Two weeks ago I attended the eagerly-awaited residential for my distance-learning MBA, Warwick Week. This was a five day, study-intensive event with all the distance learning students in my cohort, comprising various lectures, group exercises, networking activities and social events.
My first impressions of Warwick University were very positive – the campus was easy to find, straightforward to navigate, and nicely presented and maintained. It was relatively quiet when I arrived as it was out of term time, but I am sure during normal studying weeks the campus would be bustling with activity. I arrived in the evening so immediately checked in and went to my room – I had opted to stay in the onsite accommodation, which was ideally located just five minutes’ walk away from the restaurant and lecture theatres.
It felt quite surreal being a student again on the University campus, but also rather exciting. I had visited Warwick University a few years ago to meet a customer, and remember thinking at the time, “wouldn’t it be great to study somewhere like this” – I never expected that two years later this is exactly what I would be doing!
Day 1: Induction and Team Building
The first day started with introductions from the course’s academic supervisor and programme manager, followed by lectures discussing how to write assignments, referencing and plagiarism. These were all very interesting and well presented, and it was really helpful to get some guidance from the start about how to approach the final assessments. In addition, the first morning gave me the opportunity to meet my study group in person, whom I had been speaking with ‘virtually’ for the last three months. It was great to be able to get to know them all individually, and helpful to talk about the experiences and challenges we had all faced, many of which were shared by everyone in the group.
The business school had produced a fantastic team-building programme for the afternoon, with lots of activities including mental quizzes, engineering projects, role plays, logic puzzles, and even a few physical challenges. It was a very fun afternoon, helping us to get to know each other a lot better, and encouraging us to start to work together as a group (it made me smile when I realised that we were actually seeing the some of the group dynamics content from Organisational Behaviour being put into action on this afternoon!).
The final session of the first day was a lecture for the Economics module, where we were given a taster for the following day, along with some group work that we had to complete that evening. Although we were allocated seminar rooms for this, we (like most other groups I expect) met in the bar to do this following our evening meal. This was our first really opportunity to have discussion and debate as a group – slightly daunting given that we had only just met yet had very differing views on some subjects, but everyone was really open to discussing the various points, and we were able to arrive at a group consensus fairly quickly.
Day 2: Economics of the Business Environment
Our first module-related day was with the Economics lecturers and tutors. The day started with a lecture providing a summary of the macroeconomics concepts we had covered so far (lessons 1 to 4 out of 10), followed by a group exercise where we had to discuss a case study and assess the impact of some economic events on an organisation. This provided a good introduction to the second half of the module, microeconomics, and allowed us to explore our thoughts around this topic without being influenced by any academic theories.
After the study group discussion we met in a large group (around 40-50 people in total) to present and discuss our answers. There were many differing viewpoints both within and between the study groups – and the ensuing debate was an excellent opportunity to see different opinons for a topic that I had originally viewed as having straightforward answers, especially when considering the impact of economic events in real life.
The afternoon had a similar format to the morning, starting with a lecture that presented a new topic, profit maximisation and competition, and introduced us to the second half of the module, microeconomics. We then moved back into our study groups to look at a case study on austerity, which was very interesting as we discussed how the academic assessment of austerity measures has matched, and not matched, the real-life outcome of measures in the UK.
The day was finished by probably one of the most important lectures – an overview of the final assessment. We were provided with the final questions along with some guidance on how best to write the assignment. It is composed of two main questions, one on macroeconomics and one on microeconomics; the first decision I have to make is which country and organisation to base my respective answers on, which I’ll share in a future post.
Day 3: Organisational Behaviour
The format for the third day was slightly different to day 2: the morning was allocated to delivery of content via lectures, and the afternoon then focussed on case study work. The main purpose of the lectures was to introduce us to a second way of considering OB topics, reframing, which involves looking at any scenario through one of four frames:
Structure, Power & Politics, Human Resources and Symbols & Culture
We had previously been taught the SOGI approach (Society, Organisation, Group, Individual), and although I feel that both approaches are applicable to many different scenarios, I prefer the reframing concept as I feel it gives a more direct route to solutions, linking straight to the behaviours that need to be addressed.
The afternoon’s group exercise centered around a case study that discussed a board-level conflict in a TV production company. We had to identify which of the frames we felt was driving the behaviour of the characters, and then use this to suggest a recommended way of dealing with the situation. This example demonstrated how the reframing concept is particularly relevant, as although the problem initially appears to be relevant in all four frames, after discussion we agreed that there was one primary frame that was driving the conflict (with support from a secondary frame), and because of this we could easily identify some recommendations to address it.
The final lecture was similar to the previous day, providing some guidance on how to approach the final assessment, although for this module we were not provided with the full question at Warwick Week, this was shared afterwards.
Day 4: Leadership and Development Day
Day 4 was a new addition to the DLMBA programme, with the focus entirely on us as individual leaders. It was run by two individuals, a representative from the PCD organisation at WBS (Personal and Career Development), along with an external facilitator, Lindsay Holman from Origin Development Solutions.
In contrast to the previous days, we were split into groups of around 30-40 people for the full day, and spent little time listening to presentations. Instead we were provided an overview of some personal/leadership concepts, including JoHari’s Window, Values, and Transactional Analysis, then completed assessments and role plays to see how these were manifested in real-life scenarios.
In the afternoon we focused on one case study, and had to participate in / observe a role play board meeting. I opted to take a participation role, which I found really useful as it allowed me to test different ways of challenging other individuals in a ‘safe’ environment, understand different types of interaction, and consider how to respond in confrontational situations.
Day 5: Accounting and Financial Management
The last day of the week covered Accounting, having a similar format to day 3 with lectures during the morning and a group exercise in the afternoon. The first lecture provided a review of the first four lessons, covering the key financial statements, and then the second lecture discussed the content from lesson 5, Financial Ratios. As I have a mathematical background I found this lecture relatively straightforward, but particularly interesting as it started to explore how you can use accounting information to form opinions on the current success, failure or future of a business. I’m hoping that this will be built on even further during the rest of this module.
The afternoon’s case study required us to review some accounting information from a real-life, large Asian retailer. This was of particular interest to me as I have worked with retailers quite a lot over the past six years, and recently completed my economics TMA on the Chinese economy. This background was very useful as we analysed the different accounting ratios (in the areas of performance, working capital, and liquidity/solvency), as I was able to explain some of the ratio values based on some of the systematic and organisational changes I had seen at my retail customers.
And the rest
In addition to the formal day agendas, there were many other activities that I managed to fit in during the week, including:
- Walking around Warwick University campus – the UK experienced some of the best weather it had ever had in March, which made the breaks and lunches very pleasurable (although probably did not give visiting students a ‘true’ view of UK weather!)
- On one day our study group was asked to participate in a set of short video interviews for the business school, so I had the opportunity of sharing some of my views about the week. I also had to pick three words to describe Warwick Week – I won’t share these now, hopefully you’ll be able to hear what they are in one of the promotional videos later this year.
- We had a course dinner on Tuesday evening, which was a good opportunity to network with other students, programme staff, and some of the lecturers, as well as giving us a chance to relax and celebrate (almost) the end of the week
Overall, I was very impressed with the structure and organisation of Warwick Week – in addition to giving me the opportunity to learn and strengthen existing content, it allowed me to develop some of my leadership, debating and presentation skills, meet many new people, and get to know my study group really well. Most importantly, the week also re-motivated us for the second half of the semester, and I think many of us are now feeling more confident as we move towards the finish line in June (well, for this semester at least).
Back to the studies now – having had a lovely break away with family after returning from Warwick Week, I’m now looking forward to finishing the remaining lessons and working towards the final assignments and exams over the next 2.5 months. I hope you found this post interesting (although slightly long, in hindsight I should have written one post each day whilst I was there!), and feel free to ask any questions in the comments area below.