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Harvard Business Plan Competition

Essay by   •  June 2, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,136 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,512 Views

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Key Issue: A team of Harvard students and entrepreneurs is participating in a Harvard business plan competition. Only three weeks are left before the business plan is due. While the team is working better together than in the beginning of the project, there is no consensus between the team members on who is the target market for the product. The team needs to make decisions and complete the business plan. The major risk is missing the deadline for submission.

Source of Problem: The reason that the team is in this position is that it has been operating ineffectively, with poor leadership, poor time management, unclear structure and missing goals.

Successful teams have a common commitment that unifies them [1]. The best teams spend the initial meeting shaping and agreeing on a purpose and setting specific goals. For this team, the first session was unorganized. No clear goals or purpose were established. Sasha, the de-facto leader prior to MBA students' inclusion, considered the business plan sound, while Henry and Dana disagreed. This turned into a perpetual conflict. Henry and Dana had an especially hard position in the beginning as they did not have a clear role on the team. As leaders, they were missing credibility in the eyes of the other team members.

Several subsequent meetings involved simple gatherings without establishing goals of what needs to be accomplished. Henry and Dana acted as a "team that recommends" while the Russian-Americans acted as a "team that does things" - thus the disagreement about needing to set completion dates. There was no direction, as the focus shifted from tech/design issues to quality to marketing problems.

Later on, Henry and Dana got on the right track of establishing credibility by coming well-prepared to meetings and by providing evidence to back up each claim. They tried to establish the focus on preparing a business plan Henry emerged as a leader in this direction, though in other situations Sasha was still the leader. Though Henry started to provide direction for the team, by unifying against Sasha, Dana and Henry were missing the opportunity to use him and his experience as an asset. The conflict also discouraged unity within the team.

Being multicultural, members of the team had different approaches to decision-making and different attitudes toward hierarchy/authority. In the former Soviet Union, people were treated according to their statuses in organizations and decisions were made after considerable deliberation. On the other hand, Americans tend to make decisions relatively quickly [2]. This was one of the challenges between the older Russians and the younger Americans on the team. Also, as the cultural differences were never explicitly stated, team members attributed challenges with Sasha to cultural rather than personal differences. However, the reality was that Sasha was admittedly the most Americanized. Henry and Dana thought Sasha was confronting them, but the reality was that all Russians confronted each other, this was just their form of function and it had worked for them before.

Alternative Actions: In order to have a successfully functioning team, Henry should have taken a different line of behavior in the first meeting. Especially if his initial perceptions of Sasha were negative (unfocused, a challenge, etc), he should have had a one-on-one meeting with Sasha and the other founders to find out each person's views and plans for the project. He and Dana should have been direct in the first meeting about clarifying their role within the company and establishing

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