At this point in my MBA the routine of starting a module is very familiar – we had a number of wbsLive sessions at the start of January and then it’s back to lesson one textbook reading and lectures. This semester feels a little different to the last two though (although not necessarily worse), as most students are studying elective modules, so the cohort is no longer all together on the same set of modules. In addition, I am no longer studying any of the modules with members of my study group, which is a shame as it was helpful to be able to discuss the modules with a small group of individuals. However, I don’t expect this to negatively impact my ability to study effectively, as most of the modules don’t rely on study groups being in place now, and there are the module-wide discussion forums for any questions around the content.
As a reminder, this semester I am studying two modules in distance learning format, and then a third face-to-face in June. Here’s a quick summary of what we’ll be covering in the two distance learning modules:
As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the main reasons for taking this module was that although we were introduced to management accounting in the semester 1 module, Accounting and Financial Management, the main focus was on financial accounting. This module provides a much better insight into the internal aspects of accounting, with a particular focus on information for decision-making, and information for management control systems. The first half of the module starts by looking at the different types of costs within an organisation, and then moves on to introduce marginal, full (absorption) and activity-based costing. So far I have completed the first two, and these have demonstrated how costs can be classified differently depending on what type of decision they are being used for, and whether the focus is on short-term vs. long-term decisions. There was also a very interesting lecture that discussed some of the qualitative factors to consider what making such decisions – a strong reminder that numbers only provide a subset of information needed to make a decision, and they need to be put into context of the business scenario. The final lesson of the first section goes on to consider pricing decisions, and it will be interesting to see how this contrasts with the discussions about pricing from the Marketing module.
The second half of the module takes a more detailed look at using accounting information for managing a business on an ongoing basis. The includes topics such as budgeting, variance analysis, performance measurement and transfer pricing – all of which I am aware of at a high-level, but am looking forward to finding out more about. Finally, the module concludes with a ‘current issues’ lesson; some previous modules have had a similar closing lesson and I find these particularly interesting, as they often relate to issues that are highly topical or being discussed in the media.
Management of Change
My second module this semester is closely linked to Organisational Behaviour, focussing specifically on how to effectively manage change within an organisation. Following an introduction to the meaning of change in the first lesson, the module then considers how managers should deal with change at an individual level, with some interesting reading in the textbook about how to manage resistance to change. We have then been asked to complete a TMA quite early in the module, which references a paper in the Harvard Business Review titled ‘The Seasoned Executive’s Decision Making style‘. This considers different approaches to decision-making (satisficing vs. maximising, single outcome vs. multi-focus), and looks at which are more successful than others as individuals move from team leader through to chief executive. The TMA asks us to map our careers onto these decision-making styles – a very interesting and thought-provoking exercise.
Subsequent lessons look at ways of conceptualising, identifying and diagnosing change, before moving on to a explaining a more structured ‘model of change’. The module then considers specific aspects of implementing change, including politics, language, leadership and the role of middle management, all of which I expect will prove useful as my career progresses. The module finishes with a look at the role of change as part of a company’s vision and strategy, which I expect will be a good bridge into next semester’s module, Strategic Advantage.
I’m now one month into my study for this semester, and one noticeable change in this semester’s modules is an increase in the amount of video-based content, with some lessons having over an hour’s worth of video lectures to watch. Personally I like this approach and hope to see more modules doing this, as I find it brings variety and can make some of the content easier to absorb. Often the videos only show the slides though, and not the lecturer speaking – if the videos included the speaker on camera as well, this would probably bring the experience even closer to an ‘in-person’ lecture format. However, I realise this is very much down to personal preference (both of the student and the lecturer!), and some students probably prefer just to read rather than watch videos (especially those located in areas with poor Internet connectivity, or studying on a daily commute).
Another change this semester is that the pressure seems a little less due to only studying two modules. However, I have to keep reminding myself that I only have about five months to complete them rather than six, as I’ll need about a full four weeks for the third module of this semester which I will be studying face-to-face in June.