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I’ve taken a challenging course this term that involves a group project worth 75% of the final grade. We
had to come up with a fully functional product to solve a real-world problem by the end of the semester.
The instructor emphasized the importance of forming the right team from day one. I did not understand
why he was so particular about it then. But I realize now that operating in teams to fulfil personal goals
while working towards a shared goal is tricky.
I’m really passionate about this
particular subject. I was very excited to learn the concepts by building a
product. Working in teams didn’t seem like a big challenge to me at the time. I
spent the first week trying to come up with a product instead of forming a
group to do it with. Finally, I joined a team that was short of one person. We
were all such different people. We wanted different things out of this course
and that affected the kind of project we wanted to do.
Since it was a very diverse group of
strangers, we did not want to have a formal leader. We simply agreed on a
product, divided the different modules of work and started working in
isolation. We met in class once a week to discuss our whereabouts.
After a couple of weeks, I realized we
weren’t up to speed and that something was off. People started following their
own goals. I was sure orchestrating everyone’s efforts would become very
difficult, if not impossible.
Although I felt responsible for achieving
product success, I knew I couldn’t tell my team members what to do. I somehow
wanted to establish sufficient autonomy so that everyone can own their work
and take pride in it.
I was unable to accept the fact that the
product might turn out to be mediocre. That was when we had a class on
shared goals and it was an absolute eye opener. We all had the same goal of
passing the course but what we needed was a shared goal to set us in the right
direction.
The problem with a group project is that
all the team members get the same marks which means no matter how well you do,
you won’t be rewarded appropriately unless the team performs to its fullest. I thought that the only way
to approach this was to work in collaboration, come up with shared goals, derive individual
responsibilities from them and watch out for one another.
I took the lead on proposing a model from
the theory learnt in class to collaborate and set goals that each of us can
accept and align to. I got my team to agree on brainstorming about what we
needed as a team and as individuals. At first, we did not have anything other
than ‘Understanding product development’ on our list. But as we dug deeper, we
understood that a shared goal should be more actionable and should not be
achievable isolated.
We came up with the following items:
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Shared Goal:
Finish project on time, get maximum marks
Same Goal: Put
least possible effort, spend less money on hardware, understand product
development
Conflicting:
Choose a challenging topic to impress the professor (maybe to get a TA the
following term) vs choose an easy topic to perform better, work in group vs
avoid meetings
Unrelated:
publish a paper based on the project, create a start-up idea out of it, spy on
other teams to get inspiration, Patent the idea
(only some of the goals are listed due to
word restriction)
The next step was to investigate if we
could reframe the other goals to shared goals. For example, we all liked the
idea of publishing our findings in a journal. We agreed that it was a huge
value addition to our resume. In this exercise, only 30% of other goals shifted
to the shared goals list.
The list made our priorities very clear
with respect to what we should do as a team. We all started working on our
respective modules and collaborated on our day-to-day activities, impediments
and resolving roadblocks.
One other thing that I observed in this
group effort was that few people went off track at times. I felt it was
important to express how my thoughts through constructive comments. I have
always struggled with giving feedback because am not comfortable pointing out people’s
mistakes. I usually use diplomacy to convey negative feedback, but I wanted to
try the PIP method this time. I started out by asking generative questions to
understand and validate my observations. This increased my sense of
appreciation for the person and their work while seeing the possibilities of
improvement.
For example, one of my teammates was missing out on deadlines. He was doing market research for
product-market fit and his survey design was impressive. I expressed how valuable his contributions
were. The research model however was too abstract and ambiguous. He spent a lot of time on this but
couldn’t come up with valuable insights. I suggested that he could maybe look at remodelling something
simpler or take help from someone who was good at stats. He did not seem to completely buy into the
idea as he had been hooked on to his current model. So, we came up with a plan to spend 2 more days
on the current model and see if it works out and move on to considering my suggestion otherwise. He
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thought it was fair and within the best interest of the team. I was now content that I gave my inputs on
something that I saw could improve without having to awkwardly put him on spot for lagging behind.
Now we are in the last stage of our project.
We did miss out on some of our set timelines but luckily, we had a buffer time
to make up for things. We spent a lot of time in deciding our goals and
strategy. But now when we look back at it, we are sure we couldn’t have done
better without all the initial efforts of becoming a functional team.
Fun fact - this project allowed me to
practice two of my course materials! I am genuinely grateful that I had these
guiding principles to help me through this term. I can’t wait to apply these
simple but super effective theories in more challenging situations.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

I’ve taken a challenging course this term that involves a group project worth 75% of the final grade. We had to come up with a fully functional product to solve a real-world problem by the end of the semester. The instructor emphasized the importance of forming the right team from day one. I did not understand why he was so particular about it then. But I realize now that operating in teams to fulfil personal goals while working towards a shared goal is tricky. I’m really passionate about this particular subject. I was very excited to learn the concepts by building a product. Working in teams didn’t seem like a big challenge to me at the time. I spent the first week trying to come up with a product instead of forming a group to do it with. Finally, I joined a team that was short of one person. We were all such different people. We wanted different things out of this course and that affected the kind of project we wanted to do. Since it was a very diverse group of strangers, we did not want to have a formal leader. We simply agreed on a product, divided the different modules of work and started working in isolation. We met in class once a week to discuss our whereabouts. After a couple of weeks, I realized we weren’t up to speed and that something was off. People started following their own goals. I was sure orchestrating everyone’s efforts would become very difficult, if not impossible. Although I felt responsible for achieving product success, I knew I couldn’t tell my team members what to do. I somehow wanted to establish sufficient autonomy so that everyone can own their work and take pride in it. I was unable to accept the fact that the product might turn out to be mediocre. That was when we had a class on shared goals and it was an absolute eye opener. We all had the same goal of passing the course but what we needed was a shared goal to set us in the right direction. The problem with a group project is that all the team members get the same marks which means no matter how well you do, you won’t be rewarded appropriately unless the team performs to its fullest. I thought that the only way to approach this was to work in collaboration, come up with shared goals, derive individual responsibilities from them and watch out for one another. I took the lead on proposing a model from the theory learnt in class to collaborate and set goals that each of us can accept and align to. I got my team to agree on brainstorming about what we needed as a team and as individuals. At first, we did not have anything other than ‘Understanding product development’ on our list. But as we dug deeper, we understood that a shared goal should be more actionable and should not be achievable isolated. We came up with the following items: Shared Goal: Finish project on time, get maximum marks Same Goal: Put least possible effort, spend less money on hardware, understand product development Conflicting: Choose a challenging topic to impress the professor (maybe to get a TA the following term) vs choose an easy topic to perform better, work in group vs avoid meetings Unrelated: publish a paper based on the project, create a start-up idea out of it, spy on other teams to get inspiration, Patent the idea (only some of the goals are listed due to word restriction) The next step was to investigate if we could reframe the other goals to shared goals. For example, we all liked the idea of publishing our findings in a journal. We agreed that it was a huge value addition to our resume. In this exercise, only 30% of other goals shifted to the shared goals list. The list made our priorities very clear with respect to what we should do as a team. We all started working on our respective modules and collaborated on our day-to-day activities, impediments and resolving roadblocks. One other thing that I observed in this group effort was that few people went off track at times. I felt it was important to express how my thoughts through constructive comments. I have always struggled with giving feedback because am not comfortable pointing out people’s mistakes. I usually use diplomacy to convey negative feedback, but I wanted to try the PIP method this time. I started out by asking generative questions to understand and validate my observations. This increased my sense of appreciation for the person and their work while seeing the possibilities of improvement. For example, one of my teammates was missing out on deadlines. He was doing market research for product-market fit and his survey design was impressive. I expressed how valuable his contributions were. The research model however was too abstract and ambiguous. He spent a lot of time on this but couldn’t come up with valuable insights. I suggested that he could maybe look at remodelling something simpler or take help from someone who was good at stats. He did not seem to completely buy into the idea as he had been hooked on to his current model. So, we came up with a plan to spend 2 more days on the current model and see if it works out and move on to considering my suggestion otherwise. He thought it was fair and within the best interest of the team. I was now content that I gave my inputs on something that I saw could improve without having to awkwardly put him on spot for lagging behind. Now we are in the last stage of our project. We did miss out on some of our set timelines but luckily, we had a buffer time to make up for things. We spent a lot of time in deciding our goals and strategy. But now when we look back at it, we are sure we couldn’t have done better without all the initial efforts of becoming a functional team. Fun fact - this project allowed me to practice two of my course materials! I am genuinely grateful that I had these guiding principles to help me through this term. I can’t wait to apply these simple but super effective theories in more challenging situations. Name: Description: ...
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