Sunday, March 8, 2009

What an MBA program should be like!

We're about 8 months into the program, and we finally had a weekend that was what I had expected the program to be like. Don't get me wrong, the program so far has been very fun, and we've learned quite a bit from both professors and classmates. But this weekend was just a little more rich, a little more complete in terms of the entire experience.

Here's a few of the highlights:

Every class spend much of the time working through cases. I've stated my preference for case method learning before, and this weekend was an excellent example of the types of learning and discussion that can occur when it's focused around multi-facted cases. OpsMgm't focused on capacity planning (for manufacturing & service industries); ITMgm't focused on runaway projects and outsourcing; MgmtAcct focused on companies that are looking at techniques like Open Book Management and Beyond Budgeting; and FinMgm't focused on capital budgeting for multinational companies. Great discussions of the issues within the cases, intermixed with healthy arguments of opinions and personal experiences from classmates. The prep work and actual discussion can be exhausting, but I feel like we learn so much more from this method.

In our MgmtAcc't class, Dr.Beatty has been talking about Open Book Management (OBM) throughout the semester as a topic that student may want to consider evaluating for their work environments. In fact, our final exam is being dropped in favor of a OBM project to create a plan to introduce OBM into one of the companies without our group. Our project (Team 5) will be for General Parts International (Raleigh, NC), a $3-4Byr privately-held company, where teammate Matt Johnson is a Sr.VP. After sending us a recent WSJ article on OBM, Dr.Beatty realized that Kindermusik (referenced in the article) was a local company and arranged to have their EVP/GM (Brian Healy) visit class and give us an overview of how they implement OBM within their organization. Mr.Healy did a tremendous job of sharing experiences and taking Q&A about how OBM helped shape the culture of Kindermusik, and focus each individual in the company on the "critical number" necessary to make that portion of their business successful.

The evening before our FinMgm't class, the amount of discussion between teams in trying to pull together all the information and analysis of the Whirlpool case was excellent. We were literally walking back and forth between rooms in the hotel comparing notes, debating analysis, struggling with how to handle missing data or assumptions, and generally putting in a ton of time for a piece of homework that effects a very small portion of our overall grade. By 2am we were completely blurry eyed and exhausted. But the journey was well worth it. Not only did we each learn quite about about the concept (capital budgeting), but I think we broke down a couple of mental barriers between the teams.

A few weeks ago a few of us where out late, signing Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" with the local cover-band, and started talking about some ways that we could have a little fun and bring the class together a little better. Sometimes we get too focused on school work. The first attempt fell short (sorry Matt Kirk!!), but this weekend's Pajama Saturday turned out to be a big success. I'll get into that more later.

The 1st annual EXFT Ping-Pong Singles tournament reached the finals. This is our unofficial break-time activity. Congrats to Gregg Lewis and Brian Turner for reaching the finals. We're looking forward to the match next weekend.

So all-in-all a really great weekend. Lots of variety, lots of interaction within the class and outside of class, and I think the group is continuing to come together quite a bit more. It's a great bunch of people and a program that I'm proud to be a part of.