Friday, December 18, 2009

Wrapping up the Program - Part I

As of 1pm, barring any last minute disasters (not sure what they would be), my journey through the WFU Executive MBA program is complete. Our final grades were posted today. All that's left now is to receive my diploma at a ceremony in January.

As the last group to ever go through the Executive Program, the ending is somewhat bittersweet (the format was canceled in Fall 2009 due to strategic changes by the WFU Schools of Business). Being EOL brought us closer together as a group, but unfortunately we won't have subsequent classes to build the alumni base. The Executive program was started over 25 years, and was the original MBA program offered by Wake Forest.

Instead of just waving good-bye to this blog, I thought I'd finish it with a series of posts recapping some of the most important things I learned over the last 18 months.

Breadth of Knowledge Matters

Whether you're faced with a Strategy problem, a Marketing problem, a Finance problem or an Organization problem, no decision can be made in a vacuum. Having a fundamental understanding of a breadth of subjects, learned across a wide range of industries (through case studies, classmate experiences, etc.) is invaluable in making executive level decisions. Today's markets move much too fast to build companies that operate in silos, so bringing a breadth of knowledge to daily decisions will make the difference between survival and failure in the 21st century.

The World is Global...and Semi-Global...and Regional...and Local

While the Thomas Friedman's of the world grab many headlines, not every problem today is global. It is invaluable to have the experience of visiting and working in international markets (which we experienced), but knowing when strategy needs to be global is even more valuable. You must be ABLE to step out of your CAGE and see where it makes sense to bring ADDING solutions to market expansion. You must think globally, but act locally.

Create True and Lasting Value

As we saw from the financial crisis of 2008, and in numerous other examples, it is incredibly easy to financially engineer the books or manipulate markets in the short-run in return for near-term profits. But the 21st century, with it's hypermedia cycles, will quickly destroy companies that are not competitive and do not create true value for customers or partners. NOTE: "Lasting" is a relative term. It may only be 3-5yrs, but it's a mindset that should be infected into every company that strives to be competitive and differentiate themselves by creating tremendous value with their products and services.

Think like a CEO

All too often we tend to get caught up in the value of our functional area or market, and fail to see the bigger picture in front of us. Without the correct strategies, financial models and product portfolios aligned to solve customer problems, many ideas are just a set of random details.

Think like a Baby

At times, we plug all the data into our fancy MBA models and answers emerge. But do they always make sense? Have they taken into consideration local factors, or basic inter-dependencies? Have we thought through the simplest of details, asked the simplest of questions? For parents, we're often amazed at the way children are able to ask the most direct questions for complex topics. That type of questioning is valuable for executives as well.

Build Your Personal Brand

The personalization of media and the ubiquity of the Internet allows each of us to be our own Marketing/PR/Ad agency. Companies will come and go, but your personal brand is the one element over which you can have direct control. This blog was created for alternative learning purposes, but it eventually became a foundational aspect of me beginning a journey to better understand how a personal brand is built, cultivated and expanded.
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