Monday, May 11, 2009


So we had our first face-to-face team meeting tonight to work on the presentation we'll deliver this coming Saturday to the class. We've been working on this since Thanksgiving, and as I've written before, our two Chinese members have contributed just about zero to the effort thus far. Not surprisingly, this has produced more than a little intra-team angst, and we all came to tonight's meeting with heightened tensions. Last night's dinner was a good icebreaker so at least we had a little understanding of everyone's quirks and personality, but tonight was where the rubber needed to meet the road. Some of the other teams already had their presentations complete, but our team had yet to even start.

So we gathered in one of the breakout rooms in the MBA center on campus, my American teammate and I ordered (and paid for) pizza, and our Viennese counterpart fired up his laptop and started in on the slides.

Only one of the Chinese guys even brought their laptop. (How can you participate in a team PowerPoint session without your laptop?)

Over the next three hours, we muddled through it. Personalities were further revealed, especially on the Chinese side, and we began to understand why the output from their side was so lacking throughout our project: one was extremely shy and unsure of his English language skills (though he seemed a lot better with his English than we'd be with our Chinese), and the other was a born delegater, which meant that everything about his body language, demeanor, and personality indicated he was a person of great importance, he possessed a natural sense of humor that transcended his broken English, and that somewhere, there just had to be a staff person who would do his work for him. He of course was the one who came to the meeting without his laptop (or even a pen and paper).

I would later learn that this second Chinese teammate had made somewhat of a name for himself by standing up in class earlier in the day and giving an unsolicited 10-minute speech on the downfall of capitalism and how the current economic crisis in the U.S. was evidence that the fallacies of democracy were finally coming home to roost.

The class decided he must be a high-ranking Party official, sent to get his MBA and monitor the rest of the class.

In the end, we cobbled together something akin to a PowerPoint presentation that may actually enable us to graduate. We'll see-- we walked out of that breakout room tonight with a lot of work ahead of us. Our presentation is in five short days.

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