1 / Introduction
Ashley Cook, Jennifer Sather, Kate Horton
Leeds School of Business


Group projects will be a large part of your experience at the Leeds School of Business and of course later on throughout your business career. Group projectshelp teach prioritization, conflict management, presentation skills, writing and editing, time management, collaboration, negotiation, lobbying, and countless other skills that are hard to teach in a traditional classroom. Although a high-quality final deliverable (As defined by whomever is grading your work, and by whom you may show it to in the future) is the ultimate goal of the project—simply learning how to work in teams is also very important. These are the kinds of skills employers are looking for and will try to uncover during the interview process (behavioral interviews).

A group project can be broken into a number of steps, including initiation, planning, executing and completion. This guide will outline what is done during each stage, what pitfalls teams commonly fall victim to, how to address them, and how to be successful at the conclusion of the group project.

Process and Team Development Stages:


a.Project conception

b.Beginning of project process


a.Team decides on the overarching goal of the project

b.Team decides how to go about achieving that goal

c.Routine and requirements are established


a.Tasks that build toward project completion are delegated

b.Tasks are completed

c.Tasks are critiqued

d.Scope and goal are clarified and processes are refined


a.Evaluation is done

b.How the project will be of use in the future is identified

Throughout the guide, the process and team development stages that are being addressed will be outlined. Referring back to the general goals of each stage is recommended.

1 / Initiating
& Forming

How to Pick a Project

If you get to pick your project…

  • Choose one that interests you, challenges you, and is relevant to your goals
  • Estimate the time investment required, can you commit to that amount of time?
  • Consider resource availability
  • Will research be easy to find?
  • Will the company involved be easy to contact?
  • Find out who else is likely going to be on the project, will they be complementary teammates?
  • Take off the “blinders”; be open-minded
  • Research what the project will entail and make an informed decision; research other projects (back-ups) if there is competition for project selection
  • Ask the professor what they think about the project(s)
  • If there’s competition for member selection, differentiate yourself by developing a “pitch” to the project owner
  • Showcase your research
  • Identify how you can benefit the project
  • Clarify the project purpose as you perceive it; don’t ask—tell what you think & get feedback
  • If it’s an externally-sponsored project (for a client outside of CU), identify with the company’s mission/culture

A common complaint among students regarding large group projects is their perceived lack of relevancy to the world outside of the relevant group. When creating or selecting a project, pick something pertinent to your goals that you can make use of in the future, such as a project you can refer to on your resume or in an interview.

If you can’t pick your project, don’t despair. Keep in mind that even if the subject matter seems irrelevant, group work in itself is never irrelevant to the real world. All large group projects entail high-level, ‘real world’ applicable traits such as time management, conflict & communications management, and change management. Most projects also provide an opportunity to sharpen valued ‘real world’ skills, including presentation skills (creation and delivery) and communication skills (to members, to clients, to professors, etc).

1 / Initiating
& Forming

How to Pick Teammates

If you get to pick teammates…

  • Communicate with persons in the class
  • Important in uncovering their qualifications
  • Important in identifying their people-skills
  • Check schedule availability of other with regard to your own
  • Classes, job, etc.
  • Also consider how willing people are to meet outside of their prior commitments (weekends, early mornings, late nights, “party” nights)
  • Acknowledge reputations of others (good and bad)
  • Diversify

○Different majors, emphases, minors, etc.


○Hobbies; technical abilities


  • Identify if anyone has a specific investment or motivation for a certain project (good or bad)
  • Once project and teammates are established, gather & distribute everyone’s contact information; agree on best form of communication
  • Take control and assume an active role in selecting your teammates

If you are able to pick your teammates, doing so can greatly aid the efficiency and effectiveness of the project team as a whole. However, if you are not able to do so, finding out where each person’s strengths lay and what they bring to the table can equally aid in the process. The key difference between being able to pick your teammates and not being able to is that if you pick your teammates, you do so based on their expertise—if you are not able to pick them, you must uncover and utilize it.

1 / Initiating
& Forming

Kick-off Meeting

As the final stage in project initiating…

  • Hold a kick-off meeting ASAP, even if project is still not clear
  • Brainstorm project objective & build consensus for it
  • Go over project charterand find out what it means to each member
  • Define scope (or at least try), and clarify with professor /See Scope Guidelines and Scope Clarification
  • Set ground rules
  • Develop the Team Contract and require all members to sign off on it
  • Team rules
  • Meeting rules
  • See Team Contract

Holding an initial kick-off meeting before diving into the project ensures that all group members are on the same page from the start, allowing the proceeding project phases to run smoothly. This is also a good time to start getting to know your teammates and begin building enthusiasm for the project. Define success by reviewing the project chartertogether; forming a big picture of the overall project objectives will help keep members from getting bogged down in the details of execution and losing sight of the most important high-level goals. Part of this charter evaluation includes determining the scope of the project, if not already given. Refining the scope will be an iterative process, best determined by considering each team member’s inputs to arrive at a scope definition which should then be approved by the professor or project sponsor.

The kick-off meeting is also an opportune occasion to begin setting ground rules: what times are appropriate for communications? What communication methods are preferred? What are the expectations pertaining to each member and what will happen if these expectations are not met? Once developed, these are the sorts of elements which are recorded and solidified in the Team Contract.

1 / Planning
& Storming

Team Contract

Depending on how many people have or have not read this document, gathering support for a “Team Contact” may be tricky. Emphasize importance of it (see below).

  1. Meeting Plans
  2. Roles & Responsibilities
  3. Establish Ground Rules
  4. Communication Clause

I.Meeting Plans

  • Establish frequency of meetings (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.)
  • Establish length of meeting (1 hour, 2 hours, etc.)
  • Establish whether all persons will be present of if subgroups will be created (e.g. Ashley, Jordan, and Kate meet Mondays; Kendra and Jennifer meet Wednesdays)
  • Amount of time invested by each party
  • Potential conflicts (i.e. job, vacations, etc.)
  • Other course load and due dates relatives to other classes’ due dates
  • Establish location of meeting (Starbucks, team room, etc.)
  • Block out this time/ location/ etc. for the duration of the semester
  • Plan resources needed (e.g. books, computers, software, etc.)

II.Roles & Responsibilities

Having established an oral or formal contract with group members prior to beginning work on a project can greatly increase group meeting efficiency. By reducing redundancy, miscommunication and task omission, a well-organized group can optimize time utilization. Once a group agreement is established with a general outline of roles and responsibilities, team members will be enabled to closely manage and control the completion of the project in high-quality and timely manner.

The roles relevant to the project will differ depending on the type, size and nature of project. However, several core roles can be applied or readily tweaked to fit most projects both at the university level and post-graduate. The following checklist provides an outline of value-adding roles, largely based on the strengths of respective individuals on the team. Many of the roles may be rolled into one individual’s responsibility, but are independently vital for effective collaboration.

  • The Team Manager:
  • This individual is a strong communicator in terms of reliability: they regularly check their email, phone, or other medium of group communication.
  • The manager coordinates the project plan and manages progress and team member performance. Ensures the final product is on schedule to be completed on time and adequately.
  • They function as the primary representative of the group to all external parties, such as the professor, faculty/industry advisors and sponsors, and interviewees.
  • Sometimes they must be the mouthpiece for other concerned group members to lead conflict resolution should problems arise.
  • Consolidates the steps to project completion on a checklist or other organizational tool to ensure that all steps are being performed on time, completely and accurately.
  • The Team Secretary:

○The secretarial role calls for an individual with strong organizational and prioritizing skills.

○The secretary is responsible for taking the most detailed and descriptive notes in class, at team meetings and during research. By compiling all information relevant to the project by a single, organized team member, instructions and information are reliably centralized in one place by a single person. Minute taking and agenda writing and monitoring will be a large part of the secretary’s duties.

○Backing up notes digitally and copying all team mates ensures that this information is not lost should the secretary be unavailable.

  • Technology/Systems Expert:
  • This individual is most confident with Microsoft Office products, online research or other technology-related project aspects.
  • Responsible for the formatting the final product and homogenizing the individually-generated sections into a smooth and standard deliverable.
  • Tasked with ensuring that all final product formats are compatible with presentation media and tools, or that online deliverables are compatible with the grader’s systems.
  • Team Members:

○Responsible for the tasks delineated to them by the group as a whole.

○Check in regularly with the team manager by submitting status updates and their respective deliverables.

○Aid in conflict resolution by staying flexible and adapting to task and role modifications throughout the process of project completion.

Many of these roles can overlap or may be irrelevant to certain projects. However, by proactively outlining the specific roles and duties of each team member, a project group will have a stronger foundation and mutual trust that can greatly facilitate the successful completion of the project at hand. Additionally, these roles can be rotated to facilitate learning or they can be static to take advantage of personal expertise.

III.Ground Rules

Ground rules should encompass all team interactions. They will be most important in a meeting setting as they will ensure that time is utilized in its most efficient and effective manner.

  • Interruptions
  • Decide whether or not they are permitted
  • Distinguish between interruptions and interjections; decide how to handle both
  • Ensure that thoughts and ideas are completely expressed either way
  • Notification
  • Decide on notification methods and guidelines for tardiness or absence (meetings, class, etc.)
  • Decide on what needs to be shared with the group as a whole (e.g. communications with professor, feedback from mentors, etc.) and what does not
  • Deliverables
  • Decide on how missed internal due dates will be handled
  • Outline means for divvying up work, how one can raise concern with a specific assignment, and a level of quality
  • Topic Relatedness
  • Agree on whether or not socializing during team meeting times will be permitted (we recommend that it not be.)
  • If a topic begins to deviate from the topic at hand, decide on a means of reeling participants back in.
  • If someone would like to add something to the agenda that was previously not thought of, decide on how to go about this (e.g. will it be added to the following meeting, immediately addressed, or addressed at end of meeting if time permits?)

IV.Communication Clause

  • Response time
  • Tie to deliverables (i.e. if deliverable due date is within one week, appropriate response time goes from 48 hours to 24; within one day, everyone needs to responding hourly—unless previous conflicts have been outlined in the contract)
  • Designate who will communicate with whom (professor, clients, each other, etc.; see Kate’s document re: R&Rs)
  • Potential conflicts (e.g. vacation, jobs, etc.

1 / Planning
& Storming


I.Scope Guidelines

  1. Scope Clarification

I.Scope Guidelines

Project scope is used throughout the project to continually measure and guide project work. The team cannot be successful if there is no measurement of success.

Ensure that your project’s scope…

  • Is determined in advance, before beginning project work
  • Is defined by all project stakeholders
  • Is developed with limitations (e.g. resource availability) and constraints (e.g. time) in mind
  • Details what is and is not included in the project
  • Contains all deliverables and their criteria
  • Is formally approved by all members and the professor or project sponsor

The first thing to consider is how scope will be defined. Is it already spelled out in the assignment details written by the professor, or were only general guidelines given, leaving it up to the team to fill in the blanks? The tendency for students to dive into dividing work and starting its execution without a defined plan or vision results in scattered deliverables. Formally defining project scope may sound like extra, unnecessary work, but it will save time, stress and effort down the line.

II.Scope Clarification

If your project’s scope is not explicitly pre-determined…

  • Discuss amongst members what you think the scope should be, THEN clarify the scope with the professor by presenting your idea of the scope and asking whether or not you are on the right track
  • Avoid scope creep by comparing project results to documented requirements;is the right work being done? Are due dates being met?Do the final products measure up to the agreed-upon quality criteria?

○If project work is late, or missing the mark on completeness, assess how far the work is straying from original scope expectations and correct as necessary.

○Thoughtful and thorough planning at the beginning of the project helps avert problems and changes which are preventable. through early identification

○Question whether additional work would be logical and beneficial to the project

○Don’t be afraid to say no to requested changes. An addition to the project may seem like a good way to differentiate, but if it was not planned for at the beginning, you may not have the time and resources available to produce an addition that provides value. Diverting efforts to an unplanned addition may also negatively affect the quality and timeliness of other, essential project work.

  • Sometimes scope can be re-defined intermittently throughout the project as circumstances change. If the scope does need to be re-defined, first consider the impact this will have on all project aspects. If the changes are manageable, update the affected areas, such as roles and responsibilities, team contract, meeting plans, agendas, etc.

When it comes to clarifying project scope with a professor, do not approach them without a plan. There are few things that annoy professors more than when students come looking to them for all of the answers without appearing to have put forth any effort to consider the directions on their own. Rather than asking “what are we supposed to do?”, show that you have weighed the information they’ve already provided and ask for clarification in a manner that reflects your thoughtfulness, such as “this is what we think we’re supposed to do, are we on the right track?”. Addressing this issue early on sets up the project for success by eliminating unclear expectations, the most common project problem identified by students.

Although you should avoid approaching a professor for further guidance without being ready to share your initial ideas, if the entire group is completely and utterly clueless about a certain aspect of the project, it is still better to ask without direction than to not ask at all and completely miss the mark.

Sometimes changing the scope during the project reflects incomplete planning, but sometimes it is a necessary evil. For example, if a team member experiences a family emergency, roles and responsibilities may have to be re-allocated. If natural occurrences shut down the campus during a scheduled meeting, the meeting agenda will have to be re-designed to adjust for date and content. When it is apparent that scope must be adjusted, make sure that all resulting implications are identified and planned for.

Follow Through

I.How to Maintain Focus

  1. Agenda Guidelines

I.How to Maintain Focus

Maintaining focus—not only in meeting, but in the scope of the project and throughout the semester—and following through on all initiatives will be two of the biggest hurdles in successful project completion.

  • Necessary Tools
  • Agenda
  • Time keeper
  • Minute taker
  • How to hold focus
  • Hold people accountable; assign at least one person as being responsible for each initiative, even if it require collaboration by more than just that person.
  • Set specific milestonesand due dates as far in advance as possible; the further out they are, the higher-level they will be.
  • Having a shared vision of what the end result of the project will be will help guide focus and control throughout the semester.
  • Post a “team task list” in a common area (e.g. Google docs) (87).
  • How to know you’ve lost focus
  • Meetings consistently run over-time
  • Milestones are consistently missed; due dates are frequently changed/ pushed
  • Not seeing eye to eye with the client
  • Focusing on the individual (goals, interests, conflicts, etc.) rather than the goal of the project/ task at hand
  • Inadequate minutes or other forms of project documentation
  • Absenteeism/ tardiness
  • Numerous miscommunications
  • Symptoms of Problem Teams