5 Management Lessons From Group Projects At A B-School

The word “learning” has different a connotation for different people. Most leading b-schools have this concept of “peer-learning”, both formally and informally. And to incorporate that in the pedagogy, group assignments and projects are conducted. As fancy as it may sound, there is much more to it than what meets the eyes. To a person like me, who’s held managerial/mentoring roles in my previous organisation, group projects seemed like a piece of like. That was, of course, before I was actually a part of one.

The class is divided into groups, the size of which may vary from 3 to 10 depending on the professor. And all you have to do is, discuss and present an assignment or a project together as a group. And to top it off, it is evaluative. Sounds pretty great? Well, I thought so too. In fact, my first impression of this methodology was that this would, perhaps, make our lives easier as there is ‘division of labour’ and should ideally lead to ‘continuous workflow’ (At least, that is what pure economics depicted!). Here are some of the key takeaways :

  • Corporate Teams Vs Academic Groups: The primary difference between working in corporate teams and academic groups in a b-school is that, in the latter, different group members have a different set of priorities. With a plethora of activities taking place on the campus, people tend to take their pick and invest most of their energies there. And sometimes, academics happen to be just one of the items on the list. So, while corporate team members, generally, actively participate in project execution, academic group members here have a slightly different story to tell.
  • Amalgamation of personalities: There are many different kinds of people you would come across while working in groups. Some would be highly motivated and drive the entire project and make sure that all the timelines are met. Some would be happy to be the contributors, if not the leaders, and complete their share of work in due time. And then there are those who would tend to be little laid back when it comes to working on the project. And, you can’t force anybody to work as they are not answerable to you. So, what do you do now, especially with the deadline hanging over your head? Well, the answer is pretty simple, you complete the task, nevertheless.
  • The key is coordination: Assignment of the part of the task should be done taking into consideration the profile of the group member (or in other words, the likeliness of him/her finishing his part of the task) and the timelines for submissions. But this alone will not ensure the end-to-end execution of the project. What is more important is regular follow-ups. (This actually is a marketing lesson I derived from one of the lectures. “Remind” is a critical aspect of marketing communication to ensure that the message is grasped and retained). This ensures that the progress is tracked and the individual contributions are accounted for.
  • Keep calm and trust your team: Another very critical aspect to keep in mind is that no matter how hard you try, there will be times when not everybody will be able or willing to contribute as much as they usually do or want, owing to some preoccupation. There will be end-moment hustle-bustle and you will actually get to live “just-in-time” delivery method. But the key is to keep your calm. Because stressing out would mean delays and inefficiencies. Prioritizing on what is important is the key to such deliveries.
  • Never make the same mistake twice: All said and done, one thing should never be missed. And that is ‘learnings and takeaways’. Even if you are not going to be working with the same set of people, do take a mental note of the learnings you took from the managerial activities you performed and make sure you apply them in your next project.

To sum it up, I believe the creators of the idea of group projects were not really trying to make our life easier. They were trying to teach us much more than the subject/topic at hand. They were trying to teach us what we’ve come here to learn, the essence of management.

Sambhavi Ganguly

Sambhavi Ganguly is a second-year student at IIM Lucknow. She is a Core Member of IIM Lucknow's Industry Interaction Cell. She has about 4 years of work-ex in Synopsys India as an R&D Engineer. She loves reading and dancing. She lives by the mantra of "Keep it simple, silly!" :)