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Archive for August, 2009

After a six week drought of time and energy to pursue it, I have just started to get back to the business of writing things down for my PhD.  With a new and deliciously abstract focus on epistemology.

All PhD candidates are required to show that they have justified their research question and methodology consistent with an explicit epistemology. For some, I suspect this is probably akin more to the drunk man’s use of a lamp-post for support rather than illumination or, worse, the adoption of a convenient theory of knowledge simply to fit the results of the research. 

For me, though, the epistemology is now the question, and one seeks to find data to shed some light on the epistemology, not the other way round.  Bateson once defined epistemology as a) “branch of philosophy concerned with how it is possible to know anything, what is truth, and so on…” and “the study of Natural History”, which meant for him the study of “how people think they know things” as well as “how people know things”. There was no need to define ontology (study of being) except within this definition of epistemology; they were essentially the same thing because in the world of living systems all knowledge is a matter of differentiation and classification of classes of differentiation. The differentiated world of form is one that “exists” in abstraction, inevitably removed from the undifferentiated, unknowable world of substance, of  “things as they are”. 

It follows that, in this branch of philosophy, “management” is not the name of an action but the name of a class or aggregate set of actions which become so labelled only from a view of the context in which those actions are taken.

So beginning from an epistemology that views all living organisms as systems and subsystems defined by patterns and by patterns of patterns, with patterns being the properties of difference, in my research I now propose use an exploration of human narrative to help me better understand how to appreciate what we mean by “patterns of patterns” and what we mean (in Management Education) when we talk about “learning”.

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We were driving along toward the Asda in our village, Wheatley, and as we passed the Maidenhead Aquatics centre (the best place for garden ponds and plant-life in, er, Wheatley) we saw a sign for “Tuddy’s real Jamaican food – served daily”, and it was pointing to a mobile van parked in the Aquatic centre’s car park.

Now for a village we’re pretty spoiled for choice with food really. Two Chinese takeaways, an Indian restaurant, a chippy, a deli and four pubs – not to mention Raymond Blanc’s world famous le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons a couple of miles down the road in Great Milton, but we had to stop. My wife’s father lives in Jamaica so we were dying to compare this with the fantastic food we’d eaten on our visit last year.

We werent disappointed – even if the way in which the food was being prepared reflected all Jamaicans’ attitude toward time. If you’re passing, stop at Tuddy’s for some jerk chicken, rice and peas, festivals or ackee…

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Dear all,  

With the summer holidays (at least in the northern hemisphere) in full swing, this newsletter will cover both July and August. This is somehow appropriate, however, since we have just crossed – without ceremony or fanfare – our first anniversary as Henley Business School. Just over a year ago at this time we were on the brink of merging with the University of Reading, and when I look back to my newsletter for that month I see that it was all about mixed feelings, so it’s perhaps appropriate now to take a quick look back at the last 12 months and see what sense can be made of it.  

On my drive to work from Oxford in recent days my usual short-cut through the Chiltern lanes and villages and valleys (a drive I really enjoy) has been re-routed because of repair work being done to the road surfaces. My first reaction at seeing the “road ahead closed” sign was annoyance; a longer way round, a less familiar route with the chance of getting lost, and the removal of my vista on the hill with the windmill featured in the children’s film “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang”. But then I realised what the other side of that coin is – a new view, (a road less travelled?) and the subsequent discovery of a wonderful, single-track lane sunk into chalky woodland banks on the approach to Turville, a picturesque village made famous as Dibley in the BBC comedy “The Vicar of Dibley”.  

The merger has been something of the same feeling, really. Over the last 12 months we’ve all come to realise that the new story is what we make it to be – and what we choose to make it be as a Business School can be just as interesting, just as revealing and just as exciting (though undoubtedly different) as anything we might have constructed as a College. What’s more, in the current market, there may have been quite a different plot being played out had we remained HMC. After a year of finding our feet (sometimes treading on each other’s toes), we’re now beginning to see some of the effects and benefits of being part of the University. Over the remainder of the year, I will try to bring you news of these and other programme developments.  

The Annual Questionnaire 2009!  

Old hands on the Henley MBA will, I’m sure, eagerly be anticipating this year’s annual survey, which I will launch some time before the end of August. Each year, we ask you to rate us (and yourselves) on several key performance indicators, as well as giving us feedback that may be more reflective and considered than at the end of a workshop session.   You will receive an email with a link to the survey. Last year the response rate nearly doubled from 2007, so I hope we can keep that trend up.  

Henley on Linkedin  

We’re at about 4,500 members now, so still growing, and there are quite a few discussion threads running. The current featured one is titled “A Hippocratic Oath of Managers?” and debates the idea, popular in the US at the moment, that management begin to view itself as an ethical profession. We’re also in the process of launching the first Alumni Special Interest (sub-)Group on Henley LinkedIn – “Leadership of Organisational Change”, managed by Kate Greaves. This will be a venue for discussion and networking on this issue and will tie in to other Henley Alumni activities.   Don’t forget, make sure your profile is accurate and up-to-date before applying for membership of this online community.    

Henley on Twitter  

My position on Twitter is that it is a great answer to a question we haven’t worked out yet. However, I am very happy to tell you that Henley is now on Twitter and you can follow our tweets on http://twitter.com/henleymba. You can follow mine on https://twitter.com/dalty, though I’m afraid I’m an infrequent user. Much more informatively, our library team are also using the service and can be followed on http://twitter.com/UoRHenleyLib.  

Upcoming Events in the UK  

Looking ahead, the alumni team have circulated the following info and links:

10 September 2009 – eBusiness Alumni Group. is pleased to announce Nick Kirkland Chief Executive of CIO Connect will be presenting up to date findings on their current research in changing business demands of Chief Information Officers. The presentation will be followed by group discussions. Held at the Athenaeum club, London. amanda.proddow@henley.com

17 September 2009 – Leadership in Organisational Change Alumni Group  introduces its next event to be held at Fujitsu Services, 22 Baker Street, London W1U 3BW. Their speaker is David Smith, CIO Fujitsu UK & Eire and Director of Core Shared Services.

17 September 2009 – Third Sector Network Alumni Group – “The Impact of Technology on the Third Sector”. Location: Saatchi & Saatchi, 80 Charlotte Street, London W1A 1AQ. Presentations from Fiona Dawe, OBE, Chief Executive of YouthNet UK; Gemma Went a specialist in Social Media and PR, and Prof. David James, Henley Business School.

25 September 2009 – Henley Golf Challenge. Now in its 4th year this popular golf event will be held at The Springs Golf Club, Wallingford. £55.00 per person. Only 12 places remaining.

30 September 2009 – MBA Career Development Service. Effective Self Marketing Workshop at Greenlands, Henley-on-Thames, UK. Contact Linda Thorne.  Another set of dates for (some of) your long-range diaries are the graduation dates for 2010, which are Saturday 15 May 2010, Saturday 16 October 2010 and Saturday 14 May 2011.  

Refurbishment of the Thames Court bedrooms at Greenlands  

Much anticipated by those who have stayed in one of the “model” rooms in Thames Court in the past year or so, just started at the end of July was Phase 1 of the Thames Court Bedroom Refurbishment. This covers 24 bedrooms in Windrush House and completion date is Friday 4th September.   

A great way to present  

I’m grateful to Alexander Voss in GM01 for forwarding a link to a visual presentation by Swedish academic Hans Rosling that complemented the input on Global Business Environment. I found the style of the presenter very engaging and the use of their visual aid technology seamless with their message. Take a look: http://www.gapminder.org/videos/ted-talks/hans-rosling-ted-2006-debunking-myths-about-the-third-world/. It also has a link to the software he was using.  

On a similar theme, technical issues that made the use of SameTime for synchronous meetings have now been solved and the system should be functioning. I ran a webinar for prospective new members last week and the system functioned well, with video-audio input from the US, Ireland and the UK, so I hope that those of you who are using this system to work together will keep trying. My learning has been that it takes quite careful preparation to run an online meeting, and often it is better to have everyone’s microphone muted at the start until things settle down and the agenda (and work space) has been presented.    

Home Straight Community  

Richard and Mike report that, for the first time since it was set up, the proportion of members who have submitted Dissertation proposals now exceeds those who have yet to do so. There are some great personal stories emerging from the community and the support from the tutors is fantastic, but it still remains a mountain to climb. You can help yourselves, if this is where you are in your MBA, by keeping an eye on your registration clock and communicating sooner rather than later with your course manager/administrator or personal tutor (in the UK) if you need help.

While I’m here in Part Three of the MBA, let me remind anyone still facing their Part Three exam (Strategic Direction, Business Transformation and Strategic Financial Analysis) that the final first sitting for this exam will be in September 2009, with a re-sit opportunity in December 09.

(Research Corner)

Thanks to all those amongst you who volunteered to fill out my online questionnaire, which is helping inform my thinking for my PhD. Occasional blog entries on the topic will educate anyone who is curious as to what I am looking at in my research, but suffice it to say that the answer that I have found most helpful in the survey so far is the one that asks the person filling it out how they found the experience of doing so…

Help with Dissertation Research: Robert Preston writes: “I’m investigating the level of maturity of Supplier Relationship Management practices within the UK Financial Services industry, the extent to which formal models have been adopted and the degree to which the current economic downturn is influencing management approaches.  If you currently work or have recently worked in Financial Services in the UK and have experience of managing suppliers or knowledge of how suppliers are being managed, I would really appreciate your help in completing an on-line survey. The survey only takes 5 minutes to complete, the results of which I would be more than happy to share with you (just let me know). All individual responses to the survey are anonymous so please rest assured that your answers will be treated in the strictest confidence.

The survey has been extended to Friday 14th August and can be accessed by clicking the following link: (removed from the Blog).

Chris Dalton   

 

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