Archive for October, 2008

Progress? What progress?

Being a PhD student contains many inherent contradictions, or mental struggles, that one must face in order to create meaning in the experience. The first of these is the debunking of “science” and the tearing down of the walls of academic hubris that seem to stand between the novice and the doctoral title. I, possibly along with many others, still feel the esoteric awe and draw of the PhD – that my aim should be as high and as noble as those people whose academic papers I am constantly asked to refer to, and that my scope can only be all-encompassing in order to say anything worthwhile.

There are many hints as one travels along this path, however, that this is actually not “rocket science” (I’m not including PhDs in Rocket Science, of course) and that you are being asked to learn the craft, not show complete mastery in it. This realisation is a beautiful thing for the novice, even when it leaves you no further up the mountain.

Another real issue for the person pursuing this study part-time yet working, somewhat paradoxically (given the finite number of hours in a day), full-time is the sinking feeling that you are making no headway. It’s not that you are working on it but getting nowhere, it’s just that you are not working on it at all – doing no reading and even less writing. This has been true for me in October and much of September, and although you may need to be quite selfish and ruthless about blocking out time for PhD progress, I am glad to have found that it hasn’t stopped me thinking about it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could knock out a semi-coherent abstract for Lancaster about my title and intended study, which I reproduce below and which I note has changed significantly since the beginning of the year.

‘Title: The impact of a Systemic, Transgenerational view of a learner’s family-of-origin on Critical Reflection for higher levels of learning in post-experience Management Education.

Personal Development has become a widely used term to describe learning in an individual and organizational setting, yet many attempts at change seem to fail and truly transformational personal development remains illusive.

One of the criticisms that may be leveled at Management Education, arguably true of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ business ethic also, is that it has preferred the simple solution to the complex one, even when the complex is the more insightful. Equally, as the question “am I doing the thing right?” should really be preceded by the question “am I doing the right thing?”, so the commonly stated starting point in management development of “what is my goal?” might usefully be preceded by “who am I?”. An unconscious understanding of self develops forcefully and early in our family system, which can include complex relationships and stories from previous generations.

By revisiting the common intellectual ancestry typified by general systems theory, circular causality and cybernetics shared between systemic family therapists and management educators who adopt experiential learning methods or view organisations as complex adaptive systems, this study will explore, over a period of two years, the effect of deliberate Critical Reflection on family-of-origin on managers who are simultaneously engaged in a professional development process.

The framework used will draw on the epistemological approach of Gregory Bateson who sought “the pattern that connects”, and whose theory of communication and model of hierarchical levels of learning have in turn influenced many in the fields of clinical and development psychology, as well as practitioners in Management Learning. Field work will encourage questioning and reflection of habitual ‘taken-for-granteds’ inherent in family history and development, and will investigate whether a holistic and systemic understanding of self equips managers in attaining higher levels of learning in the sphere of business and career.’


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e-newsletter for September

Dear all,

There have been lovely misty mornings followed by brilliant late summer blue skies here at Henley. Yet the leaves are also beginning to turn and every now and again a gust of wind sends a shower of them floating around and down, reminding us that – for all the stillness and serenity – this also is a period of change. The seasons and the cycle of the year at Henley, with comings and goings, starters and graduations, are nothing new. In fact, I’ve often commented on them in these newsletters because they are part of the rhythm of learning. But while some change is the result of adjustment to a regular and inherent cycle, some other change is a result of the impact of the unpredictable, even of the random. We may all be learning something about this now in light of the continuing shocks in the banking sector and search for equilibrium. Our new persona as Henley Business School may well turn out to be a smart move if it provides the stability to evolve and adapt to what some are seeing as a significant shift in the management paradigm.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Henley team in Trinidad this month, which made an interesting contrast to my August visit to the Henley Nordic office in Copenhagen. In both cases, I learned a lot about the environment, social as well as economic that equips me better to understand what you, as programme members on this incredible journey, have to deal with. Pulling all these different strands and cultures together into one unified Master’s degree is akin to a high-wire tightrope walk; you have to balance keeping focused on the goal AND keeping aware of what’s going on around you.

The 2008 Annual Survey

This year 385 of you completed the survey, an increase on last year of 248! Many thanks to those of you who took the time to put your thoughts down. Right now I am in the middle of reviewing your additional comments in order to summarise them alongside the more quantitative indicators.

I’m very pleased to say that in 13 areas of measurement your average satisfaction levels are up on those reported in 2007, including the big one – where you provide an overall verdict on the Henley MBA. I have now got 71 pages of collated comments to get through, so no doubt there heaps of things to fix alongside the heaps of praise. The full results should be available for distribution by mid October.

Course Reps Meeting

The next meeting of the Course Representatives for those of you studying direct with Henley (“HB” intakes) in the UK will be on Friday October 24th. If you have an issue or question you’d like raised, please let your course rep know this in advance.

Home Straight Community news

The next Henley Home Straight event here at Henley will be on Sunday October 19th. Mike and Richard will be sending out invites to all those eligible to attend, and if you are coming you can expect to receive input from others at a similar stage in their dissertation on how they are coping and what strategies are working, or not working, for them.

The Home Straight Community continues to be an effective motivating tool for those who are taking advantage of it and is another way of bridging the gap between where you are now and shaking hands at graduation. Testament to this is the fact that approximately 11 members are submitting their dissertations each month. The impact of getting involved is summed up in this quote from one programme member:
“I’m pleased to say that I submitted my dissertation on Sept 10th. A major relief! Although I only attended one of the Home Straight sessions, I have no doubt that it was responsible for setting me on the right path after a few months of dithering. I cannot thank you enough for pressing on with the home straight community, its really worthwhile.”

Dissertation and Research Corner

Markus Haag is conducting research on personal knowledge development in e-learning environments. He writes:

“Learners’ individual-level values and cross-cultural differences in an e-learning study cohort arguably influence personal knowledge development and learning. Investigating the relationship between values and personal knowledge development is central to a PhD research project conducted by Markus Haag at the University of Bedfordshire, UK.

The focus is on how the e-learners themselves experience learning processes in e-learning environments and how this impacts on their personal knowledge development. A questionnaire that investigates the learners’ experience of personal knowledge development processes is currently being developed. These processes are modelled on the basis of Nonaka’s SECI model, a framework for investigating the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge in the spiral of knowledge creation. The results of the questionnaire will then be correlated with the results of the Portrait Values Questionnaire, a tool for measuring the scores of the ten individual-level values of the Schwartz Value Survey.

In one of the upcoming newsletters, links to the Portrait Values Questionnaire and the questionnaire investigating personal knowledge development processes will be distributed to this list. I am inviting you to fill in these questionnaires and participate in this project. Through your involvement in this research, you will personally benefit as your data will be analysed and you will be sent your personal scores on the ten individual-level values of the Schwartz Value Survey, together with a description and explanation of the survey and the values it contains. Similar to a psychometric test, this will give you an insight into what values you consider important and what values particularly motivate and guide you in your life.”

And here is an encouraging message from Dr Richard McBain:

“I am very pleased to announce the results of two recent research competitions. Firstly, the Henley Keith MacMillan Research Paper Competition (2008) is aimed at current Research Associates and recent graduates, in recognition of publication of research. This year, the prize has been won by Jacques Barnea and the paper by Geir Thompson was highly commended. Secondly, the EDAMBA thesis competition is open to all EDAMBA member institutions. Henley Research Associates have had a very successful track record in this competition, being placed in the top ten every year. This year, again, we were very pleased to congratulate Dr Lior Jassur on his third place, and Dr Jürgen Dahlhoff for his top ten position. Warm congratulation to all concerned.”

Dr Lynn Thurloway has asked me to remind all those writing their dissertations that there is a word limit of 15,000, plus 20% (i.e. 18,000 words). It’s easy to get carried away writing your dissertation (not something you ever believe at the start of it), so unless you have a really exceptional counter-argument, those that exceed the word count maximum will be returned unmarked.

Henley in the Economist rankings

The EIU full-time MBA rankings for 2008 are now out, with mixed blessings for Henley. The bad news is that, overall, Henley has dropped from 10 to 20. This should be tempered by the fact that all MBA rankings contain a time lag and that the impact of the new MBA curriculum probably is not yet measured by our placing. The good news is that Henley retained its number 1 spot in two key areas, “Personal Development/Educational Experience” and “Potential to Network”. We also retained no 2 position for “Increase in Salary”.

Who’s-who at Henley (an up-date)

John Hendry, Head of School, has just announced two new appointments. Professor Roger Palmer will become Associate Head of School for qualification programmes, including the Distance Learning, Executive and Full-time MBAs. Associate Professor Peter Race is to become Associate Head of School for faculty, and effectively takes over from Professor Abby Ghobadian. Carola Hillenbrand has taken over from Stephen Lee as Subject Area Leader for the module Reputation and Relationships and Claire Collins replaced Paul Aitken as SAL for Leadership and Change.

New Intakes – two huge intakes of fresh air

New intakes are like taking in lungs-full of air for the School. This weekend we welcomed 80 new programme members from Denmark (including our first group of managers from the Faeroe Islands), Sweden and Finland to their first workshop here at Greenlands. This number represents a healthy increase in recruitment in all three locations. Later this week, we expect a similar, high number of new entrants on the next Henley-based intake, HB39. This will mean that we have met our most ambitious recruitment target of the year and is a positive start for the new Henley Business School.

Consultants Fair

Tony Restell, of Top-Consultant.com has asked me to make you aware of the date of the next Consultancy Careers Fair. As he says, “this year it’s taking place on 9th / 10th October and with the jobs market being tougher this year we’re expecting candidates to find the chance to meet employers face-to-face even more appealing that ever. If you’d like to make your members aware of this, the link with further details and registration process can be found at:

Other Matters

Engineers have been installing the cables and software to enable the new Wi-Fi access around Greenlands and the system should go live in the next week or so, bringing a much improved service to all our members. Conveniently, this should go live around the same time that the refurbished toilets are reopened. They’re adding the final touches to this now, although there is a slightly worrying sign posted outside the door which reads “Caution – operatives working inside toilets.”

If you are at Part Two of the old version of the MBA curriculum, you need to remember that December is the last chance to sit the Part Two exam for the first time. Contact your administrator for more details, and you will be getting another letter from me to remind you. We are organizing a Part Two exam prep workshop here on November 10th. Contact Susan Parr for details.

The booking form for the International Business Environment elective study trip to Budapest next March will be online in a few days. Finally, Saturday 11th October sees the first Henley Alumni Ball, which is a black-tie affair and which will be held here at Greenlands. For anyone looking for last-minute bookings, contact Irina Woodford.

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