Capstone 1: Advice on Working with Groups

If you recently started Capstone 1, you have begun the penultimate module of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) and your final steps towards writing the Common Final Examination (CFE). During the module, you will be asked to consolidate what you’ve learned in the core and elective modules and work with a team to develop a report that you will present to a panel of CPAs. Below we outline some advice on group work and succeeding with your team.

Use technology

Use group chat or text to coordinate schedules ahead of time with your teammates and prepare agendas in advance to keep formal group meetings on track and efficient. Virtual meetings and screen sharing can reduce how many in-person meetings you have, especially if they mean saving travel time. Use cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Onedrive to create a shared drive to store documents in a central location.

Practice

With busy schedules, getting everyone in the same room may be challenging; but make a point of meeting in person at least once closer to your presentation date to rehearse your full presentation. Check with your provincial body to see if any your local chapter is offering mock presentation feedback sessions. One or two “dry runs” will help with nerves.

Assign roles

Teams can waste a lot of time going back and forth discussing the same topics. Each team member in a group brings their own strengths and experience. Take time to discuss what each person believes that they can contribute and then assign individual responsibilities and tasks based on what each person feels confident they can fulfill.

Familiarize yourself with all the content

Even though you have your own role, be aware of the entire project, not just the sections you prepare. Have team members review each other’s work and consider rotating the sections each of you reviews. This will help you to have a better overall picture of each issue for the presentation and Day 1 of the CFE.

Deal with personality conflicts appropriately

At some point in every group work project, especially when the stakes are high, there will be moments when you feel like you can’t get along. Most often these moments are resolved by stepping away briefly and cooling down. When the conflict is personal, which can happen, deal with disagreements maturely for individual and team success.

When personalities clash, remember to:

  • Stay professional: You are in a professional program and are expected to conduct yourself professionally. Don’t take group friction personally and watch your tone whether in person, electronically, or over the phone.
  • Find the source: When a personality conflict arises, is it simply a difference of opinion, or is there a more serious issue?
  • Contact your facilitator: If you have been unable to resolve a personality conflict and it is interfering with your group work, seek advice from your facilitator.

Support each other

Remember, everyone in your group wants to succeed, and they will become part of your professional network. You don’t have to finish Capstone 1 as best friends, but a little kindness can go long way.