Henry Tam and the MGI Team have three weeks to submit their business plan to HBS and are struggling to define roles, make decisions and resolve conflict. MGI’s team has diverse talents: Igor and Roman are accomplished musicians. Sasha has a keen business and finance acumen, Alex has substantial experience in music and business, Dav is software developer and an MBA student at MIT, Dana is a finance and banking major and currently a HBS MBA grad while Henry is an investment banker, has experience in business development and is currently also an HBS MBA graduate student.
MGI’s product is a critical success but a commercial failure. The founders wish to market it as a game while the student team believes it should be used as an educational tool.
The MGI team was multi talented, functionally diverse, extremely passionate and had a valuable product. However the team had little success working together due to individual conflicts, dysfunctional team processes, cultural differences, lack of organization and structure, lack of formal roles and norms, formation of sub-groups with no team integration, all resulting in an extremely anti-productive working culture.
Most importantly, no leader was officially appointed to define the role structure, the decision-making process and assess team performance. The blend of creativity and business was the teams major strength but an asset not effectively utilized. It helped them to create a product which would definitely succeed if marketed and positioned effectively but the team was unable to merge their capabilities. A strong bond is visible between Igor, Roman and Sasha though from different backgrounds, which is important for team success.
Such diversity and cohesiveness was an example for new members to act likewise, exhibited by Henry who developed a strong bond with the team. The team consists of distinctly different cultures. The Americans are from a culture with low uncertainty avoidance and are ready to take a risk on a viable opportunity while the Russians are high on uncertainty avoidance seen in their indecisiveness on a sector to target. The founders made several mistakes from the team design stage. The objectives were very broad, there was no compelling purpose or mission to motivate team members or make them understand how their work fits into the larger purpose.
Roles were undefined resulting in conflicting expectations, frustrations, tension and confusion. Roman disagreed with the other founders. Henry and Dana were in consistent disagreement with Sasha. Sasha and Dana had continuous lack of behavioral integration and lacked collaborative behavior or joint decision making skills. There was no democratic means of reaching an agreement. The brainstorming sessions were too lengthy and reached no conclusions. This led to problems in performing and the business plan being way behind schedule.
The first team problem identified was the lack of role specifications. Henry should caution to the team the deadline for the Business Plan Contest application and advise the appointment of an effective leader, dominating himself given he has the necessary leadership styles for the position. He should specify roles, duties, norms and delegate tasks and responsibilities in achieving short term and long term goals. Henry could convince the MGI team to target the educational market for its short term goal and the entertainment market as its long term goal.
He should also keep a close monitor on how the team communicates formally and informally, addressing dysfunctional behaviors immediately. The second team problem was diversity and the multicultural background. “Successful management of diverse groups requires knowledge of group dynamics and conflict management and an understanding and acceptance of differences among people”. Henry should adhere to Dana and Sasha the common goal but give them different responsibilities that distance them working directly.
The third team problem was that norms and values were not identified. Their main problem was the repetitive decision making process with no consensus. The objectives of their meetings where not stated nor was there proper time management. Henry should prepare an agenda of objectives and communicate them clearly to the group prior to the meetings. He should appoint Dana as minute taker for the meetings to ensure schedule is followed and necessary post meeting actions clearly stated and executed. Finally, the conflict between the team members presented another team problem.
The three founders had some conflict among themselves. Sasha and Dana stereotyped each other and was always in opposition. Henry acted as the compromiser to resolve the conflict between Sasha and Dana using the compromising technique but should exercise preventative strategies. MGI should look for a neutral third party leader with plenty of industry expertise and teamwork leadership skills in the long run. Dana had commented, “We need one more person to make the whole thing work: someone with seniority and a deep knowledge of the market…” . The team members were in deep conflicts and sometimes did not respect each other so a neutral party may be best option in long term.
In summary, the team desperately needed a leader with Henry having the right qualities. He could control his emotions, was confident, a good listener, highly analytical and got along with entire team. With three weeks to go the team needs to come together with a common goal and clear objectives to finish business plan and structure the company moving forward thereafter with either Henry or a neutral third party as the leader.