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The luxury being a student is you have the chance to try new life that you’ve not experienced before, this became true for me during this summer…

With the admiration of entrepreneurship, I decided to choose one of the elective courses – “entrepreneur summer school” – during this summer, even the professors, John and Jeff, had stated clearly that it is a course with two courses of workload but only one credit.

The course completed last Saturday with students presented to the judge board of experienced entrepreneurs and angel investors, followed by a celebration with wine and champagne in the evening. Without any regret of the hard work, this is among the courses that I’ve learned the most. The reason is? Practice and the true experience.

Looking beautiful

With the intention to push out of the comfort zone, I chose to do a project which is completely unfamiliar industry instead of an industry that I’ve worked with before. The good thing of that is you have fresh eyes, and see new opportunities everywhere that insiders may not see. Well… things may look beautiful when you look from  distance, but the reality is, the more you get closer and deeper, you may find out, things are not as good as we thought, the huge opportunity we saw before may not look as promising as it was.

I started my project with a very high passion and ambition, during the three weeks, I searched online marketing intelligence, industry report from the library, and talked to friends who work at those industry. the result was not as I had expected… First, it is not always easy to find data from public sources, second, even we find out the data/reports, it is not always easy to decide which is useful.  Third, even the industry data looks promising, when I put together the industry report, I found out the “unique opportunity” actually have more competitions around.  But what I did learned was always ask a question one step deeper, never stop and satisfied on the surface. 

Do it yourself

Being a corporate manager for many years, I’ve used to delegate a lot, as startups, you probably won’t have the luxury having many resources work for you. So when setting up the team plan, always keeps in mind to ask if this is a redundant resource, every resource needs to bring the value. In the process of this experiment, I’ve learned to be down to the earth, and do it yourself.  One memorable experience during the summer was the “long interview” with your research objects, who you don’t know.

Get your value proposition right

It is very important to ask the “right questions”, try to understand what your customers’ pain is, what solution your product can provide to solve this pain. And what your competitive advantage is and how long it will last… if you can’t find the answer that convince yourself, you probably can’t convince others either. Most of the startups fail is not because of execution, it is because they haven’t set their value proposition right.

It is a short experience over the last two months, it maybe just a start of building my entrepreneurship spirit. I’ve certainly learned that it takes hard work to be an entrepreneur, it takes more than hard work to be successful. The course has just finished, left me with an unforgettable experience and all the valuable friendship I built with the class, mentors and people I met along this summer.

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It was such a coincidence that I read a book named “Designing Matrix Organizations that Actually Work” two years ago which used Procter & Gamble as the example, while in the corporate strategy class today, the case study we looked at was again Procter & Gamble on their evolution of organizational design over the years.

 Some thoughts and key take away from the class and the case study today are the following:

Disruption after Major Re-organization
Similar to Mergers & Acquisition, a major organizational structure change can cause a significant disruption on organizational process, thus it will risk the employee productivity and efficiency. You might say, this sounds straight forward, why don’t you follow up with adjust your process right after? Well, I believe the answer is “yes, we should”, however, bear in mind the organization inertia, even we want to change the process, it will always take time to implement considering the organizational capability, and culture impact. A senior manager from one of  the American fortune 500 company once shared with me their expectations on how long it will take to get the reorganization full implemented which was 18 months. Interestingly, Professor Ppuranam mentioned in the class today that research data showed multinational companies especially in mobile and telecommunications sectors averagely tend to change their organization every 18 months. Imagine the organization has not fully adapted to the new process and way of working yet while it changed again. Indeed, we have to keep in mind on the disruption impact of the re-organization.  

No Organization Is Perfect, implementation is key
With the complexity increase in our business environment, as well as the context and condition will change, we won’t be able to get a perfect organization all the time, while many organization try to find the best fit for their business environment, they may not aware that most of failure can be caused by improperly implementation. I personally see the middle management is playing a crucial role in the implementation, making sure employees are clear with direction, the organization is transparent with information and communication, etc.   

Matrix is unavoidable
Unless you work for a small, simple and mono business, you will inevitably work with matrix organization, particularly when we think about the forces will continue to shape the future – globalization, technology, carbon concerns, the business complexity is continuously increase faster and faster. The simple model of the reporting line won’t work anymore, we will have to face the 2nd and 3rd dimension. Even your organization may not look like a matrix on paper, the interface and interactions in business will force you to adapt into matrix formally or informally. This then leads to the next question – how the future organization should look like? What are the organizational capabilities we should prepare for our companies?

Informal Structure Matters
 The world is going global and virtual. Informal structure is playing an increasingly important role. It is a double edge sword, which can help the organization amend the gaps, and may also hurt the organization’s formal structure. The key is how do we want to best utilize it – proper rotation, external hiring may help to balance it to a healthy level.  But most importantly train your organization to deal with informal structure is equally import to prepare for the future.

A good HBR article you may want to look at: Harnessing Your Staff’s Informal Networks.

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The challenges of future leadership

Posted by: Angela
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“You are a class with far more insight than many of the Fortune 500 HR directors”, quoted from an executive from Cisco, who was invited to speak at our class at London Business School, an elective course taught by Professor Lynda Gratton – Craft the future of work. Isn’t it an inspiring comment? Last week a mixed group of students from MBA, EMBA and Sloan, probably the most diversified class with different nationalities and even different generations – the Gen X and Gen Y, sitting together for a week, crafting the future, How the future will look like? What it will mean to us? What it will mean to our organization?

As we started to understand how the 5 forces will shape our future, we spent the last day in the course trying to understand what the challenges are for the future leadership in 2030. and here are the top five take away last Friday:

Fragmentation in life
Technology has made significant changes in our life, and it has brought a great deal of convenience to us. but it also changed our behavior over time. we keep constantly checking email, answering phone calls, and people expect each other to be responsive instantly. In reality, we live in a three-minute fragments time. How does the future leader do to keep a high productive team? This will require our own attention on self management – to keep our capability of concentration and learning in a fragmented life– at the same time still be perceived as accessible. This will also require our creativity in leading our staff to a high performing team who also live in fragmented lives.

Shorter Business Cycle
We are now in a much faster pace environment in many business area, thanks to technology and information, as the world is more transparent. when leaders facing the challenges of shorter business cycles, the business strategy we developed today may not work tomorrow. we need constantly keep track of our tactics. Be flexible and resilient.

Open innovation
The world is no longer closed, it won’t work the way as before. this is then linked to the concept of crowd sourcing. I was impressed by one of the speakers last week, when he talked about using crowd sourcing, he was able to make his project with 90% less cost, and completed very quickly. This then leads to the thoughts that the person who you think will be best qualified for the job isn’t always the best person to do it. For me, an sourcing professional in the industry for the last 12 years, it pushed me to think about what this will mean to a sourcing leader? how do we balance the long term partnership vs. crowd sourcing? time to revisit our toolkits and strategy…

Virtual Community
Over the years, international companies developed their organization and we see more and more virtual team management happens. With the carbon challenges we are facing, we will see more and more expensive in traveling. this will require our capability to survive in virtual environment. Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube etc.. all provided a platform of virtual social community. How we as leaders develop the trust, belief  among our staff , influence and lead effectively? How do we secure the productivity and high performance in a virtual environment? how does employees seek for coaching and mentoring on a day to day basis? This is indeed a challenge for us all.

Global Mindset
The force of globalization has shaped our business and our world become more flat. Unlike our parent, the challenges we are facing are the global talent pool, 24/7 operations. As the future leader, how do you lead and inspire such global talent team? Do you have the right intellectual capital- the right master knowledge over the others? Do you have the proper emotional capital – developed your resilience in leadership?  Do you have enough social capital – understanding the culture and developed the network? All in all, it is crucial to increase our international exposure to develop all the capabilities above.

The class completed last Friday, but it is not over, it is probably just a start, a start of exploring our future, a start of developing ourselves to be a future proofed leader, a start of crafting our career, our organization to prepare for the future shift. As professor Gratton suggested in the end of the class, let’s stay connected, yes. let’s stay connected in the fascinating future world.

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First note: a reflection after two months

Posted by: Angela
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Sitting in the Library, I just finished my final paper on Strategy. With a deep breath, I realized it is more than two months since I joined the Sloan Program here at London Business School. I never realized how fast time flies, and thought it might be a good time now to reflect.

First impression of London
I have been traveling to London a couple of times before, but have never really loved the city as I do now – the international environment, the accepting colleagues, the elegant temperament, the academic atmosphere, and the beautiful Regent’s Park and school campus. All above has become so attractive to me and I really appreciate the chance to stay here for the entire year.

An overwhelming first two weeks
The first two weeks were exciting and overwhelming, I wasn’t have time to really imagine how the program would look like, already a lot of self assessment and reflection with the leadership course and executive coach sessions both from the course and career services. Indeed, I felt like a re-discovering of myself, and really put time reflecting deeply the purpose of life which I didn’t do for the busy of work. Sometimes we tend to be too busy as managers and forget purposeful actions in life.

World class faculty team
For me, one of the most important factors in choosing a B-School is the faculty team. I’m very happy that we got a good team of faculty and professors, a team with very diversified, energized and inspiring teaching styles.

A highly committed, global elites classmates team
If all above I talked about are conditions and environment that school provided. Most importantly I want to share the last thing I reflected which is how impressed I am by my classmates.

The average working experience of our class is 17 years. Come from 22 countries, pause the successful career, and invest a valuable time here in London full time with education, can you imagine how committed this group of people have? They are more engaged, very proactive and full of energy. During these two months, I not only learned from professors but also I learned quite a lot from each of my classmates, and every time when I joined our discussions and activities, I gained a lot of energy and encouragement. Not to tell you the long stories, I want to share two examples:

•    “The London 10K” initiative
Among many initiatives from our classmates, one of the activities I joined was the Sloan 2011 running team for London 10K initiated and coached by two of my classmates Perry and Sharad. Being a person never really tried to run over 1km, I never thought I would consider or even dare to do any exercise and run a long distance like 10km. However, I am very impressed by their spirit – quote from Perry: “Remember – the Sloan transformation does not have to be merely relegated to the professional arena..”. Now I have really enjoyed the challenge, and I assure you they are really good and patient coaches.

•    SA survey
Good news we received this week was winning the SA survey completion, being probably the most senior group of students, you might deem we sometimes either ignore or slow in small things like survey. When I reflected on this result, three things I think really worked:
o    Again, this showed a highly committed group of people we have in the class.
o    A highly collaborative team and leadership – we all want and proud of working together as a team.
o    A truly leadership – a sense of purpose we all believe – a proposal to donate the prize to the Japan fund for the earthquake.
All I want to say is thanks the admissions team for recruiting such a great group of people into the class. I am, indeed feel very proud being part of the team.

As I believed in the beginning of the program, joining Sloan program at London Business School is the best decision I made so far in life, and it will help me to make better decision in the future. I truly believe 2011 will be a memorable year, a unique experience, and a year of transforming ourselves. And I look forward the coming 9 months ahead!

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