Characteristics of group formation and team processes are highlighted in the Harvard Business School case of Henry Tam and the Music Games International (MGI) Team. The MGI founders sought to improve the commercialization of their music game by launching a team to market their product and develop a business plan. The team was formed with positive intentions by the MGI founders; however, the lack of a common goal, defined roles, and a decision-making process hindered team progress and productivity. The following sections evaluate the MGI team’s processes in detail, describe root causes of problems, and present specific actions Henry can take to improve the team’s overall effectiveness.
Assessment of team processes at MGI
The MGI team had a diverse mix of people who brought a spectrum of experience. The team included award-winning musicians, business and marketing professionals, creative artists, and software developers (Henry Tam, 2003, 15). Such diversity provided an environment for developing a creative and promising product. Additionally, beyond the extrinsic motivation of personal financial gain from a successful early-stage venture, members of the MGI team were also intrinsically motivated to launch a creative product.
Even with this foundation, deficiencies in team processes hindered the team from achieving its goals. The interactions among MGI team members were characterized by severe disagreements, personality clashes, and a lack of leadership (Henry Tam, 2003, 18).
At the outset, the team could not agree on whether they should target the entertainment or education market. In effect, they were unable to agree on a common vision. As Henry observed, business plan meetings had become long and unmanageable. During arguments, team members were unable to work together, and thus, were unable to achieve their team objective (Eisenhardt, 1997, 5).
Moreover, interpersonal conflicts and the development of subgroups undermined the ability of the team to function effectively. Sasha and Dana had several personality clashes. As Igor observed, “there was complete animosity between the two. The tension was palpable” (Henry Tam, 2003, 7). While both Dana and Sasha had individual merits, their lack of collaboration had a detrimental impact on the team. The interaction between the two highlighted the issue that a “poor collaborator can hinder productivity even if the person shines along technical dimensions” (Polzer, 2003, 7). In the MGI case, the team lacked clear role assignments, a true leader, common objectives, and cooperation, which prevented the team for achieving its objective.
Root Causes of Process Issues
Lack of Clear Objectives
An initial source of problems for the MGI team was the lack of a clear team objective. Polzer states that during the formation of a team, a key requirement is to “reach a shared understanding of the task before them, including both the overall task and its parts” (Polzer, 2003, 10). While the basic objective of developing a business plan was generally understood, the MGI team failed to identify whether the team would have authority to modify the strategic direction of MGI. This ambiguity translated into contentious discussions on the topic.
The first communication to Henry and Dana about the team’s intent was Sasha’s email to the HBS students. In that email, Sasha stated, “we are now looking for help with general management, sales and marketing for [the] children edutainment market” (Henry Tam, 2003, 17). In addition, when Henry and Dana met with Igor, they discussed the strategic value that they could bring to the team (Henry Tam, 2003, 5). Through this communication, Henry and Dana thought that they would play an integral role in shaping the strategic direction at MGI as they developed the business plan.
However, during their first team meeting, these initial expectations proved false. Henry felt Sasha may have wanted them...