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Henry Tam and the Mgi Team

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Henry Tam and the MGI team struggled through their first three meetings to develop a business plan for MGI and the HBS business plan contest. While they established a strong foundation in group composition by bringing in diverse expertise, the overall lack of a formal organizational structure and weak task design had brought their business planning to a stand still. In order to get the team back on track, Henry must get buy-in on a decision-making process as well as an action plan to get the HBS business plan completed on time.

Group Composition

The group composition of the MGI team had the foundations to be a dynamic and successful team. Their key strength stemmed from the wide range of competencies that each person brought to the table. Amongst seven individuals, they had backgrounds in banking, consulting, marketing, music composition, and technology. In addition, there were individuals in overlapping fields that could bridge any gaps between the different backgrounds. For example, Dav had a background in both technology and music, and Alex had experience in music and business, while Roman incorporated a bit of technology into his composition. The diversity in skillsets and perspectives covered a majority of the topics typically found in a business plan, such as marketing strategies, competitive analysis, design, and financial projections, and should have been an advantage to the team in this competition. Coupling this diversity with everyone’s shared belief and enthusiasm about the potential for this product, the team could have complemented each other and created something more than the sum of its parts.

However, the team fell into the traditional problem that “heterogeneous groups often find it more difficult to integrate their efforts and work productively,” and the lack of team structure exacerbated some of the weaknesses in the MGI team’s composition related to different working styles (Hill & Anteby, 2006, p. 6). The working style tension between business folks and creative founders quickly manifested in the first few meetings. The creatives wanted to keep brainstorming and exploring new ideas, while the business people wanted to narrow focus and move forward with a concrete plan. While diversity is important in creating a well-rounded group, finding common ground to connect with each other is also important in keeping a team together, as shown in the case of Merit Corporation (Hill & Anteby, 2006, p. 6). It was interesting that the MGI team didn’t capitalize on some of the similarities that they shared to alleviate the tensions caused by their differences. For example, Dana was Romanian and had shared some connections with Igor, who grew up near the Romanian border and could be a potential ally or moderator between Dana and Sasha when issues first started. Also, Dana, Henry, and Sasha were all part of the same HBS MBA program, either as alumni or student. Most importantly, they all shared passion for the product itself, similar to the Merit NPD team. Instead of focusing on similarities that could bring them together, the tensions between creative and business evolved into a struggle between Russians and MBAs.

Formal Organization

Theoretically, the flat and unstructured arrangement of the team could have fostered creativity by providing everyone with a platform to contribute. However, the MGI team was bogged down and constantly disrupted by the team’s shortage of formal organization, specifically the absence of a decision-making process. Dana showed concern about the team’s direction, saying, “No one on the team knew the right way to go, or how to decide what direction to take” (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 10-11). The team made hiring decisions without consensus and failed to agree upon the appropriate vision of the company, causing tensions within the team and making it difficult to move forward. For example, Sasha hired Dav without consulting Henry or Dana, a decision that both surprised the HBS students and left them questioning his intentions, further heightening the tension within the team (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 9). Additionally, the team could not agree on the immediate vision of the company as the HBS students thought the product would best succeed in the education market while the MGI founders were focused on the entertainment industry because of their connections. There was no system in place to facilitate decision-making or consensus-building, halting the team’s progression specific to the business plan.

As a result of the MGI team’s diversity in group composition, team members inherently had differing opinions that required a way of making decisions in order to ensure progress. The team’s lack of structure and inability to gain consensus thus negatively impacted its task design, making it difficult to gather requirements and assign individual responsibility.

Task Design

The lack of clearly assigned roles led to confusion and frustration in the team regarding who would be responsible for completing certain tasks. Sasha saw Henry and Dana as ‘interns’ and business plan writers, while they saw themselves as leaders and facilitators in shaping the vision (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 7). This lack of clarity and alignment about the HBS students’ roles and potential full-time positions at MGI made the students “uncomfortable” (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 6). Despite their reservations, Henry and Dana took on a lot of work and responsibility. They were doing multiple things such as directing people to do various tasks, forming coalitions, doing management, and so forth, which was manageable at first but eventually drained them out (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 12-13). On the other hand, Alex and Dav did not seem to do much outside of occasional consulting.

The disconnect in the scope of each individual’s activities and the lack of organizational structure bled into each other and carried on to team meetings which lacked a clear purpose. Though the MGI team held weekly Friday meetings to brainstorm ideas, “they went on too long, and there was no implementation“ (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 10). The meetings did not have a specific agenda, and no clear action items arose from them. As a result, the team’s efforts were fragmented, and they wasted time doing things that were ultimately not constructive. For instance, Sasha prepared lots of stuff, but it wasn’t used much (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 10). Additionally, in the absence of a clear plan of action, there was limited alignment on task prioritization. As an example, Sasha thought that Dana and Henry should start calling HBS alumni to market the product, while the HBS students believed they needed to first understand “what they were selling” and develop a “coherent strategy” (Henry Tam and MGI Team, p. 7). 

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