It’s a new semester, which in the business school means the beginning of a new set of group projects. With final reports usually worth 25% of your grade, many students worry about how to keep a group on track to a positive final outcome. We have all heard the horror stories of slacker group members and rushing to finish the project minutes before the deadline. Read on to learn some tips and tools that have helped me enjoy group projects while working toward a grade A project.
Assemble a great team
. Sometimes you have no control over your group, but when you can choose your partners, try to build a great team around you. This doesn’t mean picking all of the straight-A students, but finding people with different skills that complement each other. I usually have a friend who is great with technology, an exceptionally creative acquaintance, someone who is fun to keep meetings enjoyable, and I keep everyone accountable to our timeline.
Find a standing meeting time
. When everyone saves a weekly meeting on their calendar from the beginning, you can spend the rest of the semester focused on the content and not logistics. If you are struggling with crazy student schedules, send out a Meeting Wizard (http://www.meetingwizard.com/)
or Doodle (http://doodle.com/)
survey to find common times faster.
Plan out the semester
. At the first or second meeting, take the time to create a timeline for the semester. After you understand the demands of the project and deadlines, decide how and when the work will be completed. I definitely suggest building in a week or two at the end as emergency slack time and to give you plenty of time to edit before the project is due. When everyone decides on the timeline and responsibilities from the beginning, the group can move in the same direction and hold each other accountable to the plan.
Hold group members accountable
. It is only fair that everyone do their fair share of the project, and holding people accountable throughout the semester is a lot easier than blaming people at the end for not completing their part. I suggest reviewing your timeline at each meeting to make sure that everyone is keeping up and to see if adjustments need to be made. If someone misses a meeting, reach out to them to keep them in the loop and make sure they have completed their work for the week.
Break the project into smaller pieces
. I do not mean chopping up the project to be distributed among group members. Rather, have smaller goals to complete each week. Usually the first two weeks are spent researching, so maybe everyone brings 2 articles to the second meeting. Maybe the next week everyone outlines a different section that is reviewed by all at the meeting. Then each person can write their section taking into account the group’s edits and additions. This process continues through presentation writing and editing. When everyone has a smaller, clearly defined task, the entire group stays on track all are kept in the loop. Also, smaller goals make it easier to see progress and spreads the work load throughout the semester.
. It is great to have a plan, but obviously circumstances change and things come up. Remember that this is only a group project, and sometimes people need a little slack. If someone forgets one meeting or falls a little behind on their work, it is not the end of the world. However, make sure that they recognize the issue and that it does not become a pattern. One of my group projects kept everyone honest by asking group members to bring treats to the next meeting after they missed one. The rule recognized that missing a meeting was bad by holding them accountable, but made a few of our other meetings more fun with a snack.
End with a week-long edit chain
. I am a big fan of the edit chain. This means that when the project is theoretically all done, you take another week for everyone to read through and edit it. A little over a week before the project is due, have everyone sign up for a day to edit the project. Maybe I am the first one to read through the entire paper and make changes on Monday, then I email it to the next person to edit on Tuesday, they send it on for Wednesday edits and so on. By the end of the week, the entire group has read the entire paper and approved it to be turned in. That way, we are all responsible for the final product. The edit chain really helps the paper be internally consistent and greatly reduces the chance of minor mistakes. This also reduces the stress the last week before the project is due, as everyone is simply reading it through one last time.
In my experience, using all of these tips can help get you closer to the grade A project you are striving for. We would love to hear more suggestions, so feel free to comment with some of your group project tips!