Group dynamics in academic environment cannot often simulate actual team works in real world. For example, teams in academic environment do not often have any outside influence over decision making. So, group members cannot experience how to live or handle with such influence to make critical decisions.
But still these group works are a great source of learning because we are forced to delegate responsibilities, set and meet time requirement, manage individual differences, collaborate, lead people with strong sense of self actualization and awareness, support each other, influence, or provide feedback.
As a means to understanding group formation, learning experience and effectiveness of our study group- this report tries to high light on the key aspects of our group dynamics: group composition, group dynamics, communication, coordination, member contributions, feedback, decision making, and team-learning. B) Group composition/atmosphere/norms: Groups here in INSEAD typically have 1 or 2 consultants, 1 Indian, 0 or 2 woman and rest are Europeans.
Ours is also typical one. Professional backgrounds are diverse though academic backgrounds are similar. In terms of personality we may be lacking variety and balance. Four of the members have an inclination to see the big picture or see connections whereas miss the necessary details required for doing the things right at ground level. Adel is the only person with strong inclination for results and practicality.
This is a potential weakness for the group as it has proved to be in a few occasions. Our group atmosphere is generally friendly and congenial. We are yet to experience any conflict or unpleasant feelings because we all value humility and we live the INSEAD spirit of collaboration rather than cut throat competition.
It is not that we are trying to be nice as we need to be. I would argue that it is an important social norm of our group. But it is true that there has been no real test to this norm as we are yet to get any project that stretches us to the limits. Moreover, our discussions are limited to the academic projects/assignments.
This could be another reason that our group is yet to feel any high octane debate. If we had discussion on sensitive topics such as racism, we might have experienced some heated discussion. Moreover, informality and candor are yet to come in our group settings where members know each other so well that they can dare to talk about any topics. Hence, we are missing the essence of conflict management at this stage of our group works. I am eagerly waiting for pressure and conflicts in the coming days.
Key Features of Operating Mechanism in our Group: Quality of any team work depends to a larger extent on what is the team goal and whether team has a meaningful purpose. While we do have strong goal, I must say that meaningful purpose is yet to blossom fully for our group. We do agree that learning is the prime driving force for each individual, but so far this has not become evident in our actions. We are concerned mostly about delivering the projects on time.
We are highly committed for delivering our goal- high quality team assignment on time. We have a high preference for flawless report full of analysis and nice graphics. But we miss key instruction such as limitations on number of pages. It is because of the fact that majority of the team members like to see big pictures and don't care about necessary details. So, far it has happened for one FMV assignment. But good point is that we took it as learning. In our group discussion it is generally Mateo who serves as gate openers.
Mateo with innate ability for teaching starts to explain scenario of the case/assignment to others. Vincent is the person who of often plays the role of opposer, as he challenges the popular views in the group. Adel is essentially the mover, who brings everyone together when we are in impasse. Javier and I often play the role of supporters as we agree with the mover or opposer. I also play the role of bystanders as I critically witness the action of others and provide valuable reflection. Decision making in the team tends to be democratic. Everybody's view is sought for agreement.
But I must say that we are far from becoming a team which can move into coordinated patterns of action, without the artificial tedious process of taking each one's view for decision making. The first strong test for our decision making process was during the LPG mock exam. In this exam we could not come to coherent decisions as everybody was having different view points. At some point of time there were sub groups, each group supporting its own view point.
For example I, Vincent and Javier were in one group, Matteo was in another group and Adel was neutral. There was no consensus. Finally, we only ended up making a half done report because of time pressure. This democratic process worked well when we were dealing with technical projects in which have got expertise and definitive answers and almost no ambiguity. The LPG mock exam case had lots of ambiguity, complexity and no best answer.
So, everybody was formulating his own view point based on his understanding or back ground. For example, Matteo was keen only to concentrate on the protagonist-Baker. It is because of the fact that his consulting career given him an understanding that it is difficult to attack anything at company level. Whereas I have experience of carrying out change management at grass root level in the organization, so I thought that company problem also could be addressed. I do not expect that we will reach a consensus building state so early. We can reach that state when each of us simply knows where he is supposed to do (or rather what is best to do) as we all fit into a larger whole.
Our group working process involves reflection as well as revision in decision making carrying out the actual work. For example, in an FMV assignment, our group changed the treatment of tax credit issue once I challenged the assumption behind that treatment. We also divide works in sub groups and we generally don't challenge the leader of the sub groups for his decision. For example, for the LPG egg carrier assignment the sub groups responsible for the landing based changed the initial design for that part. But the parachute team didn't challenge the viability of that design as they were busy on their part.
Matteo often take the larger load of making power point presentations. To outsiders it may seem that he is taking the leadership role or having greater influence. But in out group context it is not true as we believe in the philosophy of leveraging each member's expertise and potential for the common cause. The first real test for our group communication process was in the communication game in the outward bound program.
The learning of that game was to communicate in a simplistic manner rather than assuming about somebody else's background and comprehension ability. But so far we are yet to experience any tough communication issue which would help us to test this hypothesis. In terms of coordination we are depending on two individuals-Adel and Javier though in the prices and market game I am playing that role.
One important aspect of our coordination is constant follow ups by the coordinator with the members. There was one instance in which coordination was not proper as team members did not inform me properly about my tasks for a FMV assignment. I also did not take initiative to ask group members what I am supposed do. For a moment it gave me a feeling neither I nor the group members behaved properly.
But during the feedback session we admitted each other's fault and it has improved the communication and coordination in the group. We had an enlightening feedback session where everybody self criticized and received feedback with equanimity. Some group members even did self deprecating jokes. For example, I knew that punctuality is an issue with me. Hence, I cut jokes about my punctuality and that gave other members comfort to talk about this issue freely.
We also have supportive mindset to accept failure as team failure and to analyze failure objectively rather than pointing at individual. For example, in the outward group activities I was making mistake in the ball throwing game. But group members patiently explained me how can I improve my accuracy of ball throwing.
That spirit is still continuing and will continue. Critique is a key part of our group workings. We analyze our performance and actions in the context of what went wrong rather than pointing fingers at individuals. To handle upsets we reground ourselves and become logical. Emails are very popular form of reflections and critique. I personally feel much comfortable in critique through email. It is because of the fact that I feel comfortable to articulate my thoughts in written form. Here a few excerpts of email communication in our group after the shocking performance in the LPG mock test: Email 1:
Sweet team, As you know, Javier, Vincent and I had a debriefing on the mock LPG exam. Let's start saying that we all acknowledged that was a big failure. I guess also Adel and Shree share the same point of view .. We should be more keen to step back from our own "pet" ideas if the group chooses your 2nd or 3rd best alternative solution, or doesn't agree to use our analytical framework In the early phase it could be useful to identify the top 3 conflicts among the people in the case.
One way to do this could be to make a round where everybody could tell the others what he thinks are the 2 most important conflicts . Have fun!