Saturday, December 25, 2010

Financial Decisions Course team

I recently completed a course called Financial Decisions, which attempts to teach general managers how to make finance related decisions in a wide variety of scenarios, using the case based approach. The workload was very heavy; we had a net total of 16 cases in the course, which we needed to analyze and submit a write-up of once case before almost every class session.

I was particularly impressed by my team’s performance in this course; we managed to maintain our sanity despite the heavy workload, and did pretty well for most of the cases. Given that I also completed a course called ‘Leading and Managing Teams’ last quarter, I spent some time analyzing what made our team successful, using one of the frameworks from the class:

1. Motivation: We were very clear that we wanted to learn as much as possible from the course, and the only way to do that would be to do the cases to the best of our abilities. The final grade wasn’t very important to most of us. Having an awesome professor also inspired us to do our best in the course.

2. Coordination mechanism: Early into our first meeting, we created a spreadsheet which outlined what task each member was responsible was for each case. The main responsibilities for each case were to do the initial analysis/spreadsheet, to do the case write-up, and to review and submit the final write-up. This gave us a mechanism to track the performance of our peers and clearly outline roles and responsibilities for each of the cases. I personally took up the role of a coordinator; scheduling team meetings and keeping track of responsibilities for each case.

3. Knowledge and ability: Having a former investment banker certainly helped in this case! But besides that, we had all done the basic finance and strategy courses, and also proved our technical competence in applying previously learned concepts to this course. Another aspect was personal competency: we all knew each other to some extent, and understood each other’s working styles. This helped us bond together as a team quickly and work effectively towards the project.

4. Effective conflict management: We debated our points of view pretty effectively in the team, and kept the debates about tasks, processes and our point of view rather than about personality issues. Often having 4 or more people in the room helped; 2 people might be on opposite sides of an issue, but the other 2 helped everyone reach consensus and move forward. Over time this process improved; I started to recognize styles of my team members and adapting to them, trying to figure out how I could work more effectively with the different team members.

I loved working with this team, and hope that I get to work with more such teams in my courses over the next two quarters.

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