Henry Tam Case
What is your evaluation of MGI’s team processes? What were the root causes of the team’s process problems? The root cause of MGI’s process problems are a lack of direction and clear personal responsibilities. When looking at the team meetings it is very clear that there was little organization to their efforts. It also seemed as though there was not sufficient purpose to the team’s efforts. Many members were more interested in validating their ideas on what to do to others rather than exchanging ideas or creating an open environment.
Quiet often there would be time spent on one topic, then another, then more and more without resolving the first topic. The arguments between Sasha and Dana, the HBS students and the musicians, and others never seemed to go anywhere as mentioned by Dana: “The brainstorming sessions were great at first but they went on too long, and there was no implementation. ” Establishing finite goals at the end of each meeting could have greatly increased meeting effectiveness. If resolved, the arguments could have become more useful in determining the company’s direction.
A good example of how the process problems were caused by a lack of clearly defined personal responsibilities was how the role of the HBS students Henry and Dana were perceived differently by Sasha and Igor. Igor understood that Henry and Dana wanted to help with MGI’s business strategy. Sasha on the other hand, thought that Henry and Dana where there primarily to write the business plan for the contest and that he could also utilize their status as HBS students to call HBS school graduates for help. Henry and Dana disagreed with Sasha’s view of their role and it led to some conflict.
As team members brought more people on throughout the project they never spelled out what they wanted the new person to bring to the table. Only after it would become an issue would there be a conversation. Further if someone was tasked with heading the meetings, there wouldn’t be opening and closing issues and forcing some sort of decision making procedure. Overall MGI’s team process was very shaky at first and only after several meetings did they begin to develop more effective ways to work together. At the end of the article it is clear that they still have several more issues to address in order to function together properly.
What are the strengths of the MGI team? How would you have evaluated the MGI team “on paper”, that is, before their first meeting? The MGI team had the potential for great success. Being a multidisciplinary team they had the skill sets needed for making a successful business plan. When putting together a team, one of the first objectives is for everyone to get to know each other. This proves very important so as to create a friendly working environment. Being that the three Russians already knew each other, were great friends, and already produced a product together, they knew exactly what it would take for them to be efficient.
They knew what they needed in terms of people to get their business off the ground. Henry and Dana being in the school environment were used to meeting and getting to know other peoples work habits. So being able to interact with different people and cultures would be an advantage. Henry and Dana were both Harvard Business School students but had no previous experience in real life scenarios. Their only experiences came from their course work and discussions on how to help start up companies. Sasha being a HBS MBA graduate had the skills learned in class and also the experiences in both the Musical Nutcracker and starting up his own business.
Between the three of them they had very strong management potentials. Igor being exposed to both United States and European markets served as an asset. He had a great reputation in the music business and had previous connections when he worked for different business parties. Roman being a well known and accomplished composer had the skills needed to make a quality product in the music industry. Although not in the first meeting, Dav Clark would appear to be a great source of knowledge regarding software development.
Additionally, Alexander would prove to be helpful in both the business aspect and music portions of the project. As a whole the team looked exceptionally strong based on their experiences and varying degrees of education in their fields. The different personalities posed a critical issue with the team but would eventually be addressed in future meetings. Were the differences among the team members a liability or an asset? As in every team there will be differences of opinion and therefore stress in the working group. During this case study we saw the largest differences between Sasha and the HBS Business Plan Team.
The team was excited about competing in the contest not only for the experience but to practice their skills for future business opportunities as well. In this sense not only were the differences between the musicians and the HBS students an asset, it was their differences that led the musicians to seek out the HBS students in the first place. Tension between Dana, Henry, and the Russians was seen in the following meetings when Sasha felt his material was ignored. In that sense their differences were a major liability.
Dana and Henry were also getting annoyed by the fact that they were doing the majority of the work even when they had other things to do. As time went on they learned how to operate better and became more aware of how to look past their background and opinion differences. From earlier discussions in class we discussed how anger causes more motivation and higher performing work in the work place. This I think is true to some extent. Dana and Henry were so focused on getting the job done that they put their other homework aside to accomplish their HBS competition goal.
This caused the unorganized Russians to be the fuel for the fire. Being a contest and having specific items to submit was a major issue in the competition. Dana and Henry wanted this to be a growing experience but the Music Games International founders only wanted to get their business going. This was a problem because meeting deadlines for the competition was not a concern of theirs. We believe that the differences between the members were a major liability. What could have Henry done earlier to avoid the team’s problems?
There were many things that Henry could have done from the start to avoid the problems the team faced from meeting to meeting. First, the team meetings had no structure to follow. They were very unorganized. It seemed as though everyone jumped from idea to idea without any real goal to achieve. Henry should have laid the team rules of behavior down from the start of the first meeting. There weren’t any rules of conduct, thus very unorganized meetings followed. Guidelines such as the flow of discussion, constructive confrontation, and delegating specific assignments to team members should have been established.
Ideas were coming from every direction because there was no clear setting for discussion. Many identity issues surfaced resulting in a lot of confrontation among team members. Confrontation was not constructed. Also, no assignments were given to any of the team members. Henry should have divided tasks and set completion dates for the team to follow. He should have divided the workload between the members that best fit their personalities so he would not have been so overwhelmed at the end. This includes performance-oriented tasks. Henry should have challenged the team early on to hit a specific objective.
They each could have researched a specific business sector to market the product and then bring their findings to the meetings. Instead, nothing was assigned and the second meeting would resemble the first: no structure and chaos. There was also no evaluation on how each member would best contribute to the team. Multiple people played the same roles. This can be seen when the musicians told Henry to change his marketing strategy. They were assuming the business role in which they had no experience in. Some meetings there were multiple leaders disputing amongst each other.
There was no communication between Sasha and Henry. New people were added without approval and Henry made no objections. Henry needed to sit down with Sasha and figure out what his intentions were. Different groups would also form inside the team. These groups had separate strategies thus pulling the team in all sorts of directions, adding to the chaos. Accountability was also a major issue. No one was held accountable probably because nobody was assigned a specific task to be held accountable for. This is one reason why they weren’t really a team. Instead, they formed groups and alliances among each other.
Sasha felt left out during the PowerPoint presentations. Why not include Sasha in Henry and Dana’s meetings? Or, why were there meetings outside of the team in the first place? Each individual worked on whatever they felt like working on, not on any particular assignment. Even Henry himself was caught doing this. Henry would work on research for the education market without telling anyone. This goes back to the delegation of specific assignments and informing the entire team what was expected. Team performance was never maximized. The meetings should have been run with well-prioritized agendas and specific assignments iven. This would have resulted in the accountability that is needed in a team that performs at a high level. At the end, what actions could Henry have taken to increase the team’s effectiveness? From reading this case study, it is clear the team that was put in place to complete the business plan could have been much more effective in many areas. Some of these could have been time management, group cohesiveness, organization and planning. Henry should have taken swift, assertive steps to modify the group’s behavior as soon he said, “I suggested that each person summarize their vision for the company.
We went around the table and found that even after all our discussions, each person had a different vision! ” At this point, it would have become quite clear a change needed to occur. When looking at group dynamics, it becomes increasingly difficult to work together when goals and norms for the group are not clearly defined. The article “The Discipline of Teams” states, “The best teams invest a tremendous amount of time and effort exploring, shaping, and agreeing on a purpose that belongs to them both collectively and individually. The MGI/Business Plan Team was spread out and no one had the same vision. This is the first thing that Henry could have done as a knowledgeable outsider joining the MGI Team. He could have told them that they were going to create a mission statement that clearly defined the company’s focus, goals and to some degree a way to conduct business. The group was very fragmented in the way they thought, the way they worked, and the way they came together for meetings. Having one vision and one goal could have easily given the group a set of guidelines to try to follow.
Time management when working in a group is crucial when trying to plan and execute an effective meeting. The MGI Team’s meetings often went longer than anticipated and rarely were productive. Henry could have taken the role of time keeper and meeting organizer. In this role, he could take meeting minutes and make sure the group stuck to the outline that was predetermined based on the progress of the last meeting. When the minutes were circulated to each group member after the meeting, they would all be able to see how effective the meeting actually was.
Henry should have been more assertive and revealed some of the weaknesses within the group. It would have been a tough discussion with Sasha as he seemed very confrontational with the others in the group. Henry should have pulled Sasha and Dana aside first as their clashing personalities seemed to cause the greatest disturbance. As an outsider, Henry could have made some meaningful suggestions on the way the group could work more effectively and handle emotions better. Organization and meeting preparation are some things that Henry and Dana did particularly well, but the group did not seem to follow.
He could have told everyone some of the techniques that he used to prepare for meetings and see if anyone took his suggestions. If meeting after meeting went by and people still were not prepared, he could again, become more assertive and tell his group members that they need to prepare 5-10 PowerPoint slides for each meeting. Overall, if Henry acted as more assertive and brought some of the group’s negative habits into the open, he could have really made a positive impact on getting the group on track and keeping their goals and vision in focus.