With my background in both project management and drilling rig management set in an international backdrop I was used to working as part of a large multinational team but there was a clear hierarchy and reporting structure. In coming back into the learning environment to do the full-time MBA at Strathclyde I found the situation to be different to my previous industry in that all the MBA participants are effectively starting on a level playing field however they are still working towards a common goal.
There is a vast range of professional backgrounds within the cohort, each having their own objectives and goals for the MBA. The mix of experience and skillsets means everyone has something to contribute to the lectures and the group work, which make up a large proportion of the course.
Being effective in the group situation is key and with many strong characters, differing styles, personality types as well as varying cultural backgrounds it can be challenging. The structure of the course is very deliberate and the start of the first term featured the learning manager class as well as a session on cultural intelligence (CQ). The learning manager class was run over three days and featured some very useful ‘tools’ and techniques for working in groups as well as highlighting some of the common pitfalls and biases to be aware of. We were given the opportunity to reflect on our varying learning and influencing style preferences as well as to practice facilitation making sure everyone was given the opportunity to provide their input. The aim of this exercise was to understand the varying group dynamics, eliminate error by viewing from alternative perspectives and to capture creativity. The cultural intelligence session is relatively new with Strathclyde being one of the first business schools to incorporate this into their MBA course. We were taught that to be able to function effectively in a variety of cultural settings it is important to adapt and understand how culture can shape behaviour. The cultural aspect is becoming increasingly important in today’s global business environment.
Having completed these sessions, we could then seek to apply the learnings as part of our group assignments for the proceeding classes. With multiple assignments and different groups running simultaneously, managing time along with the collective effort is a skill, invariably WhatsApp group chat and Dropbox are used to coordinate and collaborate effectively.
So far the group assignments and tasks have proved to be an excellent learning experience for me as there is always the opportunity to gain something from the interactive discussions and my fellow group members. Being able to reflect on the group experience has only added to the learning process and feel my ability to work more effectively in the upcoming group assignments has improved as a direct result.