Archive for June, 2007

e-Newsletter for June

Dear all,

Many years ago I used to enjoy listening to the live football commentary on the radio on Saturday afternoons. I can recall that at a certain point during the early part of the second half the commentator would always say “welcome to listeners on the World Service”. This didn’t really mean anything to me until I myself went left the UK to work abroad in 1987. Behind the Iron Curtain, with no access to the Internet (of course) and speaking none of the language of my new country, I used to rely on the BBC World Service to connect with home; music from John Peel plus the Saturday sports commentary. Thus I became one of those listeners welcomed from outside for the last part of the game. This helped me realise the importance of reaching out, and being reached out to, in order to belong. Getting the same message as everyone else kept me in touch in many different ways, and helped me through the transition from blinkered Brit to wide-eyed European (or so I like to think).

So, it is at this point that I’d now like to welcome to this newsletter for the first time College members from the Henley worldwide Associate Network who have started their MBA this year, including locations where the Henley Distance Learning MBA is offered around Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and New Zealand.

Each month in these emails, my aim is partly to look back to try and inform everyone of some of the things that have been going on at the College, and partly look forward to what is coming up. In so doing, I also reflect on where we are and who we are. As such, it tends to be a little personal and informal, so bear with me…

As always, this newsletter will be re-posted to my Blog. I’m still looking to link this blog to anyone else’s, so if you are keeping one, please let me know.

New Intakes

This month has been as hectic as any other. We welcomed our latest Henley-based intake, HB35, for their first workshop and hosted Intake 28 for their final one, covering the Dissertation. The Henley MBA is changing, but what remains the same is the fact that it is in almost all cases a giant self-development step, and viewing two intakes at opposite ends of the schedule just reinforced that.

Home Straight Community up-date

Richard Lacey and Mike Green report more success stories in the Home Straight, with several of you now at dissertation submission or beyond, and many others feeling more energised and better informed about how to tackle the final stages of the MBA when the schedule seems to have left you in the lurch.

The private community blog now has 43 contributors, and if you are in Intake 26 or below and looking for support or solace, please contact me for an invitation to the Blog, or either Richard Lacey or Mike Green for further info.

Survey thanks

In last month’s e-newsletter I asked for volunteers to assist with a conjoint analysis research project. Thanks to those of you that did. Early results from Henley enrolled participants show that a] accreditation, b] active career and personal development, and c] a blend of workshop, teamwork and online are what you look for in your MBA. The next step will be to widen the research to include people like you who have not yet started their MBA, or are studying somewhere else.

There was a second survey on your view of the Henley Reputation, which is also still ongoing. If you’d like to participate, the link to click is (only via email).

Next month I will be announcing the launch of the Henley DL MBA Annual Survey, my annual feedback fest on all aspects of your programme.

Completion Rates

‘Lies, damned lies and Statistics’ is a quote ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli and often used to express frustration at the way numbers are used, abused and misused to make a point. Within Distance Learning, some other schools are somewhat ‘economical with the truth’ about their progression and completion statistics (sometimes quite understandably, I suspect).

My view is that our job is to present a realistic picture. This is, after all, the most demanding way to get a most demanding degree at the most demanding time of your lives, so our job is first to acknowledge this and second put in place as many mechanisms to help you keep on track as possible. That’s why, for instance, you go through this MBA as part of a Learning Team in an Intake, and why you have a Personal Tutor.

I thought I’d share with you some completion data for some of the older Henley-based MBA Intakes. Bear in mind that it can (in practice as well as theory) take up to six years to graduate, so these will be figures for intakes that may have started studying in the late 1990s…

[Data restricted, as this is a public blog].

The positive message here is that the improvement in progression and completion we wanted to see with the advent and intervention of the Personal Tutors is beginning to show itself. We hope that the dedicated forum created with the Henley Home Straight will prevent more people from ‘falling off the edge’ at the end of the MBA. Add to this the excellent facilities available in the Henley dissertation database and e-Library, and there is no reason why you should not have the support you need up to proposal submission.

Phil Vokins’ charity everything-athon

Since it was also mentioned last month, a quick up-date on Phil’s exploits to raise 4,000 GBP the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign. Phil is already over half way to his target after only one event. Well done to him and hopefully an inspiration to others in the Henley community?

To find out more, and to donate, visit his web page at http://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.


Many of you will already be aware, to varying degrees, of this networking site. Several people have been asking whether Henley would consider setting up an MBA group on Linkedin and I can confirm that we are looking into doing this. I hope to have more information by next month’s newsletter.

Henley Members’ Day – July 7th

For those you who will be in the UK and who would prefer to avoid sitting in front of the TV or completing an assignment, another quick reminder of Henley Members Day, where you and your family may 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

Let’s hope that the recent rainy weather stays away that day.

The MBA in 6 words

I received a number of replies to this request. Here are the best:

R Revamp
E Earnings
W With
A Arduously
R Researched
D Dissertation
(Steven Hallissey)

“A strong sense of personal triumph”
(Simon Greathead)
-great networking
-immensely rewarding
“What will I do with this?”
(Dave Cox)

Chris Dalton
DL MBA Programme Leader


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Hug a tree today!

Although I occasionally love to insert the witty, humorous or quirky sayings of others in my communication, I’ve always mistrusted the use of quotations for enlightenment because it’s difficult to avoid coming across as either too folksy, too esoteric, or simply just ‘kitsch’ or corny.

Nevertheless, there was one thing I found in a book called ‘Everyday Tao’, by Deng Ming-Dao, which has been playing itself around and around somewhere in my head for a few months now. This book is quite simple, short explanations of the origins and meanings of a number of Taoist principles and characters. The one which I liked particularly was “Pair”. I won’t quote the book; the idea within that interested me was the notion that opposites are pairs and that the one gives the other its meaning to us. I think this is really true and has been helpful in understanding the concept of paradox, in which two otherwise independent and workable notions are given a new, seemingly unworkable, meaning by being placed next to each other.

Then, just as I was about to leave it at that, I found the following quotation attributed to Deng Ming-Dao, and couldn’t quite leave it where I found it:

” A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great … Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree.”

After so many experiential team building courses spent in exploring management metaphors in woodland, and after hearing on Radio 4 this morning about a campaign to identify and protect Britain’s remaining ancient trees, I decided to risk it.

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The Dilemma of (un)sustainable growth

There is a lot being said (which, cynically and ironically, one might simply describe as a lot of hot air) about global warming. Yet somehow, although it is on the minds of many individuals here at the College, I’m not sure it has manifested itself with equal force in too many of the courses and programmes we run.

Something I heard on the radio this weekend started a thought in me about this. Our current situation, and ever more evident consequences upon our environment, is as a direct result of not just decades but arguably several centuries of commerce, trade and consumption. The fifty or sixty years of steady growth in wealth (for many), improvements in health (for some) is at the expense not only a great many more people, but also of a finite set of resources. We cannot go on growing forever and while a sustainable model for development might emerge with some political force in the coming years in the developed world, there seems to be almost nothing that can be done to prevent the rapidly developing economies of Asia, South America and the Indian sub-continent doing exactly what Japan, the US and most of Europe has done.

At Henley we have started to look at management as a series of challenges in complexity, especially at the strategic level. But it seems to me that the biggest dilemma of them all will be that in order to achieve (or simply maintain) our comfortable, technologically advanced and (let’s be honest) luxurious way of life we must do so at the expense not only of millions of others but also at the cost of the ecological balance that we once lived in symbiosis with (in fact, we were its product). I am an optimist. I truly believe that we will discover ways of tackling this – at least in theory. In practice, this new regard for sustainability will become the only management philosophy worth following.

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Pilates (not of the Caribbean)

As a trainer I have never felt more alive than when running (sometimes literally if I was with a group that was late, or lost) outdoor team building events in the countryside. Not only is there something inherently ‘natural’ about using all the many levels of metaphor to be found in our surroundings in personal and organisational development, it was a great way to make the connection between mind and body.

Because often the work at Henley is quite desk-bound – more than is good for the body (or the mind!), I have started to change my habits. Last Monday I went along for my first pilates class in Oxford, which is a series of carefully arranged floor movements, stretches and exercises designed to increase flexibility and build up your ‘core’ muscles (the ones middle-aged men like me often ignore in favour of hunched shoulders).

No doubt there is a world of pilates-geeks, in-jokes and folk-lore now to discover. Thankfully, I am now old enough not to really care that I am the least flexible person in the room (for now…!).

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Rummaging around in the references

I confess! I am now preparing a proposal to undertake a PhD.

I imagine that this, in educational terms, will compare to my MBA Dissertation rather in the same way that the Hobbit compares to the Lord of the Rings.

What I sense lies before me is the dubious honour of sacrificing every free moment for the next four to six years in the selfish pursuit of, first, a thorough background understanding in, then the pinpoint investigation of and finally the worldly-wise formation of noble yet unfinished conclusions around my given topic. And all written and spoken about in a way that must please minds so well-trained in viewing the world with rigour that in so pleasing them, my own mind must itself become changed and enlarged.

Ah yes, I am in this for an enlarged mind!

On the few occasions I have spoken with people about this, the first question asked is generally “a PhD on what”? It’s at this point I can report I become uncustomarily tongue-tied and inarticulate. I usually blurt out something about management learning, but it feels like a paradox – the problem is that the more you look at the beginning, the more you see, and the more you see, the less you feel able to focus, so the further away you feel you are becoming from answering the ‘on what’ question.

But I am told this is normal, and the feeling on confusion will pass and be replaced by others, such as ‘overwhelmed’, ‘intrigued’, ‘engaged’ (if you’re lucky), ‘frustrated’ and ‘sick of the whole damn thing’. Can’t wait.

Anyway, my topic (as worded in my head today) looks something like this –

‘Creative Interventions in the development of cognitive capacities for strategic decision making in managers’

There, I’ve said it!

Already I can report progress in my learning. I have learnt that you don’t have to read every word of every academic paper! In fact, you are stupid to do so. There will be some that you will read until you know them word-for-word and be glad that you do , and others that you will you know that well but wish hard that you didn’t. But mostly you become a very discerning raider of the lost references, picking through the papers cited to pick out the gems and the links. I am likening it to the newspaper journalist who goes through the litter bins of the subject of their story to look for clues.

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Boom boom

A man walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre.

So the barman gives him one.

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