Tag Archive: capstone

tips for Capstone

In my recent review of Michael Fern, my professor in the final course in the MBA program (known as Capstone), I mentioned a few tips on surviving the class.  I thought they might merit a post on their own.  So here they are…

6 person teams – The most important part of the entire class, IMO, is finding the right team.  Find the right people, the right mix of skills, and the right set of personalities to be as productive as you can be.  If that’s 4 people, great.

Having said that, you’ll want to try to get to 6 people if you can find the right ones.  Just think about the roles that are needed and/or the sections to be covered:

  1. Integrator (and make sure you have 1-2 others that will look over things at the end, too)
  2. External Analysis (this might be 2 people easily)
  3. Financial Analysis (need a 2nd set of eyes here, too)
  4. Corporate Strategy (linked to Business Level)
  5. Business Level Strategy (linked to Corporate)
  6. Exhibits (collecting, making them look consistent, etc, which requires a single person at the end)

So I indicate 6 people there, but note that some areas will need more people and help.  Imagine doing all of that with fewer than 6.  Also, this doesn’t even consider the Intro section, the Synthesis or Recommendations.  The last part really needs to be done as a team, then written up by 1 person.

Collaboration tools – One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the Leavey School of Business over the last 3 years is that the school doesn’t really provide anything that aids collaboration.

During Capstone, you will be going through financial statements and making exhibits(documents), articles (often web pages), and communicating every which way (e-mail, phone, real-time screen-sharing).  You’ll want ways of keeping all files in one location, being able to have multiple people edit a single file, communicate with the group, and probably doing a kind of real-time, video/phone conference session with shared documents.

We utilized the following:

  1. Mailing list – we used google, but whatever will work.  This was used just for e-mails.
  2. Dropbox.com – We kept all of our relatively static documents here.  Financial statements and various other electronic sources, plus our drafts of each section.  The 2GB you get here and unlimited file size were the key factors here (Google Lists’ files section has a file size and capacity limit).
  3. Google Docs – for the few documents that we wanted to truly quickly collaborate on.  The best example is the Bibliography, which we just kept adding to as we found and entered citations.
  4. vyew.com – This was the best free tool we found where we could all talk together (they offer a conference call number for free), look at documents simultaneously, and mark them up as needed.  For instance, if we felt that an exhibit posted should look differently, then any one of us could use the pen tool and just draw on it.  The person in charge of that area could then make the real changes, share them again, etc.

Ground Rules – Set these early.  Good ones are:

  1. Citation style – MLA is probably the easiest.  Don’t let anyone cite anything without using the style, or it’ll likely slip by in the final edit.
  2. Receptivity to changes – you can discuss changes that the integrator made to a section, but you can’t be arguing about it and no one can go about feeling hurt because a paragraph was edited out or whatever.
  3. When and how often you’ll be meeting – we agreed early on that we would meet “as often as we needed, for as long as we needed” and acknowledged that during the quarter we would meet more often and for longer periods of time.
  4. What you will do in case of writer’s block, lack of data, help needed on something, etc.  How will you respond, as a team, to obstacles?

Review: Michael Fern, Management, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

Management 619:  Something or Other but known as:  CAPSTONE
At a glance

  • 3 unit course offered every quarter but summer
  • Workload:  Ridiculously Heavy
  • Teaching Style:  Discussion, case-based
  • Interest in students: Very High
  • Relevance to outside world: Ridiculously High

Overall Professor Rating: 4.5

Overall Course Rating: 5

Note:  Since this is the last required course in the entire program, it is one heckuva class.  It beats you down, it brings you together, it pulls you apart.  But you learn a tremendous amount from it.

About Me

I haven’t done one of these reviews in a while.  The truth is that 1) I have gotten worn down a bit by the program so I have been less motivated to write about my courses and 2) I have a bit of senioritis.  I actually am going to be walking in my commencement this Friday, so I’m easily distracted, I guess.

I started the program almost 3 years ago – March of 2007.  During the past years, I have had trouble finding good, expansive reviews of faculty and/or courses.  So I started writing these.   There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. Only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.  I also just write whatever it is that I think is relevant or will be helpful to others.  That is my overall goal.

The facts

I took MGMT 619 in Winter 2010, in the 7:20 section.  This was the best quarter for me, as it interfered the least with any other event at my work.  Capstone is not a class with which to be trifled, and I wanted to make sure I planned it correctly.  This is also the only course about which I warned my manager that I would “check out” at some point from my job responsibilities.  This is important – be careful about when you take Capstone.

Selecting a team is critically important for Capstone.  Unlike some other final courses for MBA programs, this is all about teamwork, rather than an individual thesis.  I received emails throughout the summer if I was available to be on a team in the Fall, and then again for the Winter.

I was lucky in that many of my classmates from my very first class – MGMT 501 – whom I knew well, considered friends, and had worked with in the past, were all taking the course at the same time.  It is true that one never knows what will happen with any team, even one composed of people whom you know.  But at the very least, this is a case of the “devil you know” being better than the devil you don’t.  And trust me – at some point, during all the stress of Capstone the devil does make an appearance.

Fern is one of 3-4 faculty in the management department that teach Capstone.  The number of sections offered depends on how many petition to take the course by a certain deadline.  For instance, there were 3 sections in the Fall, 2 in the Winter, and I think 4 in the Spring.  Some of the other faculty that teach the course include Madsen, Levehagen, and Chandy.