Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Know Your Place!

OK, this is seriously funny. It would have been even funnier if it were not sad...

Figuratively speaking, how frequent are such situations when the distance between the boss and the subordinates are so great? Here are are talking about two types of distances: psychological and physical. I won't try discuss the relational aspects in the workplace when things go sour or don't start well from the very beginning. But how people physically sit in the office plays a tremendous role.

It is always a battle. Those who potentially can get an office will always say that they need to work with confidential information and it would be madness for them to sit in the "monkey area". Those who don't know better will advocate that getting their superviser closer would be a good idea, because at least they won't have to go far to get a signature or a piece of advice.

When I first traveled to Shell Exploration & Production HQ in Rijswijk, the Netherlands, I was amazed to see Vice Presidents sitting in open space. It really works. The trick is, of course, not to start spending your days in a meeting room, transforming it into a permanent office. Another fallacy many managers forced to sit with their subordinates commit is picking a corner desk or building up a wall made of a credenza with beautiful flowers and a book rack. The idea of openness gets a bit diluted in that case...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Value of an MBA Program

Continuing the train of thought I started a few months ago, I keep thinking about the value of an MBA program. This is a largely introspective exercise, since I am right in the middle of one, which I am doing at IE Business School. As ill (good?) luck would have it, I joined the rows of knowledge-eager business students right after the credit crunch (I am now way too wary of using the word "crisis"), so there was no shortage of criticism targeted at business schools, those who teach there, those who study there, and those who hire the executive brains paying a pretty penny for that.

The article that has grabbed my attention recently was published in HBR in July-August this year, "No, Management Is Not A Profession". I was amazed how much I was in agreement with the author and how much his thoughts were resonating in my head. The main topic of the article can be sort of guesses from its title - if management is not a profession, why do we sent people to business schools and what exactly do they learn there?

Of course, business ethics issues could not have been avoided and I have already written on that. True professions have Codes of Conduct and you can lose your affiliation to, let's say, CFA if you break its Code. In my younger years, I used to be a proctor at CFA exams, overseeing hundreds of accountants writing their Level 1, 2 and (just a handful) Level 3 CFA exams. Each one of them knew that should they be caught cheating, they would never see those tests again, no matter how hard they had tried. Compared to the MBA graduate, what would happen if s/he decides to ship an order earlier to record the sales in the current quarter to "massage" the financials? Not much, huh? Thus, business schools are not professional schools.

The grading systems at business schools are intended to promote collaboration and the spirit of cooperation. What happens in reality is that I have never seen fiercer competition outside of my school. Well, maybe a cock fight would snatch the prize, but the "mighty curve" imposing normal distribution means that only two people out of the entire class will get an A, so what cooperation are we talking about here exactly? The article also states that "an academic grading system cannot reliably predict managerial ability... If a business school is a competitive environment, in which a myth is maintained that the best future business leaders will score the highest grades, dysfunctional behavior inevitably results". At the same time, the big consultancy firms are not considering candidates with GPAs lower than a certain level. Are businesses also to blame for the skews in the management eduction systems? For me, the answer is clearly "yes".

Faculty members also came under attack of the author. He claims that education happens in silos, just like in the real business. A Marketing professor does not know what happens in the HR class, and neither of them has any idea what is being taught in Supply Chain Management. So integration is not taught, but learnt. It has to happen in the minds of students (somehow), because it definitely is not happening in practice. The Yale School of Management has pioneered integrated classes, but not many schools have followed suit.

So the old maxim holds true, "The manager is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none" simply because there is no one task to master. The "essence of an MBA resides in not in professional training but in the broader experience of the business school as a learning environment". I guess that is the reason I have such a hard time explaining to my parents what I learn here in Madrid: business schools are not professional schools but rather incubators for business leadership.

Friday, November 12, 2010

IE International MBA Ranked 3rd by Bloomberg Businessweek!

Great news! Well-done, IE! Feels good to study here :)


IE Business School Is Third in Bloomberg Businessweek Ranking of Non-US schools

Madrid, 12 November 2010 - IE Business School is No. 3 in the Bloomberg Businessweek 2010 ranking of international business schools, published every two years. 
The International MBA at IE Business School is one of the most diverse programs in the world. With more than 80 nationalities on campus, and at least 50 in any given class, IE provides a truly multicultural environment for International MBA students - who learn not just from faculty but also their classmates of varied educational, professional, and social backgrounds.
The authors of the ranking noted that, thanks to the financial crisis, MBA employment has been of top concern for students and business schools alike. To that point, IE International MBAs have experienced an improvement in the job market over the past year, with 89 percent of the class of 2009 accepting a job offer within three months of graduation in a wide range of industries, functional areas, and countries. 
"After two years of a sluggish job market, 2010 has thus far brought indications of recovery for MBA graduates seeking jobs," said Fernanda Diaz Cascallar, Director of Recruiters Relations at IE.  "Opportunities for IE Business School students and alumni are up compared to last year, especially in the markets and industries that were more affected during the recession - for example, the United States and Europe in terms of regions, and consulting and financial services in regards to industries."
Bloomberg Businessweek's ranking of full-time MBA programs is based on three elements: a survey of newly minted MBAs, a poll of corporate recruiters, and an evaluation of faculty research output.  The MBA survey, which measures satisfaction with all aspects of the business school experience, is combined with two previous MBA surveys.  The corporate poll, which asks recruiters to identify the schools that produce the best graduates, is also combined with two previous recruiter surveys.  Finally,Bloomberg Businessweek tallies the number of articles published by each school's faculty in top 20 journals and reviews of their books in three national publications.  The total for faculty size is then adjusted and an intellectual-capital rating is assigned for each school.  The MBA surveys and the recruiter polls each contribute 45 percent to the final ranking, with the intellectual-capital ranking contributing the final ten percent.
In addition to this recent recognition, IE Business School's Executive MBA program is ranked 1st in Europe as well as 6th worldwide by Bloomberg Businessweek ranked 2nd in Europe and 7th worldwide by the Financial Times The School is also ranked 1st worldwide in The Economists' Distance Learning International Executive MBA Ranking.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What sort of degree is an MBA?

I get a strong impression that an MBA is an "oh, crap!!!" type of an academic qualification, meaning that the demand for MBA programs rises drastically in the periods of economic downturns, credit crises and similar societal calamities that leave lots of young (?), promising (?) and bright (?) professionals (?) out of job, who flock towards the admission offices of the MBA schools:
The QS MBA employer survey in 2010/11 reveals a surge in employer demand for MBAs in emerging markets (a 32% increase in MBA demand is reported in Asia-Pacific in 2010), combined with a gradual recovery in demand in both Europe (MBA demand up 3%) and North America (MBA demand up 9%). This follows a period of hiring cutbacks during the credit crunch. (Source: TopMBA)
Now: if that talent (nearly "corporate property", often referred to as "blue blood", "walking on water" or "Mighty But Arrogant") is so valuable, why do they find themselves on the other side of the door? Since when do those high-flyers belong to the "at-risk" category?

Tongue-in-cheek, but I can say that spending one or two years at the student desk and learning the one big lesson of "it depends" and demanding a twofold salary increase is slightly overdoing it, no? What is the magic trick of the degree? Am I a bad MBA student?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Managing Generation Y

As Generation Y begin to represent a greater percentage of the workforce, there is a need for management to evolve to suit them
An interesting and acute article at TopMBA this week

A report published in September 2010 has highlighted the need for management practises to develop in order to suit a growing percentage of Generation Y in the workforce.
The Future of Work, produced by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) found that Generation Y (15 to 30 year olds, born between 1980 and 1995) expect greater freedom in their working environment. If they are afforded that freedom, the report suggests they become more committed, and are more likely to work harder, for longer.

Generation Y’s expectations

“The latest working generation, Generation Y is different to previous generations (Generation X and the Baby Boomers) in their expectations and assumptions,” concludes the IPA’s report. “They don’t want the long-hours culture of presenteeism and working at the same desk.
“They are confident with technology and are comfortable overlapping work and life. They can be flexible if they are offered flexibility in return otherwise they are likely to leave.”
Dr Linda Ronnie, senior lecturer in organizational behaviour and people management at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Graduate School of Business agrees with the report’s findings, explaining to TopMBA.com that Generation Y workers tend to seek a “a clear career trajectory and development plan,” while completing work that they see as challenging and meaningful.
“In return, Generation Y employees expect the work environment to provide an opportunity for them to apply their skills and for their managers to provide ongoing feedback and support. While these expectations are potentially true for every employee, they are particularly sought by Generation Yers,” Ronnie says.

Advances in technology

Huge advances in technology have defined Generation Y’s youth, encouraging them to reject boredom at home and in the workplace. As a result, employees have become more demanding in the tasks they are given, as they are motivated by personal interest in the work they do explains Dr Katie Best, a Generation Y specialist and director of MBA programs at the private BBP Business School in London.
“Generation Yers are exceptional multi-taskers... they’ve been brought up in the Microsoft Windows world, where you have multiple things on the go at once, but their bosses still think in a very linear fashion. By setting them multiple complex tasks all at once, you’ll get more out of them and get tangible results,” Best claims.
The need for companies to change the way they manage their staff is becoming more and more urgent, as Generation Y grow older and represent a higher proportion of the workers.
“If companies don’t work out how to use them correctly, they will be heading for the wall, because with the oldest of the generation now at 29, they are forming an increasingly large part of the workforce,” says Best. “Balancing the aspirations of the Generation Y employee will re-order the perception of them from ‘problem child’ into ‘valuable employee’.”

MBA programs are evolving

Ronnie notes that the changing ideals of differing generations has also contributed to the evolution of UCT’s MBA program, resulting in greater emphasis on global and ethical management practices.
“The program has shifted as a result of the kind of student we are now teaching,” says Ronnie. “From a program perspective, we are more aware now of the need for ethical leadership for example and our courses reflect that. With our culturally diverse workforce, creating an inclusive environment for employees to grow and flourish is essential and so, for example, this aspect of management is key in my own and other courses.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Organizational Constellations

The topic of organizational constellations sounds stellar and somewhat removed from the mundane problems we are surrounded by every day of our lives. Yet, you will be surprised how practical and applicable this change management tool can be in your professional or personal setting. IE HR Club organized a workshop last week to introduce the students and alumni to the relatively new organizational development technique - Organizational Constellations. More than 25 people attended, which, as I understood, was already a bit too much for this type of an intervention, but it was an excellent setup for academic purposes.

First of all, fundamentals:

  • a constellation is a system (small wonder, the father of the methodology being German...)
  • the roots go back to the tribal ways of solving problems, it is intuitive and relationship-based.
  • organizations are governed by the laws of a family system, the laws of give-and-take.
  • the concept of belonging (pertenencia) is pivotal - who belongs to a particular constellation? The major difference between an organization and a family is that unlike kinship, belonging to other social structures is voluntary.
  • "what happens in Togo, stays in Togo". Confidentiality is essential to make sure there is enough trust between the participants to start the energy flowing.
After a short theoretical introduction, we moved to the most interesting: mapping out our own constellations, using specific symbols for males, females and events. The key characteristic of the picture is in which direction the constellation members are looking. The term in Spanish is radiografía,  not sure what the appropriate equivalent in English would be, but I think I will not be far away from the truth if we call it a radiogram. One of the participants was asked to draw the picture on the board and then... he was asked to substitute the drawn figures on the board with live people in the class, making sure that they are arranged in exactly the same formation as the sketch.

The next step was to ask the "models" how they felt in those positions and after that allow them to change places, so that they feel more comfortable. That provided the grounds for constructive dialogue around the actual problems within the team, even though none of the "models" was familiar with the situation. That proved that the concept really worked and the participants were truly amazed by the energy created by this seemingly simple exercise.

This can serve as the initial phase in group coaching. There are many modifications of the approach - new elements can be added into the system (e.g. a client or a task). What is critical to understand is that everyone has his or her perspective on what is happening in the organization and no one person has the whole picture. Organizational Constellations therefore is another tool to build a shared vision in a company - a task so many fail to achieve.

For those who are interested, here are the short bios of the speakers (sorry, in Spanish):
MONICA LARRABEITI es actualmente Coach Personal, Ejecutivo, de Relaciones y Equipos. Tiene consulta propia además de colaborar con varias empresas, entre ellas “Empresas con AlmaÒ”, en proyectos de coaching tanto individual como de equipos, trabajando en sectores tan diversos como telecomunicaciones, consultoras, sector inmobiliario, farmacéutico y petroquímico. Ha hecho coaching tanto a miembros de comités de dirección como mandos intermedios para temas de gestión de equipos, conciliación laboral, evaluación de desempeño, cambios de trabajo como ascensos o despidos etc. En 2004 conoció las Constelaciones Familiares de la mano de Svagito Liebermaster y desde entonces ha continuado ampliado su conocimiento de esta herramienta y empleándola con éxito en su trabajo. Monica es Licenciada en Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales por la Universidad de Deusto y anteriormente trabajo durante 16 años en Procter & Gamble

PILAR PARDO CEMBRANO, coach y consultora, se define como el Alma Mater de “Empresas Con AlmaÒ”. Su continua inquietud sobre el desarrollo de las organizaciones con el objetivo de mejorar su eficiencia, mejorando también la integración de la vida personal y laboral le lleva a fundar “Empresas Con AlmaÒ” con el propósito de proporcionar un servicio integral a aquellas empresas que entiendan que las personas son parte fundamental de su éxito y quieran hacer de ello su ventaja competitiva. Para ello utiliza además de su experiencia profesional, estudió Ingeniería Industrial y trabajo en Procter & Gamble durante mas de 13 años en áreas tan diversas como Marketing, Logística, Ingeniería y Producción en varios países, sus estudios sobre Liderazgo, Constelaciones tanto Familiares como Organizacionales, PNL y Consultoría Sistémica entre otros. 


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