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Analyzing Work Groups by Hill and Anteby

Essay by   •  May 14, 2019  •  Case Study  •  1,976 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,711 Views

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The group design factors outlined in Analyzing Work Groups by Hill and Anteby provide a framework to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Music Games International (MGI) team as well as identify actions to enhance its effectiveness. Analyzing the individual design factors of group composition, task design, and formal organization serve as a diagnostic tool and provide insight on the development, dynamics, and effectiveness of MGI. By looking at how these design factors interact and are shaped by contextual factors, recommendations to increase team effectiveness for Henry Tam, an HBS student who recently joined MGI, can be determined and implemented.

The group composition, though small in amount of personnel, has a diverse makeup that could potentially give the MGI more of an advantage if structured appropriately. The common cultural and ethnic background of the founders was arguably beneficial during the early stages of the company, especially since their Russian connections allowed them to keep licensing costs very low. However, as the company progressed and the product’s needs exceeded the bandwidth and expertise of the three founders, lack of critical experience quickly became a detriment. For example, while Sasha had “jumped from industry to industry” he seemingly did not accomplish anything major and was lacking in overall business understanding.

In addition to MGI’s initial lack of diversity, the familiarity of the founders and their limited experience were active roadblocks that contributed to MGI’s first product failure, primarily to the lack of “...experience and resources needed to effectively market and distribute the product.” Recognizing this, the founders brought in three talented individuals with varied backgrounds to help expand the breadth of experience and knowledge of the company. With new members came different working styles and personalities; it became apparent that the interpersonal norms of the Russians and the new members clashed. In fact, Henry noted that the relationship quickly became “Dana and me versus the Russians.”

The different perspectives and personalities of each member affected the dynamics of the team. Dana, MGI’s first Harvard Business School (HBS) addition, viewed situations through the lens of her banking background; “Dana looked at things like a financial specialist—a wide lens, very broad view.” While MGI recognized the need for a financier in their organization, Dana’s direct and structured approach resulted in direct conflict with the founders. Roman observed after their second meeting, “‘Sasha thought Dana just talked without knowing anything; he thought she didn’t do the analysis, didn’t know the financials, and was too general.” The conflicting personalities, ranging from structured and data driven, to dismissive and creative-based, led to a stalemated organization which lacked structure and a clear vision but with an internal composition capable of achieving success. All that seemed to be missing were more clearly defined roles and responsibilities based off each team member’s strengths.

When evaluating MGI’s task design factor, there are several aspects that need attention. Members believed in the significance of their product and were motivated to create a successful business plan to commercialize its product. However, a fundamental issue regarding roles and structure prevented forward progress on a business plan. HBS students consisting of Dana and Henry, viewed their roles as leaders of the overall business aspects and were eager to position themselves for a post-graduation career opportunities at MGI. On the other hand, the MGI founders viewed the students’ roles in a limited capacity. This lack of clear role distinction led the HBS team to conclude that they were brought onboard solely for their business plan writing skills and business school network to improve branding and marketing of MGI product.

The disconnect in roles and organizational structure transferred into group meetings which lacked clear structure and purpose. No agenda was followed and no clear action items seemed to transpire from the “very unorganized brainstorming” sessions. During the initial phase, the creative brainstorming was critical for ideas but the effectiveness in developing a business plan and for decision making were poor. Given the lack of required activity for the team, HBS students were “unsure of their roles and about where their participation would lead.” While the founders “...were committed to working together, and each valued the contribution the others made to the company” this did not always come across in interactions. The issues primarily arose between team members with business backgrounds. As the negative chemistry between Sasha and Dana, for example, increased, the two groups ended up working separately on the business plan. “Sasha felt that his efforts were being wasted” at one point during a group meeting as the HBS students’ business presentation overshadowed Sasha’s ideas and the group unknowingly ignored Sasha’s input.

While there were difficulties understanding roles and functions in the beginning stages, as time progressed and the team developed, the founders and the rest of the team came to better understand the skills and value each member brought. For example, Alex understood that each member had certain responsibilities and said, regarding one of his fellow members, “Dav was brought in to handle the technology side because he has computer expertise.” There wasn’t a single team member who wasn’t doing their part and putting in work. This added greatly to the level of ideas and the strength of the developing business plan. However, the division of labor wasn’t always clear across the team and there was no hierarchy or structure when it came to reporting relationships. This made decision making difficult for MGI. Both Dav and Dana agreed that there was no leadership and it was evident that leadership wavered depending on the situation.

The ambiguous organizational structure was not the only area that needed improvement; MGI did not identify or establish systems to measure market effectiveness. The teams were divided between targeting the music and education industry. The founders were bent on pursuing the music industry, while Henry and Dana were convinced of the efficacy of the education market. The founders’ insistence upon marketing to the music industry demonstrated their inherent bias, a result of the “curse of knowledge.” They did not have backgrounds in education or teaching kids, and with their music knowledge they envisioned the product primarily for entertainment. What they knew about music and the industry prevented them from understanding Henry’s viewpoint, which was supported by data and research. With no structure and an inherent lack of understanding,

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