The semester gone by was a new beginning, replete with tremendous opportunities and learning experiences. The diverse class consisting of individuals from across the globe presented some challenges and numerous instances to know more about other cultures, countries, ethnicities, and professional and personal experiences. The learning came in the form of the perspectives each individual had, owing to her unique background and experiences. At times, we got the opportunity to be a part of a focused group, a group put together for achieving academic goals, for group assignments if you may, but also to enable us to learn and share what each individual brought to the class and to the group. I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of many such opportunities, and am quoting one such amazing experience, an experience I will always cherish and will look back to, through my life.
Dr. Kudisch, or Dr. K as he is known as, taught us the course BUSI 664-Leadership and managing Human Capital, in which we covered the soft issues that are often overlooked by the management and yet are crucial to the success of any organization, for the most valuable assets an organization has and that cannot be replicated by its competitors are its employees-the people who work for and run the organization day in and day out.
As part of the curriculum, we learnt a lot about the important aspects of developing into and facilitating the development of effective leaders, understanding the practices that can make the difference between turning a job into a lifelong career for an employee besides keeping her motivated, and providing her a platform to transform into a leader, a better manager, or to just do what she is good at.
Apart from the class lectures, the learning poured in from the case studies, group discussions, enactments of situations and a semester long group project. For the purpose of the group project, Dr. K split the class into groups of 7, keeping in mind the backgrounds, nationalities and experiences of the individuals in order to bring as much diversity to the group as possible.
The team(left to right): Jun Moon Kim(Korea), Siddhartha Jain(India), Sining Zhang(China), Rajorshi Chakraborty(India), Diego A Alvarez Restrepo(Colombia),Shih-Hao Wang(Taiwan), Mark Schmidt(United States).
Initially, I could not appreciate the importance of having such a diverse group. I even wonder how Dr. K managed to create such groups. But as classes progressed, and as we engaged in the group meetings, I started realizing the importance of diversity, the myriads of perspectives and ideas that it brings and also the challenges associated with it.Each group had to pick up an organization and understand the people practices, benefits, and leadership development programs as available to its employees. Further, the group had to evaluate and recommend strategies for the organization focusing primarily on the training and leadership development programs and the people practices.
We decided to take up Boeing for its vast size, both in terms of the number of employees and also for its global presence in terms of its customers and employees being spread out across the globe. It seemed like a good choice until after a few days when we realized that data regarding the HR policies and practices was hard to come by. I guess it was the same with most of the other groups as most organizations do not publish such details on their website or any research database.We tried researching all the sources we could think of: the online databases, the organization’s website, articles from other online sources, the library, but we could not gather anything substantial or relevant. Moreover, for the project being in the initial stages and our having relatively a lot of time at hand, we found the members being not very focused and meeting dead ends in every way. This led to some frustration in some members, as everyone was already overloaded with readings and assignments and all had different working styles.We decided to narrow down the scope and identified the key points we would want to work on, instead of trying to gather data on lots of things. We also divided the work amongst ourselves, based on what a member believed he was the best at.
Perchance, I found that a director from Boeing was conducting a session, on invitation by the Operations and Logistics club of the undergraduate school at Smith, and the team agreed that it could prove useful to our research. We put together some questions, which we felt could be asked in such a forum and attended the session. The session was good but we could not extract much out of it, although we took the contact details of the person available.We tried to search for contacts through LinkedIn, Facebook, the UMD Alumni Network, but most people did not respond, while some mentioned that they could not share the organizational policies which were not available online. This to me was a bit weird, as we had no intention of publishing the policies, but just wanted to get the insider view and understand what the employees perceive of whatever is in place.With other classes and projects keeping us busy, we reached towards the end of the semester, and we realized we had no time left.
Finally, it was time to just go with whatever we had and make the best use of the information collected so far. So, we decided to sit down a couple of times during the week and on the weekend, just before the week of the final presentation.We found that suddenly there was some energy in everyone and realized that what we achieved in those few days, we had not achieved in the whole semester. We utilized the case rooms, which became our second home, the first being the classrooms, and brainstormed the whole time. We had notes scribbled on both the white-boards in the case room in addition to the power-point slides being run on the projector.It was now that the true power of diversity was evident, when we truly engaged in constructive conflicts, owing to the difference in opinions, understanding of the subject matter, interpretation of the data collected and the background. The learning from Dr. K’s classes was being put in practice and tested vigorously. The group and team dynamics were at its peak, with the time keeper, the sheepdog, the devil’s advocate, a person driving a point and some other opposing it vehemently, and all members taking turns, almost naturally, to play a part.
The most engaging part of the whole practice was coming up with the recommendations for the organization, based on our understanding of the practices in place, the problems encountered in the past and those being faced currently, in addition to the issues we felt the organization could encounter in the future, and basing all of this on what we had learnt in the course BUSI 664 and in the MBA program so far.
After facing some tough moments and witnessing some of the most dramatic arguments ever on the night before the presentation, we finally printed out the executive summary and were satisfied with what we had done.
The next day, the presentation went pretty well, and we were able to finish it well within the 10 minutes allocated to each team, for we did see many teams not being able to finish off their presentations in the time allocated. The presentations by other teams too provided tremendous learning, for the same reasons we had witnessed in our journey – diversity and application of the learning.
With all the big and small companies being evaluated and dissected, we could analyze which ones were actually good places to work for, in terms of the growth opportunities, the policies and practices. We could all relate to the work and the effort that the other teams would have put in for that presentation, for it was the extract of 3 months of research and learning by motivated and talented people from all parts of the globe, driven by the need to learn and passion to excel in not just the course, but in life.
All in all, it was an amazing learning experience, all condensed within BUSI 664, the benefits of which we will reap and appreciate in the long run.
Thanks Dr. K!