June 14, 2014

KBAM learning: group dynamics and personal growth

One of the main learnings I have had from this module was not the actual content of the module, but the way our group worked. It is something that I would like to reflect on as when in the future I am working, I will inevitably have to work with people within a group. One of the main things I experienced with this module was respect from my co-workers. Some of the most important things for me when working with people are:


  • Actual do what you say you are going to do.
  • Meet on time. Arriving an hour and a half late for every meeting is not acceptable.
  • Turn up to meetings if you say you are coming.
  • Be proactive in the meetings, don't waste your time or others. Sleeping in meetings is frankly pathetic.
  • Do not be unaccessible. We had a project to do, being hours away from where the group is based essentially on holiday all week is not proactive.


On the whole, I felt that what I experienced within my group was a complete lack of respect. All of the above listed points occurred. People were always late, or simply wouldn't turn up. Additionally, people who arrived hadn't done the work they agreed they would do by the meeting. This eventually had a detrimental effect on me, and led to me not attending our final meeting because I was so annoyed with the group, so I chose to do some other work instead.


What I don't understand is how people act in this manner. We are paying to be here at Warwick. Why do people not put the effort in to get the most out of their time and the money they have invested by being here? Is it my fault that you haven't started a PMA until a few days before it is due? No it is not. It is a pathetic excuse to hide behind for when you have been too lazy to do any of the group work. In the real world when working you will have to balance several tasks at once, and plan your time and energy to ensure that any simultaneously running projects are completed to your highest standard by the deadline.


So on the whole I have learnt a lot about working in a group from my time on the MBE course. I have had some good experiences working in productive groups, and some bad experiences working in very unproductive groups. I feel that for this last group, my colleagues simply didn't have the desire to do any work. There was just one other person in my group who despite turning up slightly late to meetings, worked hard and wanted to do well and for that I am grateful.


From other group projects, I have learnt how best to communicate, delegate and work on tasks with people. This last task has highlighted how important the mindset is. If my colleagues act like this in the real world, they would be lucky to be offered a job, and even more lucky to remain employed for more than a few weeks. The effort just wasn't there, and I ended up doing the majority of the work by myself. The final presentation we produced was in my opinion embarrassing, because it was essentially the work of myself with help from the one other proactive person in my group. In comparison to the other team's presentations, it was clearly lacking, as it was based essentially on my viewpoints as opposed to an amalgamation of ideas from everyone in the group. If all our ideas were combined together, we would have had a more thorough, critical and well thought out presentation that better answered the question.


This is where the issue of authority and accountability comes in. It is our task to do the work. There isn't a person in charge who can give people a kick up the backside. All there is is losing marks. There is no pressure or threat of being reprimanded by a boss, or sacked. When faced with other PMAs, a poorer quality presentation takes precedent if it leads to higher marks for the PMA. People prioritised working on nearly due PMAs over working on the group project, or at least claimed so.


Therefore, I felt on this module I learnt mostly about working in a group. I did develop knowledge on AM and KM, but as Paul informed, it such a big field it could be a degree in itself. I felt I gained more from the group dynamics. I would hate to be hypocritical and act in a manner I have criticised, so I hope my experiences on this module will lead to me being a better group member on future tasks when I am working in a professional environment. This is because I hope I have learnt from the mistakes that I and other classmates have made whilst working in groups on this and other modules. It's all about PDSA right? :)


So a concluding thought. It is my last recommendation or at least idea for Paul to ponder. We have for most other projects been assigned the group we work. For this task I would have liked the leader to have picked who was in their team. I know you do not always get this opportunity in the real world, but I feel it would be good for one module to pick your team and see whether it impacts upon productivity compared to other modules. We have learnt about how important the culture and mindset is, why not try and experience that first hand to reinforce just how important it is? I am sure there is a way a team can be picked that does not cause problems over people being publicly picked with someone being left last (it was normally me for everything in school...).


So that's my concluding thought for this module. I found it on the whole extremely benefical. I would say in terms of content that I have learned little on the MBE course in comparison to my undergrad or school studies. In terms of actual working skills and the actual knowledge retained in my head (I learnt loads on my undergrad HR degree but can't remember anything), I have learnt more than I thought possible. That's why I think the MBE environment is brilliant. I am 100% certain I am a much more employable person now than 12 months ago, and I would like to think the manner in that I work is 100 times better than 12 months ago. That for me is most important thing. When I came to Warwick, it was to get an MSC from a highly ranked university. The mark isn't important to me anymore. What's more important is fulfilment and development. Thanks Paul for changing my perceptions and creating the environment for this transformation to happen.


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  1. Miriam Auer

    Hey Ben, I truly understand your frustration and I felt the same in many group works before. I hoped, that in the end, I will figure out, how to make people care, how to make them be there on time and how to make them listen and contributing.
    We had several discussions about this (see Carlos Blog) yet I believe, that some people are here for the wrong reasons and actually simply do not care.
    I was very lucky in my last group, as we actually met for app. 25 hours but were very productive. People were still late, although I supplicated to be on time. I personally think that being late is a respect problem and not a culture problem. Yet I did not figure out how to make them care, and sadly I never had one group meeting where everybody was on time. But what do you think would have helped…? If you figure it out, please let me know =)

    14 Jun 2014, 16:21

  2. Benjamin Roberts

    I am not sure how you change a person’s mindset. People in my MBE class would turn up late to lessons, modules and would even be late for exams such as on FACS! If people wouldn’t turn up on time for these things, what hope was there for group meetings? I read something in one of Deming’s books about how people will give 100% of their effort when working provided the organisation/their manager motivates and engages them in the correct manner. Deming believes people won’t just turn up and not bother but in my experience from MBE a lot of people do in fact have this mindset of not trying.

    Maybe the entire culture of the course didn’t suit these people, leading to them not giving 100% of their effort? I think in the future it emphasises the importance of having people working with you who have the right mindset and want to work within the culture of that organisation/group. It emphasises how important recruitment and selection is to me. An MSC course where people pay to come with the university wanting as many places filled is different to a job where an organisation wants the best candidate for that job.

    I hope that the mentality in an actual job will be different from what I experienced at times with certain people on this course. I’ll have a look at Carlo’s blog and see what he thinks! But I do agree with you, I think some people are here for the wrong reasons and are not willing to work or learn.

    15 Jun 2014, 15:40

  3. Miriam Auer

    I hear you, truly I do. But I guess when we get out of University this will not change, especially if you are not in the situation to recruit your own people. Sadly but this is what I experienced so far. There will always be people with different motives. Some want to achieve, some are there for the money…. I guess if you are doing the recruitment process it is different, but how can you make sure that you find those people. I was thinking about this for the MBE course, where I came up with the idea to make people blog a month before they even come here. I guess this will already to separate the wheat from the chaff. Although I think this is easier said than done. I also think that there is some external pressure to fill these courses, and I would say not even 20% of my group belongs to the “I am here for the right reasons I want to achieve something for myself” reason. Otherwise we would not have ended up in this situation.
    Have a look at my leadership blog today, I am curious what you think =)
    Have a good day Ben…
    Actually I wished we would have been in the same group… maybe more people with the same mindset could have made a difference

    18 Jun 2014, 18:39

  4. Benjamin Roberts

    I think people will have to change, because if they turn up to a job hours late, having not done the work they were meant to and fall asleep during the meeting, I doubt they will stay in a job long! Maybe an MSC degree isn’t the best thing for them to do, and doesn’t motivate them. Maybe a different type of job or learning environment would? I think people can always change their ways, but making it happen is difficult.

    I would agree with you about whether people are here for the right reasons or not, because as you said we’d not be in this situation otherwise!

    I’ll have a look at your blog! :)

    18 Jun 2014, 21:37

  5. Anne Ayang

    Hey Ben,
    Nice piece, but at first I was wondering if you were writing an article or novel cos of the length..lol. I can only imagine the frustration. Anyway, we learn everyday and this definitely was another MBE experience to learn from. Its an extension of the leadership module. And I think it defines urban terrorist and WALKING DEAD in a way and we might find these in our work places. How to unlock them is the key to making an effective team. but I mean I can understand at this time that one has the time to push people around to do stuff but truth is sometimes some people need to be MICRO managed if you must get the task done. So in the nearest future as a Manager one needs to know/weigh the capacity of his team members/workforce and influence them by all means possible to achieve the result. I don’t want to say its easier said than done but I think situational leadership should come in handy in times like this. Thanks to MBE learning environment that gives us the opportunity to actually try these things out cos I have friends in other programmes who don’t do work in groups like us and they wish they had the opportunity. And really Ben, not everyone can be as passionate as you are or as diligent so its all about finding what works if that task must be carried out..

    Cheers.

    19 Jun 2014, 11:32

  6. Hi, Ben

    I have the same feeling with you in the prior modules, but try to change your mindset, dude. Like what you mentioned, this situation could be happened in the work environment, so what you gonna to do? At this situation, I will choose to develop myself first. I know you feel tired, unfair, and annoying, but next time, before changing the organization or culture, why not change your mindset and think this is a new challenge for you? and starts to feel exciting and expecting to see the final result? then you could proud to tell yourself, you did a gd job. Actually, I dont believe ppl would be easily changed, I dont believe the learning culture or learning enviornment could be improved asap, but I totally believe the only thing you could do first is change your mindset.

    Chinese always said ” The best gain is to lose”, this’s what I want to say, haha. Anyway, you are still the best team member, I am so grateful for everything you do.

    cheers.

    21 Jun 2014, 15:44

  7. Miriam Auer

    Hey Yen-hsi Lee, good idea but I personally think this is not a long-term solution, rather a recipe for a burn-out disease. I hear you but I actually think this is not possible. It breaks you when you are the only one who gives and gives and gives but nobody is actually reacting and supporting you. So I agree with Anna, leaders must adapt and transformational leadership is probably the best example, yet I believe that also the followers must be somehow right and there for the right reasons…

    21 Jun 2014, 18:05

  8. Hi Ben, after reading this blog, I’m really feeling quite frustrated for letting you so down during KBAM module and your words literally inspire me of coordination and teamwork. Though we won’t have any chance to work together again, I hope your words can benefit me in my future and best luck to you Ben!

    23 Jun 2014, 01:09

  9. Benjamin Roberts

    I did often think and question whether the way I was going about doing things helped facilitate this environment. I wondered whether I was creating a situation where people could take advantage of me, and subsequently do very little work. However, there are some people on this course who I have noticed do very little work all of the time, and have not bought into the whole ideology of the course. Therefore, I am not so sure if it is the way I am working in the groups that creates this environment, or if it is the culture of this course and the individual mindset of the person involved? One of the benefits from this though is it is making me question how I work and interact with people. I am so naive, inexperienced and undeveloped like all of us on this course when it comes to working in the real world. All the experiences on this degree, whether good or bad, are developing us and making us question how we act and operate which for me is the beauty of the course. It isn’t primarily about learning new theories, it is about growing and developing as people!

    So I am not sure if it is me who creates this culture, or just the mindset of those people. You talk about the walking dead but I feel the way this course works allows people to operate in that manner. In comparison, if you work for a business you could not do as little as some people do and expect to remain in a job. There is no way you could turn up hours late for things and expect to remain in that business for example.

    Also, Robin, I really enjoyed working with you on this and other modules!!!! I have had no problems with you whatsoever and have enjoyed your company, work and input on every task. I have learnt a lot from you, and hope you have enjoyed working with me as much as I have with you. My frustrations with the group work on this module weren’t directed at you and I am sure you know that!

    23 Jun 2014, 01:45

  10. Thank you for your reply!first of all, I don’t think it’s you to be blamed for facilitate environment but I have to acknowledge that sometimes you’ve been acting so gentlemen, or to say, charismatic, which makes people stop fearing about what will happen when they did do something that shouldn’t be happened within a group. Plus, people in MBE course are from all over the world, which means we were raising up in different area and different culture, so it is inevitable to have different perspectives on what work, or study is. People come to UK for different reasons, some for acquiring knowledge and some are just for diploma, so it is certain that contribution varies.
    One thing I need to point out Ben frankly, I know you were growing up in a very democratic country where you’re straightforward to say anything you want, but in reality, if you express your dissatisfaction and complaint in blog, such a public place, the one who you blamed will feel really upset when they see this and will also leave an unhappy closure for this year relationship. I know you mean well, but if next time you are in a working environment, you can try change the way you express your feelings otherwise people who don’t know you so well will blame on you and cause unnecessary trouble. There is one proverb in Chinese language, the bird takes the lead will get shot, which means you’re the first one to be accused if you express too straightforwardly. In my 24years living in China, I learnt this point and try not be the bird all the time. .I know I have lot of problems expressing in English and I hope this little suggestion won’t offend you, but I really mean it for your sake by saying this.
    Finally, I am really happy working with you in any modules as well and you are a very capable man and you will definitely show your talent in your future career!

    23 Jun 2014, 02:16

  11. Benjamin Roberts

    That’s a valid point you raise and something I have been considering. I acted as the leader in the task as I was the ‘group leader’, not that that gave me any real valid reason to lead, someone else could have been appointed for instance, but I felt like I needed to really drive this work to get it done. Additionally and perhaps unfortunately, my experiences with some of the other people in this group gave me extra motivation to do more work. Quite simply, because I have seen how people in the past don’t do anything, I did not want to have stay up all night from Thursday evening working on the presentation because other people couldn’t be bothered to do anything until the last minute. This has happened on all the other previous tasks, and people have told me this is what they have had to do before every PMA submission. I didn’t want that to happen again. I also wanted our work to be as good as possible, not half-assed at the last minute. I don’t want this to come across like I feel I am smarter than other people and only my opinion is valid. I think I am one of the less intelligent people on this course, I know my capabilities and limitations. I think I work harder than a lot of other people. I think provided you work as hard as you can, that’s all that matters. I know I did for this task, I believe you did too for this task. Could other people in our group say the same?

    I want to do as well as I and my group can, perhaps I should have been more confrontational with some of the other people? At the same time I don’t think this will have helped. I don’t believe in management through conflict. You’ve talked about cultural differences, I think that’s partly it but I think some people frankly are not bothered. From reading Deming, managing through respect and developing trust seem to me a more beneficial method of leading. Unleashing the hair-dryer treatment because of how people were acting I don’t think would have helped. Additionally it is not who I am, I am the least confrontational person in the world (perhaps so much so to my detriment?) but I also did not feel it was my place to tell people how to act. I would have thought on a paid for university degree where team and self-learning in the main methodology of learning it would have been evident how to act? Apparently it was not.

    The whole point of this module was working on a large task as a group, and understanding how to work, prepare, communicate within that group. That was the main learning I think Paul wanted us to get from this. Turning up to meetings late, not bothering to do work people said they would do, intending to leave something until the last minute, not being available for meetings or contributing in meetings was not conducive to achieving this. I’ve spoken to other students over the course of the degree and during this module who have had similar things to say about some people not working. I think the lack of individual accountability allows some people to feel like they can hide behind others in a group.

    I like your Chinese proverb. We have one in England, the early bird catches the worm. If people waited for someone else to start working so they don’t get shot, would anything ever get done? Why not maximise the time available to you rather than wait for someone else to take the lead?

    I did not intend for this blog to offend anyone in my group. It’s aim is for self-learning. I was really frustrated and disappointed with how our presentation went, and wanted to get my frustrations at how our group had operated off of my chest. On a personal level, I really enjoy the company of everyone in our group. We all get along great. In a working environment, there are some people in this group I would not want to ever work with again if they carry on as they currently do.

    23 Jun 2014, 09:49

  12. Benjamin Roberts

    Thanks for you feedback though! I will consider how I work with people in the future and change how I act accordingly. At the same time I would like to think that mutual trust, autonomy and respect between a leader and follower gets things done, not by someone leading having to kick up a fuss to intimidate someone into working. Again, I also really don’t think it is my place on this degree to act in that manner to people, and it is especially not in my nature. Maybe it is something I should try and develop, maybe it is something I would feel more comfortable in doing if I actually had ‘authority’ as a leader in an organisation.

    23 Jun 2014, 09:51

  13. Paul Roberts

    Ben, thank you for initiating this thread. I feel that it is sad that some people have come to the end of the taught component of the course having spent a lot of money and 8 months of their life and have learnt so little. Unless they find themselves in a position due to privilege rather than merit, they are likely to find the world outside MBE less forgiving of such behaviours. I said at the beginning of MBE that this is a safe learning environment, so take risks, be creative, explore, be curious. Having paid a lot of money, committed to a year away from home and having been selected for their apparent motivation, I rather naively assumed that most would want to learn and achieve more than getting the certificate.

    Your reflection has led me to understand that the MBE learning environment is too safe; all actions have consequences. My intention in making it so safe was to help people to explore more, take more risks, learn through making mistakes etc. However, that degree of safety has led to some shirking their responsibilities as team members, hoping, or knowing that you would make up for their lack of contribution. I would like to think that if they have been reading this thread that their conscience may lead them to offering up some of the academic credit that they are receiving for no effort on their part, to be shared between you and Robin.

    For next year, I shall certainly arrange for team leaders to pick their team members for the KBAM module. If nothing else, this should help to ensure a more even distribution of non-contributors.

    I shall also make my modules less safe in that I intend to invest in the team the authority to issue yellow (warning) and red (fired) cards to team members who do not comply with a team generated code of practice. I invite MBE students who are interested in this to contact me outside the blog to discuss how this may best be practised.

    Once again, thank you Ben for raising this issue.

    23 Jun 2014, 15:42

  14. This is a very beautiful piece of blog ben and i am so glad i bumped into it. Its so sad that we all have to be face with have the good the bad and the ugly in teams, but MBE has taught me that on the long run it all boils down to the overall benefit of the organisation, I can understand your frustration on all levels but Anne Ayang helped me understand that even giving a listening ear to the lazy ones might just work instead of initiating heat. Leadership i must say can be tough and also in the aspect of working in teams i have just come to the realisation that it sure would happen whether i like it or not but i just need to have key things in place, my head screwed on, patience, diligence and understanding. I was lucky enough to be asked a question about working in teams in a job interview and i had to be as honest as possible that it is not one of the best things i would choose over but i know it inevitable and i sure would be able to manage it and if it goes out of hand then it would have to be taken to higher authorities to settle it. From your blog i could also see people being late, i aways emphasise on this time management s KEY, it as important as it can get and people tend to be so non chalant about it and think the wold would gladly wait for them, a piece of advice to those in this situation life would not for any reason be on stand still no matter who you are, the clock would keep ticking so stop wasting your time. Thanks

    28 Jun 2014, 14:39

  15. Benjamin Roberts

    I like your comment Mayo, I did try to listen and engage the people in my team, but what tended to happen and has happened on some other modules was:

    Me: “So what did you find out about asset/knowledge management?”.

    Team: “Oh I didn’t get the chance to look at it.”.

    Me: “Why not?”

    Team: “Well I have a PMA for Monday and my dissertation, plus I am really tired and feel sick…”

    It’s quite hard to listen to people’s views if you ask them and they can’t contribute because they haven’t any views to share. It just as hard to get people engaged in the task if they are so uninterested in the first place. There isn’t really any accountability either in a team situation like on MBE, which makes it easy for people especially on the last module to think I’ll just let someone else deal with it.

    I’d like to think I work well in a team, because I like to think that I am a good listener, someone who is dependable, respectful to others and hard-working. Maybe I need to drastically reevaluate my leadership/team playing methodology. Maybe it was just a bad experience.

    I also want to emphasise this blog is nothing personal! I like everyone on the course and would hang out, have a beer and do whatever anytime anyplace with anyone. In a professional situation however there are definitely some people I would not like to work with based on my experiences over the course of the degree, and plenty of people I would love to work with!

    30 Jun 2014, 14:18


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