Because working in teams is such a critical organizational skill, SOM students get started early. Members of the MBA Class of 2017 spent their second week on campus taking Managing Groups and Teams, a weeklong core course that introduces them to the tools and techniques of successful teamwork.
All week, the new students rotated through the course in their color-coded cohorts.
“It’s a little like air traffic control,” says Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of organizational behavior. “There are four cohorts in session and four professors teaching at any one given time.”
The course aims to provide students with a conceptual framework for analyzing and enhancing group dynamics. Students hone their skills through lectures, exercises, and feedback.
Associate Professor Victoria Brescoll, Senior Lecturer Heidi Brooks, and Assistant Professor Michael Kraus also teach the course. A group of nine teaching assistants—consisting of second-year MBAs and PhD students—assists.
Classroom topics have included titles such as Organizational Hierarchies, Intergroup Relations, and Leadership in Teams, among others. Lectures are accompanied by exercises that often divide students into groups to analyze and create solutions to challenging teamwork situations in real time .
Alex Savtchenko ’16, a TA, interned at Riot Games, a tech-based game company in California. Savtchenko says that lessons he gleaned in the course last year were especially applicable.
“I was responsible for working across departments to identify common communication challenges within the company and develop a strategy for improving cross-team collaboration,” Savtchenko says.
“I had to manage a wide variety of stakeholders with very divergent interests. The techniques I learned from Managing Groups and Teams—especially about adapting to different communication styles, engaging team members early in the process, and understanding how to manage different stakeholders with greatly varying perspectives—really proved priceless.”
Lizzie Horvitz ’16, who is also serving as a TA, says the course really came into play during her internship at Estée Lauder this summer. Horvitz worked in the cosmetic giant’s Global Corporate Responsibility division.
“Managing Groups and Teams helped me better understand my strengths and weaknesses when interacting with others on a professional level and gave me the self-awareness needed to be most productive,” Horvitz says. “I came away better able to understand my team members’ actions, communication skills, and motivations.”