May 29, 2018

Columbia MBA Essay Analysis, Essay 3

Columbia CBS

CBS MBA Essay 3

Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 words)

Not much room, so we need to get to the good stuff efficiently. Let’s identify that FIRST, and then work backwards.

“What would you do differently.” This is where you need to focus. Did you catch the KEY implication there? Whatever the “team failure” had been, the suggestion here is that YOU, no matter how well you think you did with YOUR part, still had tons of agency to affect the overall outcome. You’re not an individual who got an A+ on your piece, while the team failed as a whole. CBS would argue that each person, therefore, failed in some way.

Love this mentality. Don’t blame circumstance, or others, for a group failure. Even if you THINK you did “your piece” 100% correctly, actually, you missed something that could have “saved the team.” Go back in time, as they suggest, and figure out what you missed. The key to this exercise is to demonstrate your ability to step outside of yourself (and your ego) and to optimize for a successful outcome. Are you able to ask “what if I’d done this, what if I hadn’t done that, what if instead of doing this, I’d done this instead”? Are you able to risk exposing a prior decision as potentially… ill-informed? Unwise? Amateur? If so, pat yourself on the back. You’re proving to be a RESULTS guy. If you’re trying to impress CBS, that’s how to do it. Show your analytical skills HERE by dissecting the problem, exposing all possible flaws, missed signals, bad decisions, wrong instincts, etc. and replay it all here with suggestions for ALTERNATE approaches, and speculate on different outcomes, explaining WHY.

In order to do that, you’ll need a good 150-200 words, which means that your SETUP needs to be matter of fact. Consider this layout to skewer this question:

Section 1 – Explain the failure quickly, without much drama, just get us to a place where we understand what was supposed to happen, and what didn’t. We just need to “get it.” (50 words)

Section 2 – Here’s what I think “I did … wrong/sub-optimally” or “I could have done, but didn’t.” Hash it out. The important part isn’t the subject matter, it’s the “how are you dissecting it”? Think “case study” puzzles in consulting firm interviews. They don’t give a rat’s ass about your answer, they just wanna see you “think out loud.” They wanna hear the way your GEARS work. This is what THIS section is about. Churn those gears, on paper. Show us how you’re breaking the problem down, explaining where your actions (or inactions) were the causes that led to undesirable effects. Explain why THESE alternate approaches would have changed things. (150-200 words)

Now, Section 2 (Paragraphs 2 and 3) can go a few different ways depending on your particular story. Here’s one example:

Paragraph 2: Here’s all the stuff I missed that I realize looking back with an analytical eye. (100 words)

Paragraph 3: And here’s what MIGHT have happened (and why) had I replayed it, knowing what I know now. (100 words)

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