December 11, 2005

Team Evaluations

Throughout my academic career at Case Western Reserve University, I have worked on more than a dozen team projects dealing with a variety of topics. Some of my experiences in group work have been terrific while others have left me hoping for more. Therefore, I am often pleased when one of the grades for a project consists of a team self assessment process where team members rank each other on their performance in the group.
Although this process is relatively common, I have never been asked to form my own set of criteria by which my team mates should be scored. This was a very new experience for me in MGMT 250 and I feel that it showed me a new side of team projects at Case.
As a group we brainstormed several categories which we thought were the most important to the success of the project. After arriving at a final list, several different assessment rubrics were authored as a means of giving the team members a choice as to the exact format of the evaluations. Although each form contained very similar categories, the point systems on certain rubrics favored higher scores where other formats were less forgiving.
While I did expect that the format that would result in the highest marks would be favored, I had not predicted how well the choices of team members correspond to their individual weaknesses. Therefore, team members who were seen as being the strongest favored evaluation techniques that highlighted their strengths in timeliness for example. Conversely, those persons who had experienced problems with attendance chose methods that did not heavily weigh attendance.
These results may not be terribly striking but they do point to the fact that team members are very aware of how they are perceived the remainder of the group. Thus, it seems that being candid about opinions of each other in a team setting may be an even more positive objective than I had previously considered since those persons are most likely aware of general problems.

The Danger of Assumptions

I was fascinated by a point that was made by the speaker who discussed on the job punishment and firing. Much of his speech centered on material that everyone expected he would cover. This included references to appropriate punishment and highlights of which actions warrant reprimand. However, the exercise that he presented the class with on the misperception of facts was very striking to me.
The simple example that he shared with the class, dealing with a description of a possible robbery and several follow-up questions which tested our understanding of the passage, resulted in very surprising outcomes for most participants. Most students, including myself, were confident in their ability to analyze a simple story and to derive to appropriate facts from that account. However, as the presenter demonstrated, people are naturally prone to assuming facts about much of what they read or hear.
The conclusion that my classmates and I are liable to assume incorrect facts led me to question my approach to the HR simulation. My teammates and I believed that our approach to the quarterly decisions of the simulation was all encompassing and, in general, led us to the proper conclusions. However, after seeing how difficult it can be to analyze a simple passage, I began to reconsider the validity of our decisions.
When looking at the previous quarter’s results, and planning for the coming period, my group was forced to constantly make assumptions about relationships between the data. With consecutive quarters, our analyses of relationships amongst data sets became more accurate as trends became clearer. However, in essence all of our decisions were based on guesses relationships that we felt we uncovered.
Although this line of thought brought a lot of doubt to my mind about the general process of decision making, it also helped me to realize that such assumptions are a necessary part of life. Nonetheless, I am still much more conscious about the possibility of making errors while assuming too much about a given set of information.

Three Instructors

This semester we had opportunity to work with three instructors who took on three individual roles in the class. Prof. Powley was, obviously, the actual instructor for the course. Prof. Piderit acted as the seasoned advisor for the HR simulation and Meredith was a resource for every non HR related assignment. Although I was at first unsure about the prospects of having to deal with three persons throughout the semester, I found that this system allowed for many unique learning opportunities.
Prof. Powley was the regular lecturer for the course and an out of class advisor for anyone with questions. Although I never had the opportunity to work with Prof. Powley outside of the classroom, I felt that his teaching style, one of invoking class discussion and organizing small group communication, allowed for a much more interesting learning environment. I feel that this was particularly true because even though the class’s reading materials were informative, they often only showed a single perspective where as class discussion helped to reveal a wider array of possible view points.
Conversely, my exposure to Prof. Piderit was found much more often outside of the classroom. Dealing mostly with the HR simulations, my meetings with Prof. Piderit were particularly interesting because they often felt like a mutual learning experience. It was obvious that my knowledge of the project was inferior to hers, but it was also evident that certain issues that my team was dealing with were not initially clear to Prof. Piderit either. This one on one experience with Prof. Piderit proved to be a new one to me and I found it to be a very pleasant change.
Finally, one of the most interesting experiences in MGMT 250 has been my communication with Meredith. Although I only met with our TA on several occasions, it was astounding to me how helpful she was in explaining assignments and in working with me to develop my writing. My discussions with Meredith were always fun and engaging and she always seemed very sincere in her desire to help.
While not all the assignments that I worked on during this semester were ones that I fully enjoyed, I was at least always able to look foreword to not working on them alone and without any feedback. Therefore, the very hands on approach of the professors, and the TA, this semester made MGMT 250 a memorable experience.

Team Unity in the Second Year

The HR simulation process has been one of many ups and downs during which our team has been able to learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of every individual member. We found the first few weeks of the project to be a challenge not only from the perspective of working on a major assignment, but also because this was the first time that any of our group members had worked with each other. Slowly, but decisively, our group transformed itself into a team, as we all became comfortable with each other’s capabilities, work habits and schedules.
Although this process did not consist of a clearly outlined set of events, I do believe that the decision meeting for Quarter 5 of the simulation was the first time that our group of five fully began working as a team of five. The process of deciding on incident solutions and budgetary distribution became almost automated. Although we still had to sit down and discuss all possible options and their possible results, the role of every member was obvious and their duties were clearly defined.
Every week from then on, someone was responsible for organizing the budget and the decision sheet, someone for writing the quarterly report and a person for each of the remaining jobs. It was a terrific feeling to receive a budget form and a set of graphs via e-mail well in advance of when you planned to write up a quarterly report. More importantly, our entire team learned the standard of quality that we expected everyone to meet and we therefore were all comfortable with trusting each other’s work.
Due to this team unity really flourishing during Quarter 5, I found the second fiscal year for our company to be much more enjoyable. Although it seemed like our company’s progress had begun to stagnate, our team cohesion allowed us to further analyze our issues and to push past some of our most pertinent problems. Therefore, even though our team did not receive any award for our company’s performance, it was still a great experience to see the unity that formed amongst our unseasoned team.

Tom Mendola - Possible Solution

The class discussion pertaining to the Tom Mendola case resulted in an analysis of several possible solutions to the problems that the company was experiencing with Tom. Personally, I felt that the most reasonable solution would have been to fire the unreliable employee based on his inability to be productive as well as his negative influence on other employees. I found that most of the persons in our class shared my sentiments and that the general consensus amongst us was that Tom should be let go.
However, regardless of personal opinion, certain members of the class were forced to support the continuation of Tom’s employment at the company. Many reasons were discussed in reaction to this but few actually seemed to address the core problem. After looking at possible reasons for keeping Tom, the class then focused on how the employee could possibly be made to be more productive. Although the class was able to produce reasons for keeping Tom, it seemed to me that, in general, students were not as capable of figuring out the ‘how.’
I found that I was also unable to initially uncover a proper resolution for this problem but, after further thought, I decided that there was in fact a reasonable solution to this problem. The general downfall for Tom occurs after a month or so of work at which point he loses interest in his responsibilities. Therefore, as a means of both allowing Tom to stay motivated and to not waste the company’s money when he is not working diligently, I feel that a commission payment system would be appropriate for this situation.
If Tom was to be paid based on how much work he completes, there would be an obvious incentive for him to continue to work at a reasonable pace even after the initial period of interest elapses. In fact, a goal based system would make it possible for Tom to clearly see the fruits of his work and he might be willing to work even harder than before. In addition, such a payment system would make it easy for the company to both save money and to gradually release Tom. In the event that the employee continued to work insufficiently, he would see his income decrease sharply and would then lose interest himself in continuing to stay with the company. Thus, a change in the payment scheme would mean that whether Tom decided to change his work habits or not, the company would benefit.

November 05, 2005

The Learning Plan is Already Paying Off

Although I originally did not know what to expect from the Learning Plan, one specific idea has already come out of the process that has made writing the paper very rewarding. The raw nature of the project suggests that we, as authors, have to cover vast amounts of information and distill it into several cohesive pages of analysis. To me, several parts of the paper were simple reflections on ideas that we thoroughly had covered in class and thus, writing about those concepts was not a learning experience for me. These already covered topics included the analysis of the MSI and of the My Values exercise. However, while writing the paper according to the guidelines that we were provided with, I realized that when looking at myself from many different angles within a short timeframe, I can analyze my persona as a greater whole and in more detail.
Much of the assignment consisted of describing my strengths and weaknesses. As I listed the many attributes of my personality that I find to be beneficial, and those that are a hindrance, to my success in working situations, I was following much the same path as I had in previous exercises of a similar nature. I noted that my ability to work on large and varied projects is an asset and I also mentioned that my need for a strong work life balance with a constantly changing activity can be a weakness in certain situations.
Although the depiction of my strengths and weaknesses was still a process that I was used to, it greatly affected the way in which I approached the predictions of my future. When looking at my interview results and plotting out my career path, I realized that of the two professions that I was looking at, it clearly made sense for me to follow Managerial Consulting over Investment Banking. My strengths of looking at problems from many differing view points and of putting a large project together based on different subject matters pulled me towards consulting. Also, my inability to work well with a port work-life balance and my nature to become bored with an activity if the topic matter is not constantly changing meant that Investment Banking would highlight my weaknesses. Therefore, I am very glad that this assignment forced me to look at these several issues in a very compact format where all aspects of my persona had to be considered simultaneously.

Exploding Job Offers

During his visit to the class last week, Patrick Keebler brought up the interesting topic of “exploding offers.” Patrick summarized this term as referring to an offer, with a short due date, that a company gives to a prospective employee. Due to the allowable acceptance deadline occurring so soon after the initial offering date, such situations are considered as being very not ideal for the job seeker. While dealing with a short deadline, the prospective employee is forced to make a quick decision and is thus often rushed into accepting a sub par offer.
I view such an offer from two different perspectives. The first is in reference to a situation where I am not convinced as to my desire to work at the mentioned company. In such a situation, an “exploding offer” would seem very inopportune for me. Being forced to quickly make a very crucial decision would, more likely than not, push me towards making the safe choice. In a situation where the company was not a sure choice of mine, I would probably not accept the offer.
However, I view this as more of an opportunity if the company is one that I am greatly interested in. If a firm that is a top choice of mine provided me with an “exploding offer,” I believe that I would most likely accept it. Due to the short deadline of the proposal I would probably expect that the benefits provided with the package would likely be less than what I would ideally expect. However, it seems to me that a low end “exploding offer” could also act as a “doorway in” to the company. Although I may be seen as a less than perfect candidate, if given the opportunity to prove myself at a firm that is my top choice, I can always rise to the occasion and be quickly promoted to where I should be placed. This is to me a great alternative to not receiving an offer at all and not being given the chance to find my place within a firm.