Who said, "Let's stick these random students together for the most important project of their semester even though they are complete strangers?"
We all know there's always at least that one group member who doesn't contribute anything at all.
But when you have 5 group projects in one semester that "at least one" turn out to be a bigger pain in the ass than usual. (If you were wondering, I have approximately 8 members spread throughout those 5 groups that do absolutely nothing.)
It really has been a test for me, but it's taught when I should and shouldn't rely on others and basically how to take control of an out-of-control group.
- Identify a Leader.
Honestly, this should be the first thing you do. But don't just pick anyone, okay? You need to make sure that the leader you choose can get their shit together under any and all circumstances. But also make sure they're not too invested in other things. (I've been picked as the group leader for 3 of those groups, and that has been some special kind of hell.)
- Set Guidelines.
As soon as you have a leader, make sure everyone knows what is to be done and who exactly is doing it. That way if something doesn't get done, you know exactly where to look. If you're all just free throwing and everyone is doing a little bit of everything, it's hard to hold someone accountable when something goes wrong, and even harder to fix it.
- Set Checkpoints.
This kind of ties to the guidelines, but I felt it was important enough to warrant its own list item: set strict checkpoints. Don't say, "Have something for the project by halfway through the semester." Specify. Tell your group that they had better have parts X, Y, and Z done by February 22 or shit will go down. Mention peer evaluations (if your professor does them). Believe me, when someone realizes that their grade is actually at stake, they will step up to the plate and perform.
- Talk to Your Group.
Whether you're the group leader or not, communication is key to the success of any group project. It doesn't help if the only common communication between you and the rest of your group is the one leader; everyone needs to be involved. You need to talk to your group to set up meetings, establish additional guidelines, change checkpoints, etc. There is so much stuff that can be corrected and changed so simply if you just talk to each other.
- Don't Stress.
It seems like an obvious one, but for me it's the most important. I have to remember that as long as I am on top of my game and doing everything that I am supposed to be doing, it will all turn out okay in the end. This semester in my Marketing Strategy class, my group has been working with an especially horrific client that hardly responds to any form of communication and then complains that we aren't doing what they, "want." But I've done what I was assigned and tried my best to keep my team on track, and now that we're nearing the end of the semester our professor only has positive things to say about our progress (still haven't heard from the client, though. Oh well.)
I'm not sure if that's helpful to anyone but me, but it has legitimately saved my ass this semester. I would probably be hiding under my bed if I hadn't figured out what I needed to do to not only get my act together, but to get my group together.
Sure, it's a struggle. But it's my last semester of college; the struggle just keeps coming in a variety different ways from here on out.