Learning Teams: Shrinking to Fit (a)
5 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008
Teams often collapse over personality issues. This case explores such a collapse, in the context of an MBA student learning team. Students can explore personality differences, analytical strategy, gender, ethnicity, and race issues. Joann Moyer, an MBA student facing her first year exams, is anxious and conflicted at what she perceives as personality conflicts among her team members. In the (A) case, she prepares to confront the other people in her group. The (B) case reveals that the team actually has process issues around their learning frameworks and that many of the team's problems revolve around that and not personalities. The business world requires people to work together successfully, and good learning teams learn to cultivate the skills necessary to do so.
Learning Teams: Shrinking To fit (A)
The weekend before first year exams at a southern graduate school of business was anything but restful. This particular school used the case method teaching approach; students were also assigned to learning teams (LT) that met in the evenings to work on cases assigned for the next day's discussion. Joann Moyer, a first-year student, had spent the last three-and-a-half months learning to function within a team. She was the only female among the group, which also included Ram Bajaj, Russell Manning, Marcus Pressley, Carter Spencer III, and William Stewart. The group usually met evenings at 8 p.m., but on the Sunday before the quarter's last week of classes, Spencer e-mailed the team and asked to move the meeting ahead two hours.
That particular Sunday LT session was an extreme version of a trend that had been developing in the group for several weeks: they opened a case for discussion, ran through the questions, figured out the answers, and moved on to the next case. The group had begun to pride themselves on completing cases in 30 minutes or less and seemed to really enjoy getting home earlier. But with exams looming, Moyer was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their LT routine. The energy level the group had sustained at the beginning of their year had almost completely drained away—what had begun as lively case discussion sessions had changed into more of a lecture series. Attendance had dropped off somewhat, and the level of contribution had polarized severely: Spencer now dominated the discussion with occasional contributions from Moyer, Bajaj, and Stewart, while two members, Manning and Pressley, barely spoke at all.
Moyer was anxious and conflicted. Since LTs were assigned, there was no choosing who you wanted to work with. The team members were forced to spend more time with each other than their own family or friends, and Moyer believed they all needed each other for academic survival. But she felt the group was not prepared for exams and, further, had become fragmented and constrained, with interpersonal conflicts brewing among the members. Spencer's request to change the LT time annoyed Moyer since she knew he was a big football fan and thought he probably wanted to watch a game. She wanted to deal with her frustration but was unsure how to approach it. Should she spend more time analyzing the situation before opening up, should she ignore it, or should she confront team members at the end of the early Sunday session?
Learning Team Exposed
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Keywords: Learning, teams, personality, conflicts, race, ethnicity, gender analytical strategy, self-concept, minorities business
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Learning Teams: Shrinking to Fit (a)
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