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Archive for July, 2008

The Barbecue at the End of the Universe


It has been a somewhat surreal couple of days at the College. The signs at the front gates were changed on the 31st, directing drivers to Henley Business School, not Henley Management College. It’s odd that such a mundane alteration was noticed by so many of us, with more often that not a slight pang of anguish at the reality of the end of one era and start of another.

Staff have been buying up ‘old logo’ branded mementos which are on sale in one of the syndicate rooms and there were drinks and a barbecue on the main lawn, with a very pleasant atmosphere and quite a few old faces in attendance.

This morning, the new-look web site was up and running and the new flag was flying from the roof of Greenlands. Here we go…

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July e-newsletter

Dear All,

Forgive me if I use the word ‘College’ numerous times in this month’s message – like many here I feel the need to say it as much as possible until July 31st, when I shall (with equal fervour) start referring to the ‘Business School’ instead.

Long-time recipients of these newsletters will have noted that they often feature the River Thames. The river is something we take as an integral part of experiencing Henley, though it’s clear that it has been flowing past this site for a lot longer than the 60 years of the existence of the College. The Thames gives a sense both of constant flow and unchanging continuity, which are great business metaphors not lost on those working or studying in the College (a place one recently retired member of staff described, affectionately, as the “Home for the Bewildered”).

Here we are almost on the eve of the move from Management College to Business School. If this month’s newsletter had a soundtrack to match the mood at Henley in July, it would probably consist of two competing medleys of hits. Out of one speaker on your PC, Lap-top or earphones would come the type of song that makes one reminisce; “Those Were The Days”, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” or perhaps “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”. Out of the other speaker would come uplifting tunes that look ahead, such as “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, “Come Together” and, most emphatically, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”.

It is quite often asked what we are losing and what are we gaining. On one level, I suppose you could say that we’re losing our independence, some rather idiosyncratic but effective ways of delivering our programmes, and being synonymous with just one particular (high-end) segment of the management education market. And I suppose, were you to continue, you might equally say that we are gaining critical mass and long-term viability, some economies of scale in vital support functions, plus a market reach that should enable us to invest in all aspects of the Henley MBA. By the way, some of these gains will be quick wins, such as much-needed up-dates to some of the facilities (new toilets!), the introduction of free Wi-Fi at Greenlands, and access to you all to the extensive library and e-learning resources at Reading. Others will take more time to emerge and will require both institutions to learn the language of the other before seeing the synergy that will be the litmus test of the merger.

So there will no doubt be a few contemplative faces, a lot of sharing of stories and no doubt even a tear or two on July 31st. Whether we take this new opportunity to place the Henley name among the world’s great Business Schools depends on more than one factor but the continued support and involvement of you, our programme members, is certainly one of them. Over the coming months, I will endeavour to keep you all up to date with the key changes, as well as sharing some of the ups and downs that will no doubt also be part of the journey. For now, though, here are July’s stories, starting with some post-merger changes:

Henley Business School launches August 1st

Many parts of the College will become part of the School of Management, Henley Business School, from August. Henley Business School will officially exist on two campuses, of which Greenlands will be one. For any of you who attend workshops in the UK, nothing will change in terms of where you come and where you find administrators and tutors. The PowerGen library will continue, and you will also be able to use the University of Reading Library. Expanded e-library facilities will also come on stream for you in due course. Our website will change, but I’m told that it will be very obvious on the new site where you need to sign in for access to your e-Learning area. If in doubt, feel free to bookmark the screen you arrive at now after you have entered your user name and password.

Email addresses of staff and faculty will also be changing. However, the existing College ones will still work for some time to come, and will be redirected to us all. Replies to you, however, will come from our new email addresses. Most of us working on the Henley MBA will have new email formats. Recent briefings by various colleagues at Reading have shown us that there is a huge amount of well-organised information about how the University operates on their main web site, and I understand that we will also be contacting you all with a number of other important “things to know”. Do please remember that all your existing contacts, administrators, tutors and so on remain in place, so we will continue to support you as now. In August’s e-newsletter, I will also be giving you all an up-date on ‘who is who’ in the new Business School.

LinkedIn

We broke through the 3,000 member barrier in the Henley group on LinkedIn earlier this month. I understand that the Henley group is now included in a searchable Group Directory. If you are requesting access to this group and your email address was not already preloaded, then it will be reviewed as ‘pending’. It’s sometimes hard to judge this if you haven’t filled in the education section…

Dissertation/Research Corner

One of our programme members, Rohan Badenhorst, is looking to conduct experimental field research (intervention group vs. a control group) for his dissertation around themes involving business social collaborative and (social) networking tools. This can be based around new or existing projects and themes or factors he is interested in exploring include:
Project Management Governance
Trust
ICT skills base (People dimension)
Communication styles & techniques
Project webs
Educational & training philosophy and practices already imbedded in the organisation
Changed or changing People Management practices

Ideally Rohan is looking to conduct this research in a project management based organisation; however, there might be added value in more ‘operationally’ focused organizations exploring factors that will assist in successful projects / programmes implementation. Rohan is willing to discuss methodologies and timeframes with organizations keen to engage in field research studies fitting the above brief outline description. Rohan is a qualified Managing Successful Programmes (TM) practitioner and brings this skill set and discipline to the research organisation’s table.

If you have, or are searching for, a suitable topic for someone else as their capstone MBA project, please let me know and I’ll happily advertise it here.

Home Straight Community News

Richard and Mike report that progression out of the Home Straight Community (i.e. people handing in their delayed Dissertations) has been very good, which is a great endorsement of their dedication and attention to detail, as well as the pulling power of being part of a group of other sufferers in the same boat. The community last month welcomed those members of intake HB29 who had reached the Dissertation due date with no end in sight. We will be organizing the next Community event here at Henley probably at the end of October, so keep an eye out for that.

Also of relevance to those of you at elective stage of the MBA is the news that we are planning to run an International Business Environment elective study trip to a European destination some time in March 2009. This is a 50 hour elective, with some group assessed work, which provides an excellent opportunity to view strategic business issues in a new location. Complete details will be posted on the electives portal online in the coming month or so.

2008 Annual Survey

Watch out for a separate email coming to you from me in the next few days. This will be an invitation to participate in the 2008 Annual Survey of Programme Members. Last year, just over 200 of you took the time out to complete this online, so thank you. If you haven’t done this before, it might be an interesting way of adding your input, sharing your concerns or piling on your praise!

Housekeeping

I am asked to remind you all that you need to keep your contact addresses up-to-date on the Henley system. Over the years of study, it is not uncommon to be moving home or job more than once, and if the address we have to send you important documentation or materials is no longer valid, it puts you in jeopardy of failing to be informed. You can up-date your personal contacts, including preferred email, by logging in to your e:Assignments portal.

Terry Garrison

It’s possible that a few of you now at the end of your MBA studies may have come across a strategy professor named Terry Garrison, who retired from the Henley faculty in 2007, though he remained actively involved with Henley in a number of ways. Sadly Terry died suddenly in June. Terry was one of the ‘old school’ Henley faculty, with feet in both camps of academia and business. A great teller of anecdotes (some of which were quite amazingly blue), urbane and always ready to spend time in explanation in the class or as a supervisor, he will really be missed.

That’s it. Le HMC est mort. Vive le HBS!!

Chris Dalton
Director of Studies, DL MBA

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Philosophy of Management

The title of this post is not going to foretell any attempt by me to try and write about philosophy, in management or anywhere else. It refers to a conference that was recently held at St Anne’s College, Oxford on this topic, mainly for tenured academics but with a day built in for doctoral students who are directly or (like me) indirectly interested.

I attended one of the four days of the conference, at which various academics (drawn from an eclectic mix of disciplines and countries) presented papers, held discussions and occasionally went off on mind-twistingly difficult to follow side discussions about, surprise surprise, philosophy.

I was definitely at both the novice and practitioner end of the pool but nevertheless I enjoyed getting an insight into the processes that lie behind working your way up in academia; for which there seem to be just three simple rules:

  • a strong publishing record always outranks teaching and collegiate service
  • who you know matters almost as much as (and eventually more than) what you know
  • not acknowledging the truth of the above statements will result in slow progression

The Magpie in me did find a few nuggets from my day there. For example, I picked up a very neat idea, which I may use, of providing research subjects in a longitudinal and qualitative study with a digital camera and a brief in order to capture images as part of their reflection process. A colleague from Sweden demonstrated a group process method, using narratives, which I thought will probably work in other training situations. In addition, there were two or three individuals there whose eloquence, grace and charm in communication were great exemplars for the others.

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Up a gear

With now just three weeks before we officially merge with Reading, there are plenty of signs around the College that we are in a more agitated gear.

Some of these signs are quite visible. For example, a number of Henley staff seem to have acquired Reading shadows; people from the University who do a similar job and who are spending time at Greenlands trying to understand how we do things here. seeing them around kind of reminds me of the Wim Wenders film ‘Wings of Desire’. Since Reading has (had!) no MBA, I don’t have a shadow. At least, not one I can see.

There was a time, and there are some here who can still recall it personally, when change was what Henley preached but did not practice and when the expression “I know my place” had resonance. No-one can claim this to be case at Henley in the last eighteen months or so, and if the shock of merging doesn’t see us all into an early grave, then I’m sure we will all emerge from this operation much the stronger. The scaffolding, cranes and tarpaulins of a new management structure are being put up around what will be a much-expanded, full service Business School.

I really love this place, this College. I hope we see it out in style on July 31st and then roll up our sleeves and see if we can begin to infect the University of Reading with the best bits of our independent spirit.

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Following the earlier post on this topic, here I reproduce the words of my Great Uncle Emmet, Major General in the Irish Free State army at the time of the creation of the State of Eire in the 1920s. Emmet was with Collins on August 22nd 1922 and soon after wrote his own short account of the events of those days. His typewritten manuscript, the final page of which is shown in the picture here, has been used as source material in several accounts of those times, but since it is a rare opportunity where world events collide with family history, I take the liberty of including it in this blog.

There is another, subtle and ulterior, motive related to the development of my own doctoral research into the effects in Management Education of Critical Reflection using family-of-origin input. In this instance, for Emmet and also his younger brother Charlie (my grandfather) the extraordinary events of their youth created ripples that are still felt in the family several generations later.

So, back to Emmet’s story:

“It was now about a quarter past seven and the light was failing. We proceeded along the open road on our way to Macroom. Our Motor Cyclist Scout was a bout 50 yards in front of the Crossley Tender which we followed at the same interval in the touring car, and close behind us came the armoured car. We had just reached a part of the road which was covered by hills on all sides. The road itself was flat and open; on the right we were flanked by steep hills on the left of the road there was a small 2 ft bank of earth skirting the road. Beyond this there was a marshy field bounded by a small stream and covered by another steep hill. About half way up this hill there was a road running parallel to the one we were on but screened from view by a wall, and a number of trees and bushes. We had just turned a wide corner on the road when a heavy fusillade of machine gun and rifle fire swept the road in front of us and behind us, shattering the wind-screen of our car. I shouted to the Driver “Drive like Hell” but the Commander-in-Chief placing his hand on his shoulder said “Stop. Jump out, we will fight them.” We jumped from the car and took what cover we could behind the little mud bank on the left side of the road, it appeared the greatest volume of fire was coming from the concealed roadway on our left hand side. The armoured car backed up the road and opened a heavy machine gun fire at the Ambushers. General Collins and I were lying within arm’s length of each other. Another Officer who had been on the back of the armoured car, together with our two drivers, was several yards further down the road to my right.

General Collins, I, and the Officer who was near us opened up fire on our seldom visible enemies, with rifles. About fifty or sixty yards further down the road and around a bend we could hear that our machine-gunners and riflemen were heavily engaged. We continued this fire-fight for about twenty minutes without suffering any casualties, when a lull in the enemy’s fire became noticeable. General Collins jumped to his feet and walked over behind the armoured car, obviously to obtain a better view of our enemy’s position. He remained there firing occasional shots, using the car as cover. Suddenly I hear him shout “There they are running up the road.” I immediately concentrated on two figures that came in view on the opposite road.

When I next turned round the Commander-in-Chief had left the car position and had run about fifteen yards back up the road, dropped into the prone firing position and opened up on our retreating enemies. A few minutes had elapsed when the Officer in Charge of our escort came running up the road under fire, he dropped into position beside me and said “They have retreated from in front of us and the obstacle is removed; where is the ‘Big Fella’?” I said he is all right – he has gone a few yards up the road, I hear him firing away.” Then I heard a cry “Emmet, I am hit.” The two of us rushed to the spot, fear clutching our hearts. We found our beloved Chief (and friend) lying – motionless in a firing position, firmly gripping his rifle across which his read was resting. There was a gaping wound at the base of his skull behind his right ear. We immediately saw that he was almost beyond human aid; he did not speak.

The enemy must have observed that something had occured which had caused a cessation in our fire because they intensified theirs. O’Connell knelt beside the dying but conscious Chief, whose eyes were open and normal, and he whispered into his ear the words of the Act of Contrition; he was rewarded by a slight pressure of the hand. Meanwhile I knelt beside them and kept up bursts of rapid fire, which I continued whilst O’Connell dragged the Chief across the road and behind the armoured car. Then with my heart torn with sorrow and dispair [sic] I ran to his side. I gently raised his head on my knee and tried to bandage his wound, but owing to the size of the wound this proved difficult and I had not completed my sorrowful task when his eyes quietly closed and the cold pallor of death covered his face. How can I describe the feelings that were then mine, kneeling in the mud of a country road not 12 miles from Clonakilty with the still bleeding head of the Idol of Ireland resting in my arms. My hear[t] was broken my mind was numbed, I was all unconscious of the bullets which still whistled and ripped the ground beside me. I think that the weight of the blow would have caused me the loss of reason had I not observed the tear-stained face of O’Connell distorted with anguish.

We paused for a moment in silent prayer and then noting that the fire of our enemies had greatly abated and that they had practically all retreated, we two, with the assistance of a third Officer who had come on the scene, endeavoured to lift the body on to the back of the armoured car. It was then that we suffered our second casualty, the recently arrived Officer being shot in the neck. He, however, remained on his feet and helped us to carry our precious burden around a turn in the road under the cover of the armoured car.

Having transferred the body of our Chief to the touring car where I sat with his head resting on my shoulder, our sorrowful little party set out for Cork.

The darkness of night had closed over us like a shroud. We were silent, thinking with heavy hearts of the terrible blow we would soon deliver to our unfortunate country and to the Irish people throughout the world. We had left Cork City that morning – confident and contented – intent on improving the machinery of the only possible representation of the Government that could bring peace to a sorely-tried long-suffering people. We had with us the man to whom the people of Ireland had entrusted their welfare; the man who had risked his life so often in their interest; the main who was loved by his friends and respected by his enemies. Our day had been a succession of triumphs. And now, at its close, like a bolt from the sky, fight had been forced upon us. We had fought with success – but our victory was nothing in the immensity of our loss. He was gone.

We had suffered the loss of a generation – we lost what the contrition and remorse of a nation cannot restore. The country had lost its leader – the people had lost their Idol – the Army its Chief …. and his intimate friends had lost the “Big Fella.”

What an end for Michael Collins. Shot dead in an Ambush. Killed by his own Countrymen in his own Country – near his own home. Killed by the mean he fought and suffered with – the men he had been so proud of – and in the country he had loved to call his birthplace.

* * * * * * * * *

We reached the City. It was midnight, still, dark and silent – a fitting tribute to our little Procession. The thought struck me that those poor people had gone peacefully their nightly rest, all unconscious of the calamity that had befallen them. Some, perhaps, with cherished remembrance of the strong smiling face they had yesterday cheered in the streets.

To myself I thought, what an awakening tomorrow will bring – what bitter sorrow will overwhelm this poor city ere the sun has reached its zenith. Michael Collins was dead.

[signed] J Emmet Dalton, 23/11/22″

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My brother and I like to surprise each other with hitherto undiscovered family artifacts and memorabilia. I’ve written a little before about the extraordinary sailing by four young Irishmen in the summer 1950 of the 36-foot gaff-rigged yacht the Ituna from Dublin to New York. My father being a member of that crew, architecture students with none too much sailing experience between them. Skip back another Irish generation and there are also tales to tell. Both my grandfather and great-Uncle were intimately involved in the Irish War of Independence (1917-1921) and ensuing Civil War, and both served alongside Michael Collins, who famously outwitted the mighty British military intelligence machine and infamously died in a minor Civil War skirmish in the countryside near his home town in 1922.

Great Uncle Emmet Dalton, an experienced army officer who had fought for and been decorated by the British in the Great War, had become one of Collins’ closest and most loyal military commanders, and it was he who accompanied the ‘Big Fellow’ on the tour of the south. This, and a number of first-hand accounts of the ambush, have been published in various books and websites. But I was amazed when my brother showed up with Emmet’s own typewritten version of the events of that day, set down just three months later. The account is preceded by a handwritten note, which I am attaching. I know it’s not strictly part of the remit of this blog, but I figure enough of you will have heard of the story or seen the biopic of Collins’ life for it to have its own historical interest.

The cover note reads:

“The death of Micheal O’Coileain.

I dedicate this, my first little work to my youngest brother Pat, hoping that when he witnesses the improvements in Ireland’s welfare, he will occasionally allow his mind to dwell upon the memory of my dearest friend.

J Emmet Dalton

23rd Nov. 1922″

The script that follows this reads:

“The war which had been forced on the people of Ireland by the Mutineers from the I.R.A. had been in progress for two months, and Cork had been captured by forces under my Command. We had been in occupation two weeks when upon the evening of the 20th of August I received an unexpected visit from General Michael Collins, Commander-in-Chief of the Army. He had been on a visit to General O’Duffy at Limerick, and, with an escort of three Officers, twelve men and a ‘Whippet’ armoured car, he had motored from Limerick to Cork. Most of the route he had taken was in occupation of bands of Irregulars and had not up to then been entered by Army Troops. He had two objects in visiting my Area, the first being to inspect the Military Organisation in the Area and to appreciate the difficulties of the Military problem with a view to giving his advice, and in order that he might more easily render the necessary assistance from General Headquarters, having seen for himself the position.

His second object was of a civil nature. In his capacity as Chairman of the Provisional Government, and Minister of Finance, he was anxious to make every effort to recover some of the thousands of pounds that had been extorted from Banks by the Irregulars prior to their retreat from the city. The stolen money was Excise duties belonging to the Customs and Excise Department, and it amounted to £120,000. They obtained the money by capturing the Official Collector, retaining him, and under threat of force, making him sign the cheques which, of course, the Banks honoured and paid.

Upon his arrival in Cork City at 8.30 P.M. on Sunday the 20th August, General Collins complimented himself and my Officers upon the success of our expedition. He then arranged interviews with his relatives and friends in the City. On the morning of the 21st, he, accompanied by me, inspected various Military Posts in the city, after which he interviewed several prominent citizens, including the Managers of the Various Banks, in connection with the stolen money. In the afternoon we motored to Macroom where he inspected the Garrison and the Military posts. Then, owing to the fact that the escort armoured car was not running satisfactorily we found it necessary to return to Cork.

He spent two hours in interviewing his friends in the city before retiring he arranged to devote the entire following day to a tour of inspection of the Command Area, as far as Bantry.

At 6.15 A.M. on the morning of the 22nd our little party left my Headquarters (The Imperial Hotel) to commence our tour. The convoy consisted of, and advance Motor Cyclist Scout Office, followed by a party of two Officers, eight riflemen and two machine gunners with one Leis Machine-gun, mounted on an open Crossley Tender. The next car was an eight-cylinder touring car with a light racing body, this car had two drivers in front, and in the back were General Collins and myself. Our first halt was Macroom, but because of the extraordinary amount of bridge destruction and road obstruction that had been participated in by our retreating enemy, it was necessary for us to take a round-about route, entailing much delay, consequently we made only a hasty inspection, picked up a guide and headed for Bandon. Here General Collins spent some time discussing the position with the officers of the Garrison before proceeding to Clonakilty. About three miles from Clonakilty we found the road blocked with felled trees. We spent about half an hour clearing the road under the guidance and instruction of, and with the assistance of, General Collins himself. He used a cross-cut saw and a heavy axe with tremendous energy and satisfactory results.

Having cleared the road we proceeded into the town of Clonakilty, which is the home town of General Collins. He interviewed the Garrison Officer and had conversations with many of his friends, all of whom were delighted to meet him. We had lunch in a friend’s house in the town before setting out for Rosscarbery. About three miles from Clonakilty we halted at a hamlet in the vicinity of Sams Cross, which the home of the Collins’. Here the General was welcomed by his brother Sean and several of his cousins. We spent about a half an hour with these friends discussing domestic affairs, before we proceeded on our journey.

A peculiar circumstance of this journey was, that practically every relative the General had was encountered and spoken to.

Having reached Rosscarbery we consulted with the Officer in charge of the Garrison before proceeding to Skibbereen where again, in the ordinary Military way, General Collins consulted with the Garrison Officers, listening to their complaints, giving them advice and assuring them on the further co-operation from the Army Authorities.

Owing to the fact that it was now about 5 o’clock it was decided not to proceed to Bantry, but to return to Cork by the road which we had taken. We passed through the towns of Rosscarbery and Clonakilty, then to Bandon where we delayed for half an hour, whilst the General was conversing with several of his friends and two of his cousins who had just returned to the town with the Flying Column. One of the Officers who came from the locality remarked to the Commander-in-Chief that our escort was very small, and that the country we would pass through was much frequented by bands of Irregulars. His remark was greeted with a confident smile and General Collins said “Where you can go, we can also go.” However, it was soon obvious (to me) that he had carefully noted the remark because he said to me when we were starting off “If we run into an ambush along the way we will stand and fight them.” Just outside the town of Bandon he pointed out to me several farmhouses which he told me were used by the lads in the old days. He mentioned to me the home of one particular friend of his own, remarking “It is too bad he is on the other side now because he is a damned good soldier.” Then he said “Don’t suppose I will be ambushed in my own County.”

I will add the concluding part of Emmet’s account in the next instalment. The picture of the car is Emmet and Michael Collins at the back of the convoy.

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The idea sees the light of day

Last week I plucked up courage to do what is one of those rites of passage that all those embarking on Doctoral studies must explore – talking about their ideas in public. The idea is that you look for a group of like-minded (and fellow suffering) peers and long suffering and sympathetic faculty and talk through your thinking.

At the start of the PhD no-one really expects you to have all the answers, or to have even identified all the gaps, let alone filled them, but they will be quite merciless if you have made any false assumptions or short-cuts. Quite right, too. If you’re going to do this, the chances are (like me) you won’t understand how to approach research and you need to get criticism that will put you in your place, and as long as it is well-meant, it is fine.

I was presenting at a quarterly colloquium of my school at Henley, the School of Management Learning and Knowledge and I have to say that just in the preparation for this I was able to make quite a number of connections for my own thinking. Of course, you are also explaining your research topic to yourself when you present in a public forum, and often what appeared to be crystal clear from the learned journal article you had read the previous week was altogether another thing when you have to describe what you think you thought they meant and how that fits into your own thinking.

I spoke in the end, with some discussion and questions, for about an hour, which was a pleasant surprise, and although I felt tongue-tied and tongue-twisted a couple of times, I think those attending not only got a sense of what my interest is and where it is based, but they seemed to be enjoying it, too.

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