Archive for March, 2008

e-Newsletter for March

Dear All,

It’s always a pleasure to write these newsletters. This month’s has added spice as I am writing on location in Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m here to fly the flag at a World MBA Tour event, sit in on part of a Stage 2 starter workshop, work one-on-one with programme members who are now at dissertation stage and then kick things off next week for the Stage One Starter with the next intake, which is looking like it’s going to be a big baby, weighing in at over 80 new people.

It’s sometimes tempting – when secure at Henley – to entertain the illusion that the world revolves around the College, occasionally paying a visit. While many of you will at some point spend some time come and enjoy the studious peace and quiet of Henley-on-Thames, the truth is actually you live your lives, manage your careers and do much of your reflecting and learning elsewhere.

So connecting to the outside world is a vital part of generating the energy back in the UK. Over the last 12 to 18 months we have been trying to incorporate more and more ways to link you with each other and with us. The Internet is no substitute for the subtlety and nuance of personal contact, yet it does open the (virtual) door to touch others with our thinking and inspiration in our use of language via the written word. I am amazed by the diversity of people on the MBA and, in equal measure, encouraged by the conformity of impact that your programme has. As we further develop our ability to provide a dynamic electronic learning environment, I hope that we can find a way to share your stories and facilitate your networking even more.

Home Straight Community news

Mike and Richard are busy preparing the next Home Straight Community event, which will be on Sunday May 18th. They will be distributing the agenda to all those who are eligible to attend.

I know that it is quite common at this late stage of your MBA that you are looking around for a change in career. One great way of exploring this is to undertake a dissertation conducting research in a new industry or around a new organisation. If anyone out there has a topic, project or suitable theme for another member to do in their MBA, then let me know and I will advertise it here. For example…

Opportunity to carry out research for your dissertation with Henley’s KM Forum

I have received the following from Christine Van Winkelen.
“Members of the Henley Knowledge Management Forum are large multi-national organisations and UK public sector bodies: there are currently 45 member organisations. Each year working groups of members undertake a number of collaborative research projects. Members choose the topics and shape the direction of the research, which broadly relates to aspects of knowledge management.

If you are looking for a dissertation topic and need access to research data, then you may be interested in working with the KM Forum on one of this year’s projects. You will need to be able to work to the timescale required by the Forum (working very actively between April and November 2008) and attend 5 half-day meetings with the working group at Henley. You should also have an interest in knowledge management and intend to complete your dissertation on this timescale. Contact the Forum Director to find out more, including how to apply. The deadline for applications to be received is the 14th April.”

Another one, received a tad too late to make it into February’s e-newsletter, was this from Claire Williams:

“I know an ex-colleague who is in the process of starting up his own business of an internet booking service. He needs some help with researching the market and analysing price strategies, etc. I thought it would be a good dissertation project. I’m sponsored by the Bank and so am in discussions about their requirements for my dissertation, but do you know of anyone who might be interested? Thanks. Claire”

If you’d like to be put in touch with Claire, let me know.

Next Course Reps Council

For those of you who are part of Henley-based intakes, just a reminder that the next meeting of Course Representatives will be at the College on Friday May 9th. If you would like to raise any issues for inclusion on the agenda, you need to do that with your course rep before April 18th. The course reps will be looking for feedback from you about things which affect the wider group; if you have an issue personal to yourself, then please contact your Personal Tutor or course administrator in the first instance. There will also be a full briefing of the status of the merger with Reading given at this meeting.

Members Day and Alumni Ball

This one is applicable to everyone studying with Henley. A reminder from Susan Parr that we are now taking bookings for Members Day on July 5th. Members day is a family-oriented ‘open house’ at the College and a fantastic opportunity to see Greenlands if you are normally based outside the UK, and a chance to relax rather than study on the grounds with classmates and friends if you are a regular visitor.

The College is also organising an Alumni Ball, on Saturday October 11th. A black-tie event, it is promising to be a high-powered affair and the College hopes to be able to raise money for the Henley Alumni Scholarship Fund. Contact Irina Woodford for further details and booking information.

This month I am attempting to email this out to all DL MBA members (around four thousand of you!), so it’s possible you are receiving this for the first time. Hope you don’t mind.

All the best


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My Easter Rising

This Easter I was able to spend some time away from it all in Ireland. Some time in Dublin, and then two wonderfully relaxing and unwinding days in Galway. As you can see, I was luckier than most people in the British Isles with the weather…

The pictures don’t capture the keen North wind, nor the heady smell of peat smoke and salt air.

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Last Friday we held a special supper to mark Intake 30’s final scheduled workshop on their Henley MBA programme. These events are invariably held in a private dining room, away from the main restaurant, and the intimate atmosphere leads to some really good conversations, where the personality of the group loosens its tie, relaxes a little and compares notes on what’s what.

We usually invite either the Principal or a member of the Senior Management Team along to speak during coffee, and they usually are only too happy to accept. Hearing about the history of Henley, combined with the ‘horse’s mouth’ version of our future strategy is always appreciated and is part of the glue that will stick our alumni to Henley. However, this time and for a host of unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstances, foreign travel, and prior engagements, all my usual speakers were unable to make it.

Which left…me!

But then I thought, well, you’re the Director of Studies, you should be able to step up to the plate and deliver at least part of the Gospel according to Henley. I don’t find it difficult standing up in front of a group, but when I do so, it’s nearly always as a trainer or facilitator of learning. As a speaker, in that setting, the dynamic was quite different and I have a new-found respect for those who can do it well. I know that I can learn how to do it well, too, I merely hope that this intake will forgive me practicing on them.

I’ve noted that in order to gain the space to improvise and hold your audience, you actually need to be quite formulaic in your preparation. There really is, for example, a rule of three, and you really can elicit a reaction by keen observation of several other conventions.

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A life in service

One of my favourite films is the Robert Altman classic, Gosford Park, which is a study of the complexity of life in an English Stately Home over one weekend in the inter-war period. On one level it is a murder mystery, a whodunit, but what makes it repeatedly watchable is the recreation of a more or less self-contained community, full of strong personalities and odd behaviours, but a community nonetheless.

This week, our Principal addressed the staff and faculty of the College in the largest of our meeting rooms, a tiered auditorium we call National Grid. The topic was an up-date on the proposed merger with Reading, but I won’t bore you with details of that (or satisfy your curiosity with juicy tidbits).

What was worth remarking was seeing the whole College in one place. Every seat was filled, and the great and good from Faculty sat alongside the chefs and maids from our excellent hotel and restaurant. Like many service organisations, I suppose we struggle collectively knowing whether what we do is a science or an art. We often try to see it as one and then realise that it is perhaps other, and suffer as a result. I think it remains ever a blend between the two.

The merger with Reading Business School has a hard to argue case for it. Henley’s strategic goal to be a permanent member of the “World’s Best Business Schools” club is one I share. However, I think we will all miss, and might need to mourn in a brief, understated and typically British way, the end of our splendid, isolated and idiosyncratic independence.

There are plenty of great lines in Gosford Park, but to my mind the one that reflects the ‘beow stairs’ work that programme members (I hope) find when they visit Henley is this:

Lady Sylvia McCordle: Mrs Wilson, absolute crisis. I’ve just found out that Mr Weissman won’t eat meat. I don’t know what to do and I can’t ask Mrs Croft. I simply don’t dare.
Mrs. Wilson: Everything’s under control your ladyship. Mr Weissman’s valet informed us as soon as he after he arrived so we’ve prepared a special version of the soup, he can eat the fish and the hors d’oeuvres, there’ll be a welsh rarebit for the game course, I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the entree but we’ll think of something.
Lady Sylvia McCordle: Thank you Mrs Wilson. Ten steps ahead as always.

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February e-newsletter

Dear all,

It would be fanciful to suggest that this year February has inserted an extra day just to allow me to catch up on the volume of emails, calls, meetings and workshops that have filled the month to bursting point. It would probably also hint at megalomania, too, so I won’t pursue it, but nevertheless it has been a hectic time. Eight different intakes have had workshops at the College this month, four of them participating in Starter Workshops and (we hope) enjoying the buzz of the leap (no pun intended this month) into the unknown.

A fairly succinct newsletter this month…

Henley on Linkedin

I haven’t up-dated you for a while on how this group is emerging and how many are enrolled. Currently, I see that there are 2,716 people who have signed up. When you think that these are all people, like you, with a strong link and emotional tie to Henley, and also a deep well of information, contacts and experience for you in your career (or you in theirs), then it starts to make sense.

For any of you who have lost the link, or are new to the programme, you can request a sign-in for this by clicking on this link [link removed for the blog]

You may need to set up a LinkedIn account as part of the process, and may be blocked if you have previously registered using your email address but have forgotten all about it or can’t remember your password (it happens…), in which case you will need to email the support staff at Linkedin. You may receive a ‘request pending’ message, which means someone is checking your application this end. You’re much more likely to get through that if you have listed Henley in your profile already.

Home Straight Community

Richard and Mike would like to announce to all those in the Community that the next event will be held at the College in May, on Sunday May 18th. This will run from about 10 to 3.30 and will include sessions on managing the supervisor relationship and how to conduct online research for your Dissertation. We will also be asking some people who have recently finished to share with us their strategies and tactics.

In the meantime, there is the Blog. A number of people have recently asked me for access to this, and it would be good to see some postings. Typically, members have been writing about how they are feeling at the various stages of writing, reading and conducting research. It’s a great place to share tips on what approaches have worked.

I’m grateful to Richard Lacey also for passing on to me a link to an article in the New Scientist which cites a member from HB24, David Mulligan, talking about his Henley MBA. Linkedin has a facility to search for stories of interest to you, as does Google News, so please let me know if there are other mentions of Henley DL MBAs around the world.

Dissertation Clinic

11th March is the date for the next Dissertation Clinic at Henley. Marcia Doughty is the co-ordinator for this, so if you are in the early stages of working through your ideas and would like to get some direction and advice, please contact her for details.

By the way, if you have a topic in your organisation that would be suitable as a Dissertation subject for another programme member, please let me know and I will gladly publicise it here.
New Intakes

As I mentioned above, February saw the launch of the latest Henley-based intake, HB37. We are very pleased that we beat our target for recruitment on this one, with more than 60 new members experiencing Henley for the first time. This week we have also welcomed new groups from Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Greenland. Next month we expect new Intakes in South Africa and New Zealand to come on board as well.

A couple of opportunities to get involved

1. I have received an email from a team of MBAs at ESMT (an exec MBA school in Germany) who say “Currently we are running a project in conjunction with esmt and supported by a global corporation. The focus of our project is the issue of employer branding. We would like to have a better understanding of the factors influencing employees and their perceptions when choosing an employer. Therefore we created a survey which takes about 10 minutes to complete. After completing the survey, your students have the chance to win in a raffle of prizes. Survey Link: [removed for blog posting]”

Aside from any intrinsic interest you might have in the subject, it’s always useful for you as MBAs yourselves to look at approaches others are taking to research.

2. AMBA Student of the Year competition 2008. Each year the Association of MBAs and the Independent organises a competition to find the MBA Student of the Year. Business Schools are allowed to nominate one student and whilst AMBA doesn’t dictate, or even indicate, what process the school should use to make that selection, it does seem logical that they should be a willing volunteer. Criteria used by AMBA for judging can include:

• Most valuable contribution to programme development (giving feedback/constructive comment)
• Contribution to group dynamics/leading group discussion and inciting debate/good overall team player
• Strong academic record of achievement
• Commitment to the future development of the business school and the MBA – devoted to enhancing the value/worth of the MBA in the market and business education in general
• Good school representative/ambassador (e.g. staff/student liaison)
• Taking on a challenge in the face of adversity/overcoming challenges during study
• Most improved/benefited from the MBA in terms of own career progression
• Contribution to international dimension of course/assisting with integration of overseas students or playing a mentoring role.
• Good all-round player (sports/study/social)
• Maintaining morale
If you would like to know more, please go here http://schools.mbaworld.com/downloads/cms/SOTY_emailable_PDF.pdf and if you think you have what it takes, please let me know. The competition, which is open to Distance Learners, requires us to nominate by April 14th 2008.

Important reminder for anyone at Part Two

As you will all know, Henley is in the process of rolling out its new MBA curriculum. For a time, this will mean that we are working on two versions in parallel. One of the more difficult aspects of this to manage are the scheduling of exams. We need to be both fair to those of you who have experienced some delays in your study and are behind your original schedule, and also clear in communicating early what your ultimate deadlines are. For the Part Two exam (which examines Managing Marketing, Managing Performance and Managing Financial Resources) the last chances to sit this exam for the first time will be September and December this year. March 2009 will be the last opportunity to resit, should that be necessary. The College will also be writing to you individually in March about this and other details for completing Part Two.

So, though not intended just for me, I remain grateful for the extra day to write this newsletter.

Good luck to anyone who is in full flow for their exam in March. In next month’s email I will be trying to give you an up-date on the progress toward the proposed merger.

Chris Dalton

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