Study On Effectively Working In A Group Management
The following essay focuses on the experience of working on the business project for the module Business and Entrepreneurship. The overarching objectives of this experience have been:
to effectively work in a group
develop a model of entrepreneurship with a particular market in mind1. Group Work
As far as the first objective is concerned, the main issues to be considered are:
the ability to be a team player
1.1 Time Management
The actual work on the Sim Venture simulation was spread over eight meetings, from 11 February, until 18 March, in order to integrate it in the general learning experience.
We identified the following benefits of group work (Gallagher et al. 1997, p.499):
"distribute work, having brought together a set of skills, talents and responsibilities"
"manage and control work"
"facilitate the problem solving process by bringing together all the available capacities to apply to it"
"test and ratify decisions"
1.2 the ability to be a team player
One problematic issue that our team encountered was the lack of a wide range of knowledge and experience to cover the four sections of the simulation- Marketing and Sales, Finance, Organisation and Operations, apart from the common Marketing and Sales background we all shared. Under these considerations, the team members have not been assigned to work on specific sections of the game, but rather brainstormed and collaborated in the decision making.
In addition to this, in order to facilitate efficient team work and mutual understanding, I took the initiative to research on Belbin' self perception inventory, redistribute the questionnaire and prepare the interpretation materials for each team member: "Phrases and Slogans that Project Leading Team Roles" (Belbin 2006, pp.80-1) and "Useful People to have in teams" (Belbin 1986, p.78).
Personally, the Belbin inventory helped me find out the roles in which I would do my best in an authentic "management or 'project team' " (ibid. p.156). In addition to this, the lowest scoring roles pointed to team roles with potential "areas of weakness" (ibid.).Therefore, I would achieve my potential as shaper (primary role), or resource investigator (secondary role), but be less successful as a chairman or team worker (ibid. p.157).
Even though the group's formation was aleatory, I consider that it offered a good range of team- roles and personality traits, which enabled efficient group work without major conflicts (for the graphical representation of our team's role distribution, please check Appendix 2,Fig. 2). Of the ideal team structure (reproduced in Appendix 2, Fig. 3) outlined by Changing Minds.org (online), our team lacked a thinking- role member (monitor evaluator, plant or specialist). This was obvious during the second year of business, when the profit account fluctuated heavily and we were unable to track its cause until the end of the year.
As far as group dynamics are concerned, my role offered both advantages and challenges: shapers show an increased desire to achieve, "readiness to challenge inertia, ineffectiveness, complacency" and "ability to explore anything new", but lack objectivity and team spirit drive. Therefore, this role is prone to provoke "human crises" (Belbin 2006, p.59). One solution in this case is adopting a less patronising attitude and encouraging "multiple- role relationships" (ibid, p.58). This implies encouraging the moderate characteristics of the second role- resource investigator when working in a team.
As far as group interaction is concerned, Shapers build proactive relations with resource investigators and team workers. In our group, Team member 2's secondary role as resource investigator was more prominent than the primary role as team worker.
A relevant means of assessing our team's stage of development and fundament further action was by taking the online team work survey found at http://www.sos.net/~donclark/leader/teamsuv.html (Date visited: 27 February 2010). This revealed that at that time, our team was at the performing stage, according to Tuckman's model of development, which implied "clear vision and purpose; focus on goal achievement, delegation" (Campbell and Nelson 2007, p.205). Nevertheless, as the work progressed, we were more likely to return to the previous stages of development of forming and norming, as Forsyth (2009, p.134) observed.
Having completed the simulation, our work focused on preparing the group reports. To this purpose, I decided to moderate a wiki space at informationbank.wikispaces.com/, functioning as an Information Bank, where the team could discuss the report's evolution, manage work, upload and share useful information and documents. A screen shot of the wiki page can be found in Appendix 2, fig. 1.2. Entrepreneurial Model
Our entrepreneurial model developed around the following sections:
Sales and Marketing
As defined by Carsrud and Brännback, Entrepreneurship is "the process by which individuals, either on their own or inside organizations, pursue opportunities without regard to the resources they currently control" (2007, p.10). Nevertheless, due to the fact that our business's owner was endowed with traits each of us possessed, it is difficult to assign him an entrepreneurial type, of the four classical typologies:
technology entrepreneur (ibid, pp.16-7)
From the outset, our team's goal was to have a steady level of profit by the end of the three years and enlarge the market share.
Sales and Marketing
As far as the Sales and Marketing Section is concerned, the business evolved around the initial research results. In response to them, we decided to target ICT businesses, position and design the product and start building the customer database. I suggested joining a business club and building a website, which in the long run proved their efficiency. During the three years, the customer database grew considerably and due to its effectiveness, we chose direct mail as the most common form of promotion. To the team's surprise, initiatives to use more expensive forms of promotion- PR and attending an exhibition- proved less successful. Also, the variable costs implied through promotion led to financial imbalance during the second year, motivating us to focus more on the already tested tools, direct mail, club membership and website.
By the end of the third year, the business grew and relocated to a business park. In order to reflect its profile and reach more of its publics, I suggested employing mass channels of communication, such as TV and radio advertising, topping 78 orders in October. Even though the preliminary research was for orientation, by the 18th month I suggested it is necessary to undertake this process on a quarterly basis, in order to accommodate the dynamic business environment, accurately meet the customers' demands and counteract drops in sales. This proved to be an inspired decision, as the product's features, performance and quality were perceived as excellent in the last customer survey (Appendix 2, Fig. 4).
The choice of product design, production and quality was taken after undertaking research. Based on this, the initial product design included good performance, quality and features and above average style features rated at 65%. However, during the trading period the features evolved in order to meet the customers' needs.
Since only the production effort totalled 196 hours per month and by the end of the 18th month the owner started showing signs of exhaustion, the team decided to start contracting out some of its units. This proved to be really efficient in saving the business time that was later directed towards other activities. Another inspired decision was to change the supplier to Pro Supply, due to its flexible credit scheme, but at the same quality level as before. Due to regular research and increased quality control, October of the last year topped 78 orders.
As far as the financial achievements are concerned, we concluded that managing through without resorting to loans is of undoubtable use in having a healthy balance. In addition to this, funding the business through grants for research and training can prove equally helpful, especially since we ran at a loss for the first six months.
Nevertheless, our bank balance was damaged because of the following issues:
excessive variable costs on promotion
not paying attention to the credit agreement, which was only amended during the third year
Also, special consideration should have been given to the fact that human resources are closely related to the financial evolution. For instance, the decision to go full time even though the business was not making a significant profit and underpaying the owner, affected his work and led to lower levels of production
As the business grew, so did the production needs. In order to meet them, we decided to employ Jon in the second year and Emma at the end of the third year. In order to save the business the money spent on consultancy fees and bring more specialized knowledge, the team decided to provide the staff with regular training, so that the owner specializes in production, IT and marketing, Jon in finance and production and Emma in marketing and sales.
By the 19th month we decided to start working full time and trade as a limited company. Nevertheless, this proved to be a precocious decision as we were unable to meet the target of making a £5,000 profit for three months. In addition to this, not paying attention to the working conditions and underpaying the owner lowered his efficiency and happiness. Having noticed this, we tried to improve the working environment b relocating first to small business centres, and then to a business park and upgrading the equipment and furniture. This led to an excellent level of efficiency of 90% and a Bank Balance of £168,633 at the end of the simulation.
Word count: 1599Appendix 1: References
BELBIN, M. (reprinted 1986), "Management Teams. Why they Succeed or Fail". 1st edition.
London: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann
BELBIN, M. (reprinted 2006), "Team Roles at Work". 1st edition. London: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann
"Belbin's Team Roles" (no date). [online]. Changing Minds.org. URL: http://changingminds.org/explanations/preferences/belbin.htm [Date visited:14 March 2010]
BRÄNNBACK, M. E., CARSRUD, A. L. (2007), "Entrepreneurship". 1st edition. U.S.A.: Greenwood Press
CAMPBELL QUICK, J., NELSON, D. (2007), "Understanding Organisational Behaviour". 3rd edition. Canada: Thomson
FORSYTH, D., R. (2009), "Group Dynamics". 5th edition. Cengage Learning
GALLAGHER, K., REYNOLDS, J., TOMBS, S. (reprinted 1997), "People in Organisations: an active learning approach". 1st edition. Wiley- Blackwell
"Teamwork Survey" (1998). [online]. Leadership. URL: http://www.sos.net/~donclark/leader/teamsuv.html
[Date visited 27 February 2010]Appendix 2: Graphical Representations
Fig. 1: Information Bank Wiki
Fig. 2: Our team's role distribution according to Belbin's inventory
According to Changing Minds.org, the ideal group should have:
one leading role (co-ordinator or shaper)
one monitor- evaluator
implementers, team workers, resource investigators and completers
Fig. 3: Ideal team roles distribution. Source: Changing Minds.org.
URL: http://changingminds.org/explanations/preferences/belbin.htm (Date visited: 14 March 2010)
Fig. 4: Customer ResearchAppendix 3: Peer Assessment form
For each group member, including you, please indicate the contribution to the group project in each of the areas in the table below. Each column (where indicated) should total 100. If all group members contributed what you consider a 'fair share' to the factor considered, then you may leave that column blank.
% of meetings attended
Intellectual contribution to project
Amount of work undertaken
Contribution to organisation of the project
Overall value of contribution to the group
Any additional or qualifying comments
Group member 1
Group member 2
Group member 3
Group member 4
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