College Q&A: Group Project Overload

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Question:

Ever since I joined the business program at my school I’ve been overwhelmed with group projects. WTF? It’s college; doesn’t anyone know how hard it is to get people together in a group!? Anyways, I’m never good at this whole group thing because I always get frustrated and either start fights or take total control. I don’t like leaving my GPA in other peoples’ hands. I’m just wondering what you think is the best way to do group projects. Any tips? Advice? Ideas for working around the busy schedules of 6 people???

GPA Girl:

Okay. As someone who also despises working in groups, I can definitely sympathize. But I think you need to look at things from your professors’ points of view. Perhaps the reason they’re assigning group projects so often is because group work is vital in the business world. And people in the real world aren’t going to be any less busy than people are now at your b-school.

It sounds as if you have a commanding personality, which is a great for a career in business and for being a good group leader. I think you just have to channel your personality in a more positive way. You have the gift of being able to commandeer a group, so use it well! The next time you feel yourself starting to get frustrated and wanting to start a fight, just take a step back and do your best to shut out the emotional part of your brain. Focus on the logical (and, if you can, on the compassionate). What could you say that might be best in this situation? How can you work to bring people together and cooperate with all of them rather than isolating yourself by taking control? Trust me, you’ll be working with difficult people for your whole life long, so it’s best to start building an arsenal of tips and tricks ASAP.

As far as coordinating schedules goes, don’t be afraid to try the unorthodox. Skype meetings might be the way to go, or maybe you can delegate different tasks to different small groups, then meet together as a big group later and discuss everything as a team. That method could also cut down on fights. If all else fails, bring cookies to your group-work meetings. That way, no one will ever complain about you taking control.

Party Girl:

I have to say that I completely agree with you. My professor announces we are doing a group project and I sink down into the depths of my seat and silently weep. Unlike high school when you would lock eyes with your BFF and demand you partner up with her, group projects in college are wrought with difficulty. Everything from meeting with your group, to getting everyone to do quality work is the absolute devil.

But it is possible to be successful if you rule procrastination (my favorite pastime) out of the equation. Beginning your group project/meetings early will give everyone time to lay out an effective work schedule for meeting and getting the assignment done.  I have also discovered a lovely nugget of group meeting goodness called: Google Docs. Set up a free account on Google and your entire group can work on a Power Point/paper together, miles away. It really is the diamond in the rough of group projects, and members can work on the project during their spare time.

And, really, there is one good thing (besides that “A”) to come from group work: you get to know people in your class that you never would have spoken to otherwise, which could mean new friends to hang out with/grab a drink with after that dreaded project is finally done.

Busy Bee:

I completely understand! I never understood why anyone ever assigned group projects – they make no sense whatsoever. I’ve probably experienced every kind of problem there is with doing group projects (members decide to withdraw from the course and not answer any of our calls, members who “forget” what our group essay topic is the day before it’s due…sigh).

I’ve found that the best way to keep everyone on point is through Facebook messaging. I love how when you message 6 people at once, everyone gets the updates, and the previous messages are kept as well. This is the easiest way to make sure everyone knows what they need to know in an organized manner. As for schedules, I’ve usually asked for everyone’s schedule and found either an hour or two where everyone was free. In cases where absolutely no free time is available, just have half the group meet at a time. One half can take care of the logistics while the other half can take care of the presentation factors (or whatever division you want). Just make sure that before the due date, there is one day where everyone can meet quickly and ‘okay’ the final product. If that’s not possible, then make sure people have the opportunity to voice their opinions through your Facebook message thread.

Lastly, it’s okay to be proactive – just not overwhelming. Everyone is busy and there is a fine line between a friendly reminder and constant nagging. Let people know that if they don’t do their job by a certain date, they will face some sort of consequence.   Remember, give your group members the benefit of the doubt until you have reason not to trust them for following through. If they don’t do what they’ve been told to do, then alert your professor at least a week or 2 in advance.

Fall 2010 Fashion Week All-Stars
Fall 2010 Fashion Week All-Stars
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