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Monday, February 8, 2010

The Frustration of Meetings

As I mentioned in my first post I'm enrolled in an MBA program.  I really like it for the most part, but I have one complaint: too much group work!  I learn much more when I'm able to go at my own pace.  I can skim through things I find easy and spend more time focusing on things that don't come quite so easily.  Plus we are all juggling full time jobs and taking evening classes, so getting together to have regular meetings can be unbearable.

The idea behind group work is that members can draw upon each others' knowledge and experience, and therefore the whole is better than the sum of its parts.  This hasn't been my experience.  This article in Colgate University's student newspaper shares my opinion:
We feel frustrated when our group members don't put in their share of the work or are unwilling to compromise when it comes time to produce a cohesive work. We feel disappointed when the project turns out disjointed and not up to our standards. We never feel any kind of intellectual fulfillment or pride like which the project is supposed to give us.
First let me say that group participation and effort aren't a problem for me.  I'm guessing that applies more toward undergraduate projects than to most MBA programs.  But we're all reasonably smart, have diverse backgrounds and experiences, and have different ideas about how to approach a project.  In order to reach consensus we all must be willing to give up some of our own unique ideas.

Colleges believe group projects are a useful way to simulate the "teamwork" of typical business environments.  Unfortunately they are right.  The more people that participate in a meeting at work, the less likely it is that the meeting is productive.  There may be plenty of discussion, but very little decision.  Receiving input from others can be invaluable, but receiving input from too many people can be crippling.
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