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:
- Integrator (and make sure you have 1-2 others that will look over things at the end, too)
- External Analysis (this might be 2 people easily)
- Financial Analysis (need a 2nd set of eyes here, too)
- Corporate Strategy (linked to Business Level)
- Business Level Strategy (linked to Corporate)
- 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:
- Mailing list – we used google, but whatever will work. This was used just for e-mails.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?