projects that go at my own pace and that do not depend on the contributions (and therefore hinderances) of others.  On the other hand, working in teams is often more efficient and it forces you to consider alternative options and perspectives. Not to mention you tend to learn something from the other person--be it a skill or just a valuable lesson--and let's not forget the social camaraderie!  My team has already been out for a 2 margarita lunch together. ;-)

Our cohort was divided into teams by the MBA administration, so as to maximize diversity and simulate conditions in the real world working environment.  There are six teams with about 6-7 people each.

My team has 6 people, and we are awesome.  I will respectfully decline to name and profile everyone individually for privacy reasons, but here is a quick rundown:  I am one of two women on the team, and we have backgrounds in engineering, small business ownership, financial advisory, retail management, etc.  One of my teammates is from Saudi Arabia.  He and his family are here for 2 years while he earns his MBA here and runs his real estate firm back home.  How cool is that?

So we are all "stuck together", as it were, for the first semester of class.  Since after that everyone in the evening MBA program tends to accelerate or decelerate to finish at their own pace, we aren't expected to remain a unit after this.  During the orientation week, we had breakout sessions with team assignments pretty much every day, and the first big test of our ability to get something accomplished was last Saturday, the final day of Orientation Week.

It was a contest between all 6 teams to build a sand castle at Coronado Island with a 2 hour time limit.  We had to plan and execute a sand castle with about 3 days notice, and we were judged by random people that the professor rounded up on the beach that morning.  The criteria was height, stability, and beauty.  There were some pretty impressive creations from this; one team built a pyramid mountain of sand that was easily 6 or 7 feet tall!  Another team made a really great looking VW bug and they even dug out a little road in front of it, and their pitch to the judges was about how the MBA would give them the drive to continue down the roads of their career...or something...another team had a village seated at the base of a volcano, and said village featured a hot tub.

So anyway, you know those Mayan pyramids, like at Chichen Itza?


Well check this bad boy out.

Behold!

I have a confession to make...this project started out as a 3 tier cake.  About an hour into it, we realized that it just wasn't happening.  It's a real bear to keep that much sand moist and packed, and as we built it, the sides took a natural slant shape.  So we modified the design a bit, added some stairs and a temple entrance on top, and *BAM*!  Mayan pyramid.  I may have pitched it to the judges as a temple of wisdom, built on front of a pool of knowledge, leading to burning flames, blah blah blah....then one of my teammates also threw in the International element and how it ties into our group and the USD mission etc etc etc...

...anyway, we WON!

It wasn't the tallest creation and the VW bug was arguably more beautiful, but it was definitely very solid and really had the overall package.  Not to mention we all worked well together and made quick decisions to implement changes when something wasn't working.  I feel like with this win, we're off to a really good start this semester.  We have a lot more work to do together in the months ahead and I am looking forward to seeing how our group dynamic strengthens and takes shape.

Yeah, Team 3!