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Working to put together a report like this, and reflecting on my actions has made me realize the drawbacks that I have, along with some of my positive traits. The sole purpose of the reflective report is to evaluate and analyze my work along with the experiences that I have gathered while writing this report. In this part, I have decided to evaluate myself based on my suitability to work with different people at different types of situations, as well as my leadership, communication, and team management skills.
Recollection of experiences
Firstly, I would like to start by discussing the whole process of report writing. Of course, I have learnt a great deal from different business scenarios that were provided to us within the articles, although they were difficult to analyze at times, and was time consuming. Critical thinking is essential for learners like us. Observation, evaluation and analyzing were very important factors for identifying the problem. However, after having read the articles, I feel more confident that if I come across such situations in the future, I will be able to do my job at ease. This experience has definitely improved my understanding and analytical skills, as I have learnt to think from different perspectives to identify the problem. Once the problem was identified, it was not that hard to find which information was needed to find out the solution. However, this process had to be carried out very carefully, so that none of the subjects were missed out. Listing out all the points was essential in order to collect the information efficiently for the report. However, the research that was required to be done was extensive. Different information about various topics that we needed to collect was found from different sources. The research was not mainly done based on journals and articles found on the internet, but library work and other research methods were required to use as well. Traveling in between the various locations were time consuming and tiring at times. In addition to that, digging up the proper information by filtering through the large amount of materials was difficult as well. Also, information sources were limited, for which, all the required information could not be obtained.
Once the information was collected, it was a difficult job to re-filter through them. It was important to prioritize the information obtained based on their importance and relevance to the topic. After I figured out which information to use, and their weight, it was time to merge all the information and analyze them based on the problem that was identified by the group.
With all the research and analysis being done, it was time to write the report. Putting all the thoughts and my mental analysis into proper words was a challenging task. However, in the past couple of weeks, from the time when I started writing the report, I realized that the concepts brought out by this course have refreshed my enthusiasm for learning new things, and I have been provided with the opportunities to improve my writing skills on a greater level. I am hopeful and very eager to apply my lessons from this work in my future for both my professional and personal activities. It was also very important to keep in mind that plagiarism had to be avoided at all costs, and I have made sure to do so every time I take references from others' works. I realized that it is not hard to forget the source of the information that I have collected every now and then, for which I have made sure that I noted down every source of information, which I have mentioned later on. Also, sticking to length and the number of words in the report was a challenge. I had to make sure that I write my report in such way so that the reader does not lose interest half way through the report. Also, a lot of compromising is required amongst the members in order to avoid conflicts within the group. Discussing about the problems and disagreement, and coming to a solution by negotiating can also be done to avoid such situations.
Personal feelings and learning from the experience
In the course of the project work, I encountered a few problems regarding the content of the project, the process and the group I was working with. First of all, I did not have a lot of experience working with journals and publications before doing this report. It took me a while to get acquainted with these contents and materials. I had to spend more than two weeks to get an idea about how these materials are constructed, evaluated, stored, organized and further utilized for future research, projects and reports. My lack of understanding and ability to work with these published materials affected the performance of the group negatively, especially by slowing down the dynamics of the group. In order to overcome my shortcomings and to minimize the loss of efficiency in the group, I did my best to familiarize myself with these materials and the ways to work with them.
The process of the group work for the report was somewhat inefficient. The key reasons behind this inefficiency are problems of the members of the group (including myself) regarding work, personal life and recreation. These issues were resolved by initiating a few approaches (new meeting formats with presentations and constructive criticisms, selection of a leader, use of Instant Messaging Services and Social Networking Services) discussed in the next section.
While working with the group in this project, I experienced a number of problems most of which I was able to solve with the help from my colleagues. Out of those problems, there is one which I believe deserves to be mentioned in this report. The next section discusses how we as a group came up with the method of presenting ideas in group meetings which later used to be followed by a question and answer session involving the audience and the presenter where constructive criticism was encouraged for better insight on the areas of investigation. We strictly discouraged any sort of ridicule or personal comments made by both the audience and the presenter that could offend anyone in the group. In one of those sessions, I questioned one of the members who presented on that session. My questioning led to the outcome of his/her idea being little useful for the report. This infused a feeling of rage and personal humiliation in that member. That person though my investigation was aimed at his/her humiliation in front of the group and I should apologize for what I had done. Since I had no confusion regarding my integrity, I refused to apologize and explained the real purpose of my questions. Most of the group members supported me and it made the situation worse as that specific member felt outcast from the group. This incident was followed by a series of awkward situations which damaged the environment of the group. Finally, I had to compromise with my own values and principle for the greater welfare of the group and apologize to that person to regain the group dynamics.
Another personal experience worthy of mentioning is that of how I was selected the leader of the group. We did not elect or select any leader for the group as we started working initially with the project. But as issues surfaced, we felt the increasing need of a leader in the group. Because of my role in resolving disputes in the group, my influence over the members and my ideas that successfully and effectively worked out for the group, by the end of the fourth week after we started working, the members selected me as the leader of the group.
Group dynamics and learning from the experience
I am grateful to all the group members I have, for the coordination and the support they have given me for the completion of this report. The main purpose of doing a team work according to me is that bigger tasks can be done, and bigger aims can be accomplished, which might have been nearly impossible to do, if done individually. Despite all the conflicts and challenges that we had to face by working with one another, I personally feel that I have learnt a lot from them. During the first few days, we faced a lot of difficulties within our team. Firstly, there was a huge communication gap, and none of us knew how to approach one another and what reactions can be expected. Along with that, the team lacked planning and organizing, and everyone was mainly working independently. Once all of us had finished reading the articles, all the members started to speak up and discuss their ideas. That is when the team understanding had begun to develop. After then, we started to communicate with each other freely which helped us to understand the rules of the task better. We then had a mutual aim of the tasks to be done, and what we were supposed to do individually, as well as in a group, became very clear to us. After that, we started to take charge of our responsibilities. No one emerged as being a sole leader, but we took control of what was required to be done by us for the completion of this project. We made sure that everyone voiced their opinions, and that was heard by everyone else. If any disagreement took place, we discussed it and came to a compromise most of the times. We were very organized for the first few steps of the project, which made our work faster and led to better performance. However, being a group of ten students did hinder the effectiveness of the team as there was almost no time flexibility at all. Being in a large group, there was a lack of connection among the members of the group up to some extent. In teams like this, everyone's decision can affect the whole group, and when one procrastinates, others might have to be held back for it. From this, I have realized that it is important for all the group members to be aware of their responsibilities and work, and should maintain time, since others may have to face the consequences that they don't deserve.
Since we had to work in a group of ten students, who shared different perceptions, values, cultural attributes and characteristics a number of problems surfaced as the group started working on the report. The major problem was regarding the approach to the process of preparing the report. On this issue the group members were divided into three sub groups each with a preferred approach for the process. We tried to resolve this problem by talking about it in our group meetings. But the situation worsened as the members supporting one opinion started to ridicule others' opinions and engaged in disputes. This incident initiated a feud among the members of the group and severely damaged the relationships of the members. It also damaged the communication across the entire group. At a point, the relationship of the members deteriorated so much that we even almost stopped talking to each other. The group was literally paralyzed for around ten days. Then three of the members (including myself), since we were friends from before, joined together to discuss the ongoing problem and the solutions to it. We formulated a strategy to normalize the situation calm the tension in the group. We came up the proposition that a member from each sub group holding onto different opinions should present his ideas (as a result, the ideas shared by the sub group he or she belonged to) in front of the entire group. Each presentation must contain a table outlining the pros and cons of the approach recommended by the presenter based on a set of criteria (such as timeframe, quality of the work, accuracy of the information, relevance of the collected information, availability of resources, accessibility of the members etc.). Members would then participate in a question and answer session which will strictly focus on the constructive criticism of the discussed methods. At the end of this session, votes will be taken to determine the method to be followed by the group which is also selected by the preference of its members. We have applied this method for resolution of conflicts on concepts or techniques all along the process of the group work.
Interpersonal communication has also been another issue in the group. As the group consisted of members from different genders, nationalities, backgrounds, races, religions, ethnicities, the communication gap became even more intense. Skills of communicating in English varied widely across the group. This affected the communication within the group the most. Rather than a strong point to capitalize on, communication became a challenge for us. Group meetings were flawed by a lot of misunderstandings. Conversations and conferences over the phone became longer and yet unproductive. Planning for the work and following up with the preceding effort seemed to be a great test for the group. In case we had made two steps ahead, the next day we were three steps behind. Members could not synchronize in the group and synergy looked like a distant reality. In addition to this myriad of problems, the group dynamics were affected adversely by problems of the members of the group (including myself) regarding work, personal life and recreation. We resolved this problem and found out that all it needed was a little cooperation from the members backed up by the gifts of modern technology. First of all, we called in a meeting and discussed and found out that the problem cannot be resolved if the members don't step forward to help their colleagues with their communication problems. We realized that members with communication problems need help from the other members in the group and we all agreed to provide them with that help. Then we identified the scopes that technology (e-mails, instant messaging services, social network services, text messages) offered us in order to improve the communication process and at the same time, resolve the work life problems of the members. We agreed on a few issues on that meeting. Each of the members would receive notifications via e-mails. Every mail related to the report has to be forwarded to everyone in the group. E-mails will also be used to send the members with the work completed by each fraction of the group or the individuals for follow up and review. We also created a group on Windows Live Messenger TM service for working on this project and holding and participating in meetings online. This strategy enables us to hold group meetings online and offer the members with a great deal of flexibility. Better understandings could also be derived from these online meetings as the participant could use texts besides voice chat options on the instant messaging (IM) service. After working on the project for a month, we recognized that creating a group on a social networking service would provide with greater opportunities to work, better communication options and get us help from our friends, family and well wishers outside the group. We opened a group on Facebook, the biggest social networking web site in the world for this purpose and invited our friends, family and associates to that group. We received immense response from the people and a lot of help identifying the sources of information for the project, determining the focus of the report and in some case expert help too. The group enabled us to post notices, update discussion topics and invite people to engage in debates on the group's wall and post links to useful resources online, including web sites, online databases, new wires, libraries, communities and multimedia.
Lessons for future projects
I have identified and illustrated a set of key lessons from my experience from this report. They are as follows:
A group cannot function effectively without a leader. A group leader must be selected by the first week since a group starts working on a project.
There must a structured procedure for the members to present their ideas. This procedure must also allow the other members to express their remarks constructively in context of the project.
In some cases, compromising is a better option that holding on to the principle.
Collection of data and information requires a systematic approach. It also requires proper delegation among the members of the group and cannot produce results without achieving synergy.
Innovation is a must in group work.
The experience that I gained from working with my group in the Annual Management Report 2010 is a valuable one. This will help me to work in my future group projects with more coherence, greater efficiency and superior strategies. This opportunity has also trained me to deal with situations in time of crisis and helped me a lot to realize the need for synergy while working in a group.