MB 022 01 Fall '01
Prof. Borgatti

SYLLABUS

Overview

This course provides students with a basic understanding of how organizations work. Topics covered include organizational structure, new organizational forms, organizational culture, motivation, the employment contract, diversity, negotiation, communication, leadership and working in teams. After taking this course, students should have an appreciation for the way in which these organizational elements interrelate and work together to maintain a functioning organization. This understanding should help students to approach their careers in a more strategic way.

Because teams are so important in organizations today, an essential part of this course is to provide students with hands-on experience working in teams. Employers say this is a crucial job skill that they are actively looking for in new hires. The course uses an innovative system of permanent teams that compete for bonus points to give students the opportunity to practice team skills and reflect on team processes. The course structure also provides valuable opportunities for students to practice leadership and negotiation skills -- all in a context in which mistakes do not have far-reaching consequences (as they might in a work setting).

The other set of skills that are incredibly important today are computer communication skills. This course depends heavily on the INTERNET, both in the sense that all the handouts, schedules, and other course materials are posted on the web, and in the sense that class discussion via an email listserv is a course requirement.

When you finish this course, you will know a great deal about how organizations work, how to survive teams, and, if you weren't already, you will be utterly comfortable with email and the world wide web.

Class Structure

The class meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I (the principal instructor) will lecture on Monday and Wednesday. On Fridays, you will meet your required discussion section, which will be led by a TA. This means that, within the larger class, students are divided into groups determined by their discussion section. In addition, students within sections are further subdivided into smaller groups (called teams) of around 5 or 6 people. The teams compete with each other, as do the discussion sections. Teams cannot have members from different sections. 

Initial assignments of people to sections and teams have been posted on the website (click here). You are allowed to change teams and to change sections (subject to space). 

Contact Information

Name Phone Email Office Hours Section Rm
Prof. Borgatti 978 456 7356 borgatts@bc.edu Fulton 430 M 1:30-3pm Merkert 127
Emily Peckham 2-2780 peckhaem@bc.edu Fulton 214 TBA Carney 304
Chet Labedz 2-2742 labedz@bc.edu Fulton 214 TBA Cushing 210
Kenny Kury 2-2733 kuryke@bc.edu Fulton 214 TBA O'Neal 253
Eric Lamm 2-2032 lammer@bc.edu Fulton 214 TBA Carney 306

 

The Rules

Team Membership. Each student must belong to one and only one team (also called a "firm"). Teams must ordinarily have no fewer than 5 members. Individuals may leave a team if another team will accept them. All changes are subject to my approval and must be communicated immediately to me by the relevant team leaders via e-mail (borgatts@bc.edu) . New teams may be created any time during the semester. When an individual leaves a team, he or she gives up any claim to team points that have not yet been officially redistributed to the individual, unless some other arrangement is negotiated between the teams involved.

Important restriction:  All teams must be wholly contained within a section. In other words, a team cannot have members that belong to different Friday sections. 

A note on team size: Three years ago, the larger teams seemed to be more successful, perhaps because there was less work per person. However, two years ago, there didn't seem to be any correlation between team size and performance. You should be aware that it is harder to coordinate more people, and there is more chance that a team member will be absent on a quiz day, which lowers the team average (see "Bonus Points" below).

All teams should have an agreed-upon method of eliminating (firing) members if necessary. If this happens, I will work with the individual to find them a new team.

Agreements. Teams may negotiate with each other and with individuals to trade members, pool points, create joint ventures, etc. For example, if a team wants to recruit somebody from another team, they might offer him or her a bunch of bonus points. Or, a team may offer another team some points to write one of their papers for them. There are official and unofficial agreements. Official agreements are enforced by me. Unofficial agreements are not. For an agreement to be official, each party involved must send me a separate e-mail copy of the written agreement.

Bonus Points. Bonus points obtained from tests and other assignments are accrued by the teams, not the individual members. A team may choose to distribute some or all of its accumulated points to its members immediately, or wait until the end of the semester. To officially distribute points to individual members, team leaders send me an e-mail message indicating the number of points to be given to which member. Once points have been officially given to individuals, they cannot be given back.

In this course, there are both team assignments and individual assignments. The points work more or less the same for both kinds of assignments. For individual assignments, points are accrued as follows. Suppose that the average score on the midterm for the 6 members of team "A" is 72. Suppose also that the average of all the team averages is 65. Then team "A" will accrue 7x6x10=420 points. The 7 is for getting 7 points more than the average (72-65). The 6 is for the number of members on the team when the assignment ended. The 10 is for the weight of the task. Exams are worth 15, papers are worth 5, and quizzes and exercises are worth 1. (Note: these weights apply only to bonus points; they are not the same weights used for real points.)

For team assignments, points are accrued if the team score is above the average of all teams' scores. For example, if the team of 10 people scores an 82 on a paper, and the average of the other teams was 80, the team gets 2*5*10=100 bonus points.

Two years ago, the weakest team earned 13 points per person, while the strongest team earned 202 points per person. The average team earned 111 points per person. It is virtually impossible to calculate what the maximum possible is since it depends on how close in performance the teams are. If there is one team that is very weak, all the other teams benefit because they can all score above average. (So, strategically, it makes sense for you to encourage all the really bad students to join one team ...)

At the end of the semester, I convert each person's total bonus points to real points using a discount formula, and then add the real points to their course total (which determines their grade). Two years ago, the discount formula was CP = BP/50, which means that every 50 bonus points were worth 1 percentage point added to final grade. As it worked out, lots of people had enough points to move up one grade step (e.g., B+ to A-), and a few moved up two steps (e.g., B+ to A). No one moved three steps, but that was only because they already had a good grade (e.g., A-), so it only took one or two steps to get to the A. There were two people who got D+ instead of F because of their bonus points.

I will not decide what the discount formula will be for this year until the final exam.

Bonus points are accrued for all regular assignments and tests, and also for some activities that are not formally graded. For example, teams get bonus points if all their members sign up for the class listserv by the due date (Thursday the 21st).

Team Structure. With few exceptions, teams can adopt any internal rules, processes or structures they desire. For example, they can create a hierarchical reporting structure. They can create permanent jobs/positions. They can divide up into sub-teams with different responsibilities. They can (and should) have rules about how to divide up bonus points. All this needs to be worked out by each team, and documented in the Articles of Incorporation, which is an assignment due in the second week.

Team Leadership. All teams are required to have an official, semi-permanent leader, chosen by the teams themselves. By "semi-permanent" I mean that the team leader must stay in position at least 4 weeks, and preferably a lot longer. Experience suggests that team leaders should stay in their jobs at least half a semester to be effective. Most teams in the past have kept the same leader for the whole semester.

At minimum, the team leader will be responsible for all communication between the team and me. In some ways, they will act as TA's for the class, helping me to distribute papers, communicating problems, etc. At maximum, the team leaders can be benevolent dictators, controlling every aspect of team projects. The exact role of the leader needs to be decided by each team on its own. For example, you can let the leader decide how to redistribute bonus points. When choosing a leader, you should also agree on a method for deposing the leader if necessary. Again, all this must be specified in the Articles of Incorporation that your team will write.

Course Materials

The required books for this course are:

The Organizational Behavior book is a typical textbook: dry, but it has the basic stuff that you need to learn. We will not depend on it that much, so I would suggest sharing the book with others in your team rather than each person buying their own copy.

The Liar's Poker book is a paperback description of what it was like to work for Salomon Brothers in the 80's, when they were the top bond house on Wallstreet. It's mostly interesting to read, but has a section in the middle which gets a little tedious (but is very important). The Ender's Game book is a science fiction novel that you must read in the first two weeks. It is about leadership, motivation, and teams.

In addition, there are numerous handouts available on the web. Some are my lecture notes, others are supplementary materials drawn from many sources. It is important that you check the web frequently for changes and additions. If you have any trouble finding the handouts on the web, please contact me right away -- you're probably not the only one!

Don't forget to sign up for the class listserv. You are required to send at least one substantive e-mail message a week to the listserv.

Assignments

There are two major tests: a midterm and a final. The midterm exam is half multiple choice and half short answer and essay. It is worth 15% of your grade. The cumulative final, also largely multiple choice, is worth 25%. The rationale here is that, at the beginning of the semester, students are still getting used to the course and what is expected of them, but by the end of the course, everyone understands the course and is ready to be tested on all they have learned. Details on the exams will be posted on the course web page (see Materials, above).

There is also a consulting project, which is executed by the section. In other words, each discussion section will do one consulting project. The results will be presented on Sunday night November 18th at 5pm in Merkert 127, in front of the whole class, plus a panel of judges made up of Organization Studies faculty and representatives of the client organizations. The project consists of helping an organization solve an organizational problem.

There are four or five quizzes throughout the term (worth a total of 8%, regardless of how many there are). Sometimes I let you know ahead of time that a quiz is coming. Sometimes I don't. Although they are each worth only 2% of your grade, they do provide excellent opportunities to accrue bonus points, as explained elsewhere.

The homework assignments are very important in this course -- this is where you get to apply concepts learned in class to the real world. The homework assignments consist of short papers (mostly 3-5 pages) and take-home exams called Application Memos. Detailed descriptions of each assignment are available on the web. Papers will be graded on clarity of exposition, insight/depth, use of supporting evidence, and use of course concepts. Each paper by itself is not worth a large percentage of your grade, but together they add up. Having lots of small grading opportunities gives you a chance to experiment a bit without risking a large portion of your grade. It also lets teams divide up the work among different members.

Here is a breakdown of all the course assignments:

Assignment Type Weight
Final Indiv 25%
Midterm Indiv 15%
Consulting project Class 15%
Team Audit (term paper) Indiv 9%
Pop Quizzes  Indiv 8%
Class Participation Indiv 8%
Articles of Incorporation Team 5%
Communication Team 5%
Leadership Team 5%
Personality Team 5%
     

To see the due dates for each assignment, consult the schedule.

Attendance

Attendance at Friday discussion sections is required. If you miss more than 3 in a semester, FOR ANY REASON, you will get points taken off. This includes medical emergencies, deaths, etc. Attendance at Monday and Wednesday lectures is not formally required, but you should be aware that sometimes there will be pop quizzes, and if you are not there you will get a zero. In addition, the exams are weighted heavily toward the lecture rather than the textbook, so in practice, you really need to be at the Monday & Wednesday lectures. 

Grading

I do not normally grade on a curve. This means that it is technically possible for the entire class to get an "A", but this is extremely unlikely. Normally, the median grade in this class is a B or B-. This usually means that (a) most people get some kind of B, and (b) as many people get Cs or Ds as get As. I've only failed five people in the last five years.

I usually grade all assignments by giving a percentage score, like "82%". Percentages translate to letter grades as follows:

Percentage Range Letter Grade
93.4 - 100 A
90.0 - 93.3 A-
86.7 - 89.9 B+
83.4 - 86.6 B
80.0 - 83.3 B-
76.7 - 79.9 C+
73.4 - 76.6 C
70.0 - 73.3 C-
66.7 - 69.9 D+
63.4 - 66.6 D
60.0 - 63.3 D-
0.0 - 59.9 F

Class participation is graded according to the amount of quality contribution to the discussion, and this applies to both the listserv and in-class participation. Quality contribution means that it is relevant to the course and expressed in an appropriate manner (e.g., not rude or insulting to anyone). Note that people who don't like to talk in class can balance that by talking extra on the listserv (and vice-versa). However, there is a minimum amount of email participation that is required: 1 relevant message a week. Satisfying that minimum guarantees you a B on class participation. Failing to reach that minimum gets you an F on email participation. Whether you do better than a B on class participation depends on the quality and quantity of your contributions.

Homework assignments may be done over and the results averaged with your original grade. Hand the do-overs in by the last day of class.  Team points do NOT change as a result of do-overs.

Miscellaneous

Some handouts may refer to this course as MB021, even though the registrar calls it MB 022. In my mind, the course really is MB021 -- they changed the name only because it is a larger and somewhat differently organized version.

If you miss an exam or other assignment because of a really good reason, I will try to arrange a substitute with you, but only if you inform me of the situation within 48 hours of the exam date. For example, if you had a death in the family and flew home, call me from there and leave a message on my answering machine explaining the situation. My home phone is 978 456-7356.  Or send an email. Do NOT claim that you couldn't reach me. IMPORTANT: team points cannot be changed to reflect a make-up grade, no matter what the reason.

I like my classroom to be informal, alive, talkative, argumentative, interruptive, humorous, and happy. I love students who are willing to take a chance on being wrong. I give lots of brownie points to people who try out ideas in class. Warning: sometimes I joke with people. For example, if somebody says something wrong in class, don't be surprised if I say something like "That is absolutely, 100 percent, unbelievably, WRONG!". When I do say things like that, it means that (a) I'm having a little fun, (b) I like you, and (c) I think you can handle it.

Also, sometimes I call on people (especially quiet people). If you don't know the answer, don't worry about it. First of all, the purpose of class discussion is not evaluation. Second, I don't assume that people are incompetent just because they didn't have one particular answer on the tip of their tongue.

This course is a lot of work, especially in the first month. There is a lot of reading, and there are a lot of written assignments. Plus, working in teams requires a lot of coordination time. I think you will find, as previous years have, that it is all worth it, but you must plan accordingly! It would be a HUGE mistake to assume that this will be your easy course this semester. My goal in this course is to prepare you to work in today's corporate environment. I take this very seriously and I am quite confident that if you work hard in this course, you will be ready.


Copyright 1996 Stephen P. Borgatti Revised: September 10, 2004 Go to Home page