The MBA Group Honor Code

In an MBA program, we have tons of opportunities to work in a group. Preasently, in the five classes we’re having in this 1.5-month half semester, we have groupworks done for three of them.

A group is both an opportunity and a challenge.

It is an opportunity because you have multiple means to gain deeper insight to a case. For example, today, we had a Eureka! moment when one of my groupmates offered a different approach than what I’ve thought of before. Sometimes, it really is beneficial to have different people checking and balancing your work.

Meanwhile, it is a challenge when you have to spend more time just to get group consensus. It also becomes difficult when other people do not come prepared and hence, we work longer on a case because we have to spend more time twiddling our thumbs. Work is also tough to distribute equally and sometimes, work gets stuck to those who’s done their homework.

Given this, I am writing a Groupmate Honor Code.

We have to sign an Honor Code in HKUST, where we have to promise not to lie, cheat or steal. We also similarly signed a student honor code where we promised to attend all our classes, not be late, and what nots.

However, we have yet to have a GroupMate Honor Code, to which am sharing with you guys right now:

1) Attend all the meetings and be on time.

Presence in a group meeting is truly important. You cannot really imagine how much content a group can discuss within a 2- to 3-hour period, and it’s really irritating when a person comes in at the last hour, and then forces the entire group to change the foundation of the work.

This happened to us the last time. After three hours of discussion, we were done and because of other reasons, our last groupmate came and we not only had to explain to him our conclusions (which would not be necessary if he was actually present earlier), and he tried to make a lot of changes in our thesis.

Now I can imagine that given our busy schedules as an MBA, we cannot always be on time and we try to catch up.

However, by forgoing your presence in the meeting, you are also turning over your decision making power to the majority of the people who are actually present in the meeting.

Hence, even though you have more the right to share your thoughts in the case where the group have forgotten about a critical area, this doesn’t mean that you have the right to change everything just because you didn’t catch the earlier session.

If the group still decides to accept your theory, then good and fine. However, if they decide that they need to go because they’ve already spent three hours discussing the whole thing, then good and fine too.

In a way, this is respectful to the group.

You are telling them, “Guys, am really sorry am late but I do respect that the decisions you’ve made together — even without me — are right for the good of the group.”

So please do share, but don’t insist too much.

2) Don’t take phone calls while in the group meeting.

A meeting is similar to a date. When in the course of a discussion, unless it’s a matter of life and death, it’s good to turn phones off to silent mode.

I remember on an earlier group meeting, my group mate was yakking on the phone with a club fellow about something for 5 minutes. It’s not that I think that talking on the phone is wrong. However, I do believe stalling a group discussion and talking to someone else while others are waiting is quite impolite.

I myself have been a victim of receiving calls during a group meeting.

If I am in the midst of the discussion, I ask the caller to call back again later. However, if the meeting is over and we’re just chit-chatting, I just take the call.

Agree, no?

3) Come prepared. Don’t just read the case. Do the homework.

I know that MBA students are always busy. I myself feel that am up my neck with coursework, readings and assignments. And yet, I do believe that an MBA is all about priorities.

Yes, it’s really about time management and choosing which events and assignments to do first.

Now, I don’t really care how anyone in my group spends on their free time.

They can see family, go shopping, go out, or sleep. That of course is reasonable. An MBA is not a be all anyways.

However, if they come into a meeting, they better come prepared.

Their answers are all thought out in their head and hopefully presented well in written format (because what better way to organize your ideas than to write them down), and their answers — be it correct or incorrect — are ready.

What I dislike the most is when I’m at a group setting (And not that this has happened to me yet), and I’m asking, “So what are the results you guys have?” and all I see are shuffling of papers and a weak attempt on trying to get an answer out.

If you are not prepared, it shows. If you are prepared, it shows.

There’s no bullshitting about it.

Now, preparation doesn’t have to be in putting ideas and calculations in powerpoint, though in my experience, I find Excel to be helpful nowadays. However, if you don’t come in with a notebook full of notes, hell, you probably didn’t do the work enough.

And it shows.

Given that we all have tight schedules and a group meeting is a luxury we give to each other in the group, it really is respectful when you come in having done the work already. Personally, a group setting is where I get to check and question my assumptions. It’s really such a delight when another groupmate tells me where I did wrong, and offer another approach to tackling a problem.

However, if I feel that you didn’t really do the work, it can be a bit disappointing for me, especially since I did the work myself already and I don’t think it’s fair that you’ll just be using my work for your benefit just because of not so good time management.

I know it’s tough, but it can be done.

Just know that others have the same schedules as you, and we are all trying hard to absorb the same materials as you do. We are neither smarter or faster than anyone else, and it really boils down to time management.

Doing the prep work before the meeting shows you respect everyone’s time. Not coming prepared… well, don’t do it too often because we didn’t pay such high tuition to have other people do the work for us.

4) Stick to the topic.

Self-explanatory and we’re doing a better job at this already. 🙂

However, it’s always good to remind ourselves to stick to the topic and be more results oriented. Meaning, we all come to the meeting having already did the prep work. Hence, just tell us the conclusion of your thoughts and we know the logic behind it already.

Don’t blab and argue about ideas that don’t answer any of the case questions anyway. They’re good to hear for 5 minutes, but not for half an hour.

Stick to the topic, and this btw is a good reminder to me as well.

5) Be constructive, respectful and understand that nothing is personal.

We all have to work in a group, and after the group meeting, we eat and laugh together. Group meetings are nothing personal. We have these to brainstorm and exchange ideas and at the end of the day, no matter how heated the discussion may be, we’re all still friends.

I have one of my groupmates send me a text message earlier saying, “Just wanted to say good morning because I forgot!”

I thoguht it was really cute. 🙂

It was just a delightful thing to be with people you can debate with, be heated with, and still be okay afterwards. That means, the meeting is conducted peacefully (or at least, we make peace before leaving) and with respect.

In conclusion, I think one of the biggest lessons of an MBA is to teach me on how to become a better team player. Admittedly, I am not the most team-oriented person in the world. I came in the world of finance where we needed only one brain to solve one problem, and not five brains tackling the same issue.

However, I believe that this is a virtue that people should all value in the long run. In a way, how do you become successful if you cannot work with another.

It is in this cohesive environment however that we learn that in order to be a better player, we really have to do our own share. Come to the meetings prepared and be respectful of others.

And I believe that it’s through these group experiences that we come off with stronger, better bonds with each other.

Have a great weekend ahead!


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