BUAP012 - Strategy for Sustainable Success
“Helicopter view” was the main concept with which the MBA learning journey started. We were encouraged to “thinking the unthinkable”. As the year progressed a more mature and experienced cohort revisited these concepts. We did that by analysing successful businesses to explore the approaches used to créate successful strategy.
Lead by Professor Dave Mackay; the MBA cohort were challenged to analyse different businesses, deploying a range of strategies using different business models, in order to have a wider scope of understanding and apply knowledge in a real world context.
The module has been one of the best learning experience since we had the chance of analysing a very wide range of companies, with different perspectives all over the world. From the petroleum industry in the UK to the French fashion firms in the centre of Paris; it was an excellent opportunity to share experience, knowledge and points of view of every member of the cohort.
At the same time, we had the chance to propose a strategy for a company of our choice, applying a wide range of strategic tools taught on the module. The MBA cohort identified Primark, Fitbit, Tesla and Costa Coffee as the case companies. They were analysed throughout the module allowing us to understand them in a detailed and objective manner.
More than understanding and practicing every method, the module was a great opportunity to appreciate how far we have developed our analytical thinking and business perspective from other modules. It was clear that all of our efforts during the year had been worth it, as every member of the cohort had grown and developed their professional skills during the year.
Every team presented their own findings, The main outputs were detailed utstanding, with realistic scope and very holistic in terms of the approaches used, even Primark´s case developed some recommendations that could provide relevant services for the other the firms analysed. The power of learning from each other.
It was an appropriate way to close the year.
Day 1- What is Strategy?
During the first day, it was clarified how strategy is a bridge between the industry environment (competitors, customers and suppliers) and the firm (goals, structure and systems). The concept that was most relevant there was “effectiveness at the implementation stage”, where realism and practicality take a relevant role. Different members of the cohort shared their experiences, highlighting how a lack of realism, on the long run, makes it harder to put plans into action. It was concluded that strategy is something more than established ideas and hunches, it requires a proper analysis of the current situation of the company in very different terms as well as an open and flexible mindset.
Using a methodology based on a constant interaction that endorses debate; the cohort was divided into 5 teams and IKEA was chosen as the first company to be analysed. It was found how relevant are sustainability and customer satisfaction for IKEA; then in order to establish the priorities for the next 3 years strategy, every team mentioned the most relevant internal and external strategy factors that could have an effect on the future of the company.
Day 2- The market-based view
One of the advantages of being part of the MBA cohort is being involved in a global environment, having students from different parts of the world helped us understand the different approaches to developing strategy. This was very relevant during the second day of this module, due to it being related to the external environment and a market-based view. Shell and Ryanair were taken as examples of strategies where the volatile dynamic of the markets have importance during the design of the strategies. It was possible to see the effect of different external factors around the world in terms of their impact on petroleum supply and demand and the subsequent impact on profits of the industry. Perspectives from India, Qatar and Mexico were shared in terms of oil producers, their intentions and the domestic challenges that they faced.
It was shown how social and cultural factors have given relevance to sustainability issues around the world. It was also apparent how this concept has grown in recent years, in terms of financial implications and opportunities. With all these issues in mind, every team started working in specific tools such as PESTLE and scenario analysis and Porter’s Five Forces framework, applying these approaches on their own case organisation.
Day 3- The internal environment and a resource based view
During this session VRIN analysis was introduced, where the main differences of resources and capabilities were defined. We talked about what was Valuable, Rare, Imperfectly Imitable and Non- Substitutable. The company Louis Vuitton was used as an example. Here the idea of branding was explored in terms of loyalty, quality and intangible assets.
The principal learning came from the value chain analysis, a tool that helps to establish what is really valuable for the customers. It is not always required that a firm does everything right, it is better to focus the resources on the aspects that are really valuable for the customer, and at the same time remain aware about the “strategic weakness”. This session left us with a wider understanding of implications related to every activity that generates value or otherwise, and how this should be considered in the strategy development process.
Day 4- Business strategy and competitive advantage
Using examples such as Tata Global beverages, Converse sports clothing and apparel, and Ryanair, it was explained how organisations can be competitive not only because of the quality of the product or service but also because of the value chain and the cost structure that is established.
The concept of Blue Ocean Strategy was introduced, as a methodology to go beyond the “status quo”, looking for new and untapped markets, in which a customer offering is developed and put forward where no competitors are able to immediately match it.
Day 5- Corporate strategy and Portfolio analysis
During this session the concept of TOWS analysis was introduced. Ryanair was used again as an example. The main aspect here was clearly trying to position a realistic strategy based on the evidence that comes from the SWOT analysis. This is an important way to see where every idea comes from, and then it is possible to make an accurate evaluation based on Suitability, Acceptability and Feasibility.
Every team had the chance to use the method for their inividual case. A relevant matter here was the feedback sessions with the lecturer and also between different teams. It is clear that across the year, a high level of confidence, and a knowledge of every particular way of working have been developed.
Day 6- Strategic choices and implementation
This session was related to strategic decisions in terms of different approaches open to a company to manage its future. The different approaches included DIY - “Do it Yourself”, BUY – “Merge and Acquisitions” and ALLY - “Strategic Alliances”. It was stressed that speed, risk and scale are the relevant factors to take into account once it is required to take a decision like this.
Day 7- Strategy in Action
During this day we were visited by Dr. Suzanne Doyle Morris from InclusIQ, an organisation that focuses on the challenges of everyday leadership. We used a game methodology to have a better understanding about misbehaviour inside the organisations and how to address strategies that consider also the human factor.
IncluseIQ used this game to generate a high level of awareness about the positive or negative effect that culture in the organisations have at the moment of implementing a strategy. The game was very interactive, and provided us with an excellent opportunity to compare different cultural perspectives about the regular daily basis of the work environment in different countries, and how to deal with it during strategy design.
Now we are ready to write our assignment.
Rachid Arranaga Perez MBA student
BUAP010 Leadership & Responsible Business
This module is taught by Prof. Bernard Burnes (see photo) with some guest speakers. The MBA cohort are joined by a couple of students from the Masters in Social Enterprise programme, for this module.
Day 1 Monday – Today Prof. Burnes introduced us to the idea of leadership, looking at questions such as What is Leadership? What is the difference between Leadership and Management? As a parent I found the discussion on “Managing with Mother” interesting. There are some similarities between being a manager and being a parent, but some important differences too. Leaders need to influence people at different levels within organisations (e.g. subordinates, superiors) and outside the organisation (e.g. customers, suppliers) in different situations.
We watched a YouTube video of Sir Alex Fergusson (the former manager of Manchester United) being interviewed, as an example of a successful leader. We were asked to think about his skills, style and what made him an effective leader.
Day 2 Tuesday – Todays topic was effective leadership. Leadership is not well-understood and it’s messy. We discussed what made Sir Alex Fergusson an effective leader, and then looked at different styles of leading. Good leaders or managers are able to switch between styles depending on the context and that requires emotional intelligence, where emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.
Leadership is not easy, and external factors are making it ever more difficult, e.g. globalisation, political polarisation, the expectation of short-term results. And then there is sustainability and the triple bottom line – People, Planet and Profit. What about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals? Today’s business leaders have a large impact on whether these goals are addressed or ignored. Managers, especially supervisors have a huge impact on how productive the organisation is, because they influence the working atmosphere and culture around them. These are major challenges and in many instances create tensions and dilemmas for managers to resolve.
Day 3 Wednesday – We discussed the VW emissions scandal in groups, and considered how these things can happen. Many companies are involved in unethical behaviours but only a few get caught (e.g. Enron, News of the World). Prof Burnes talked about the skills in decision-making, and what leadership behaviours need to change in order to change the focus of business toward sustainability (in terms of triple bottom line). He gave us some interesting global perspectives (1) on corruption, with the corruption perception index showing the most, and least corrupt countries in the world and (2) looking at what leadership qualities are valued in different international cultures.
Day 4 Thursday – preparation day, today we had time for personal study - preparation for the next few lectures and to start the assignment.
Day 5 Friday – We spent today with Lynn Whiteside (see picture on below) learning about coaching. This is a very useful skill for leaders and managers, and I found it interesting and challenging. We discussed the difference between coaching and mentoring, the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Way forward) and watched some examples from Youtube. Then it was our turn – we had time to practice coaching each other for 5 minutes, shared feedback, and then repeated the exercise. The second time we tried coaching while walking (that’s us coaching when walking). This was helpful to give a different atmosphere, and allow a more natural conversation. In the coaching role, it was difficult to apply the principle of encouraging the ‘coachee’ to come up with options rather than just tell them what I think is the answer. We all found the experience very useful as most managers often default to ‘telling’ mode rather than coaching mode.
Day 6 Monday – Today we had two visiting speakers (from industry and academia) talking about leadership challenges in different contexts, opening up further the debates on leadership. In the morning Mark Jones from IBM (see photo) spoke about Leadership, Teamwork and Ethics. After an introduction to the subject, he gave us four real-life ethical dilemmas from his own experience, for us to discuss in small groups and work out what we would do in that situation. We presented our ideas back to the class before he told us what really happened. It was interesting for us to learn from his experience and think about what happens in the real world, and how to deal with difficult situations with integrity.
In the afternoon, Dr Brian Howieson from Dundee University (see photo) spoke to us about the case for third sector leadership. He explained the limitations of the current leadership model, largely based on the private sector in the USA. In this model, the attributes of the individual leader are paramount, and the relationship between leader and followers has not been seen as important. Little research has been done on alternative models, and there is much to be learned from leadership in public sector and third sector organisations, especially given the extent of change over the last decade.
Day 7 Tuesday – today was the final lecture, and Prof. Burnes summed up by looking at what we have learned.
Overview of the module
Leadership is not well-defined and can be explored from many different perspectives. Leaders may need to have certain character traits, be emotionally intelligent and able to utilise different styles in different situations, to be effective. The effectiveness of a leader cannot be separated from the behaviour of their followers. This requires high levels of self-awareness and the impact of self on others, as well as the impact of others on self. Nowadays good, ethical leadership is more important than ever, as the importance of the triple bottom line, and environmental sustainability become more significant.
Written by Teri Smith, MBA student.
BUAP016 - Innovation Management
The aim of Innovation Management was to equip students with knowledge and understanding of the theory and practice for managing innovation initiatives and developing cultures of innovation. The module started by discussing the theory of disruptive innovation and then moved to exploring a range of contemporary issues including open, social and sustainability innovation. Using case study material students analysed the dimensions that drive the innovation capability of organisations.
Students working in teams were asked to come up with an innovative idea and to develop a business proposition around it. Throughout the week students engaged in several workshop style sessions, going through all stages of the innovation process including creativity, idea evaluation and selection, development and commercialisation. After many discussions surrounded by post-its and flip charts, and using the Business Model and Value Proposition Canvas as guiding frameworks, students created really interesting business models around concepts such as clothing from recyclable materials and applications to manage food waste to feed those in need. The students pitched their ideas in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style presentation – shame the Dragon’s did not bring any money with them!
During the module students had the opportunity to gain valuable insights from industry experts. As part of the University’s Innovation & Excellence lecture series students were invited to a masterclass by John Goodwin (Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, Lego) who discussed the story of Lego, one of the most admired brands and innovative companies in the world. Sustainability driven innovation was the main topic covered during the visit to CMS Windows. After discussing how Nike transformed their business putting sustainability at the forefront of the decision making process students had the unique opportunity to hear the story behind CMS Windows, a company that has sustainability ingrained in its DNA. It is this passion for sustainability and innovation that has led this award winning organisation through a period of rapid growth. Sarah Wilson (Marketing Manager) hosted the visit in the Company’s eco-built innovation hub and shared the 10-year journey of the company. The students had the opportunity to see the manufacturing operations, including the in-house built recycling facility.
A fun and creative week thanks to a fully engaged and energetic group of students!
BUAP007 - Managing Change
In my work experience I’ve seen various attempts at change in different organisations, from structural changes to culture changes, small and large changes. None of them seemed to be very well delivered, so I was very interested in this module, hoping to learn a better way of managing change in organisations.
This module was taught by Prof. Bernard Burnes (picture right), and several guest lecturers. We had a smaller class size as this is an elective module. Prof. Burnes organised the timetable so we had teaching and discussion in the mornings and time in the afternoon for reading and preparation for the next day’s teaching. We were given some pre-reading for the module (a chapter from the textbook).
Day 1 – Monday
Prof. Burnes gave an introduction to the module, looking at different types of change and the reasons why organisations want to change. We considered whether so much change is necessary or beneficial. 70% of change projects are said to fail, so why is it so difficult? A question that we explored throughout the elective module.
Day 2- Tuesday
Change is dependent on behaviour. We looked at identifying what behaviours are desirable to achieve a change, e.g. if you want to stop buying things you don’t need at the supermarket, change your behaviour - make a list and don’t go when you are hungry! As a manager, changing other people’s behaviour might mean you have to change your own behaviour first, to get the desired response – if someone’s always frowning at you, try giving them a smile! We had an interesting discussion about what influences behaviour, and behaviour change. An insight into the complexity of managing change.
Day 3- Wednesday
Today’s guest lecturer, Dr Julian Randall, is a consultant and a lecturer in Management Consultancy at University of Aberdeen. We learned about organisational change from the academic and the consultant’s perspectives. Organisational change is a multi-disciplinary area within academia, involving economics, management, psychology and sociology. There are various reasons why organisations want to change – to improve profit, efficiency and/or effectiveness. Julian took us through one of his papers on organisational change - a case study, looking at how staff reacted to several changes over a period of years. There are challenges to be overcome in introducing change, particularly as people tend to be resistant. In groups we identified some essential ways to make change easier for people involved (e.g. good communication, involvement and choices). We also had an informative discussion about the role of the consultant in a change project.
Day 4 – Thursday
The second guest lecturer was Rob Goward, who taught us about the changes in the spirits industry over the last 3 decades, looking particularly at mergers and acquisitions. We worked through the benefits and problems encountered by the companies involved in such strategic decisions that impact day-to-day operations. The difficulty in bringing two different organisational cultures together is often underestimated.
Day 5 – Friday
The final guest lecture was from Hon. Prof. Fiona MacKenzie, former Chief Executive in the NHS. We had previously met Fiona when she came and spoke about Resilience as part of our PPD module, so we were looking forward to this session. Fiona spoke about the difficulties of managing change well, and her experience in the NHS. The emotional aspect of change is very important and we looked at personality types (Myers-Briggs). It is interesting to learn that many CEOs and others in senior management will have a certain personality type, one that’s not well-equipped to deal with the emotional responses to the changes they introduce. She explained Kotter’s 8-step model, and how it has evolved over the last few years. She talked us through some relevant examples, sharing what she has learned from her experience in the NHS. We should not expect change to be easy, but there are ways to make it easier or harder. Culture in an organisation is more difficult to change than structure.
Day 6 – Monday
Prof. Burnes took us through a case study on a construction company, looking at what they did well. They took a longer-term view, taking the time to work on changing the culture first before changing the structure. We looked at planned change and emergent change, and how different approaches are suitable for different types of change.
Day 7 – Tuesday
In the morning we presented our plans for our individual assignments, looking at changing an aspect of our behaviour over a period of several weeks. We identified the forces driving and restraining our behaviour. Some people aim to do more exercise, work on their time management or improve their English language skills. We will support each other over the next few weeks to make these behaviour changes, and in the process we should learn about changing our own and other people’s behaviour. Remember self-esteem is very important, and negative people can have a devastating effect on your ability to achieve.
In the afternoon, Prof. Burnes summarised our learning with his 10 rules of managing change – all illustrated with Dilbert cartoons.
Overview of the module
This has been a very interesting module, looking at the different theories and practice of organisational and personal change. Change involves people, and how they respond dictates the success or failure of the initiative. Emergent change, coming from the people involved seems to be the most effective. Change is difficult and we should expect to go through a coping cycle while we adapt and adopt the change. There are ways to make the change process more smooth, but there will still be difficulties. Communication (listening as well as providing information) is key to managing change.
Given the international mix of our cohort it was interesting to understand such issues from different country settings.
After studying this module, I feel in a much better position in understanding what affects the way people respond to change, and in the future I hope I can apply this learning to managing organisational change.
Written by Teri Smith, MBA Student
BUAP018 - Business Analytics
Business Analytics elective within the MBA and MBM programmes is concerned with developing skills to allow critical evaluation and validation of data, to allow the creation of information which benefits the needs of a business and supports strategic decision making.
As a student I feel this is particularly relevant in the ‘digital age’ where the role of data is growing at such a rapid pace. The challenge that most businesses face is understanding what to do with such data to generate insights for the business; what the different types of data are, the best analytic methods and tools to deploy to logically help in using the data effectively.
The teaching within this module is broad-based blending the analysis of case studies and data sets with very useful analytic tools, including chi-squared hypothesis problem solving tool, regression analysis, normal distribution curves and standard deviations prior to construction of a build a factory simulation model. The model and specialist software (Simul8) used, allows creation of a working simulation where data can be input, verified, understood and adapted to create measurable change that can then be reported to a management team to support strategic decision-making.
The assignment was based on a motorcycle manufacturing company, located in Italy, which enjoyed high demand for their products; however the company had experienced quality issues and production capacity challenges. For example, issues such as utilisation and capacity constraints. Using the business analytic techniques taught on the module, data was extracted from excel data set and validated through modelling and sorting to assist with establishing the cause of the problems.
Problems identified included discrepancies in input data, which is part of the ‘data cleansing’ stage of the process. Once cleansed this data set was analysed to produce output information which could then be further modelled and simulated to provide real time information about the causality of changes, therefore allowing options to be proposed and explored, and recommendations made.
Dr Gerry Edgar (the module co-ordinator) aptly stated “if we don’t measure it, we don’t control it”, this was very clear when looking at multiple areas of the production system. If measurements and metrics are not defined correctly and used where appropriate, operations become difficult to control and any data generated can become ambiguous and potentially misleading.
Management teams need information to optimise production or service delivery, deliver quality (again across product and/or service) and ensure efficient resource allocation, whilst allowing customer needs and profitability expectations to be met.
I have learned some fantastic tools and methods to use when analysing data. I found the teaching of probability, normal distribution and chi squared methods of particular use. All of which are highly adaptable for problem solving in business and as such, I am certain there will be many future situations in which I can apply them.
Written by Chris Champion - MBA student
BUAP017 - Organisational (mis)Behaviour
This elective module is taught by Prof Stephen Ackroyd, who is visiting us from Lancaster University. We have a larger class size for this module as it is an elective for both MBA and MBM students. We were given some pre-reading last week - 2 case studies and a chapter from his book.
Day 1 – Monday –Today I was challenged to think what is behaviour, and what it means - observation is not enough to understand and interpret behaviour – we need to know what motivation causes the behaviour. What a person believes, determines their behaviour. In our initial discussion of the case studies, we looked the kinds of misbehaviour that occur in the case study organisations, from the lowest level staff workers to the top management. Management misbehaviour is not easily studied, for obvious reasons. Also, what may seem like misbehaviour from a public morality point of view may be perfectly aceptable to the executives, and justifiable from an economist’s point of view (disproportionately high pay and rewards for example).
Day 2 – Tuesday – Lectures today were about different types of misbehaviour in organisations, Prof Ackroyd explained his map of misbehaviour types – there were three main distinctive forms of misbehaviour, recognised from the research into employee behaviour in industrial/manufacturing environments. 1. Time wasting including absenteeism 2. Effort limitation and 3. Pilferage. These are made possible by the informal self-organisation that occurs in any group situation. These three are changing now with the change in the job market, and new forms of misbehaviour are emerging.
Prof. Ackroyd talked about the problem of how to deal with misbehaviour, and gave us a new perspective. Very often squashing one type of misbehaviour (e.g. lateness) will result in another problem (e.g. increase in sick days), because the underlying motivation is still there. So perhaps it is better just to be aware of the misbehaviour, and then think about whether to act to crush it or to allow it to continue.
Day 3 – Wednesday – We looked at how the economy has changed from manufacturing industry to services and retail, changing the nature of the job market and the opportunities for misbehaviour. We also looked at the behaviour of top management and how their motivation and priority has changed from aiming to grow the company to maximising the return on capital invested. There are opportunities and motivation for misbehaviour but much current practice is not illegal, although of questionable morality.
Day 4 – Thursday – A different pace today, with a more detailed look at the case studies in groups of 8 or 9 students. Everyone group had a turn feeding back to the class. This gave us all an opportunity to think through the case studies in terms of the business models and misbehaviour – was there really any action that can be considered as misbehaviour?
Day 5 – Friday – Today we looked at the potential new forms of misbehaviour emerging in the new structure of employment. People are generally employed in low skill activities in call centres rather than in factories these days, so the types of misbehaviour are changing. Employers do not value employees’ ideas and input, preferring to control them with scripting and KPIs. When you look at it that way, it is not surprising that the employees misbehave by becoming disengaged from the business interests of the organisation.
Day 6 – Monday – today’s lectures summarised what we’ve learned over the last week, and we had a session clarifying the assignment requirements, so now we can all write up our chosen case studies, I hope!
Overview of the module:
Traditionally, the study of organisational behaviour tended to assume most employee behaviour was good, and had the best interests of the organisation at heart. With that assumption, not much misbehaviour was observed, and that which was detected, was treated as rogue behaviour and it was assumed that crushing it was easily done. However, Prof. Ackroyd brought us a new perspective on organisational behaviour, which I had not considered before.
Using the concept of misbehaviour to look at what is going on in an organisation is potentially very informative, we saw the potential pitfalls of crushing misbehaviour in one area – it may cause a bigger problem elsewhere. Misbehaviour is often allowed and disallowed at the same time – the manager may be aware of it but does nothing, in order to elicit good-will. For example, the manger may not crack down on time-wasting at a quiet time, in order to be able to achieve co-operation in putting in extra effort at a busy time. He explained the concept of effort-bargaining and the idea that the workers would form informal self-organised hierarchical structures, and limit effort, or misbehave in other ways in order to make the direct control of the manager less of a burden. It is valuable for managers to recognise what is going on, and identify the processes and mechanisms involved in the particular forms of misbehaviour in their organisation. All in all, the module has made me think about why people behave the way they do in the organisations I’ve worked in, and challenged me to look at the underlying informal structures and processes that are contributing to that behaviour.
BUAP008 - Operations Management
Operations management within an organisation has the responsibility to design, control and re-design the processes of production of goods and services. The module explores the relationship between operations in manufacturing and service management contexts. The module covers short, medium and long term planning of operations management. Doing so help to identify the decision choices open to management, as well as the strategic implications of such choices.
A week has passed when we had the most memorable, challenging operation management module. The module was challenging as it was entirely a new experience for the cohort. Initially at the start of the module, there were worries as we had limited knowledge as to the role and scope operations management, with the associated graphs and bar diagrams and how these influenced decision making.
We soon overcome our anxiety as the first day of the module started taking shape. It was an introduction to operations management, the various models of operations followed by performance objectives and measurement, operations strategy, product design and innovation, capacity management, supply network design and supply chain strategy.
The interesting style and rule of Dr Gerry Edgar was the one when he conducted the initial case study interaction noting that one paper, one pen, maximum 4 people in a group and maximum noise. This was well thought idea to engage all of us in a comfortable situation and to understand everyone’s participation at the same time.
We had case study session every day to enhance our learning experience for me, with diverse organizations such as ‘Brussels Airport’ and ‘Fazo Dyes Limited’ where we had to schedule work flows. The Brussels Airport session was to develop a road map for the airport system (working on one paper with maximum noise) gave a start to all the groups to use their expertise and understanding. We all have travelled internationally through many airports and started using those experiences to explore the airport activities. We had to draw our experiences step by step. Interestingly the group outcomes were varied, some were very close to the expectations of Dr Edgar, while on the other hand, some were too detailed and for some the information was missing. This provided us with the opportunity to understand the managerial implications of the differences. This session gave lot of confidence and ideas to enable us to be prepared for the next case study.
We were not given details of the assignment on the first day as Dr Edgar believed that if a task is given on first day, the cohort would concentrate on developing assumptions towards assignment and this would result in compromising effective learning. The entire class was eager to have the topic as the module was intense and each one of us had anxiety to work on it asap so that we can meet the expectations of Dr Edgar.
Dr Edgar’s teaching style is appreciated by everyone in the class. More especially when someone gets struck with the topic, his way of encouraging and pushing everyone the ‘extra mile’ to do something more and better was appreciated. For me his lecture delivery style and class engagement was fantastic. Especially his way of calling whole class, every morning, with different designated titles to generate enthusiasm to stand up to the designated title given for the day (Journey of Managers to Operation Managers on the last day).On the last day of his lecture he called us Hello! Operations Managers and that was the time I realised that this is the quality and confidence of perfect mentor who is very sure that his teaching and learning capacity of his students gives him surety that we can turn in “Future Operations Managers”.
Another interesting surprise came within hectic schedule of the module was a site visit to the Mitsubishi air-conditioning plant in Livingston near Edinburgh. Mitsubishi was first established in the UK in the 1980’s and has grown to become one of Britain’s foremost manufacturers of cooling and heating products.
Initially all of us had a thought to get the trip postponed as the time was less to complete the assignment but now I understand that it was planned to show operations in practical manner and to give us a change of venue and release our anxiety. The site visit to Mitsubishi allowed us to experience first-hand working atmosphere and many more insights about operations. The site visit engraved a lot of learning experience especially when I could correlate it with my past experiences in my last job as to how things could have been planned or arranged, following in the Mitsubishi plant operations processes, and outputs would have been far better. Most memorable experience for me was to see how the operations works in practical, continuous connected support of each department which gives birth to successful products.
Finally, we got our assignment topic, which was then explained at length and in detail. Expectations over assignment were explained well. Dr Edgar gave us two days to prepare a road map on the topic assigned to us, to ensure that we all are on right track and have deep understanding of the concepts and processes discussed in class. Each group was allocated time to discuss their road map and then go ahead to write the assignment. For me this was best planned strategy to make sure that we all know what is expected out of topic and each one of us was on right track. This was the best way to reduce confusion as there was hidden trick in assignment as both group and individual were interrelated.
However, now after final submission of my assignment, I can correlate with the idea of Dr Edgar as to why the assignment topic was kept on hold. The concentration and engagement each one of us had during this phase wouldn’t have been possible as otherwise it would have distracted us with the topic and as per human nature we all would have started correlating things with the given topic and our learning would have got compromised.
Overall this was most intense but fantastic experience which has extended a lot of practical learning experiences, Memorable moments of being called by designated titles (Operations Manager) and many more during the operations management module as this reinforced the module to the reality of organisational life.
Written by Isha Sudan, MBA Student
BUAP014 - Personal & Professional Development
PDP activities continue into February. The students were treated to a day’s Masterclass from Professor Alex Wood. Alex’s topic was the ‘Theory of Resilience’. The students found the class very interesting and insightful.
Picture 7 Alex with the MBA students, doesn’t he look proud.
Following on from the Operations Management module, we enjoyed a visit to Mitsubishi in Livingstone, where Gerry joined us. The students were disappointed Gerry didn’t accompany us on the bus, they were hoping to interrogate him on their up and coming Operations Management assignment. Never the less, the students were able to see and experience many of the concepts, tools and measures Gerry had discussed in class. The visit and staff were excellent, although I’m sure the staff must have been exhausted after our visit considering all of the questions they answered!
Picture 8 Mitsubishi Site Visit
Subsequent to our site visit, the students participated in their first careers skills session. The session, delivered by Emily Sandwell from the Careers Development Centre, included integrating skills and self-awareness with your personal brand.
Picture 9 Murtaza: “Why would anyone not want to employ me?”
Picture 10 “Why would anyone employ Murtaza when they can employ me?”
Picture 11 “Khlayre, if you are going to be my lectern at least hold it steady!”
The day concluded with a session from Kate and Carolyn. The students asked if Kate and Carolyn could come back and facilitate a session on role-play-Chris was delighted!
Picture 12 Default 1 but for Chris Default 5
Picture 13 Default 10-it is a pity you cannot hear the noise.
After a warm-up session, which reminded students of the appropriate default position (Default 5), the session continued with role-playing known characteristics, such as, passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour. The students learned how to cope empathetically with passive and aggressive behaviour but also that assertive behaviour will result in a successful conclusion to an issue or problem. Although playing these roles made the students feel uncomfortable at times, it was a great learning experience, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
Picture 14 Mariko shocks even Kate and Carolyn with her aggressive stance-who knew?
Picture 15 Khlayre role-plays passiveness-“I didn’t like the way it made me feel”
Picture 16 End of a wonderful day!
BUAP014 Personal & Professional Development
After a well-earned winter break, the students were back on Campus and had a full schedule of PDP activities to look forward to during the first week of spring semester.
Just to give them a taste of things to come, students enjoyed three activities on their first day back: Team Building, Academic Skills and an Excel class!
Picture 1 Rex, Rachid, Rahul, Akshay, Isha and Teri, remove the ‘Bomb’ and save the World during the Team Building session!
Team Building revisits the message that the understanding and respect of team members along with good communication will result in an effective successful team. Team working is an important aspect of all of the modules delivered in the Programme and reflects a working environment. The Excel skills class brushed up on the skills the students already had in preparation for Operations Management, Project Management and Business Analytics.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Stephen Westwood joined the students and introduced them to the art of Consulting. Students participated in many scenarios to help them to understand the different requirements of a variety of clients; how to communicate, how to present themselves and how to extract the information they needed. This was great preparation for ‘Education means Business’.
Picture 2 Smile for the camera: MBA's with Stephen
Dr Mike Walsh facilitated the class on Thursday the topic of which was Facilitation Skills, funnily enough. Each student played the role of a facilitator during the session, which meant he or she could not give their own opinion; this was harder for some than others!
Picture 3 Ian doesn’t like the idea of not voicing his opinion!
On Friday, the students were introduced to their business partners during ‘Education means Business’. Five local businesses presented business issues they would like the students to solve. The businesses included: The Stirling Language School, Robin Iffla Training, Castle Bagging, the Stirling Arcade and the Stirling Guildry. The students will present their solutions to the businesses in March.
Picture 4 Isha and Khlayre take notes with Rupert from the Stirling Language School.
Picture 6 Isha looks very officious speaking to Robin Iffla.
BUAP020 Business Consulting
Whether students plan careers in consulting or as executives, consulting skills – being able to engage a group to solve a complex problem in a short time – are important to have. The business consulting module is a week-long project which prepares students for the realities of life as a consultant by simulating a real project. The module is designed and delivered Catherine Tilley, who worked with McKinsey & Company for 13 years, providing insights from the world’s number one global consulting firm.
The students started the week working in teams to understand the case and define the client organisation’s problem. On Monday, teams began to define the issues our client faced, and to immerse themselves in an analysis of the industry. On Tuesday, they dug deeper into the data, and started to identify the key issues to resolve and how they could approach these. Students present their first findings (from client financial and background information):
On Wednesday, the teams spent the morning meeting client executives (role-played by faculty) to deepen their understanding of the case and to build their skills as interviewers.
Students prepare to interview a client executive:
Students had to be able to engage with the client’s management team, who included the CEO as well as key functional directors and managers.
Students had to analyse each interview looking for confirmation of issues as well as looking for contradictions between the management team. Having analysed the interview data, the students spent Thursday preparing recommendations for the clients, developing and writing presentations to give to the client’s management (again, represented by the faculty) on Friday. The module was designed to help students experience the expectations and demands of working in a world-class professional services environment.
A photo from one of the team rooms, where it is evident that teamwork, mutual respect and diversity of backgrounds is harnessed to encourage creativity that generates appropriate ideas and potential solutions to address the situation faced by the client:
Throughout the week, the students were also encouraged to work on their personal and professional development, again using techniques that are used in leading global consultancy firms.
Students share and discuss their development plans:
Creating a supportive environment is a hallmark of leading global consultancy firms as this approach is designed to build mutual trust and harness knowledge to develop each individual to achieve their potential.
Although the week was intense, it enabled the students to experience all of the steps of a consultancy project, from client inquiry to client engagement to the development of client recommendation as well as client relationship management, in a realistic setting before they begin their own client consultancy projects over the summer. They were encouraged to see the company’s challenges from the perspective of senior managers, as it is too easy to develop solutions that are not client-oriented. In addition, the students also had the opportunity to reflect on their own career paths and ambitions, and consider the personal skills required to achieve these ambitions.
BUAP001 Personal & Professional Development
Professor Danny Blanchflower delivered the final class of the year. The MBA students felt privileged to hear Danny’s very up-to-date insights on the economy during this two-day Masterclass. In fact, Danny was updating his slides on the morning of the first class to reflect new data he had just received!
Danny hiding at the back.
We made it! Final assignment in.
Students celebrated the end of semester with a potluck lunch!
Haggis, sweet dumplings, chicken curry and goats’ brains were just some of the delicacies on offer.
BUAP006 - Economics for Sustainable Business
In the “Economics for Sustainable Business” module we use insights from various aspects of economics to develop a tool kit for decision-making in business. We study less of a “textbook” style of economics course, and instead draw more on economics as a general science of decision making to help us understand why people and businesses make the decisions that they do. We were able to use economics to understand some key business principles – e.g. why sometimes maximising profits requires businesses to sell less units rather than more (because of the concept of rising marginal costs). We also used ideas from economics to explain the behaviour of real world successful companies. For example, the concept of comparative advantage tells us why Apple outsources most of its components (and not just to low-wage countries) even though it can attract the best-skilled engineers to make components in-house, and theories of price elasticity explain the brilliance (in a business sense) of Amazon’s algorithmic pricing strategy, where prices respond in real time to signals about the strength of consumers’ demand. Aside from understanding businesses, we also drew on new developments in behavioural economics to tell us something about our own limitations as decision makers – we learnt that we are inherently over-optimistic about our own abilities and that we underestimate our exposure to harm (the majority of drivers routinely rate themselves as being better-than average at driving; nearly 0% of newlyweds think their marriage will end in divorce despite actual divorce rates being 30-40% in some countries). This provides an important grounding point for business decision-making and financial planning in turbulent economic times.
BUAP001 Personal and Professional Development
From reflective presenting to reflective writing- as part of the session, students commented on their partner’s writing skills. As you can see, Teri found this exercise very thought provoking!
After a busy morning, a visit to the Allanwater Brewhouse in the afternoon was just what the students needed. The staff were great at explaining the brewing process and answering the many questions posed by the students. It was also great fun, we all sampled lots of lovely beers and ciders- purely for the purpose of scoring each drink out ten of course…
Kate Donne and her partner Carolyn Konrad had the student in fits of giggles as they role played the differences between aggressive, passive and assertive behaviour during the Assertiveness / Conflict Resolution class.
Students learned how to say ‘no’ in a respectful way and how to negotiate difficult situations.
In a typical pose, Kate gives feedback to a student.
Fiona hammers home her message!
A natural progression from the Assertiveness class was the class delivered by Honorary Professor Fiona Mackenzie on Resilience Skills. Fiona shared her experiences as CEO in the NHS and spoke about the coping strategies she maintained to remain resilient in often, very difficult and pressured situations.
BUAP004 Managing the Human Resource
During November, students were presented with a critical perspective on the theories and debates surrounding a range of HR practices as part of the ‘Managing the Human Resource’ module. Key HR practices covered included Workforce Planning, Recruitment and Selection, Training and Development, Performance Management, Reward Management and Diversity Management. Students were also given an introduction to the other areas HR managers may encounter as part of their role, including Work-Life Balance, Stress and Bullying. We also examined the context in which HR practices operate and the impact on individuals, managers and organisations.
During the module, students were treated to a guest lecture by Jillian Nelson from Robertson Group. Jillian provided the students with valuable insight into her role as Head of Talent at the company. Jillian discussed her areas of responsibility and gave students an overview of the various areas of HR strategy at the Robertson Group. The guest lecture also gave students an understanding of some of the issues associated with developing a comprehensive HR strategy which aligns with the business strategy.
Photo courtesy of Jillian Nelson, Robertson Group
On the final day of the module, students delivered their presentations as part of the group project exercise. Students were tasked to devise a complete people management strategy for their given company case study. Each group had a different case study, ranging from a global financial services company, an engine power systems company, a steel company and an optical care company. The presentation session enabled students to apply their understanding of the themes covered in the module to a concrete example.
BUAP005 Marketing Management
This week the MBA cohort explored the concept of marketing management and how it may be applied in a commercial setting. For us who work in the field that is loosely defined as “marketing” it is quite interesting to reflect on the range of responses one gets when asked “What is Marketing?”
A commonly recited response is: “It’s all about getting people to buy things that they don’t want and don’t need”. Other definitions abound including “It’s about selling”, “it’s about manipulating” or my favourite (although I am not sure I understand it, is) “it’s a philosophical alternative to force".
The aim of this module was to dispel some of the myths and preconceptions that surround Marketing and Marketing Management. Through a series of lectures, discussions and exercises the aim was not only to explore the concept of marketing but also to provide the cohort with a straightforward, practical model that can be applied in a wide range of workplace settings.
The cohort comprises individuals with varying levels of experience in marketing and included individuals who had worked in insurance, banking, hospitality and the University sector. Given the breadth of the subject area the primary focus of the module was upon Business to Consumer marketing and drew upon examples from the retail sector, the hotel and airline industry as well as the automotive sector (who doesn’t enjoy travelling, shopping and driving fast cars).
However, during one of our sessions we were very pleased to welcome Kevin Condron from IBM Europe. Kevin’s primary focus is upon Business to Business marketing, an area that is all too often overlooked in many MBA programmes. Kevin spent the afternoon discussing B2B marketing and highlighting the size, scale and challenges that exist in this sector.
Kevin (centre and back) and the MBA cohort.
Given the broad range of individual backgrounds and the wealth of knowledge that people brought with them, emphasis was placed upon group discussions, individual contribution and personal reflection. Therefore, it wasn’t all about Kevin talking (enthralling as it was).
It was about sharing experiences ….
….. and capturing the essence of the moment (nice watch Ian).
An integral element of the marketing management module were the Group presentations. At the start of the module each group was provided with a choice of marketing related topic to research over the next 10 days. At the end, each group was given 15 minutes to present their findings to Professor Freathy and others in the class. A lot of effort went into these presentations and the final outcomes were of a high standard.
Finally! This is Market Segmentation
Despite unconfirmed reports of Clowns spotted in the University, Group Three pressed on bringing humour and creativity to their marketing management presentation!!
BUAP001 - Professional and Personal Development
Following the Flying Start Leadership programme, PPD activities continued for the MBA students: After an introduction to Reflective Practice, student groups faced their first reflective presentation whilst other students videoed their performance!
With the benefit of lots of constructive feedback on their presenting skills, the students delivered their first assignment with confidence and good reflective content.
Don't say that Khlayre!
Students commented later saying the session helped with their next presentation in the Marketing Management module.
BUAP003 - Accounting & Finance
Building on the aspects of accountancy and finance introduced in the Flying Start Leadership programme students engaged with this module to develop and strengthen their financial acumen. During the finance element of the module we focused on the important decision making process corporate finance managers engage in (investment, financing and liquidity decisions), as well as take part in ongoing discussions on the topics of Efficient Markets, Capital Structure and Dividend Policy; topics always current within the finance field.
The first two days were quite intense in setting the foundations and introducing new concepts but by day three the students were presenting, actively participating in discussions and debates within finance theory and practice. Students presented on the Efficient Market Hypothesis and showing the impact the recent financial crisis and ongoing uncertainty had on the stock market prices and looking at how Technical Analysis can be used.
On other aspects of finance saw the MBA students calculating the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) and determining the value of their chosen case study company (see below).
Moving on to another important aspect of finance is the direct and indirect costs of bankruptcy (part of the Capital Structure debate). Students presenting on a wide range of issues that influence managerial decisions (see below).
This year, the accountancy element followed on from finance. We explored matters such as the user groups of financial information, the key financial documents, and the benefits of interpretation using a wide range of financial ratio analysis. The MBA students worked together through a number of exercises, discussing well-known businesses. We reviewed the accounts of a number of major, well-known firms (Rolls Royce, and Jaguar in particular) and showed how such publications are not only the principal source of verified financial information but are also an important part of the public company's impression management system.
The MBA students then discussed their own experiences and how they used the financial results and relevant analysis as part of their organisational performance reviews. Such an approach reinforced past practices and as well as developing new approaches and toolkits to deploy in the future. Such knowledge and capability is recognised as a pre-requisite for all managers.
BUAP002 - Strategy and the International Environment
Next up was the Strategy & the International Environment module with Professor George Burt (co-author of the best-selling book: The Sixth Sense: Accelerating Organizational Learning with Scenarios). The ‘client’ for this module is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) who are interested in the global progress towards achieving the seventeen development goals (SDGs) by 2030. The SDGs have only recently been agreed and this is a global first for them to be integrated into an educational environment. Key Central Asian countries that would be studied as part of the module included Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The module is designed to help students explore and link macro-economics, geo-politics as well as local politics, culture, societal change, technological change and environmental / ecological change. Doing so helps develop ‘helicopter’ skills – seeing the ‘big picture’ whilst simultaneously connecting to and understanding the ‘detail'.
The students applied the scenario planning methodology to help them explore the ambiguity and uncertainty that surrounds such complex situations. By the end of the module the students had ‘mastered’ the use of post-it notes and produced scenario stories and detailed analysis of key issues for UNDP (see above).
Monday 12th and its Welcome to Stirling Management School and Induction Day – a chance for the new students to meet each other for the first time, as well as get to know the teaching and administrative team. The cohort of MBA students is a global village including Japan, China, India, Qatar, Georgia, Mexico, Scotland, and Taiwan. What an incredible level of diversity and opportunity for each student to explore and understand different cultures and how culture influences business and management during their MBA.
Students were provided with a detailed introduction to the MBA by the Programme Director, Professor George Burt. Induction was part of the unique and innovative Flying Start Leadership Programme (FSLP) which was introduced three years ago to help all of the Stirling Management School’s postgraduate students make the transition to studying at the University. It provides a wide array of events and activities to help students identify their ambitions and goals for the year. It also is designed to help students identify leadership and management skills and capabilities that they want to develop during the MBA, as these are highly sought after by future employers. Day 1 finished with a welcome dinner with our guest speaker – Jock Scott (an entrepreneur – with an MBA – who runs Abune mediation) reflecting on how to get the best from the MBA.
FSLP runs over the first 2 weeks of the new semester, covering a wide range of issues including: developing cultural intelligence, communication skills, the complexity and ethics involved in decision-making, time management, fundamentals of financial management, understanding business metrics, team work and team building, leadership as well as academic writing and study skills.
For MBA students the elements of FSLP are integrated into the Personal & Professional Development (PPD) modules. PPD is an integral element of the Stirling MBA and runs throughout semester 1 and semester 2 so that students can constantly monitor and evaluate their personal development. PPD aims to help students develop greater self-awareness, awareness of others, impact of self on others and others on self, critical thinking, leadership skills and team-working competences that are vital to becoming an effective and resilient manager. PPD is designed to support life-long learning.
During the first 2 weeks a 2-day teambuilding residential with BlueSky Experiences followed, where students were introduced to and explored their personality ‘type’ from the Insights Discovery Profile. These preferred behaviours and characteristics were put to the test as students engaged in various indoor and outdoor teambuilding challenges, aimed at developing a collegiate spirit amongst the class.
As one MBA student commented: “Although it was cold, the Blue Sky experience enhanced our awareness of each other. We got to know each other out with the University. We learned of others backgrounds, experiences, motivations, goals and aspirations. The activities that we undertook helped us take the first step in ‘storming’ as a team. We realised that to succeed we need to pull together as opposed to individuals striving to succeed alone”.
As the FSLP moved into week 2 the “Solutions for Business” event was held on three evenings. This event is designed to allow MBA students and all of the other University postgraduate business and management programmes to meet and mix to facilitate networking.
Students, in small groups, were asked to address one of five current business challenges and were allocated a mentor to help them discuss and explore their issue. These issues were designed to highlight the complexity of business and management as well as provide a context in which to place the various degree programmes to help individual student’s focus on the year ahead. The mentor was either an alumnus of Stirling Management School or a senior executive working within the local business community. Mentors were drawn from industry and commerce from organisations such as HSBC, Scottish Widows, BskyB, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Virgin Money, Diageo plc, Labels4Kids, Wood Group plc, the Institute of Directors as well as public sector organisations such as Royal College of Midwives, Destination Stirling, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and Scottish Development International. At the end of the evening the students continued their networking – with the mentors and new friends from other programmes – enjoying food from Mexico, Asia, USA and the Mediterranean/North African regions.
The MBA students were joined by the MBM students for a day of creative thinking with DogFi.sh mobile development and data architecture specialists. The students we split into small groups, tasked with developing a new ‘app’. Students were required to identify the market need, potential competitors, brand logo and ‘app’ value proposition. In addition, students were required to identify initial financial investment with a clear indication on what activities the investment would support and the projected income flows. At the end of the day the students presented their proposal in a ‘dragon’s den’ style event, setting out their proposal, and the winning ‘app’ was announced.