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MBA Learning Summary

Exemplar D

Exemplar J

www.napier.ac.uk/business-school

Personal Statement

My decision to embark on a period of study to gain an MBA was based on two things. Firstly, to fulfill a long held personal ambition. Secondly, as a learning and development tool as a senior manager, in order that I could successfully negotiate the career, corporate and business challenges that inevitably lay ahead of me. Specifically, in terms of the MBA, the weekend schools would be very beneficial and the format would fit well with juggling, work, business travel and family. I also felt it was important to gain a degree from an establishment that is internationally recognised. For me, Edinburgh Napier University Business School ticked all the boxes! When I applied, I had been in sales and marketing management for over 18 years and had been very successful in my career. I was then a senior manager in a XXXX company. The course content of the MBA would provide an excellent academic basis on which to build my management skills and business acumen, particularly in the areas of leadership, change management, gaining competitive advantage and corporate finance. It would provide me with many of the necessary tools and techniques to assist me in business and management issues, plus allows a much broader understanding of management in many different areas in the workplace. Essentially, I want to develop my potential in a constantly-changing business environment to better prepare me and the company I worked for, for success in the future. At the time I was working towards a Directorship and an MBA would help consolidate the appointment, which it since has.

Strengths and development needs

Prior to embarking on the MBA, my core strengths were in sales and sales management. Understanding customer needs in order to provide the best solutions, developing business relationships, along with innovative and creative problem solving and negotiation skills have always been key strengths. An example of this

was when I was recognised for my professional excellence in 2005 when I was awarded Salesperson of the Year in the prestigious National Sales Awards, a crossindustry, UK-wide event. Through Belbins (1993) characteristics of team roles I had also gained a better understanding of where my strengths lay and was very much: 1. A Coordinator and could keep people focused on goals and objectives; 2. A Shaper, and a driver for change; 3. A Resource Investigator which allowed me to bring in knowledge & expertise from other areas of the organisation as required. Developing and coaching individuals and teams was again a strength. An example of this was in December 200X when the sales team made a presentation to me thanking me for everything I had done for them in coaching and mentoring them and helping them on the road to success. I was literally speechless at this gesture as I hadnt up until that time realised just how supportive and influential I was. However, I was very much a manager and needed to develop my leadership skills and gain knowledge that would help both the business in a wider context and develop my career. Key development areas for me were: Critical incidents, reflective thinking and consideration of outcomes: Dealing with conflict between departments and people. I needed to better understand the operational processes/systems within the organisation in order to help address issues and resolve problems. In addition, difficult performancerelated personnel issues was an area I needed to give more consideration to. I needed to consider the effects of this on the organisation more. Development of leadership characteristics: not just of a sales team but within other areas of the organization e.g. the strategic management team Financial expertise deeper understanding of corporate finance and budgets Change management and strategic planning in order to deal with the turbulent market and business environment.

Learning Goals

The main learning goals throughout each of the 3 years remained similar. They were important to me in terms of being able to demonstrate my academic understanding of theories and principles, and being able to pass my assignments. However, more important was then the ability to apply what had been learned within the work environment in order to meet business needs. The elective modules chosen were those most relevant to my role and organization. Please see Table 1 in the Appendix.

Learning Activities and Personal Learning

From the Skills for Mangers Study Guide (Farquharson et al., 2009) which underpinned the three years of the MBA, one of the learning activities that has proved to be most useful to me has been that of assessing my own personal development as a manager. From the introduction of CPD at the initial weekend school the aspect of understanding the techniques that can be applied for self assessment have proved to be extremely useful time after time. The exercises the class undertook to establish learning styles confirmed that I was an Activist with a bit of Pragmatist thrown in! (Honey & Mumford, 1982; 2006) Learning outcome: If you cannot analyse yourself and understand your core skills, strengths and weaknesses, then you cannot truly assess areas for improvement. I have used this in conjunction with my performance appraisals since 2007 when considering my development needs. I have been able to identify core management skills that I needed to develop and have been able to supplement my learning activities accordingly through work projects or by attending relevant management seminars, particularly in leadership skills. The technique of critical incident analysis and reflection is something that I have come to value very highly.

Example of reflective skills and understanding of learning styles: I have used this knowledge extensively over the three years. Initially relating to an incident where and individual was being performance-managed under the organizations disciplinary procedure. With my understanding of different learning styles (Kolb, 1984) and critical reflection of the situation, the actions of those involved allowed a satisfactory resolution of the situation for all. I have since been able to help and advise other senior managers in the organisation who have faced similar issues. Please see Feedback Form 1 as evidence of this. Since being aware of learning styles, I try where possible to have a range of learning activities included in training courses so that everyone can gain from them. Prior to the first year of the MBA this was not considered. Example of Knowledge transfer - How learning positively impacted on development and experience: In January 200X we undertook a re-organisation of sales teams within the company. People were given different roles and different product areas. There was an underlying current of worry and potential lack of confidence from several team members as a result of the changes. Being part way through the module on Leadership Learning & Development on the MBA, I was inspired and able to draw on some of the theoretical aspects relating to individual and team learning such as Andragogical Learning (Knowles,1970) and Kolbs Experiential Learning (Kolb,1984). In March 2009 I presented to the team and we had a session on learning. We reflected on the changes they had undergone and the current situation as individuals and as a team. We reflected on what this meant for their personal development. Were their skills and capabilities being stretched? Were they breaking new barriers? Everyone was going through a period of change and adaption. Were we behaving normally as a team? We used Hersey & Blanchards (1977) Situational Theory to help understand that we manage the situation according to the characteristics and attitude of the team. We looked at the four stages of development based on ability and willingness i.e. skill & will. As a result, the team understood that the situation they found themselves in was normal. The change in attitude was distinctly positive after the meeting. The team went on to exceed plan for the year. Team and corporate goals achieved!

The Organisational Behaviour and Management module, particularly the Change Management aspect, has contributed to my understanding and application of change management techniques and has thus allowed valuable contribution in our strategic planning and execution. Since starting my MBA, the organisation I work for has undergone two significant re-structures in two years! As part of the Strategic Management Team, my involvement in this has been significant and the challenges very demanding and exciting. See Feedback Form 2 and Feedback Form 3 as evidence. The Leadership Learning and Development module has impacted on me most throughout the three years of study. It is an area of academic study that I find particularly stimulating and applicable in my job role. To conclude, the academic underpinning of the MBA to many of the situations I faced, particularly around change management, has been invaluable. The knowledge I have gained through the MBA has contributed significantly towards my career development and I have enclosed an email in the Appendices from the Managing Director to that effect.

Forward Planning

My goal in the short term is to work towards a more stable environment - thus from a personal perspective, the objective I most want to achieve is that of a better work-life balance. From a career perspective, in August of this year, I was asked to consider working towards the position of Managing Director for when our current MD retires in 18 months. I have been doing a lot of reflective thinking as a result! I will need to develop my general management skills further and embark on a fast track set of management activities and projects within the organisation. These have yet to be finalised but finance, strategy, leadership and decision making will be key. As an additional aid to assessing key areas for development through CPD and gain a deeper understanding of my behavioural styles, I have used a PRISM Profile which

was completed towards the end of 2009. (Enclosed in Appendix Omitted from this exemplar) I have not set any longer term objectives as things within our organisation are constantly changing and who knows whats around the corner, but whatever it is Ill certainly be well prepared for the career and business challenges ahead!

Bibliography
Bandura, A. (1977) Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Farquharson.L, Kilgore, J., Pemberton, J. and Hughes, M. ( 2009) Skills For Managers Study Guide. Edinburgh Napier University Harrison, R. (2002) Learning and Development. London:CIPD
Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey/Prentice Hall.

Honey,P. and Mumford, A. (1992) A Manual of Learning Styles. Maidenhead: Peter Honey Publications Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:Prentice-Hall Sadler-Smith,E. (2006) Learning and Development for Managers. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Senge, P.M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. London. Doubleday. Woodal, J. and Winstanley, D. (1998) Management Development: Strategy and Practice. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8 Accessed July 2010

APPENDICES

Table 1: Learning Goals SMART Chart

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Timely

Years 1,2 &3: Pass assignments and Understand the learning goals for each module undertaken Application of knowledge and skills to job Personal development general management skills Improved personal performance. Development of teams. Self & support from line manager attend weekend classes Self and support from tutors and peer group Academic underpinning of key business skills required for job Each completed by due date

Contribution to improved corporate performance.

On-going

Goals set at performance appraisals and business performance.

Self and mentoring by line manager. Constructive feedback from colleagues.

Application of learning to improve corporate performance and career advancement 6 monthly appraisals

Table 2: Future goals SMART Chart


Specific Measurable Less hectic diary. Less time spent travelling and away from home. Attainable Better time management and prioritization of activities. Attain results through working more with others. Relevant Will help me be more productive at work and have a more enjoyable life. Better knowledge and Work closely with FD in preparation of budgets as required. understanding of what results actually mean in real terms for the organization Q1 2011 On-going Timely

Improve work-life balance

Improve corporate finance knowledge specific to my organization Increased focus on corporate objectives Address areas for development from PRISM profile

Ability to identify issues and track financial position compared to plan.

Performance management /appraisal tools

Self and mentoring by MD

Better decision making

Q4 2010 then ongoing

Self awareness & feedback from Colleagues

Better decision making Self and mentoring by MD

Q4 2010 then ongoing

Increase market knowledge for all areas of our business Promotion to MD Offered position Self Strong leadership Q1 2012 Demonstrate at strategic management meetings Self and corporate projects Improved knowledge and skills for . Strategic planning Q1 2011 then ongoing

Feedback Form 1

Feedback Summary Form

Use this form as a guide for your feedback conversations. After receiving feedback, be sure to repeat the message back to ensure that the message received reflects the message that was intended. Name of Giver: XXXX Work Relationship: Fellow SMT Member XX/XX/200X I am providing feedback for: XXXX Date of this conversation:

I find have worked with XXXX on a number of issues that have arisen between the Technical Support and the field teams I find XXXXs approach to leadership very consistent, honest and pragmatic. I know that if I request help XXXX will do her best to assist and if she is unable to help then she will let me know in good time so I can look to alternative resources or solutions. I have also asked XXXX for advice on a personnel issue and she has shown discretion and given me good advice. This helps me as I know I have a colleague at SMT level that I can bounce ideas and discuss issues with and learn from her experience.

Feedback Form 2

Feedback Summary Form


Name of Giver: XXXX Work Relationship: Direct Report Providing feedback for: XXXX Date of this conversation:

My perception of your behavior is: XXXXy demonstrates strong leadership characteristics with a clear focus on the business needs, strategic direction and teamwork. She is very customer focused and committed to ensuring that customer needs come first. She also has clear vision and the ability to generate creative ideas. XXXX gives direction and guidance, but is confident to step back and let the individual carry out the task in their own style. One particular characteristic which clearly differentiates her from the normal manager is her genuine concern for the individual needs of her team members without losing focus on the business. This brings about loyalty, commitment and respect, and forges a strong team spirit across all levels within the team.

The impact this has on me is: I feel valued in my role and this in turn leads to contentment in the function and indeed loyalty to both my manager and the company.

Feedback Form 3

Feedback Summary Form


Name of Giver: XXXX Work Relationship: Colleague-line report XX/XX/200X Providing feedback for: XXXX Date of this conversation:

Summary of feedback conversation: With the company only recently restructuring to increase its focus on POC solutions, its clear that you have a good understanding of the drivers of the POC marketplace and can communicate effectively the challenges, the opportunities and how the organisation needs to respond if its to be successful in this space. You have delivered a consistent message to the sales team about how we must re-tool and re-skill if we are to seize the new opportunities. Your work with XXXX is an example of you modelling the way and in this instance, your initial meetings with some of the leads generated have in turn led to a great opportunity with XXXX at XXX. This in turn has allowed us to open up potential for XXXX with the XXXX offenders team with a fair wind on our tail, I am optimistic that we will bank approx XXk and all from a couple of meetings related to these 2 opportunities. Its a good example of how we want the teams and in particular the BDSs to seek out new opportunities that in turn the CPSs and TPSs can support and ultimately implement. My perception is that you are very results driven, but this is not exclusive and to the detriment of caring for and supporting the needs of your people. I think you strike the balance well and in my first 3 months with the organisation you have provided me with all the help and support that I have needed whilst simultaneously ensuring that we are focused on delivering our sales obligations to the business. To me, thats what business and management is all about! With a full team now on board, I am looking forward to working with you to help design and implement a new business planning process that provides everyone in the sales team with a focus and clarity about what their local team is going to deliver to ensure that the company delivers! I believe that you handle the complexity of the business and the many product ranges better than most - its a definite strength of yours but thats a factor that we need to build into the business planning tool/process - the fact that most are not so adept at spinning all the plates. We need to somehow simplify the complexity and give the teams clarity and focus!

Evidence of development
From: XXXX Sent: XX XXX 2XXX 14:28 To: XXXX Subject: RE: MBA - can you help?

XXXX joined the company as a very well-established sales manager with limited general management experience. Over the last 3 years, XXXX has developed into a much more rounded business manager and inputs very well on company- wide issues discussed at senior management meetings. Her responses are now much more likely to be based on a whats best for the company basis rather than whats best for my sales team basis. She has become much more involved in customer satisfaction delivery and also in the more strategic product/customer mix approach which is vital in a company as complex as ours. There is no doubt that the MBA has allowed XXXX to grow by using the academic foundation it provides as a base to experiment and to learn on the job.

Regards, XXXX