Define Your Path

How Online Graduate Program Group Work Can Prepare You For Real-World Experiences

For a moment pretend you are the Chief Design Officer in charge of New Product Development. You have the challenge of bringing a new tangible product to your firm’s global market. In order to accomplish the arduous design task five global teams must be involved. The hardware design team resides in Europe and the software team resides in the United States (where you live) with programming support in India. In addition, the manufacturing site is located in China and the technical publications team is in Russia. The execution of such a project is highly complex and will require global coordination between functions. Just imagine how to manage team meetings!

Globalization of products and resources creates these very opportunities. Working with a diverse group of teams to accomplish a project is the new “standard” for a multinational firm. New technology is available to assist. Think of Web Ex and Video Conferencing as two examples. Face to face communication tools such as Skype give groups the advantage of face to face contact. Centers of excellence are no longer located in just one geographical region. Rather these centers are spread throughout the world. You can no longer simply walk across the aisle to the next cubicle to seek input. You will need to seek input in some cases from individuals you never had the opportunity to have physically met.

There are two items that can greatly improve the effectiveness of group work. The first piece is technical in nature. Are the groups meeting their action plan dates? Is there coordination between the technology parts of the project? The second piece, which is more difficult, is the need to build interpersonal relationships across cultural boundaries. How do you ensure communication is effective between groups? How can you ensure groups will be there to help each other as required?

In this regard the online graduate program assimilates the real-world. In many classes groups are formed and assigned a project. Students not located in the same geographical region come together to formulate a plan that will result in a deliverable. I will use the BSG (Business Strategy Game) simulation as an example. A group of students must form a team and plan a strategy to run a shoe business. Students from different geographies collaborate through the session. Most of these students have never physically met their peers. Sound familiar?

As in any project there is a technical piece to the simulation. This includes the impact that inputs will yield on the final result. In addition there is the interpersonal piece of the simulation. In the online graduate program we have students with different backgrounds and areas of concentration. What is of importance here are the group dynamics. As in any project in the real world, engagement and collaboration are necessary. How members of the team formulate and negotiate the final solution is critical to the success of the simulation. In the BSG example similar to the real world, each business must strive to meet or beat shareholder expectations.

True, BSG is a business versus product development model. However, the fundamental pieces of managing in a group environment are the same. Deliverables are required to a timeline. As in most projects in the real-world resources are not dedicated to any one project. The student in the online curriculum must learn to balance all priorities. The group is virtually located, dependent on technology to communicate and collaborate.

Unlike the traditional classroom setting the online graduate student provides current and prospective students the opportunity to practice and hone their “virtual management” skills. As firms globalize, the need to coordinate and execute in this manner is real.

For the online graduate student this is another tool to be added to the MBA/MS tool box!

To learn more about how our online MBA program can prepare you for real-world experiences call us at (866) 295-3104 to speak with a Program Manager.