June already

June 3rd, 2013 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

June already? Wow. This Friday is our ALP presentation, which we–my group and I–will be working on every night this week. It’s the culmination of a boatload of work, so we’d like the presentation to truly represent the depth and breadth of our project. But on the other hand, the presentation is only 20 minutes long and if we get too in-depth we’ll bore people. So hopefully sometime this week we will be hit with a lightning bolt of inspiration and a happy medium will come into being. Fingers crossed.

I have two more classes, two more assignments and then a final in Strategy, and one more class and a final in Strategic IT. At this point we are all contentious and a little cranky. I look forward to being done.


Weekend 6

May 16th, 2013 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Tomorrow is Weekend 6 — which really means five weekends remain, and one full week, the last residence week. I can’t believe it! But I’m so busy with schoolwork right now that I can’t even spare a thought for the fact that this experience will soon be over for me and my cohort. So. Much. Homework. It’s ridiculous.

I wrote and turned in my ethics final this week. Our questions were very, very open ended: What is the purpose of an economic system? A corporation? A manager? That’s the equivalent of asking “What’s the purpose of water and air?” But one thing this class did was help me to articulate my own thoughts about what it means to behave in an ethical manner. During the first half of the class (last winter!) we did a survey of different ways of framing ethical questions–utilitarianism, the virtue framework, etc.–and then talked about cases from the viewpoints of some of those frameworks. This semester, as we surveyed the history of how people have actually responded to ethical issues in the business world, I found myself thinking that the whole notion of “profit maximization” primes business people to think of everything in terms of maximizing one thing. That seems to be a recipe for narrow decision making. One of the problems with framing ethical questions at a corporate level in this way is that decisions that in theory produce benefits for a large number of people—shareholders, for example–can also produce bad results for a specific smaller number of people.

I think managers–people–are the only vectors for moral, ethical decision-making in the business world. An economic system isn’t capable of making decisions, and a corporation’s actions are just the results of decisions made by individuals acting within its structure. The responsibility for any corporate action is held by the human being or group of human beings making the decision. When managers make decisions, they have the moral responsibility for the outcomes of the decision.

A human being has no choice but to be a moral actor by virtue of being alive. Every day each human being makes many decisions, and each decision carries with it a set of consequences. We have the ability to reason and the freedom to choose our actions. Some actions are of less consequence than others – what I chose to wear today may not be extremely consequential, but it is one of many decisions I make every day. And while I have the freedom to control my choices, I don’t have control over the outcome of that choice. So whenever I choose an action I am also choosing the consequences that are the outcome of that action. We can’t divorce actions from outcomes. Because humans have reason, we are capable of imagining what those outcomes might be, and because we have the freedom to choose, we are responsible for the consequences of our choices.

Economic systems and corporations exist to serve a human need – the need to make our economic activities more efficient and effective. They exist to serve our interests, not the other way around. The human actors within these systems have the right and the responsibility to see that the systems serve our good in the broadest possible sense.

And that’s what I learned in Ethics class.




What we’re working on

April 15th, 2013 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Operations Management is both interesting and confusing. Part of me thinks this must be overkill. After all, I can intuit my way to the understanding that to serve more customers I need more servers. But our professor, Yi Xu (Dr. Shoe!), insists”Don’t believe what you see with your eyes. Believe the data.” One of the cases we worked through demonstrated this very well–that the solution to a problem isn’t always near or next to the symptoms of the problem; that sometimes the symptoms don’t lead your intuition to the right solution. So that’s given me things to think about. (And I’ve also had to appeal to my 11th-grade daughter to remind me on how to do square roots of fractions. Bah humbug. Numbers, I’m tired of you).

We’re also working on Strategic Information Technology and Strategy and Innovation Management. It’s been so interesting because the concepts overlap, and something we learn in one class often turns out to be useful in the other class. It very much feels like each builds on the other, which I quite like. My bag of bricks are being put to use! That’s gratifying.

We’re also in the midst of another Ethics class, for which we are doing more group projects; every group presents a short seminar to the class on a particular topic, ranging from the definition of ownership to the history of worker’s rights. You get the sense of how we have evolved into today’s business practices through court decisions, activism and the effects of technology. We’ve got a longish final paper looming for that one.

And in the ALP department, I’m working with a classmate on her fledgling business and pursuing an internal project for the individual ALP. Lots to do!