Archive for April, 2009

Yesterday Vick Bain,  a distance learning MBA programme member, told me about a practice adopted within her learning team which I think is a really good idea and a superb example of the kind of self-directed learning that we should be promoting. The team had arranged for site visits to each person’s organisation for all other members of the team. With eight people, this produced eight excellent views into very varied types of businesses and stories.

I’ve no doubt other learning teams in other locations do something similar, so it would be good to compare notes on how it helps educate and bond.


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Dear all,

the past week or so has seen some wonderful spring weather here at Henley and although the daffodils that filled the lawns in front of the Greenlands building a couple of weeks ago have faded, the woodlands that surround are carpeted in wonderful expanses of bluebells.  This part of the Thames Valley, never shabby even in winter, seems to come into its own around this time of year. A noticeable indicator of summer not being far away are the great white ‘mushrooms’ formed by the marquees that spring up to house a whole range of well-heeled events. Next month, of course, one of those will be here with us at the May graduation ceremony, but there must be a small army of people carting around, erecting and silently dismantling these great tents.
So, business as usual, broadly speaking. That’s not to say that the impact of the global recession is not apparent, even here. Quite apart from it being a hot topic of conversation in conference rooms at Henley (thanks to academics such as Emilio Herbolzheimer), I know that quite a few of you experienced personal impact – either in terms of facing uncertainty, redundancy or, perversely, increased workloads, as companies “batten down the hatches”.
The role of the business school as an institution in all of this is an appropriate area for debate, and I hope that Henley will be at the forefront of a positive, reflective and thoughtful response in the coming months. One place where you will find that people are already discussing these matters is the Henley group on LinkedIn, so I’ll start there…
We seem to grow membership of this group by roughly 100 new members per month, which is wonderful, and there are over a dozen lively discussion threads running right now, so I hope that you will feel able to contribute. Don’t forget, if you’re not registered on LinkedIn, you’ll have to do that first, and up-date your education details. Then you’ll be in touch with 4,116 other managers with ties to Henley.
Several of you have also placed “ads” for your MBA research projects there, and I hope that you’re getting good results. I’m also pleased to advertise for respondents here, so email me if you have a survey suitable for this audience. To kick things off…
Research Corner
Warren Butler, from HB22, writes:

As part of my MBA Dissertation I am reviewing the Risk Management techniques applied to the relocation of small to medium manufacturing operations. As more companies opt for an outsourcing strategy current research suggests that many companies are disappointed with the outcome of their strategy. My research seeks to ascertain whether risk management techniques are applied at all, and if so, what techniques are utilised and are they applied in a robust and thorough manner. I am hoping to interview 20-25 managers, face to face or telephone. Interview duration will be 45-60 minutes. I am based in mid-Sussex, UK. If you are willing to take part, please contact me directly.

Mike Palmer, a faculty member here, has a request going the other way and is looking for people looking for a topic:

We’re at the stage of setting up the Project Teams for the KM (Knowledge Management) Forum for 2009, each of which includes a researcher. There are 4/5 meetings from May to December here at Henley, and it requires some time outside the meetings doing literature research and involvement with the co-champions of each project in developing materials etc. Past experience has shown that MBA programme members who are at their dissertation stage and interested in the topic can find this of great value.

We are now looking for researchers for two of the three projects this year. Please find the following relevant information which was recently circulated to members. I should therefore be grateful if you could publicise this in the most appropriate way, remembering that ideally we need to try to identify people by early May if possible to coincide with the start of the projects. 

Using knowledge in decision-making

Please contact Judy Payne or Mike Palmer if you’d like to know more about being a researcher for either of the project working groups. There will be a short selection process to ensure compatibility and commitment.”

Economist rankings

Margareta Koter tells me that well over 400 of you have filled out the EIU Questionnaire for the MBA rankings online, which is fantastic and should centainly assist in producing a robust result. However, an email is sent from the system to get you to validate your results, and it appears that only about 240 of you have done that. It might be that your email systems have caught that EIU email in a spam filter, so could you check again? Thanks.

Who’s News

As of April 1st, Professor Roger Palmer became the Head of School of Management (one of the five schools within Henley Business School). Dr Susan Rose has been named Associate Head of School, replacing Roger, and now is oversees all the MBA modes of study. Nigel Spinks was recently announced as Subject Area Leader for Managing Processess, Systems and Projects.

An event (for those in the UK): Henley Alumni Special Interest Group Leadership of Organisational Change 

The role of organisational leadership in a reforming NHS with Paul Corrigan  

Date: Tuesday 19th May 2009 – Spring Meeting 

Time: 18.30 reception 

Venue: American Express Services Europe Limited, Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London  SW1W 9AX 

Cost: £20.00 alumni and current DL MBA sprogramme members, to include a drink on arrival, sandwiches and wine. 


Next month I’ll be providing one of my occasional run downs of the averages for assignments and exams on the programme.  Don’t forget that the Henley Family Day event is on July 5th, and the next UK Home Straight event is on Sunday May 18th.
And finally…
At a recent recruitment event, Woz Ahmed, of HB36, mentioned the poetry of Donald Rumsfeld. I was baffled until I looked at this link 
Chris Dalton





Until recently Professor Corrigan was Director of Commissioning Improvement and Innovation at NHS London.   Since leaving the NHS London Strategic Health Authority in April 2009, Paul has been working as a management consultant and an executive coach helping leaders create and develop step changes with their organisation. Paul Corrigan gained his first degree in social policy from the LSE in 1969, his PhD at Durham in 1974. He is adjunct professor of public health at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. For the first 12 years of his working life he taught at Warwick University and the Polytechnic of North London – he was Head of Department of applied social studies in the latter. He taught, researched and wrote about inner city social policy and community development.  In 1985 he left academic life and for the next 12 years he worked in local government – mainly in London but also as a member of staff in the local government unit of the Labour party. In 1997 he started to work for himself as a local government consultant. In 1998 he published Shakespeare on Management.  From July 2001 he worked as a special adviser to Alan Milburn first and then John Reid, the then Secretary of States for Health. Others have credited him with being the architect of NHS Foundation Trusts. At the end of 2005 he became the senior health policy adviser to the Prime Minister Tony Blair leaving that post in June 2007.



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It’s not uncommon at workshops and events at Henley for participants to disappear at breaks grasping their Blackberry handsets (other mobile messaging devices are available) to deal with whatever work is throwing at them. This has become such a norm that we hardly notice it any more and arguably most of those messages are just generated by the fact that they can be.  

Occasionally, though, things are different, as has been demonstrated by a news story that broke this week – namely the announcement of a ground-breaking project involving Pfizer, who will provide funding to develop a therapy to use stem-cell research to cure blindness.

The lead negotiator from Pfizer in this deal was Henley DL MBA programme member Diane Harbison, and the announcement neatly explained the frantic amount of messaging and extra work she did while also (fully) participating in the recent elective trip to Budapest, Hungary (see earlier blog entries). So, congratulations to her – clearly (in my view, at least) the skills and confidence developed on the programme so far, and Diane is half way through the final part, have helped contribute to something that satisfies Henley’s ambition for managers to be making right choices at community as well as organisation levels.

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This is not a blog entry about the current global, banking crisis. Or perhaps indirectly it is.

I am one of those people that tends to stay loyal. For example, I’ve supported Chelsea football club since I was seven, never wavering even during the bad years. I have considered Doctor Martens shoes to be the best make of footwear in the world since I got my first pair at 16. Nearly all my academic qualifications come from Henley. I think everything Nick Cave writes and performs is exceptional. And, I have banked with Lloyds since I was 17. Once I’m into a brand, it’s hard for me to stop.

Until now, that is. I have decided to wind down my involvement as a customer of Lloyds Bank in the UK, and I’d say it’s entirely their fault. I’d also say that saying that means absolutely nothing to a bank the size of Lloyds. They’re simply not in it the for individual customers.

The trigger was that, after nearly a year of waiting for them to get their act together to make it possible for fast payments out of my Lloyds account to another bank account (despite a fanfare of publicity in early 2008 that they would end the four-working-day-wait) I have had enough of the wait, and more than enough of interaction with the machine that supports the brand image.

More than half a dozen phone calls to Lloyds call-centres produced as many differing apologetic tales by way of explanation, each more or less contradicting the last.  After a while, one just feels like Charlie Brown being presented with the football to punt by Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Then it hit me – it really doesn’t matter where I bank any more. No-one, least of all the banks, cares, as long as you can prove that you are who you say you are. Perhaps this attitude is fuelled by the belief that risk doesn’t matter as long as you are insured – the thinking that permitted the sub-prime mortgage lending.

These days, it feels as though customer relationship management when the numbers are this big is only about ‘up-selling’ you different services, instead of providing you with the one you signed up for in the first place.

But the real question (as always) is what is the learning from this. Why the loyalty? What were my assumptions regarding this relationship? I joined Lloyds Bank as a teenager. Back then, opening an account, even a junior one, was a local, personal transaction. It meant actually meeting someone in the bank who was then a real reference point and who not only you would recognise in future visits, but who would probably recognise you back. Developments permitted by technology, mergers and acquisitions, plus the globalisation of ‘lifestyle’ over the years may be partly to blame.

It’s a shame really. I’d much prefer to be able to be loyal. And the lesson should not be lost on us at Henley, as a brand. What’s the point of believing that increasing size equals increasing value if, in making yourself bigger, you actually negate the value proposition you were building.

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