Over the past two weeks I have spent most of my study time completing the first TMAs for Organisational Behaviour and Accounting. I submitted Economics some time ago (and have already received my score/feedback), so hopefully soon I should have an initial view of how I am likely to score for each of the three modules.
This TMA took the form of a case study that we were to analyse using the medical model discussed in a previous post. The scenario centred around an individual in a company who disagreed with a change in process required by his manager, and the two had a confrontation on the topic.
The first stage of the medical model required us to identify the symptoms of the situation, without trying to determine the cause. Although straightforward in concept, I quickly realised that I had subconsciously started to analyse the situation and viewed my diagnosis as the symptoms, so had to return to this section a few times whilst completing the analysis part, and move some of the content between the two. This probably wasn’t the best way to do this, so next time I will try another approach to identifying the symptoms and analysis demarcation points, before I start to write the assignment.
The analysis / diagnosis part of the medical model is where most of the marks are awarded for the essay; we need to demonstrate not only that we understand the symptoms and causes, but also apply them to the theories that we had studied during the course. Understanding the situation was easy to approach, but as we had not covered conflict or change management during the lectures we had to rely on the theories around personality, power and leadership, all of which were relevant, but did not give a full coverage of the academic basis for the situation. Applying the theories was also more difficult than I expected; although I had fully understood all the content during studying, there were only a few that I was able to relate to the scenario, and most of these had only a weak link. This could have been by design, but is something I will look to clarify after receiving feedback from my tutor.
The last three sections, options, recommendation and plan of action were a lot easier to write than the analysis section, but as mentioned earlier they needed input from sections of the course that we had yet to cover. It was also hard to provide a specific recommendation as the options I had presented would likely be used in combination. In my answer I opted to provide a recommendation with the first option to be considered, but then in the plan of action section I described a flow of options to follow if the first one did not address the issue, so it will be interesting to see if this is viewed as appropriate.
As you can probably see, this was one of the more difficult assignments I had completed, so I intend to review the approach with my tutor after receiving feedback – I’ll include this feedback in a later blog post. However, this does demonstrate the value of TMAs, as I now have the opportunity to improve my approach before the final essay.
Accounting and Financial Management
The first accounting TMA required us to evaluate a named UK retailer from the viewpoint of a potential supplier considering supplying to them. We were provided with a set of summarised accounts, along with links to a number of company reports, but also encouraged to look for other supporting information ourselves. The format of the analysis was to follow the CORE methodology:
- Context – Provide an overview of the company from both an external and internal position (hence giving a context to the numbers analysis). There are various models that we could use to analyse an organisation externally, including PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological) or Porter’s Five Forces. Looking at the internal context, this requires us to answer questions such as “Who owns the company?“, “Who runs the company?“, and “What is the history of the company?“. An important to point to note is that the context discussions are not related to the numbers from the financial statements, but could include commentary from the annual report.
- Overview – Review the key numbers for the organisation, with the aim of understanding how the organisation is positioned financially. Although the specific numbers to analyse were not specified, a selection were suggested at Warwick Week, such as Sales Revenue, Profit, Operating Cash Flow and Total Debt.
- Ratios – This is the main part of the assignment, and requires us to analyse a set of ratios in four specific areas: Performance, Working Capital, Liquidity and Solvency (a fifth, Shareholders, will be added later in the course). Although we need to calculate the ratios ourselves, the majority of this section needs to explain and interpret the individual ratios (ie. what do they mean, and how does that affect the original question we are asked to consider).
- Evaluation – The final section is where we summarise the key findings from the first three sections, and answer the question presented at the start.
Throughout these analysis we had to consider not just the absolute values, but also how they differ from the previous year, how they fit in with industry standards, and how they compare to key competitors.
Compared to the Organisational Behaviour TMA, I found this one easier for a number of reasons. Firstly, I have studied maths at various levels in the past, so did not find the numbers daunting and could quickly focus on the more important analysis. Secondly, I had previously attended a number of ‘Finance for Non-Financial Managers’ courses at my employer, so had a prior awareness of the different accounting concepts. And finally, I have worked with retail customers for over six years, so could interpret the financial results into the contributing retail processes quite easily. I’ll find out how much help these have been when I get my tutor feedback.
So, three TMA’s down, three to go. Time to focus now on the remaining lessons – it’s back to the textbooks for me…