EMBA Term 2 – Session 1 Notes

After a great study trip, and some relaxing summer holidays, second term of EMBA started on 9th Sep, 2016.


The first weekend we had Personal Leadership Development sessions. Friday started with a session on “Co-Active Leadership” by Judy van Zon – based on the ideas in the eponymous book.Judy explained the fives styles of leadership, viz., Front, Behind, Beside, Field, and Within. Each style embodies different values and style of leadership and should be used based on the context.

After the session, we had the Team Coaching. Each member of our team filled in the peer feedback and team feedback survey after our term. We rated our performance of the team consistently higher. At the team coaching session we learnt how to give feedback to each other and how to ask open-ended questions, which would help us in getting to know the new team members that we will work with for Term 2. After the session on Friday we got the details of the new teams.


On Saturday I started to work with our new team!


During first half of the Saturday sessions, we played The Management Challenge game with the new team. As a senior management team of a company, we selected various actions that affected the health of a company. It contained several rounds (years), after successive round we got the results of our actions. This game gave us an opportunity to get to know the new team members.

In the last session “Peer to Peer coaching and feedback”, Hetty Brand-Boswijk explained to us how to effectively give feedback to our peers.

My EMBA journey now continues with new team into Term 2, with upcoming subjects: Marketing Management, Human Resources Management, Financial Management, Operations Management, and Strategic Management. I’ll post the notes after every session, so keep reading!

Notes from Executive MBA’s Cape Town Study Trip

As part of the Executive MBA program at RSM, our class had to attend a Study Trip. Half of the class went to Cape Town and the other half went to Johannesburg for a week long trip. I joined the group which went to Cape Town, South Africa for from 4th August to 9th August. I arrived on Saturday after a longest flight of my life, and left Cape Town on Sunday.

I enjoyed the study trip and we learned plenty of new things at the guest lectures about South Africa visited different companies and in all had an amazing experience. I wrote down some notes and reflections from the study trip.

The Graduate School of Business in Cape Town hosted our sessions. GSB has its home in the breakwater prison. The building still has the old “charm” of the prison with the prison cells acting as break-out session rooms. We stayed at the breakwater lodge, conveniently located on the campus of GSB. I read a lot of “OMG South Africa! Dangerous” and other shenanigans on the internet. But in reality, it felt as safe as visiting any other country. When I arrived on Saturday, I took the public transport from the airport to the hotel.


We had a packed program from Monday 8am to Friday 11pm. Before the trip, we had to investigate and submit a report on a South African company to understand the economic, political, and business situation there. Our team researched and prepared a report on RCL Foods.


We had several engaging lectures by various professors and interesting panel discussions during the week.


Monday started with two sessions by Professor John Luiz who gave a comprehensive picture of Africa touching upon history, economics, and political scenery. Later in the afternoon, Associate Professor Mills Soko from GSB gave his personal and emotional account of his struggles during the apartheid era, and explained the political scenery of South Africa from his point of view.


Monday evening we went to Cooking workshop hosted by celebrity South African chef Jenny Morris. In her studio we cooked food, and I got to work with dough and dessert! I enjoyed making Koeksisters with my EMBA mates.




On Tuesday, we started with a session by Nkosinathi Solomon, CEO of SLG in South Africa. Nkosinathi gave his views on starting and running a business in South Africa and Africa in general. Professor Nick Binedell gave the second session of the day. Professor Nick, a well-known academic and founding director of GIBS, flew in from Johannesburg. His lecture one of the best ones during our visit, giving insights into personality development, leadership. He reflected upon his personal interactions with Nelson Mandela, which stood as one of the highlights of his lecture.


Before heading to our first company visits, we had dinner with “Women in Engineering” and had fun chatting with couple of the participants of the program.

In the afternoon we went to First National Bank, to meet with the Head of Innovations, Yolande (van Wyk) Steyn. In most of the people’s perception innovation and technology adoption at banks and financial sector goes at glacial pace. And Yolande gave a good impression on how FNB focuses on innovation and encouraging it in the bank with various programs. Overall,they have impressive the initiatives like hackathons, new idea sharing platform, annual innovation prizes etc. We did get to peek into their beautiful tall office building with nice views over the cape.



Nearly 36% of the African population lives under $2 per day known as Base of the Pyramid in the emerging markets. We got a glimpse of the “underground” economy of African townships and people living at the base of the pyramid. On Wednesday we got to see the other side of South Africa, the townships and low-income areas and meet some of the local entrepreneurs.

In the morning we had a quick debriefing by Nicolas Pascarel and his team of volunteers. With them we visited Philippi village and a small daycare run by the local woman. They explained the difficulties and challenges in running a Crèche for low income groups – such as acquiring the land, building a decent secure day care, getting enough money to pay the teachers. We discussed some options on how to improve the conditions.


But as with many situations, coming up with a solution to complex problems without having sufficient knowledge seemed incredibly difficult.


During the visit, We had some nice african lunch with the locals at Philippi village!

After the trip, we all gathered together to share our experiences focused around the four As of Business at the Base of the Pyramid – Acceptability, Affordability, Accessibility, and Awareness.


On Thursday Melani Prinsloo, helped us dig deeper into Business at the Base of the Pyramid. In the session she questioned the role of capitalism and rethinking the business, especially in emerging markets. She tried explaining the difference between formal and informal economy, and creating a sustainable business on “the capability Approach“, proposed by Amartya Sen et. al, going deeper into the philosophy of business ethics.


Before heading to our second company visit, we had a fun session by Dave Duarte, an entrepreneur and “marketing geek”, in which he explained the mobile revolution in Africa. We went to Mezzanine, a mobile software startup funded by Vodacom. While the products sounded promising, I felt a bit underwhelmed by the solutions they built. They showcased their solution for school principals – a mobile app to manage the school efficiently, like teacher attendance and other metrics. Using the app they can also report infrastructure issues to the authorities etc. They explained that availability of skilled software developers posed an ongoing challenge for the software development in South Africa.


Friday was the final day of activity and time for putting our heads together to come up with solutions. We had a business pitch competition to come up with solution that applies to South African Context. The teams came up with following ideas:

  • Brainyapp – App for improving the education in SA
  • EPAM SA plans – Expansion to South Africa for EPAM
  • Green Electricity – Portable electricity generation from biomass
  • Pharmafilter – Water cleaning, recycling technology product for hospitals.
  • T3 Teachers to Teachers – A platform for training teachers
  • TomTom – A GPS solution for Feature Phones
  • Tyco expansion in Africa – A fire prevention company’s expansion plans to Africa
  • Ubunye – A neighborhood daycare managed by locals
  • And our very own idea : Vuber :)


We proposed a new startup idea Vuber – pitched as Uber for Virtual Reality viewers, where people get “on-demand” Virtual Reality shows broadcast by Vuber Scouts.

After the group presentation we headed out in the “wilderness” to have dinner at beautiful countryside restaurant The Table. After tasty lunch, we visited the Villiera wines to checkout out the winery and their sustainability initiatives. We had a tour around a small game reserve nearby!

The super busy and fun week came to an epic conclusion at the Gold restaurant with some great African food and music, where Paul Maughan presented the coveted Griaffe rolling trophy to the winners. Obviously our idea has worth of billion dollars :P, but we didn’t win the the prize, which went to Green Electricity folks.


The trip to South Africa proved to be an exciting learning opportunity and provided us with incredible insight into how different economies work, challenges for businesses in emerging markets. With great lectures by eminent professors, company visits, we gained a lot of understanding in just a week. This certainly stands out as a highlight of EMBA programme.

Key Take Aways

* Africa is big – really, really, really big :)
* The opportunities for entrepreneurs are abundant.
* Africa has a complex business and political climate.
* Great food.
* Southern winter isn’t much cold.
* Each of the country in Africa is unique, yet carries some unique african spirit.
* Other Africans suffer the consequences of Xenophobia in South Africa.

Other highlights

I had some incredible interactions with the individuals who worked at the university café. They had incredible stories about living in townships and ambitions and energy. I also spoke to a couple of über drivers, first driver worked as a driver for gang before, and the other, a Rwandan gentleman driving everyday and studying for his MS in quality control.

On Saturday, I had a chance to meet a fellow clojurian and CTO of Cognician, Robert Stuttaford. We had breakfast together discussing all things clojure.

A Special Thanks

GSB’s Senior Lecturer Paul Maughan who lead the agenda of the sessions during the week. Along with Marjolijn, from MEA Global, everyday he brought incredible energy to boot us up in the morning and helped us in keeping the levels up until the last event on Friday. And of course, our very own Gea Tromp made the trip more wonderful!

I have never traveled to South Africa, for that matter to Southern Hemisphere. So I used this chance to confirm that water doesn’t actually spin different in the Southern Hemisphere.

The epic first term of EMBA came to a conclusion with an equally epic trip to South Africa. Our second term start on September 9th, I can’t wait for it!


EMBA Grades

A quick update on grades we got so far in Term 1.

Course Type Score Class Min. Class Max. Class Avg.
Business Analytics Individual 80% 21% 99% 82%
Business Analytics Team 98% 80% 100% 91.65%
Organisational Behaviour Team 89% 80% 100% 88.24%
Managerial Economics Team 69% 65% 84% 74%
Managerial Accounting – 1 Team 80% N/A N/A N/A
Managerial Accounting – 2 Team 79% N/A N/A N/A

Notes from EMBA Series 6 Classes

Managerial Accounting – Sessions 7 & 8

The final two sessions of Managerial Accounting shifted the focus from accounting to managerial control, centralisation vs. decentralisation, and performance metrics.

During the sessions we discussed four different cases:

  • Iceland’s Landsbanki: exploring the actions a new CEO can take over after a complete collapse of banking system in Iceland.
  • Codman and Shurtleff: Understanding decentralisation, and management control.
  • Nucor Corporation: Advantages of running a “knowledge-driven” orgranisation, various compensation structures, and first-mover advantage.management, importance of having a strategy map.

These sessions also touched up on the leadership skills of different companies and what kind of measurements help in executing a successful strategy.

Implementing change poses a big challenge for leaders and in the final session we discussed a bit about the 8-step process for leading a successful change:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency.
  2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition.
  3. Create the Vision for Change and a Strategy for Achieving It.
  4. Communicate the Vision and Strategy.
  5. Empower Others to Act on the Vision and Strategy.
  6. Produce Short-Term Wins.
  7. Sustain the Effort: Produce Still More Change.
  8. Institutionalize the New Culture.

These sessions concluded the Managerial Accounting course and for the final examination we need to submit a managerial report with presentation for a company. The report needed to identify the key issues and provide solutions for implementing change at a delivery service company.

Managerial Economics – Sessions 1 & 2

During this weekend (April 15/16) we had our first two sessions of Managerial Economics by Prof. Barry Standish from South Africa. Before the sessions started we finished the Micro Economics online session, which gave me some idea of basic economics.

The course focuses on making us understand the importance of the environment in which the businesses operate by focusing on macro economics of the world. The first two sessions we discussed various fundamentals like Business Cycles, Wealth Effects, understanding where the money comes and what properties an exchange medium should have for it to act as “good money” viz., Portability, Durability, Divisibility.

We also spend time in understanding the history of money from the gold standard of 1930s to modern Bretton Woods/Dollar Standard.

During the second session Prof. Barry gave us some intuition about the Quantity Theory of Money which can be described using the equation:

M * V = P * Q

M = Money
V = Speed of Circulation
P = Price of things
Q = Quantity of things


Notes from EMBA Series 5 Classes

Business Analytics Session 4 & 5

The final two sessions of Business Analytics focused on how to analyse and
present the data and which types of analytics available for different types of problems. We discussed the case of optimising the offer coupons given out to the customers of Carrefour super market based on customer’s purchases.

Activities of Analytics

  • Optimisation – What is the best that can happen?
  • Predictive Modelling – What will happen next?
  • Forecasting / Extrapolation – What if these trends continue?
  • Statistical Analysis – Why is this happening?
  • Alerts – What actions are needed?
  • Query / Drill Down – Where exactly is the problem?
  • Ad-hoc Reports – How many, how often, where?
  • Standard Reports – What happened?

Dashboard Design

Tips for effective dashboard:

  • Link to business need and type of users
  • Less is more
  • Use Simple charts
  • Guide users through results
  • From top results to more detail
  • Focus on differences/relate to target, benchmark
  • Highlight important figures
  • Be careful with scales and colours

Managerial Accounting Session 6

This week’s focus was on types of costs and Costing. We discussed opportunity costs and sunk costs. The readings provided insight into Activity Based Costing and Time Driven Activity Based Costing.

Traditional cost systems answer the question of how to allocate costs for departmental cost control, where as ABC systems focus on how does it cost to perform activities and business processes.

Activity Based Costing (ABC) provides more accurate cost information by using organisational activities as the key elements of costing and linking them to spending.

Time Driven Activity Based Costing proposes another approach to costing for
complex models. TDABC model proposes a simpler alternative to ABC, because it only requires two

  1. The cost rate of supplying resource capacity
    The consumption of resource capacity by the activities performed for
    products, services, and customers.
  2. We discussed two cases during the session – Morgan Components and Destin Brass.

Some other notes from the session:

  • Compensation drives behaviour.
  • Pick the right costing system for the business.
  • Sunk costs in the short term are irrelevant.