Today’s schedule makes the last 2 days look like a breeze. At work my calendar was filled with meetings for all but 30 minutes, including interviewing a new candidate for my team. Since this role will work closely with me I put some time and thought into devising a series of technical and behavioral questions to ascertain how the candidate might handle various likely scenarios and if there was a good cultural fit. I sent my analysis to my boss who said it was great feedback, very intuitive and in line with his own thoughts so I’m glad I’m able to add value to that process. I also had lunch with a former coworker who’s interested in Tableau. We went out for sushi & we had a chance to catch up, share experiences at our new companies and talk a bit about how he might fit in at Tableau. The buzz around my new employer is kind of blowing me away, I mean I knew I’d found a gem and made the right choice for me, but I have a fellow TMMBA classmate and former study group member who’s early in the process of interviewing for a role with us, another expressed interest tonight when I got to class and several others have also expressed interest. As I’ve become accustomed to at Tableau the day flew by and before I knew it I was on my way across the lake to the EEC.
Arrived at the EEC and tonight we had a Tech at the Top guest speaker from Concur speaking on Fostering Innovation, so I grabbed a plate of Mexican food and headed into classroom 3 for the talk. Class started a little late tonight at 6:15 due to the guest speaker during dinner, and tonight we had a record 3 guests from Monday section join us (we’ve had Monday students join us for the last 4 weeks straight, but only one per night until tonight). Some of my classmates suggested they’re sending spies but I suspect word is just getting out that the Wednesday section is more fun. (As you can see we have a healthy friendly rivalry between the sections…in truth the whole cohort is made up of wonderful, smart, committed people and I like every one of them).
Tonight at the start of class we broke into 6 groups and were assigned positions to defend on the group case we’d turned in before class started tonight. My group was assigned the opposite position from the one my study group chose and wrote our paper on last night, so I had a chance to argue for the other position. Here’s a picture I took of us after we wrapped up our arguments in favor:
I’m actually live-blogging (hear that CNN?) during class tonight, multi-tasking as we used to say in the 90s before everyone realized it was impossible due to the singular nature of attention. I better turn my attention back to the content of class…more in a bit.
Tonight I took advantage of our break to reach out to a hiring manager about my classmate’s interest & got that ball rolling. I also noticed they also put up lights at the EEC:
Class will end at 9:30 tonight, but I’m going to say goodnight now.
Teams… Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are a part of our business life. Given that, how does one transition from merely surviving to thriving in a team? TMMBA students came together as part of immersion week to answer that very question.
Right from the start, we were each assigned to a study team of 4 to 6 people which was formed based on geography, background, and personality type considerations to ensure a broad range of skill sets. After all, what better way to learn than by doing? As a team, we will be responsible for completing a variety of assignments together over the next nine months and, more importantly, helping to get one another through the program. Interestingly, at random, I asked several classmates over the week how they liked their team, and they all responded that their team was terrific! We are off to a great start.
In addition, we attended three half day sessions taught by the incredibly engaging Professor Bigley who is a master of Socratic questioning and draws his classes into lively discussions. Together we reviewed a number of articles exploring the pitfalls of teams, decision making, and how to create high performance teams. For example, we learned about the downside of Groupthink by studying the Bay of Pigs decision-makers. We talked of decision making as a process rather than an event. We were introduced to the idea of inquiry in decision making which generates multiple alternatives and fosters the exchange of ideas. We studied the Army’s high performance OPFOR team which uses after-action reviews to continually learn and thereby regularly bests numerically and technologically superior opponents in training competitions. It was an incredibly packed week and yet it was only the beginning.
Now, we bring these concepts into practice as we go forward and continue to build upon our study teams. My team, the Red Bulls, is off to a great start and I for one am bullish on TMMBA teams.
Professor Greg Bigley has taught in the TMMBA Program since its inception in 2001. He teaches Building Effective Work Teams at the start of the program and Leading Organization Change during the fifth quarter. Bigley is a high-energy instructor and his classes are fast-paced, challenging, and extremely relevant. As a result, he has been recognized by students several times for his excellence in teaching.
In his classes, Bigley focuses on the relationship of people, structure, and culture on organizational and team performance. In this short video, he shares more about building effective teams.
Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director & Class of 2012
This past spring our graduating students wrapped up their TMMBA experience with a new course in the curriculum – the Venture Capital Investment Practicum.
This two-day course is taught by Foster alum and GeekWire Chief Business Officer, Rebecca Lovell. It is designed to pull together all of the TMMBA coursework viewed through the lens of venture capital investing. Working in teams, students dove into one tech startup in detail, evaluating its potential for investment. Classes featured guest speakers and involved practical application of the concepts.
The course ended with all-day competition. Acting as VCs, students evaluated business plans of two local startups and selected one to invest in. Leading up to the competition teams reviewed the executive summaries, put together an initial analysis, and drafted questions for the entrepreneurs.
The day of the competition was a flurry of activity. Each entrepreneur pitched their business to the class and then teams held mini “due diligence” sessions with the entrepreneurs throughout the morning. Teams had only an hour and a half during a working lunch to make their final investment decision, develop an executive summary, and put together their presentation slides. During the afternoon teams presented and defended their decisions to a panel of judges from the startup community.
At the end of the day, there were two winning teams. Here’s what a few of their members had to say about the experience:
“The real world doesn’t lay everything out for you, and neither did the VCIC. It really challenged us to apply the concepts we learned in a so-this-is-what-it’s-really-like kind of a way.” – Amy Klehm, Team Honeybadgers
“I really didn’t know what to expect, except to give it my all. I didn’t expect for our team to win, even after my teammate Krishnan cheered us on. The experience altogether was intense, fast-paced, and very rewarding. Now I know how to be on the other side of the table when it comes to entrepreneurship. While playing the VC role, I definitely learned how to ask the necessary questions in order to determine what is a significant and promising investment.” – Roann Lubang, Team Sporks
“The TMMBA Venture Captital course/competition was a great way to gain a glimpse into and to experience the VC process. It was also an excellent way to network with some of the most active members in the Seattle Startup community.” – Krishnan Ananthanarayanan, Team Sporks
I’m posting on behalf of my TMMBA team: the Sporks (class of 2012). One of our classes this sixth (and final!) quarter presented us with an opportunity to use social media to raise awareness for a cause that is important to us.
We had many ideas about which cause to support, but the MAI School in India resonated with the team. Our teammate, Krishnan, told us about the non-profit school his grandfather founded in India over 60 years ago.
Over the years, the school has done a lot with very little. They provide a 1st-10th grade education to hundreds of children per year, despite their constrained resources. The regional educational authorities pay teachers’ salaries, but not any other expenses like furniture or facility maintenance.
Krishnan’s grandfather is almost 100 years old, so Krishnan’s mother currently handles the day-to-day operations of the school. When we asked her how we could help, she told us that the benches and desks were about fifty years old and needed to be replaced.
The estimated cost to replace the benches and desks is approximately $5,000 USD. We knew it would be challenging, but we made it our goal to use social media to raise enough money to replace the benches and desks for the students at MAI.
So far, we’ve raised $1,172 of our $5,000 goal! If you’d like to help us reach our goal by making a donation, you can donate through our FundRAZR account: http://fnd.us/c/9IST9
Class 11 had a great session a few days ago with the always-entertaining Greg Bigley, in which we discussed how our study teams were working out. While on the subject of team meetings, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that the team I am part of, Team Blue Chips, had some of the most efficient and productive team meetings in the cohort (yay, team!). I thought others might want to hear about our meeting practices, so if that sounds useful to you, read on!
We average a little over one meeting a week (usually on Monday nights, starting at 7 pm) and rarely have our meetings go over two hours – apparently this is on the low side compared to other teams. Last quarter we invariably met virtually, over Skype, since commute times made it hard for us to meet much in person. While there is certainly a loss of communication fidelity when the meeting is voice-only (it is amazing how much communication happens through facial expressions, gestures, and body language!), we tried to make the best of it and on the whole were satisfied with the experience. Here are some of the things we did to keep our meetings meaty and free of filler:
Send out meeting request in advance, with agenda: The current Coordinator (a role rotated on a monthly basis within our team) is responsible for creating a meeting request for the team. This should contain an itemized agenda of what the team plans to cover during that meeting. This is essential for setting expectations.
Be on time: The team will wait up to but no more than 5 minutes for late-comers. If a team member can’t make it, they should try to inform the team via email in advance if possible. Time is extremely short for all of us, and so we have tried to build a culture of punctuality to maximize the efficient use of our time.
Decide on time frame for meeting: Based on the amount of material we have to cover, at the beginning of the meeting we estimate how much time it will take and try to keep to that schedule thereafter.
Assign meeting leader: A team member is designated the meeting leader for each meeting. This role is rotated and involves going over the agenda to open the meeting, keeping the meeting on track, taking notes during the meeting, and sending out meeting minutes afterwards. This gives each of us some practice in running tight meetings, and leaves the team with a record of things discussed and decisions taken during the meeting.
Assign leader for each case discussed: This is not exactly meeting-related, but certainly proved to be a good practice. We assign a leader for each case (ahead of time, of course), and rotate the responsibility, like all others. The case lead is expected to prepare the case thoroughly, lead the discussion around it, and prepare any case materials for submission. As far as possible, other team members should also prepare the case and provide their perspective during the team discussion.
Cover meeting items thoroughly, but keep it moving: The meeting agenda items are then covered in order, with each case lead driving the discussion for their cases. The meeting leader and case leader should keep the team focused during discussions, making sure that we don’t rat-hole or digress too much, so that we can end on time.
End meeting with AAR: At the end of the meeting, we have a 5-minute after-action review (AAR). This consists of each of us quickly and frankly listing things that either went well or need improvement. These could be things that we recognize ourselves doing or feedback for other team members. The emphasis is on continuous improvement as a team, so we aim to leave the AAR with specific action items.
Send out meeting notes: After the end of the team meeting, the meeting leader sends out the meeting minutes by email. These contain a bullet-point summary of what we did during the meeting, and in particular, list the AAR discussion points along with action items, if any. These notes are also listed in our online repository, where we keep all team materials.
And that’s about it. It’s not particularly complicated, but it takes discipline to be prepared for each meeting and stick to the plan through it. The advantages are definitely worth it, though – we have more time to ourselves, and generally end up well-prepared for class as a result of these meetings. I can’t guarantee that these exact practices will work for everyone, but they have certainly made life that much easier for Team Blue Chips!
It was the middle of November 2010 in a Woodinville winery, where my Foster School experience started with meeting a group of wonderful people in a reception event of TMMBA Class 11. Four people (Kundan, Bruce, Glen, and Keka) from that group were definitely special to me. These four folks were my study group – Blue Team – in this course. It was a great combination, with people having experience from accounting, customer management, quality assurance, and IT administration with my own experience in software development. At the end of the event, Tracy reminded all of us to pick a heavy binder at the exit, which contained reading material for our first classroom sessions for the December Orientation Program.
Until a week before Orientation, I couldn’t get a chance to open my binder. Then suddenly I realized that I had to read more than 100 pages of HBR articles and cases with a little book on elevator speech in less than 7 days. We would be learning about professional communications, ethical leadership, and team building. I was wondering how someone could teach leadership and team building in a classroom environment. But in the classroom when Scott started unveiling all the tools required digging deep into analyzing ethical issues and making right choices, I felt empowered. I felt that it was more than a simple classroom setting. It was a dynamic environment, where we were looking into issues from various angles and the whole class was participating in the decision‐making process. Next was team building from Greg; he arranged a good set of exercises in breakout rooms at PACCAR Hall. These exercises were real hands‐on experience in teams. Team is not about putting star performers in a group or making a unanimous decision all the time. It is about putting together a right combination of skills and applying those skills together in marching towards a common goal. The last exercise for building a team contract for a study group was a good learning exercise, where we can observe our results during the course too.
I heard several times in my professional experience, when people say “Let’s talk about it over a dinner?” After going through Arden’s presentation about dinner etiquette in middle of Orientation in a formal dinner setting, now I guess I am better in continuing conversation without worrying too much about my dinner plate and drink.
Overall those three days were jam packed with a nice warm up for the upcoming six quarters. I would definitely continue sharing my learning experiences here and also on my regular blog.
As admissions wrap up for the class beginning in January 2011, we now look to the new students who will soon navigate their dynamic and rigorous 18-month TMMBA journey. The cohort kicks off with a variety of events and activities that provide a solid foundation for a successful TMMBA experience.
Here’s what is on the horizon:
Welcome Reception: Tuesday, November 16 This evening reception at the Columbia Winery in Woodinville is an opportunity for students to meet their classmates and connect with their study group for the first time.
Program Orientation Part I: Thursday, December 2 – Sunday, December 5 The December Orientation includes four credits of academic course work: Teamwork, Ethical Leadership, and Professional Communications. From achieving exemplary team performance to communicating effectively, these courses lay the groundwork for essential skills and knowledge that will be used throughout the Program and beyond.
Additionally, students will be required to attend an Etiquette Dinner where they will learn the proper know-how surrounding the business meal. Students will develop dining savvy that will improve their professionalism and enhance their networking skills. It’s also a great occasion to get to know their classmates and kick-off their TMMBA experience with a sense of poise and confidence.
Winter Quarter classes kick-off: Early January Official launch of Winter Quarter classes. Students will participate in an intensive schedule of Microeconomics, Accounting and Statistics.
The Welcome Reception is just around the corner – looking forward to seeing the Class come together for the first time!
TMMBA Class 10 just got our international trip assignments.
We’ll be traveling to Turkey and Germany for our business/education trip.
I’m very excited about this. My first choice was Japan. However, I resolved early on that I’d be going no matter what countries were chosen!
The opportunity to meet new people from other countries in the context of both business and education is an opportunity no one should pass up. This is one of those things about the TMMBA that go above and beyond what’s expected by the students. I feel this will provide significantly more value than studying about business in other countries. We’ll have the opportunity to discuss business issues in their economies and then compare what we know about business in our economies.
So the TMMBA is not all about attending classes and doing schoolwork. For me it’s a construct in which I can develop all of my business skills and not just increase my business knowledge.
Expanding myself as a business leader is the primary context for me and the reason why I applied and accepted. And as I go through each semester there have been opportunities outside of class to expand.
I was recently invited to do a short presentation to potential TMMBA students at an informational meeting. Getting in front of people and talking is very easy for me when I know the subject and have prepared well. In this case it was in short notice and I had a select list of topics from which to choose. This was an opportunity to expand and stretch myself. I did well and also noticed areas of development in public speaking.
My team, The Fantastic Five, was chosen to be presented in the TMMBA newsletter and the TMMBA website (http://www.foster.washington.edu/academic/tmmba/Pages/StudyGroups.aspx). Again, this was an opportunity to reflect on the team work as well as provide some insider information on the TMMBA process.
Both of these examples allowed me to step outside of the classroom and homework to expand, and that’s what school has been about.
- Students, staff and a few alumni blog about the experience of earning an MBA via the University of Washington Foster School of Business Technology Management MBA Program, covering events, learning-in-action, life after graduation, networking opportunities, and so much more.