This paper will provide a reflective analysis of personal experience from a MEGA learning exercise. The MEGA business simulation was undertaken by students from October 2014 to December 2014. It consisted of eight official game weeks with an initial two weeks provided as a practice period. Students were given the opportunity to form groups in order to complete the weekly strategic decisions within the simulation (see appendix). The report will incorporate relevant theories and concepts in relation to reflective analysis and discuss how reflective practice techniques can be useful in analysing the Mega Learning team experience. Moreover, three critical incidents (positive or negative) which have affected the team will be discussed.
Reflective writing is a regular topic of conversation within academic literature. This is because the idea of “reflection” itself provides various benefits regardless of the context in which you decide to use it. By deciding to reflect on something an individual is able to look back at the scenario and analyse the situation. This provides the opportunity to determine what happened, why it happened and how it can be changed in the future if the scenario was repeated. Gibbs (1988) postulated that “It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively”.
Reflective writing enables an individual to critically analyse a scenario and highlight experiences in a structured format. The writer is able to obtain further insights from a range of perspectives including academic literature and self-evaluation. By writing something down an individual has the opportunity to take into account further considerations and provide a deeper reflection of the experiences that have occurred (Schon, 1987). Thus, reflective writing will provide the ideal process in analysing the Mega Learning team experience.
2.0 Reflective Practise Techniques
2.1 CRITICAL INCIDENT TECHNIQUE-
The Critical Incident Technique was developed in 1954 by John Flanagan with the assistance of various other collaborators. The model of reflection which was originally designed for job analysis purposes is an ideal process in analysing the Mega Learning Team experience. It is suggested that the technique “consists of a set of procedures for collecting direct observations of human behaviour. This is done in such a way as to facilitate their potential usefulness in solving practical problems and developing broad psychological principles” (Flanagan, 1954: 327). I feel the critical incident technique will provide a simple yet effective method in analysing the team performance within the Mega Learning simulation. Predominantly it will enable myself and others in the group to identify significant incidents whether positive or negative that occurred during the course of the simulation. By having the opportunity to reflect on the simulation through this process, individuals will be able to focus on specific incidents and therefore critically analyse each situation. Thus, providing a deeper understanding and outlook on what situations occurred, why they occurred and how the scenario can provide a basis to learn from if the scenario where to repeat itself.
The logbook/dairy provided group members the opportunity to record weekly entries throughout the simulation (see appendix 1). This consisted of information regarding the discussions that took place in relation to the simulation and the weekly results. Group members kept a record of what was discussed, who was designated what role and what the strategy/action plan was. I feel the logbook will prove to be an essential and effective tool in analysing the Mega Learning Team experience. It provides a precise verification of a process and assists in reflection of past actions, thus ensuring better decisions can be made in future situations (Schon, 1987). Moreover, it allows students to identify specific “critical incidents” and refresh our memories on when it occurred and what exactly happened. It provides a source of evidence which cannot be altered or tampered with. Therefore, an individual could not possibly say a situation did or did not occur if it is not listed within this document. Furthermore, the logbook required group participation which provided the opportunity for team members to communicate with each other. By taking part in the creation of the logbook, it will help me analyse the Mega Learning team experience more effectively.
3.0 Group Formation
Group formation consisted of individuals writing down personal strengths and weaknesses on a piece of paper. This was done in order to form groups of individuals who possess a range of strengths and characteristics. However, initial groups were formed through familiarity as students chose to work with people they knew or had previously worked with. I chose to work with two other individuals who are studying the same course as me because I knew how they operate. I wanted to achieve the best grade possible and I knew that the other two individuals would place maximum effort into achieving this goal. The other team members were attracted through the use of the strengths and weaknesses technique. Our group were on the lookout for individuals with Finance and Human Resources as key skills in order to gain a competitive advantage within the simulation. After reflecting upon this, I feel the method of group formation was justified as there was mix of familiarity along with new additions. Through random selection of individuals you are not familiar with it is not guaranteed which type of individuals you will be working with. Therefore, you might have to work with people who do not intend to contribute or place maximum effort into achieving the best grade. Conversely, you may also be placed with brilliant individuals who bring a range of skills and maximum effort to the group.
After initial struggles with clarity of individual roles within the team, specialist tasks were delegated to each member of the group. Each team member had a specific task which they had to complete every week. Myself and the rest of the group thought it would be best if everyone had their own task to focus on in order to achieve the best result within the simulation. After reflecting upon this, it is interesting to note that the delegation of roles links significantly to Dr Meredith Belbin’s (1981, 2012) team roles theory. By reflecting back at the scenario, I am amazed at how each individual un-intentionally falls into specific categories of Belbin’s team roles. No method was used by our group to match the delegation of tasks/individuals to the roles within Belbin’s theory.
4.0 Critical Incident 1 (Negative to Positive)
Initially, along with the other team members I was very annoyed. I felt that the individual was not attempting to contribute at all in completing the simulation. The team member did not provide any ideas or come to the meetings having looked at the following weeks results. They would just agree with the ideas of the rest of the group but have no opinion themselves. This persisted for a few weeks until I decided to say something to the team member in question.
Moreover, I decided to take it upon myself to ask them to contribute more to the group and assist in completing the simulation. I took on the role of the leader and delegated a specific role to the individual and advised them not to be afraid to voice their opinion. This situation correlates with Tuckman’s (1965) theory of performing team development model. It relates to the “forming” stage, which suggests that there is a high dependence on a individual to become a leader for direction and guidance (Tuckman, 1965). Furthermore, this stage highlights the lack of clarity of individual roles and reliance on a specific individual for direction (leader).
After delegating the role to the individual the team member blossomed to be a vital part of the team. The individual came to meetings prepared with answers and solutions and started to voice a opinion rather than just agreeing with the rest of the group. After reflecting on this incident and how the outcome came to fruition I would change my approach in future. I would look to intervene as early as possible to reap the rewards of the individuals contribution at a earlier stage. This will provide significant benefits for team and individual morale and therefore increase productivity and improve the results of the simulation.
5.0 Critical Incident 2 (Negative)
Initially, I did not mind taking a leading role within the simulation as I found it to be challenging. However, analysing the results and trying to decide the correct strategy became time consuming as well as stressful. Other team members were providing opinions and suggesting changes but were doing so without looking at previous results. Thus, providing random solutions which does not follow a strategy and may not result in a positive outcome. After the team meetings I also had to finalise the changes and submit the final decision. At the time the incident occurred I was attempting to make a decision which was challenging, I was unsure on why certain negative results had been occurring. I over-reacted and decided to make my feelings which I had been holding back for a number of weeks clear to the rest of my group. This was done in a unprofessional and aggressive manner as it was a heat of the moment response.
After taking time to reflect upon this and although my team members were over reliant on me, I should not have reacted in the manner I did. I was getting frustrated of having to complete the majority of the workload myself and at the moment in time was struggling to understand a certain aspect of the simulation. However, I should have advised them of the way I feel in a considerate and professional manner. By doing this, I would have avoided the need for confrontation with the rest of the group. Through the use of Gibbs (1988) model for reflection (see fig 1), I have been able to reflect upon this incident and identify the things that I could have done differently. If the scenario arose again, I would approach the situation in a different manner to result in a positive outcome for the group. From this experience I have learnt that at times I can over-react or say something in a aggressive manner which may be taken in the wrong context by others.
6.0 Critical Incident 3 (Negative)
I was extremely frustrated when I realised that someone had replicated my work and decided to complete the task that I was designated to do. Other members of the group all believed that they had completed the work which was delegated to them and the opposite person did the wrong task. This resulted in a group confrontation which caused friction between the group. I was adamant that I completed the correct task and I made this very clear. However, after reflecting on the scenario I have come to realise that the delegation of roles was not clarified or done clearly, Thus, causing confusion between the team members about who is doing what task. Before actually looking at what was discussed and designated the previous week, all group members including myself decided to jump to conclusions and become defensive. The whole group were very vocal that they had completed the correct task and therefore had no intentions in finding out how this occurred or if a solution can be identified.
Looking back at this, I should have tried to control the situation instead of contributing to it and letting it get out of hand. By taking the time to reflect on this particular scenario I have come to realise that patience and understanding are key principles of effective team work. Everyone makes mistakes and by neutralising the situation a potential solution can be found in order to resolve the original issue. If I am faced with a similar situation again, I will look to my leadership skills to analyse and take control of the situation. This will allow me to turn a negative scenario into a positive outcome by providing a positive influence and sense of direction to the rest of my team members. Leadership is defined as being “a process whereby one individual influences other group members towards the attainment of defined group and organisational goals” (Barron & Greenburg, 1990). Another definition of leadership is provided by Rollinson and Broadfield (2002) who postulates that leadership is a procedure that enables a leader and other members of a group interact in a way which provides the significant individual (leader) to influence the actions of the rest of the group in a non-coercive manner. Thus, directing the team towards the achievement of specific aims or objectives (Rollinson & Broadfield, 2002).
In conclusion the Mega Learning simulation has developed a range of transferable skills including effective teamwork, strategic development and implementation and also reflecting thinking. I have improved my ability to work as part of a team, taking into consideration other individuals strengths and weaknesses and using them as a basis to achieve positive outcomes. Moreover, I have significantly improved my communication skills throughout the process which will benefit me greatly in future organisational and team activities that I undertake. The experience of the Mega simulation correlates to Kolb’s Learning Cycle (1984), the first three elements consist of Concrete Experience, Observations and Reflections and Abstract conceptualisation (development of ideas) (Kolb, 2014). The influences of my learning experience will assist me significantly in future scenarios and this relates to the fourth element of Active Experimentation (Kolb, 2014). The ability to learn from experiences is an important life skill which contribute to the shaping of a individual. David Kolb postulates that “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).
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APPENDIX 1: Log-book / Diary
The aim of this is to give you guidance as to how to plan working together in your team for your first assignment.
Develop an action plan by answering the following questions:
What are we supposed to be doing?
What action needs to be taken?
What time scale?
What support is needed from the rest of the team?
What to do if a team member has a problem in completing his/her task?
What to do with someone who will not do any work or will not work as part of the team?
Team Members: a) Nisbah
If the following sheet is not enough – please use additional notes on black page per week – example is available on page 7
(The titles of the columns will be explained in the lecture/seminars.)
Week No./date of meeting(s)
Team member/time of arrival/leave
Potentially areas that every member worked on
State of team / work in progress
Focus on our previous analysis.
Work on better strategy.
Ranked 6 in our universe
Look into the strategy and focus.
ALL met on separate days
Nisbah and Marta went to go see Ioannis for feedback on our previous results
We came 6th in our universe.
Improve sales revenue
Everyone met in the group discussed how to improve strategy for sales revenue.
We came 8th in our universe.
Increase strategy on cars including increasing the pricing.
Region 2 started.
The whole group met in the library.
Nisbah, Mohammed and James went to go and see Ioannis.
We came 8th in our universe.
Need to invest more into HR
Met in the computer labs.
We came 8th in our universe.
Focus more into region 1.
Doing well in region 2
The whole group met before the lesson and discussed each elements.
We came 7th in our universe.
Look into the strategy of increasing volume of cars.
The whole group met up.
We came 6th in our universe.
Focus more into region 1 and increasing sales revenue
Everyone focussed on a particular area.
We came 8th in our universe
Reflective ReportPage 1