Last week I attended my third and final Warwick Week – the semi-annual event where Warwick Business School DLMBA students get together for in-person lectures, group work and networking (you can find out more about previous Warwick Weeks here and here). This time I had three days of study: Strategic Advantage (a core module), Strategic Marketing (one of my electives), and the second Leadership & Development day; however, other students from my cohort also attended days for different blended electives, and a half day session to learn more about the Project & Dissertation (which I attended online earlier in the year).
Day 1 – Strategic Marketing
My first module was Strategic Marketing, which started with a brief introduction from module lead, Scott Dacko, who then handed over to Nigel Piercy, the former long-time Professor of Marketing at Warwick Business School. His first presentation was about Sales and Key Account Strategy, which I found particularly relevant given that I work in a sales division responsible for large, global accounts. The session was very insightful, and generally consistent with some of the changes that I have seen in my own organisation over the last few years. He talked about the conflict between sales and marketing, the demands that customers place on suppliers, and how customer behaviour is changing the expectations of sales teams. The lecture then looked at how Strategic Customer Management has the potential to address these demands, some of the challenges it can create, and the changing nature of relationships between suppliers and large customers.
After the break we then explored the area of Total Integrated Marketing, which provides a framework in which a marketing strategy can be developed. One of the key points here was not only looking at how your products can deliver value to your customers, but how you can help them improve the value they deliver to their customers (ie. enhancing their competitive advantage). There was also a look a strategic intent, strategic reality and strategic gaps (another example of this module being closely aligned with Strategic Advantage), and how marketing should be a corporate strategy rather than a functional department.
In the afternoon we discussed two case studies: Aqualisa and Netflix. These were really valuable exercises, as they allowed us to explore in more detail some of the concepts from earlier in the module, such as the different competitive strategies (with analogies to military strategies), and the different functional strategies that support strategic marketing activity. The review of the first of these case studies was also complemented with the use of individual voting remotes, which allowed everyone in the class to vote on the individual presentations and anonymously share their own opinion on some of the questions – I thought this was an excellent teaching aid, as it encouraged everyone to get involved in the session, and raised some interesting points that we could explore further in the discussions.
We then had a lecture about Unconventional Marketing Strategies, where Scott led a discussion around alternative approaches to marketing that wouldn’t come out of a traditional strategy discussion (eg. making a brand bland, letting customers choose what to pay, allowing employees to ‘fire’ customers, and adding features that won’t be used). This was another interesting session that sparked lots of discussion, complemented again by the voting buttons to keep everyone engaged.
The final lecture of the day was a quick discussion around the assessed assignment for the module – I was pleased to hear that the TMAs can be based on the same product/brand as the final assessment, so as well as being useful in their own right, they will also contribute to the assessed part of the module.
My day finished with an unplanned but enjoyable meal out at the nearby Varsity pub, with some fellow students I had met during the group activities – a great way to end the first long day of study.
Day 2 – Strategic Advantage
My second day of study was allocated to the final core module, Strategic Advantage, which was delivered to two cohorts simultaneously (Jan 2012 and Jul 2012) – although this introduced a wider variety of comments, it did result in some rather full lecture theatres! The first lecture reviewed the first 5 lessons of the module, presented by the module lead, Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor. I found this really useful, as I had studied the module quite sporadically so far due to the intense reading for Strategic Marketing, so it helped link the various topics together.
After this we split into groups of 10 to discuss how the risk of terrorism could be dealt with by a low-cost airline. This activity proved valuable in two ways: firstly, it helped us appreciate the difference between thinking strategically about a major business issue, as opposed to considering the tactical solutions. Secondly, it forced us to use some of the models we had learned so far in the course to ‘frame’ the discussion, which highlighted how using different models provides a different perspective (and potentially outcome) on a single scenario. The morning closed with a debrief with Bridgette, where we had an open discussion with the Jan 2012 cohort about the case and questions posed.
The afternoon was opened by Bridgette delivering a lecture entitled Dynamics of Strategy: The Organisational Landscape, which introduced us to some of the different ways of implementing strategies (although not in significant detail – this is left to the Strategy & Practice module). This articulated the need for strategic leaders to be a combination of a Political Analyst, Historian and Social Anthropologist! We then split into groups again to discuss a case about a manager who was brought into a company to turn around a division and deliver its objectives, but struggled to do so for a number of reasons. Initially we approached the case from an Organisational Behaviour or Management of Change perspective – but then realised that although these were valid, we needed to consider it based on the strategic position of the company. This prompted us to use concepts such as Resources, Capabilities and Core Competencies – which revealed a very different picture to the original one. All in all – a very valuable exercise (for me at least).
One other point to mention was that after this group discussion I spoke with one of the tutors about the ‘models’ that we were encouraged to use, as these were not immediately obvious from the reading I had done so far. He shared with me the work of one of the groups who had enumerated all the models beforehand – this was really useful to clarify the breadth of models (thanks to that group!), and I will definitely be formulating my own list of models for use in the final assignment (and hopefully in my future career).
After another debrief, the final lecture of the day was delivered by Bridgette and Harminder Singh, who talked about the TMAs and final assignment for this module. Following the case study discussions earlier in the day, and this lecture, I feel reasonably comfortable in attempting the assignment – although that might all change in the next few weeks when it is published.
At the end of this day I went out for a meal to Le Gusta with a study group from the July 2012 cohort – this is a lovely restaurant, definitely worthwhile a visit while you’re on campus. We then went to the bar for drinks and joined those attending the course dinner, which was another good opportunity to network with students from both my own and more recent cohorts.
Day 3 – Leadership & Development Part 2
My final day at Warwick focussed on the Leadership & Development aspects of the MBA. Day One during Warwick Week 1 explored our own brand & values, followed by a look at individual personalities and transactional analysis; this was Day Two, where our coaches Linda Butler and Mike Goodwin introduced us to a number of aspects of effective leadership.
We started by looking at Situational Leadership, considering how leadership styles differ based on how directive and supportive a leader is; then we participated in a role play exercise which demonstrated how an interaction can result in a different outcome depending on the different styles of the leader and employee. Although this seems obvious, it was really interesting to observe how comparatively easy it was to get a satisfactory conclusion to a request by changing the leadership style for different individuals.
Following this we moved to look at the issue of Conflict, based upon the TKI model for conflict resolution. This was another useful model in which to assess leadership challenges – although I think we all recognised that this is easy to implement in a learning environment, but will take considerably more effort to use on a day-to-day basis. I’ll definitely be remembering this one for my future career though.
The afternoon moved to focus on the concept of High Performance Teams and Patrick Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team model, which looks at the areas of Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results. We had an initial discussion about each of these areas, followed by a self-assessment of our own teams which generated some interesting discussions. This session then concluded with a useful exercise where we all contributed our thoughts about the five different attributes, and constructed an action plan to improve each of these areas in our own teams.
And that’s it!
So that’s it for the Warwick Weeks – they have been a great experience, and I’m a little disappointed there won’t be a Warwick Week 4! The three weeks have helped reinforce many of the concepts taught online, and the group exercises allowed us to explore their real-life applicability in more depth. However, one of the biggest benefits has been the opportunity to meet and interact with students from different countries, industries and professions, all with differing viewpoints and opinions – thanks to everyone who introduced themselves after recognising me from this blog, it was great to meet you all.
Now that the final Warwick Week is over its time for me to return to the textbooks, where I intend to cover a few more lessons of Innovation & Creativity in Organisations, before the group assessment activity which starts later this week. Bye for now!