My previous blog post provided some insight into the Accounting and Organisational Behaviour TMAs, and in particular some of the challenges associated with the latter. I received feedback within a week of submission, which was really helpful as I could then use this insight to improve my approach to the second TMA. I have summarised below some of the challenges I encountered, along with some ways to respond to these:
- Lack of coverage of some of the key concepts – This was not directly covered in my tutor feedback, but having reviewed the specimen answer I found that a credible essay could be produced without having to refer to topics that had not been discussed. However, this highlighted one of the discussion points around case studies and essays: is there an expectation that we will all arrive at an answer based in a specific area (eg. personality, power, decision-making), or is any answer acceptable if it is justified and backed up by theories. I have recently posted to the discussion forums to get clarity on this, and will post a comment below when I get an answer from the tutors.
- Applying the theories – The specimen answer gave some really good examples of how to relate the concepts back to theories in an appropriate manner, and provided the ‘light bulb moment’ for me that helped me understand how to incorporate these references in the flow of the essay. Some guidance for anyone attempting an essay for the first time, who has limited experience in linking analysis to documented theories – find a sample answer for a similar question, as this will help you understand how to approach the analysis and provide the linkage back to the theories.
- Selecting a specific recommendation – The feedback on my options, recommendation and plan of action, was that they were too “vague” and “not consistent”. On reflection of my original answer I can see this also, and the approach I used for the second TMA (described below) will help address this. I also posted to the discussion forums to find out how to deal with multiple recommendations. The guidance was that the recommendation could be flexible including multiple options, as long as it was justified. I think the expectation is that you should focus on one key approach, but also have a contingency plan in case that fails.
- Referencing – Although I didn’t discuss this in my previous blog post, some useful feedback from my tutor included the style of referencing; specifically the importance of separating primary vs. secondary references. This was also complemented by a useful thread on the discussion forums, which discussed the “balance between rigour and practicality”; essentially, it is preferable to get a reference from the primary source, but there is the recognition that in a part-time distance-learning MBA that might not be possible, and so secondary sources are acceptable as long as they are referenced as such.
In summary, despite finding the first Organisational Behaviour TMA difficult, as a learning exercise it was invaluable. The tutor feedback, specimen answer, and discussion forum activity have all provided some very useful guidance for attempting the second TMA and final assignment.
I recently submitted my response to the second Organisational Behaviour TMA, which had a similar case study based around an organisational conflict. I approached this very differently to the first, and have summarised the main changes that made this much easier to write:
Plan the story in advance
Prior to starting writing, I produced a bulleted outline of the key points for each of the different sections (problem identification, analysis, options, recommendation, plan of action). This helped give the essay a better ‘flow’, and allowed me to identify any gaps or flaws in the approach I had taken.
In a previous blog post I discussed the options I considered for note-taking. However, I found that an approach recommended by a member of my study group, Simon Bristow, was far more effective. This approach was to produce a table with the headings: Topic, Author, Description, Location, and then populate this with each of the theories as I read the textbooks and lecture notes. Then, after writing the outline as above, I was able to look at each bullet point in turn, find theories relevant to the point I wanted to make, and insert the author/title/location in this outline.
Map against real-life experiences
When dealing with a fictional case study it is usually straightforward to consider the obvious consequences of an interaction between individuals, or a proposed recommendation. However, it is very easy to miss some of the more subtle, or hidden consequences. To address this, I imagined the specific interaction/option taking place between different individuals/groups within my organisation, and looked not only at how they would immediately react, but thought through the discussions I would have with them the following day. Although time consuming (so I couldn’t do this with every interaction), it did highlight some interesting effects that I probably would not have identified if I was just focussed on the case study.
This TMA has now been submitted, so the focus for me now is on completing the remaining lessons, submitting one last TMA (for Accounting), writing the final essays, and revising for the Accounting exam. With less than four weeks to go until the semester is finished, I am unlikely to be making any further blog posts until I have finished now, but will post a few updates to Twitter for anyone who’s interested.
To anyone who’s also on the Warwick MBA … hope the assignments go well, and good luck in the exam!