Friday, 13 September 2013

Group Dynamics In CMA SLP Year 2

This was the biggest change (and challenge!) as compared to Year 1. In year two of the CMA SLP all the case reports were now group work. Depending on your personality, you may view this as a positive or a negative. For me this components was the biggest challenge. On one hand it was great to be able to bounce ideas among the team members and often if one person did not know something, another did. However sometimes two or more people thought they were right, but each person had a different answer - that is where we often spent a lot of time debating on which approach to go with and often had to resolve to a vote.

Our team had 6 people and I am happy with our team as we didn't have any trouble makers or 'difficult' people, and everyone genuinely cared and put effort in towards the report, but we still had our share of issues.

The moderators broke us into groups supposedly based on a personality test that we did earlier, but also taking into account our residence to make it easier to meet up. I think they did well overall as they tried to avoid having more than one Type A personality per group. I am a major Type A personality and luckily no one else in the group was too.

We quickly settled into our roles that emerged based on our individual skills. In the beginning we tried to split everything evenly so say everyone gets an alternative to calculate, but the reality is that some people are better at quants and others may be better at research and writing or at presentations and creating visuals for power point slides so we ended up embracing this eventually and things started moving much more smoothly when we did so.

We did hit a few road blocks when a member would insist on including something that others didn't feel belonged in the report (we were limited by pages for appendixes and by number of words for the body of the report), but resorting to a vote usually made these decisions seem less personal. We voted on things often.

Every weekend our team would meet and we would review what each person did and then work on putting it together in a cohesive way (we found that we had to choose a team member that will be the 'voice' of the report, otherwise if you just copy and paste the work of 6 people it did not sound cohesive and professional. We wanted the report to flow smoothly and not feel like the voice/writing style was constantly changing). To make it sound cohesive one person would be sitting with a laptop and typing the information that the group would come up with (i.e. everyone had the case in front of them and would read it together and identify the pros/cons, etc. and the person at the computer would include it in the report in their 'writing style').

We also had a 'plan' that we came up with ahead of time, charting what we wanted to achieve each weekend and if we would fall behind, we would push harder the next weekend of meet an extra time. The plan was for several months ahead and ensured that we had adequate time to finish the project without pulling all-nighters like some teams ended up doing.

I will caution you that in our team, some members spent more time working on the report then others, but I think this is inevitable. Some members are stronger than others and even though it is 'not fair' that everyone will get the same mark at the end, you still want the person who is the best at something to be the one to do it (so if someone is good at quants, even though they may not like it, I think it is best for them to be the main quants person).

I think this report should not be approached from a 'how can we do it fairly' perspective, but rather from a 'how can we do it well' perspective.

During the weekend CMA sessions you will be given an anonymous sheet to mark your team mates. I really recommend that you just give everyone good feedback and a good mark. I know it sounds weird, and you may think 'but isn't this my chance to let them know that they are not pulling in their weight and need to step it up'. If you choose to do this, it is up to you. But speaking from experience, in our team for the first evaluation someone did give out 'honest' feedback and it ended up costing the team as a whole because I guess it conveyed that our team wasn't really 'working though our issues/ working effectively' so our team mark was less than impressive for that weekend session. For all next evaluations we decided to just give everyone AEs and write positive feedback and since then our team mark was great. I recommend that you deal with any issues internally in your team.

I think the most challenging aspect of the group dynamic is during presentations because your performance depends on others and you don’t have a chance to 'proof read', review, adjust or vote on what others will say before it gets assessed (like you do with the written report). People get nervous and make mistakes. Teammates will fumble their slides and presentation, they will mess up Q&As, they will say the wrong thing and they will project the wrong body language at times during the presentation. This will happen and your mark will be affected by it and you better make peace with it sooner than later, it hurts but it is true. You will make mistakes too at some point and they will have to come to terms with it as well.

One thing to remember is that the group passes or fails together, so if you are having a problem with a team member I highly recommend you resolving it internally. You may have a team member that is not pulling in their weight as much as others and from what I have heard it is best to just deal with it because making a big deal and having the moderators deal with this may result in a negative impact on the whole group (if you have a member that’s MIA that may be a different issue, but if its a member that’s slacking off here and there, I would just have the rest of the group deal with it rather than bring CMA into the mix).

You will get to know the people in your team very well so make the best of it, try to laugh through it all because you will see them more than your family some weeks so try to make it pleasant (we would often bring snacks, joke around, and made sure to get to know each other).



  1. Hi Case Master,

    My group just handed in the first assignment with only one team discussion at the beginning. We don't really have a team leader, and it is so harder to discuss something because part of the team never answer your emails. Corrected quantitive analysis got changed, my suggestions for correcting these wrong ones got ignored or refused.(sometime I wonder how they get in CMA as they don't have the basic accounting knowledge)) I was so stressed and felt bad for my team performance. I am strong in quantitive analysis, but my team didn't take my suggestion because one team member didn't trust me and the rest of team said nothing ( we communicate via email. what a bad method) I don't really what to do. It is really hard to work as a team when some of your team members don't have open mind. Could you give me some suggestion?

    1. I think that communicating via email is a recipe for disaster because it is easy to get ignored or to not be able to convey your point across in a clear and confident way.
      Even though meeting face to face is time consuming, I really advise that your group starts doing this. That way when there is a disagreement, it can be discussed, addressed and resolved (via a vote if all else fails). In an email you cannot vote and whoever has the last copy really can do what they want, which is not right (unless you trust them and gave them the go ahead).

      Try to talk with your group and explain that one of the key factors in succeeding as a group, is working as a group. Email is something that you can use to clarify last minute things, or to share information but it should not be the main method of communication.

      Is there someone specific in the group that is pushing for email versus face to face meetings?

      Only by meeting face to face and hearing everyone’s opinions and contributions to the report, will the group members learn who is strong in which area and how to trust with what. In the beginning no one knows who is better at which areas.

      I hope things work out well, keep me updated!

  2. Our group used skype and video/teleconferenced at least 3 times throughout the week. We definitely couldn't have submitted a cohesive report without talking things through. Ideas were proposed, challenged, and resolved in a civil manner, and our report was better off for it. If you feel that you're strong in quants, volunteer to do that section next time so your group is aware of your strengths. It may be hard at times, but don't take it personally if someone disagrees with your ideas - ask for a group consensus if things can't be agreed upon. Propose a time to meet up online in the evening when everyone's free. I'm sure others in your group share the same sentiments.

  3. We are working on our first assignment, and the process has gone a lot better than I had expected. We've been able to communicate through a kick off meeting followed by a string of video conference calls. Duties have been assigned to each group member, and everyone has been completing their part, making it so much easier. We've found also that voting on any issue seems to result in a pretty quick resolution - this was a key point we agreed to when developing our team agreement. As someone that was never really a fan of group work, I've been pleasantly surprised with how well it is going! This team seems to function better than any workplace team I've dealt with in the past.


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