Posts from our Sloan bloggers
Finally the day has arrived. 61 of us (Sloan Fellows) from 28 countries arrived in London to start our Sloan Journey at London Business School on 6th Jan 2014. Kudos to our admissions team for getting together such a brilliant class with an average work experience of 15 years and with such a great diversity – engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, bankers, politicians, military, non-profit –you name it and we have at least one person with relevant experience in the class. Please look forward for the class brochure that will be posted soon on the Sloan programme website.
It has been 2 weeks since the programme started and it has been both hectic as well as fun for me to be back in the classroom after working for 13 years. It was mixed feelings on day one as we embarked on the Sloan journey. We started with orientation on day 1 and the programme office very well organized it. The classroom layout was in place with our nameplates arranged on the desks.
We got started with the ‘Executive Leadership’ course, which focused on NEO personality assessment and 360 degree survey results that we completed prior to arriving here. One of the key reasons for doing Sloan for most people was to become more self-aware than ever before. Both NEO and 360 are a step in that direction where NEO tells you what you think of yourself while 360 survey tells you what others think of yourself. I heard from most of my classmates that they received a more honest feedback through 360 survey after leaving the organization than when they were with the organizations. Of course, people are more candid when you ask for feedback and say that the key motive is for your own personal development. The course requires you to write a personal development plan in which we address some of the areas of improvement. We also had an interesting real life case to solve as part of this course. Case solving is interesting and this is where diversity plays a key part, as you get to listen different viewpoints on a particular topic.
In the first week we were also divided into study groups. A typical study group consists of five students – key criteria being geography & industry function. My study group consisted of a British, Chinese, Japanese and myself. This group will do all the group exercises together for the core courses. The idea is that you will become an effective team player by working in groups with different dynamics. I personally never worked with a Japanese and was glad that I had a Japanese in my study group.
We also got trained on speed-reading. Speed-reading teaches you techniques on how to get through loads of reading materials quickly and effectively. One has to read a lot of preparatory materials for each class and it is practically impossible to get through all of this by reading word-by-word or line-by-line. After speaking to a few alumni, I decided to focus most of my reading on courses that will be critical for my next role. I have decided to put most efforts into these courses and kind of do speed-reading while preparing for other courses.
Other activities in week 1 included opening dinner on day 1, a class photo and a networking event with alumni that gave some useful insights/tips for getting through the Sloan courses.
Week two was more hectic with a few other core courses like ‘understanding top management’, ‘marketing’ and ‘Managing People & Organisations’ starting this week. We had a lot of prep work as well as some group exercises to do during this week. Week two also had a briefing from ‘Career Services’ on using the online ‘Portal’ for creating CV and applying for jobs. There will be more events from career services on networking, CV & cover letter writing in the coming weeks.
Week two ended with a team-building event in an offsite event for two days at a hotel in Windsor. Team building event was a lot of fun while getting to know more about each other in the class, learning more about the values of leadership and the importance of teamwork in practice.
I have a lot of reading to do for the next week and also registered for a few club events. I hope to write some regular posts to share the experiences in Sloan journey in the next 1 year.
As I look back, I think this is a wonderful start for all of us in the programme. Though the average age of class is 40 years, the energy is no less than that seen in the early 20s :-). As we travel through this journey, I hope all of us will realise our objectives by helping each other while leveraging the vast resources available at LBS.
I had written this blog at an altitude of 40,000 feet as I flew back to London after covering more than 4000 kms across 6 cities on completing the great LBS India Social trek 2013. Treks are an amazing opportunity at LBS to explore new places, cultures, make new friends and last but not the least to broaden your horizons. The leisure ones meant for pure touristy purposes are usually organized by the respective country’s student clubs, like for example the India club organized the LBS India Social trek.
35 India enthusiasts signed up for the trek including LBS students across programs and some partners, for most of us it was going to be the first time in India and the excitement and expectations were obvious. Some of us knew each other from before but with others being an LBS student was the only common link. The 13 days changed that of course, almost …
It was an amazing mix of camaraderie, fun and scoring many firsts… some played Holi, the Indian festival of colors for the first time, some took a bath from a bucket for the first time, some enjoyed (almost) the hospitality of Indian railways for the first time and for me I zip lined for the first time. In short we had an amazing set of experiences, some good others not so good yet if I may generalize on behalf of everyone, a very fulfilling and enriching experience.
We zipped through the Indian diversity travelling across eclecticism of Delhi to history of Agra, to grandeur and sands of Jodhpur, the happening nightlife of Mumbai, to serenity of Kerala backwaters and finally topping it up with sun soaking beaches of Goa. Navigating our way through using all modes of transport including planes, buses, trains, tuk tuks, taxis and yes, even a Mumbai local.
Net result – Am amazing experience, long lasting memories and 40 new friends on facebook (including the amazing trip organizers, a crazy bunch of travel enthusiasts, aptly calling themselves white collar hippies).
As we relax after the travel, some fellow travellers have set their eyes on the next destination, even while some have already left for newer destinations – kudos to them !!
The day finally arrived, long awaited and eagerly anticipated, when I entered the London Business School as one of the 52 Sloan fellows of the 2013 class. Each different, from 22 different countries yet similar in being a well accomplished, experienced professional and a risk taker out to maneuver their careers to new heights and with a burning desire to be more self aware and to learn.
Apart from the incredible mix of very distinguished classmates the other striking thing about the early days at LBS was the precision of planning and coordination by the program office in managing the whole orientation process and thereon in the most smooth and seamless manner, and why not, coming to a world class institute you expect that and they deliver more, giving you the first taste of what it means to be studying at a top of the line institute. This is only the beginning and you experience the quality in every sphere, especially the professors with their very latest insights from the corporate and academic worlds.
To sum it up, the first impression is that you made the right choice and all the hard work put in getting admitted is worth the effort. So now is the time to immerse yourself in this amazing environment for learning, self-awareness and development.
Term 1 ended in a tizzy! I have never had a more challenging academic tenure or a more demanding social life, packed neatly into 3 months. Come April, I packed memories of my Term 1 ‘all-nighters’ in the library and the Windsor Castle pub and headed home. Term 2 will definitely be easier…
Term 2 whizzed past in a ‘motion blur’! The core courses were significantly reduced and my electives occupied a significant mind and time share. Electives meant studying with a new cohort of people – with a new study group of mixed blood… from courses across the school. This was a bitter-sweet experience! The term 1 battlefield was still fresh with blood shed during Sloan study group ‘guns and roses’ sessions. We had called each other names and sworn ‘life-long’ enmity, yet combated deadlines together in the still of the ‘last’ hour, drunken each other under the table and sometimes even found soul mates! And here was this new cohort of young blood (MiMs, MIFs, MBAs and Exec MBAs) to deal with to pass Term 2 electives. Let the war-games begin!
If you have studied business education or worked in a study group before, I have probably lost you to nostalgia already. Some of you might even be calling your soul-mate long distance just about now! So adieus amigos!
For the rest of you, study groups are extremely tricky swamps. ‘No-hierarchy’ flat groups, forced together without any ‘for-profit’ motivations… often resembling ‘headless’ chickens with sharp and shiny canine teeth!
However, interacting with the younger LBS blood in Term 2 study groups made me come face to face with my ‘mirror-mirror on the wall’ moment…
In one’s twenties, a business program mirrors ‘who and what’ to expect in your new workplace and arms you with ammunition to best deal with the external enemy to reach given goals.
At a more mature age (and you thought I would reveal our age? Fat chance!), a business program mirrors ‘who and what’ we have become fighting that workplace. It arms us with ammunition to best deal with the internal strife and redefine goals (as we all know by now – monetary goals are mere carrots; there has to be more to this rat race).
Term 3 will be all about stepping back from the battlefield, arriving at that elusive goal that would probably define a deeper meaning and lunging forward.
As the Sloan class of 2012 dives inward, the clock is relentlessly ticking away and we must remember to savour the last few months with our sworn enemies and soul mates! For, at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s really about?
Recently, the Sloan 2012 class went to Shanghai, China to complete an international assignment. I was thrilled to go as I’d never been to China and it had always seemed very exotic and inaccessible to me. Although excited to see China, I was unconvinced it was necessary for the assignment. After all, I’d found tons of information on my subject in the library, in class and online—the environment and its impact on the economy. As it turned out, though, this was the very best part of the trip—seeing and hearing about the subject for myself. Much has been written on the topic, but speaking with experts living and working in China added a personal dimension I could never get from academic papers or from trade journals. Even better, those we spoke with showed a surprising amount of candor and openness I was not expecting. I grew up in an age of wariness about China, its human rights and its perhaps menacing global motives that gave me a sort of black and white film view of China. During my time there, though, the movie turned to full color.
I’d been told that Shanghai is not really representative of the real China. I saw this for myself. Everything there is big, big, big. The buildings are tall and shiny, the roads wide and sweeping, the container port massive (and built in only 1.5 years!) and the bridge to the port so long we were over water for a full 30 minutes. Big, big, big, just like the economy. On the other hand, though, I saw some very homely things. On my first morning there, I woke up early and decided to walk on the (very wide and very long) shopping street near the hotel. There were no stores open, but I saw hundreds of people. Why? They were dancing! Some dancing traditional Chinese dances, some be-bopping to pop, and yet others cutting a rug to country and western. Who knew? This is a way for many Chinese, especially the older ones, to get exercise. I was enchanted by the whole thing.
The people in the class had different observations on the trip, with highlights varying for each. For me, seeing it in person, and interacting with people in a variety of stations and positions made the trip worthwhile. The picture of China in my mind’s eye has altered forever.
Putting myself out there on social media, and just being open about myself are not things that come naturally to an ex-US Air Force officer, but Sloan is teaching me… boy is it teaching me. Learning to be self-aware and stepping out of our comfort zones are watchwords in the program.
The word ‘naked’ (see, I would never have thought to use that!) is incredibly apt. Never have I, or (I would imagine) the rest of the class exposed our inner thoughts and desires to people we have known for such a short period of time, but that’s just what has happened. Heck, I haven’t talked this intimately about myself to people I’ve known most of my life! And surprisingly it’s been a liberating experience, even comforting! We’re all coming from the same base of uncertainty, so it just doesn’t seem so hard. Even team-building exercises (for me, it was acting in a play—I was Margaret Thatcher, although I sounded more like the Queen) that just months ago I would have absolutely hated, have seemed, well… fun.
It’s thrilling to do this journey with the 51 other wonderful people–people I study with, party with, and just hang out with. We have a way to go, but the “crash of Sloan 2012” has propelled us a good way ahead already. Even though I haven’t cleared away the fog that’s been surrounding me for years and figured out where I’m going from here, my friends and classmates say they can see things for/about me I can’t see for myself yet. I can’t wait to see what they see—the rest of the year has such promise!
Yes, the Sloan will celebrate me!
Only a few days ago, all 52 of us sat ensconced in our comfort zones trying to reach out to our to-be classmates, somewhat reticently, on linked-in. Then in January, we all crashed into each other… 51 strangers privy to our dreams and fears, exposed to our lacunas and party to our strengths. Its probably the most naked most of us have ever felt!
But there was another person lurking in the shadows of LT10 (lecture theatre 10). I would catch a glimpse at times, but couldn’t put a name to her face. Oddly familiar…strangely new! The more I was made to introspect, the more familiar this person became. Somewhere in the middle of week 5, I befriended her. I had crashed into myself!
In my hurry-sickness of yesteryears, an almost terminal condition (curable by Sloan I am told!), I had never really gotten the time to sit back and figure out the ‘WHO, WHAT and HOW’ that defined brand ‘me’.
After a few cold Windsor beers on Thursdays, you can often hear a Sloan fellow marvel at ‘how well he/she has gotten to know the 51 others, so soon’. But if you close your eyes real tight (ok I am being a girl here) you will be amazed at how well you are getting to know yourself.
I see my negatives and strive to turn them around. The stuff new age ideal leaders are made of – all in the new me! The Sloan will change me!
But the fact is that I am always a little late! (Personal Development Plan: better time management :()
My dream job, eulogy, timeline…and all the ‘soft’ stuff most investment bankers and consultants hate…reeks of me! So is the challenge really to ‘change’ myself… or is the Sloan really about ‘celebrating’ myself? Strengthen my strengths or weaken my weaknesses?
(Carrie Bradshaw would probably end with that open-ended question!)
I am inclined to work on my strengths. Everyday, the 51others help me find my strengths (and the elusive chalice of leadership :)). I grow in their tall shadow… And celebrate each moment at Sloan 2012.
Yes, the Sloan will ‘celebrate’ me!
My co-author (Lee-Ann) is a strong as nails Colonel (well most of the times!). I crashed into her before I came to London. The electronic media brought us together and we have already built memories together in London that will last a lifetime… Go Colonel…
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.
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.
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.
I just wanted to register a little bit of a typical week that captured the essence of what the Sloan is for me.
It is my personal view that this year is all about stretching your learning on different themes, taking a strategic approach on your career, self-awareness, spotting a different side of London on a Thursday night, feel inspired and also proud of attending a top class event such as TEDx LBS organized by students and then spend the weekend in Amsterdam … just to come back on Monday and start all over again !
Here goes a quick glance of our everyday life as a Sloan Student …
Monday: started with a little bit of rush, two final assignments of a Spring Elective and a study group meeting that lasted till night.
Tuesday: early classes at 8:15am, a class meeting at noon, two workshops from Career Services and the briefing from our trip to Shanghai in the beginning of the night. Of course, drinks at Windsor after that !
Wednesday: once again classes in the morning, a meeting to discuss the Entrepreneurship Summer School and then classes all day long.
Thursday: a long day that started with a One to One with the Career Coach, a biography group meeting, Hamlet at Shakespeare Globe in the afternoon and Secret Cinema at night.
Friday: amazing TEDx LBS organized by the Marketing Club. Fast-pace, sharp and interesting. Nice to meet an Argentinian couple that were LBS Alumni. A nice dinner with friends after the intense day.
Weekend: Amsterdam and its charming bikes and boats. … and then another week starts … a lot of reading to be done before the next lecture …