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Archive for May, 2007

e-Newsletter for May

Dear all,

The poet Robert Frost is attributed as saying “By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” It does sometimes seem that the one thing you can be sure of at the start of the MBA programme at Henley is that your life is about to get busier, not quieter. For all sorts of reasons.Yet we ask you in the midst of all that speed not only to work hard to a regime of deadlines and schedules, but also to pause and reflect. How do you manage that? I suspect there are a lot of ways one could, and very few that one actually does. Nevertheless, I hope that you will take a few moments now to read through this newsletter and, if any part of it suggests something, some thought personal to you, take another moment to note it down.

My Zen moment over, here is this month’s:

Graduation

Twice a year, a few days before the event, large lorries arrive at the College and begin to unload all the bits and pieces needed to assemble a large and very sturdy marquee on the lawn. Like the flow of the Thames, this is part of the reassuring rhythm of Henley and the ceremonies (one in the morning, one in the afternoon) are good reminders of what Henley stands for. You may be learning at a distance, but it is important to find and celebrate those moments along the way that are tangible and that connect you to the real purpose of all that hard work.

After the announcements and handshakes, an extra prize for outstanding work during the MBA is also presented. This year, I am delighted to be able to tell you that there were two prize-winners, and they were both recipients of the DL MBA. Congratulations to Maria Whipple-Trautmann and Ranjit Balaram.

Home Straight Community up-date

So, with the thought of graduation fresh in your mind, it seems appropriate to up-date you on the Henley Home Straight Community. You will recall that this is a venture that groups all those at Part Three who are now beyond their Dissertation Due date. It is being guided by tutors Richard Lacey and Mike Green, and supported by Charlotte Ordish.

Richard and Mike report that the community theoretically now numbers 290 of you. In practice, 123 members are active, either via email and/or in attending the workshop and contributing to the Community blog. There are, in fact, now 38 contributors to the Blog, which complements Ken Bull’s Dissertation discussion area on eLearning. The Blog is private, and you need to be invited in by me, so email if you would like to sign up. An quick audit of the 290 reveals a few people who may be out of normal registration time. We will be trying to follow up on this, but you can also be pro-active. The College allows you an additional 12 months of registration and, with Special Appeal, another 6-12 months to complete your dissertation. To kick-start this, contact your course administrator.

Board of examiners round-up

You will know by now that I like to provide some statistical feedback after the Board of Examiners meetings, which are held once a quarter. The main purpose is to give you a sense of proportion when it comes to judging how you are doing in relation to others on the MBA. Generally speaking, you worry too much that your own grades are not high enough. As you know, in life size is not all-important, it’s what you do with it that counts! It’s the same with assignment and exams.

So, at the April Board, we learnt that there in the previous quarter there had been 116 FoM assignments submitted, none had failed, and the average grade was B-. There were 211 Managing Information, three were fails, and an average mark of B. Managing People produced 179 assignments submitted, 5 of which failed, and the mean was B-. 205 members sat the Part One Exam, 13 failed and the average was C-.

At Part Two, the 210 Managing Marketing assignments averaged B-, and three failed. In Managing Financial Resources, there were 166 assignments, of which 1 was a fail. The average was B-. Managing Performance had 251 assignments, an average of B and no fails. The Part Two exam was sat by 101 members, plus another 5 project management MBAs. The average was C and there were 6 fails. Four of the five Project Management MBAs passed first time. There were a total of 8 Part Two exam re-sits, and everyone passed.

At Part Three, there 231 ISPs submitted. One failed. The average mark was B-. The exam was sat by 391 members (a larger than usual total) whose mean grade was C+. 16 members failed their part three exam in this quarter. 147 Dissertations were marked, 7 failed. The average was B.

Looking for an ISP Project?

One of the client directors at Henley has asked me to see if anyone is looking for an ISP subject. They have been approached by a manager in ESAB, an engineering company owned by Charter Plc, and they are interested in working with an MBA on a strategy project. The process would start now, with detailed information being provided from their business units, regions and functions on where they see the markets driving the business and functional aims for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. The MBA role is to support analysis of the data coming in (which will involve questioning/challenging) and also carrying out related analysis of competitor activity. This is an analytical role (rather than ‘blue sky thinking strategist) and full time. Based in London, it could develop into permanent role or will consider ‘contract’ approach.

If this interests and suits you, please let me know.

Survey I: Reputation

Susan Rose and Carola Hillenbrand are conducting some research about perceptions of the Henley Brand. I have already asked a few intakes who were in College for workshops to participate (thanks!) and now Carola has created an online version. She has asked me to post the following:

” We need you!…….. Your opinion counts! As part of an initiative led by the executive committee we are currently engaging in a survey about Henley’s Reputation. The information we receive will be used to improve Henley’s relationship with members and Alumni and to improve Henley’s Reputation in the market. But to do this we need your help to fill in a questionnaire.This is an opportunity for you to share your opinions with us and for us to listen to you. The questionnaire is confidential and anonymous. Please click on the link below to fill in the questionnaire. Most importantly it should only take a few minutes of your time, so many thanks for your help.

Survey II – Conjoint Research

Richard McBain writes: “The College is seeking help in research that it is carrying out into the programme preferences of current and potential MBA students. It aims to identify the order of preference of characteristics of an MBA programme, such as the ability to tailor content, price, and international scope for example. This research will help Henley to continue to develop the MBA Programme further. Participation will take approximately 30 minutes and it will involve ranking a number of different possible programme alternatives and recording the choices. It can be completed anywhere and a briefing pack will be sent to participants by e-mail.”If you would like to participate please contact me and I will pass this on to Richard. * Both these surveys will be a good way to develop your understanding of research methodology, something that at some point in the MBA you will need.

Sweet Charity

I suspect that a lot of you are involved in one way or another with projects aimed at raising funds for charities and other good causes. I wouldn’t normally use the newsletter to try and drum up support for an individual member, but as it might inspire you either to support this cause, or work toward helping one of your own choosing, I would like to tell you about Phil Vokins (Intake 31) who is undertaking an extraordinary range of physical trials between now and November to raise money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign.

To find out more, and to donate, visit his web page at www.justgiving.com/phils2007events. If you are a UK taxpayer, an extra 28% in Gift Aid can be added to your donation with tax relief at no cost to you.

And all of that on top of a full-time job, family and MBA studies!

Download the Podcast – now!

Alas, this is not an instruction to download mine; I have yet to inflict my voice upon the world. Jonathan Salter, of Intake 33, has written to me to share his experience of subscribing via iTunes Store to some very useful MBA and business related podcasts. I would encourage some exploration of this. You may be looking for good additional content for your MBA, or you may need an audio component to while away the hours of travel you do. Either way, there are probably dozens of regular, topical and useful podcasts you can subscribe to.

iTunes is one way of doing this, but there are other ‘aggregator’ software packages and podcast directory web sites where you can search for, preview and then subscribe (i.e. your computer automatically searches for and downloads the new audio files as soon as they are published).

Dissertation Clinic – June 8th

A quick reminder that the next Dissertation Clinic will be held on Friday June 8th. Contact Marcia Doughty for details and booking. Speaking of bookings, Susan Parr has conscientiously reminded me to remind you to book early for your workshops generally. There is always a deadline given online, and the College cannot guarantee rooms after that.

Henley Members Day Saturday July 7th

Bouncy Castles! And lots of stuff to amuse your kids as well. The Henley Members Day opens the College up for you and your family to come along and spend some time to enjoy the grounds, bring a picnic, eat strawberries and cream and take in the Regatta Week atmosphere. Full details can be found on the Henley web site at http://www.henleymc.ac.uk/henleymc03.nsf/pages/alumni_events

Finally, the MBA in 6 words

With so many calls to participate and volunteer, this is my most interactive newsletter to date. For anyone with an extra few spare moments, here is an intellectual challenge: Ponder your progress on the Henley MBA so far – and then express your thoughts as ‘The MBA in 6 words’. Email them to me and I will publish a selection in the June newsletter (anonymously, if you like).

Good luck to anyone sitting their exams in June.

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Learning Opportunities, the ones that never knock..?

When a person undertakes an MBA, there are several paradoxes of learning they must deal with.

The big one, no doubt, is the ‘old’ versus ‘new’ in adult learning. Unlike children or younger learners, managers come into the programme with a sophisticated knowledge base constructed around many very well established beliefs and strategies. They’ve had, in fact, years of experience. Since they are about to get going on a major piece of self development, there is often no real barrier to the idea of new ideas. However, if these new ideas require the old ones to change, it can be quite a painful process.

Another paradox is revolves around whether a programme member, the learner, gains more from achieving high marks, which validate their assessed input, or from low marks (or even failure), which usually generates longer and more considered feedback and reflection and sometimes even challenges them to re-think their thinking (double loop learning?). I can recall starting my MBA and feeling that not getting a good grade was a judgement on my capability. It was, but not in the way I thought at the time. What was really being tested was my capability to learn how to learn. I didn’t get that until much later on!

These dilemmas sit in the same intellectual doctor’s waiting room as the College’s own paradox of a study programme where the customer is also the consumer; having come so far in their careers, and with them having paid so much money [and they just being so awfully busy] should we make it a easy ride for them or should we stubbornly stick to our guns and patiently wait for the realisation (which might never come, or might not come during the MBA) that the big thing you need to know about the MBA that its real opportunities lie not in plainly sailing through it – but rather in what you learn about yourself in the storms.

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What did we do before email?

Sometimes I arrive at work in the morning and, fresh and full of energy, open Outlook and say to myself “today’s the day I reduce this pile of x emails [this morning, my inbox had 516 entries, 14 of which were new] to zero!”

And yet, each time this happens, I fail to succeed. It’s not that more emails arrive, though they do. I fail because:

1. Rather like the person who rips up the old carpet to lay down the new, finds old newspapers underneath and then cannot but spend hours reading through them, as I click through the older emails I come across ones which call out to be re-read.

2. Rather like the other person whose house is just full of junk because they dare not, or will not, throw anything away in case it prove useful one day, I leave certain emails undeleted in case they are needed in the future.

3. Rather like the third person who starts to sweep up the garden, then stops for a chat with their neighbour, then stops for a cup of tea, then remembers that phone call they promised to make…. it’s all too easy to find something distracting to do [and that’s why you’re reading this as a post].

I am still old enough to remember the working world before email. Looking back at my first office job as a volunteer at CND in the early 80s, I wonder how we managed to do anything! I remember opening and stuffing a lot of envelopes and a lot of people thought the telephone was a good way to talk to us. Then there were faxes! Sometimes, we’d come in and find a long trail of curled up paper trailing across the floor. I don’t miss the fax machine, but I do miss the joy of opening a letter that someone has written, or typed and spent time and effort on.

Emails are both so personal and instant. Sometimes overly so.

Any solutions to the mountainous inbox? Let me know yours and I’ll let you know mine.

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In Pod we trust

Drove up from Oxford to Telford to the University of Wolverhampton (Telford campus) for a one-day workshop ‘Podcasting made easy on a PC’. Luckily, this did not involve any police constables.

I got three things out of the day:

  • A much better definition of what is and what is not a podcast
  • Experience searching for and subscribing to different kinds of podcasts
  • A little bit of practice in making one for myself

What it is, and what it is not. Although they may use the same technology, ‘click-to-listen’ links and embedded audio on web sites are not, strictly and anorakly speaking, podcasts. A podcast is a regularly up-dated audio file hosted on a server and requested (automatically after first time) for download by a subscriber. The subscriber chooses how they want to listen to the audio files, which they collect on a piece of software called an ‘aggregator’ (iTunes being an example of one, Doppler another). All this is pulling content to you, as opposed to the creator of the podcast pushing it. All very now, all very Web 2.0. Podcasts can be searched if the person who has created it has bothered to put in searchable descriptions, or tags.

Blimey, there are a lot of podcasts out there! There are some obvious places to go and find them, such as the BBC web site, and there are a lot of web sites that act as search engines or directories. You can also make one yourself and, as long as you have it placed on a server to host it, anyone else can subscribe to it just by pasting in the web address, or url, or ‘feed’, as I now have learnt to say… Podcasts come in all shapes and sizes, all subjects and (let me tell you) all variations of quality. Pick an interest, go to podcastalley.com, search for it, copy the feed to iTunes, subscribe and listen – your life will change beyond recognition!

As for making them, well that is a lot easier than some of you might think, but also a lot less easy than most of you might think. By which I mean you need to a] keep it short, b] keep it light, and c] prepare well. There’s plenty of software to help you do that and we played around with a couple of packages, producing some very varied results. But these things are always harder at the beginning and who amongst you has not recorded their own teenage voice/made their own Top of the Pops when they were young?

I am now considering whether or not to work on a series of podcasts for Henley DL MBA programme members.

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