The Miscommunication of Teamwork

I’m approaching the end of my MBA.  At this point, I expect that my fellow classmates have taken a few courses and have, at least written a few research papers in their academic career.  So, knowing my own skills with writing and the level of academia I bring to the team, I assume the best of my peers.

A common thread in online courses is the team project.  Whether it be something abstract or something concrete – like a research paper – the largest grade in most of your classes will be dependant upon the work of other people.  In one course I’m in my group had seven people… which results in mass confusion trying to get things organized.  It also means you have a myriad of personalities… some aggressive (I was called out in the class for not having turned my section of a report in… four days before it was due…) and some never showing up to work.

But this story is about my other class, where I have three other people in the group with me.  Because it’s smaller, we got to learn a little bit more about each other and have all kinds of fun conflict.  It’s a course on global studies, so it’s only appropriate that I learned a global lessons:

Not all countries consider a research paper to be the same thing.  So when you sit down to compile everyone’s portions and three are the common American way you and I would think a research paper should be… and then the fourth section is an outline with data points… how do you make it work?

I think it’s lessons like these that make persuing a formal education worthwhile.  I could read dozens of business text books and gleam knowledge from them.  But interaction – and the dreaded group project – helps focus that learning into something tangible.

In the real business world, if you’re on a team (or a manager of a team) and someone does something totally different than what’s expected, or their work simply doesn’t match the work that everyone else is doing… how do you compensate?  If it’s something that you thought was so clear that not defining words need to be given (do a research paper) and you get back something totally… just… not on the mark… is it your fault for not better describing the task, or the person who missed the mark’s fault for not understanding the task?

So, being the one to compile the paper, I was presented with an option.  Do I (a) rewrite the outlined data into a paper, (b)request that the author make it right, or (c) simply put it in as-is, suffer the grade, and complain to the professor?

I’ve chosen a combination of (a) and (b).  I’ve contacted the author and requested the changes.  However, we’re on a super tight schedule… we have to turn it in tomorrow.  As such, I’m taking my laptop with me and – if I don’t hear a response by lunch – I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow night.

The option of turning it in inaccurate or just complaining to the professor is simply not an acceptable solution.  At the workplace if something isn’t right and you have a chance to fix it but don’t… then you’re just as much in the wrong as the person whose error it truly was.  The trickling of blame simply isn’t acceptable if yuo have the means to catch the error and correct it.

This is one of the reasons I’m on such a mentoring kick.  I want to hear stories of other people’s victories and mistakes so I, too, can learn from them.  What is the point of folly or success if there is no one to share it with?

I have one class left in MBA, and it starts next week.  When we get to the group project, you can rest assured that I will make sure that the style and expectations of the paper are made clear to the group.  And so, a little learning lesson about miscommunication of teamwork goes in my picket of life.

P.S. Did I mention the author got the assignment mixed up, and wrote not only the section assigned to them, but the section assigned to me as well?  The author, by the end of the project, will have likely done more work than anyone else, all because of misunderstanding the assignment.

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