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4 Group Project Tips for MBA Students

MBA students discussing a group project.

When you enrol in an MBA at Telfer, you get a chance to practice, learn, develop skills, get involved, and prepare for your career. This learning experience can help transform you into a stronger, smarter, kinder, and more agile person than you were before.

As an MBA student, how you learn is based on both theory and practice. Group projects are a practical way for students to learn how to collaborate with peers and expand their knowledge of management concepts.

Now that you’re in the MBA program, you know that you will be working in groups with your classmates throughout the program. Since group projects can be challenging, we have compiled four tips to help guide your team towards success.

Tip 1: Communicate expectations and deadlines before starting

Creating clear plans and objectives will encourage you and your team members to stay on top of deadlines throughout the group project.

Determine expectations and goals

MBA students working together in a meeting room.Once you have been assigned to your team, set up a meeting to introduce yourselves and to get to know each other. Take the time to review the assignment thoroughly and make sure you all have the same understanding of what needs to be done. Everyone works differently, so we recommend establishing clear expectations upfront. Identify the desired result, set clear objectives, discuss the overall project goal, and start brainstorming ideas.

You can set up future milestones and decide on specific details, like “which subjects will we discuss in the meeting next Tuesday?” or “how long will we talk about the topic?” Regular check-ins encourage and motivate members to complete their tasks on time and allow conflicts to be resolved when an issue arises.

Setting these expectations creates clarity for the group. It ensures that everyone understands what they are working towards, why they should be committed, and why it’s important. It also reduces stress, confusion, and chances of conflict.

Set strict deadlines

Naturally, your MBA professors will set deadlines for completing projects. However, you may find it useful to set earlier deadlines since you will be working with new people. For example, your teammates may wish to complete the assignment a day or two before the submission deadline to review the final copy.

MBA projects can span a long time. Break up your project into steps and set a deadline to complete each step. These are called milestone deadlines, and they should be divided among team members. Create a realistic and achievable timeline to allow your team to submit the project on time (i.e., everyone’s research should be completed before next Wednesday.)

These examples thoroughly demonstrate the importance of discussing these expectations with your team members before starting the project, during the initial meeting.

Tip 2: Determine the roles of each member

MBA groups are typically diversified to allow for a range of skillsets, specialties, and backgrounds. Members may have distinctive interests, work habits, values, and learning styles.

Decide if your team wants a group leader 

Your team must decide if they want to designate a leader or project owner. Although a group leader is not strictly necessary, having one can lead to a more efficient team. If someone is appointed to lead the team, the full weight of the project should not fall completely on their shoulders. All members should do the same amount of work.

Ask for volunteers before deciding who will be the leader. Group leads should be communicative and decisive. They must build good relationships with team members, discuss the project’s progress, ask the team for advice or different perspectives, and delegate tasks when necessary. For MBA projects, we typically see the project owner organize group meetings and check whether tasks are being completed on time.

MBA projects allow you to practice your leadership skills; the group leader can make mistakes, learn from them, and get feedback from their peers. We encourage teams to switch members to fill the leadership role from project to project. This gives everyone a chance to be a project manager and build their leadership skills for their careers.

Assign roles and distribute tasks to each member

The rest of the members will be assigned other roles, which should be rotated among the teammates throughout the term. Discuss the types of roles available and decide who will play each one. Here are some common roles students take on to complete MBA projects: editor, researcher, time and task manager, and mediator. If you don’t assign roles, members may be less proactive, and the group’s success can be at risk.

The next step is to structure the work and ensure that tasks are divided equally among students. Since everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, you can distribute the responsibilities according to individual strengths. It is essential that people be comfortable with their assigned task.

By setting clear expectations for everyone, you ensure that your team members understand their responsibilities completely. If anyone has a challenging time understanding their task, go over it again, ask the professor, or consult students from other teams to clarify the task.

Tip 3: Use online tools

We strongly recommend that teams use online tools or software to collaborate with their team throughout the MBA program. Take advantage of these tools to communicate with your team, share files, and track the project’s progress.

Use a task management tool

When completing multiple, demanding group projects, we suggest that students use online tools to help them plan and organize their projects. To manage your tasks effectively, build an e-calendar, checklist, or use work management software to track the project’s progress and key dates.

There are many sustainable, shareable task management platforms at your disposal, including Asana, ProofHub, Chanty, and nTask. These tools improve collaboration by allowing teams to organize, prioritize, and assign tasks. Conduct research to find the platform that best suits your team’s needs and stick to this platform for your entire MBA program.

Communicate and share documents online

An MBA student having an online video call with coworkers on a laptop Social networking apps allow you to communicate, collaborate, and share information: group conversations cannot always occur over the phone or video call. Online networking tools are useful for sending emails or quick text messages to your peers. You may want to use Outlook, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or any other social networking tool.

When actively working on a group project, it is vital that you share documents to see the progress your teammates are making. There are multiple platforms that provide this service, including Microsoft Office Online. You may also want to use alternatives, like a personal Google Drive account, Dropbox, or others. These platforms allow their users to collaborate in real time and can be easily accessed by others by sharing the link.

Tip 4: Work as a team

Your team’s success depends on each member’s productivity and efficiency. Therefore, it’s important that you trust and communicate with the members of your group and know how to be a good team player. Teams that lack efficiency will find it difficult to meet the project goals, objectives, and due dates.

Trust your team and communicate often

Group members should always collaborate and work together throughout a project’s execution. Trusting the members of your group and communicating with them regularly are crucial factors that will influence your team’s overall success.

Trust that your teammates will complete their tasks according to the project’s timeline, but if you feel this is not the case, offer your help and guidance.

Improve and encourage effective communication among team members. Explain your ideas clearly to others, listen to their suggestions, and support their ideas. Afterwards, you may reach a consensus or an agreement. Doing so will increase productivity and allow for easier conflict resolution when problems arise.

Be a team player

Define what being a good team player is, according to your group, and communicate what matters to you, such as what you expect from them in terms of communication, quality of work, etc. The ideal team player will meet the expectations of group members. This usually starts when you follow through on your commitments and encourage your team members to do the same. If you notice that some members of your group don’t fully follow through on commitments, hold them accountable in a respectful manner.

Good team players are reliable, have a positive attitude, and respect others. Be available for group meetings, attend them, and always complete your assigned tasks on time. By being respectful and remaining positive, your team members may be motivated to develop the same type of attitude towards the project. This creates a productive and encouraging work environment.

You and your team members should commit to excellence. Don’t forget to enjoy the process, appreciate the learning, and soak in the information.

The MBA projects offered by Telfer allow for a fulfilling personal, academic, and professional transformation. By solving business cases, exploring networking events, or working on other projects, you will learn and develop multiple skills during these projects, which will prepare you for your career. By communicating expectations and deadlines, determining roles, using online tools, and being a good team player, you will guide your team to success.

Learn more about the experiential learning and networking opportunities available to you as a Telfer MBA student.

About the Author

Myriam Kingsley est une étudiante à l’École de gestion Telfer au B.Com. en marketing. Au cours de son stage de travail dans le cadre du programme co-op, elle s'est spécialisée en marketing de contenu au sein de l’équipe de transformation numérique et d’engagement de Telfer.<br/> <br/>Myriam Kingsley is a student at the Telfer School of Management completing a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing. Throughout her CO-OP work term, she was a Content Marketer on the Telfer Digital Transformation and Engagement team.