A volcano spewing lava

Group Project Survival Guide

I vaguely re¬≠mem¬≠ber chill¬≠ing in an af¬≠ter¬≠noon class, try¬≠ing to stay awake. My hand steadily sketched out notes as the pro¬≠fes¬≠sor ram¬≠bled about com¬≠puter al¬≠go¬≠rithms or some¬≠thing. Then, ran¬≠domly, the pro¬≠fes¬≠sor charged us to work with a neigh¬≠bor to ex¬≠am¬≠ine a prob¬≠lem just scrib¬≠bled on the board. Sigh. I was¬≠n‚Äôt sit¬≠ting next to a friend. The girl ad¬≠ja¬≠cent to me seemed equally as un¬≠in¬≠ter¬≠ested. Assuming my mem¬≠ory is cor¬≠rect, nei¬≠ther of us choked up words. I at least had the prob¬≠lem writ¬≠ten in my note¬≠book‚ÄĒand enough sense to write out part of an an¬≠swer. Luckily, we were not called upon to pre¬≠sent any¬≠thing.

Why even bring up this mem¬≠ory? Well, I wanted to show a clear ex¬≠am¬≠ple where I did every¬≠thing wrong in a group set¬≠ting. As long time ac¬≠quain¬≠tances know, I am a quin¬≠tes¬≠sen¬≠tial in¬≠tro¬≠vert‚ÄĒtalk¬≠ing is¬≠n‚Äôt my forte. Yet, I don‚Äôt bring up this awk¬≠ward in¬≠ter¬≠ac¬≠tion to put down me or my part¬≠ner. Instead, I in¬≠stead want to fo¬≠cus on my growth. I got bet¬≠ter guys! This es¬≠say is an op¬≠por¬≠tu¬≠nity for you to learn from my past fail¬≠ures, so you don‚Äôt make the same mis¬≠takes. Let‚Äôs jump into this.

For Starters

For one, you can ac¬≠tu¬≠ally be friendly and act like a per¬≠son. I tended to be pas¬≠sive early in col¬≠lege, ex¬≠pect¬≠ing oth¬≠ers to ini¬≠ti¬≠ate con¬≠ver¬≠sa¬≠tions. Sure, in most group pro¬≠jects, peo¬≠ple will talk‚ÄĒa lot. Usually, at least one per¬≠son will take charge and make sure every¬≠one (who cares) gets a piece of the pie. But this does¬≠n‚Äôt al¬≠ways hap¬≠pen. Sometimes, the group is dis¬≠tracted or just plain in¬≠ept. Also, you might have the best ideas, which should be voiced. It will help every¬≠one if you speak up.

Setup a Communication Channel

Please‚ÄĒfor the love of every¬≠thing good‚ÄĒdon‚Äôt use email to com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠cate with a group of col¬≠lege stu¬≠dents. It will not work. I rec¬≠om¬≠mend switch¬≠ing to a hip¬≠per so¬≠cial tech¬≠nol¬≠ogy as soon as pos¬≠si¬≠ble. Consider ex¬≠chang¬≠ing phone num¬≠bers, cre¬≠at¬≠ing a Slack work¬≠space, or Ô¨Ār¬≠ing up a Discord server, among other op¬≠tions. You can al¬≠ways block them later.

Once you have a com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ca¬≠tion chan¬≠nel setup, you should use it. A silent chat is¬≠n‚Äôt a use¬≠ful one. Share the progress you are mak¬≠ing on the pro¬≠ject and ask ques¬≠tions. If you need some¬≠thing, like ac¬≠cess to a Ô¨Āle, let peo¬≠ple know. Tell the group how you Ô¨Āxed that one prob¬≠lem, so oth¬≠ers don‚Äôt fall into the same predica¬≠ment. Take some re¬≠spon¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠ity and make the ride smoother for the team.

Inevitably, some¬≠one will ask for the pro¬≠jec¬≠t‚Äôs due date‚ÄĒso be pre¬≠pared to share it. While you‚Äôre at it, try to keep on topic. For ex¬≠am¬≠ple, don‚Äôt share memes or per¬≠sonal epi¬≠tats with¬≠out per¬≠mis¬≠sion. Like read the room bruh. Also, don‚Äôt Ô¨āirt with peo¬≠ple or post of¬≠fen¬≠sive ma¬≠te¬≠r¬≠ial. The space should be kept pro¬≠fes¬≠sional and com¬≠fort¬≠able for every¬≠one.

Meet in Person?

Relatively early on, con¬≠sider ask¬≠ing for peo¬≠ple‚Äôs avail¬≠abil¬≠ity times. This tip is es¬≠pe¬≠cially help¬≠ful if you‚Äôre go¬≠ing to meetup mul¬≠ti¬≠ple times. To prove this point, let‚Äôs con¬≠sider the crazi¬≠ness of col¬≠lege sched¬≠ules. So, hy¬≠po¬≠thet¬≠i¬≠cally, Joe has band prac¬≠tice. Jessica has yoga. George has 17 tests and a pa¬≠per due every day of the week for the month of February. Oh, all of them also work jobs. It can be dif¬≠Ô¨Ā¬≠cult, to say the least, to Ô¨Ānd a time that works for the group. Luckily, there are some sched¬≠ul¬≠ing tools that can help out‚ÄĒbut at least ask.

For larger pro¬≠jects, con¬≠sider sched¬≠ul¬≠ing in-per¬≠son meet¬≠ings if needed. You should try to hold the meet¬≠ing in a pro¬≠duc¬≠tive lo¬≠ca¬≠tion, so don‚Äôt go chill out in some¬≠one‚Äôs dorm room. Once all your group mem¬≠bers ar¬≠rive, you might ask if any¬≠one has any ques¬≠tions or needs clar¬≠i¬≠Ô¨Ā¬≠ca¬≠tion on any¬≠thing. They‚Äôll prob¬≠a¬≠bly lie or be too un¬≠or¬≠ga¬≠nized to give a good re¬≠sponse‚ÄĒbut there‚Äôs a chance you could avoid a prob¬≠lem or two.

While in the meet¬≠ing, be cour¬≠te¬≠ous of every¬≠one‚Äôs time. Keep the meet¬≠ing short. Also, con¬≠sider check¬≠ing if any¬≠one needs to leave early. Your group can then let these peo¬≠ple con¬≠tribute Ô¨Ārst, and let them know any im¬≠por¬≠tant in¬≠for¬≠ma¬≠tion be¬≠fore he or she takes off.

Divide the Work

While y‚Äôall are in one place, try to break up the work into in¬≠de¬≠pen¬≠dent, even pieces. If your team can pull this off well, each piece can Ô¨Āt to¬≠gether like a puz¬≠zle with lit¬≠tle mod¬≠i¬≠Ô¨Ā¬≠ca¬≠tion. (In com¬≠puter sci¬≠ence speak, try to avoid a merge con¬≠Ô¨āict.) This tech¬≠nique also min¬≠i¬≠mizes the amount of com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ca¬≠tion needed. If pos¬≠si¬≠ble, try to match group mem¬≠bers to pieces they Ô¨Ānd in¬≠ter¬≠est¬≠ing or are good at do¬≠ing. This is¬≠n‚Äôt al¬≠ways pos¬≠si¬≠ble, so don‚Äôt fret too much if some¬≠one is as¬≠signed some¬≠thing they don‚Äôt en¬≠joy.

Follow Up

Encourage peo­ple to fol­low up af­ter the meet­ing. As a plus, this tip will help peo­ple who suck at think­ing quickly in the mo­ment. Try to make these types of peo­ple feel in­cluded. It would be a loss to the team to lose out on their ideas.

Spark Some Creativity

Sometimes, the pro¬≠ject will go smoothly‚ÄĒde¬≠ci¬≠sions will be made, and peo¬≠ple will Ô¨Ān¬≠ish their work on time. Other times, the group gets stuck. The ideas Ô¨āow¬≠ing are just bad, but don‚Äôt fret. You can try a few things.

For one, be­fore a meet­ing, you could brain­storm. Try mak­ing a list of ideas be­fore show­ing up. You don’t have to pitch all of them, but you’ll hope­fully have a few de­cent things to share.

At the meet­ing, share all your ideas, even if you think their stu­pid. It’s hard to know how good an idea is with­out shar­ing it with other peo­ple. For ex­am­ple, I had a dumb idea for a key recog­ni­tion app. Let me ex­plain. You prob­a­bly have a key ring full of keys. Over time, you might for­get which key be­longs to what door. The app would al­low the la­bel­ing of the key, so it’s owner could re­fresh their mem­ory in a con­ve­nient way. I thought the idea was po­lar­iz­ing and left it sit­ting in my dig­i­tal notepad. Yet, when I pitched this idea for a class pro­ject, the team ac­tu­ally de­cided to tackle it. Take a chance and speak up.

If all else fails, con¬≠sider mak¬≠ing a pro¬≠to¬≠type and show it to the team. It does¬≠n‚Äôt have some¬≠thing time con¬≠sum¬≠ing‚ÄĒmaybe a PowerPoint slide or two. I once was in a group where we had to write a para¬≠graph length de¬≠scrip¬≠tion. This is¬≠n‚Äôt hard, but we could¬≠n‚Äôt agree on a topic. I ended up scrib¬≠bling out a rough draft for an idea I liked. The group, per¬≠haps out of lazi¬≠ness, ac¬≠cepted my idea.


As Kendrick says, stay hum¬≠ble. Be will¬≠ing to learn from oth¬≠ers. Listen to them. Please don‚Äôt uni¬≠lat¬≠er¬≠ally make de¬≠ci¬≠sions for the whole group. Try to get oth¬≠ers in¬≠volved‚ÄĒor else they will loathe you. People herd¬≠ing is hard, and prob¬≠lems will arise. Out of per¬≠sonal ex¬≠pe¬≠ri¬≠ence, I rec¬≠om¬≠mend con¬≠fronting group mem¬≠bers in pri¬≠vate, rather than putting them on blast in front of every¬≠one. Keep the feed¬≠back con¬≠struc¬≠tive. Build peo¬≠ple up, and praise them in pub¬≠lic. Also, my ad¬≠vice is¬≠n‚Äôt meant to be taken lit¬≠er¬≠ally. Push your¬≠self but don‚Äôt force things on the group. It will all work out Ô¨Āne.