Notes from EMBA Series 4 Classes

Notes from EMBA Series 4 Classes

On 11 March and 12 March we had the fourth series of Executive MBA classes with 2 sessions of Business Analytics and  Organisational Behaviour each.

Business Analytics

First session of BA focused on statistics and analysis of data in Series 3.

We had our second, third sessions during the week – where we primarily focused on strategy for the big data analytics and identifying the types of data.

We explored SMART Model – Strategy, Measure, Analyse, Report, Transform – starting with the definitions of Mission, Vision, Goals, and Strategy.

Vision – Vision describes optimal desired future state. Vision statement provides inspiration for what an organisation wants to achieve in five, ten or more years. For example, Nissan states its vision as: Enriching people’s lives

Mission – Mission answers the following questions: How will you get there?, What an organisation does, who it does for and how it does. Mission focuses on shorter time frame, e.g., 1 to 3 years. Staying with the same example, Nissan’s expresses its mission as “Nissan provides unique and innovative automotive products and services that deliver superiour, maeaurable values to all stakeholders in allliance with Renault”

Goal – A goal smaller than the mission, executed in short term.

Strategy – Strategy describes how to achieve a goal. Strategy comes from thoughtfully constructed plan or method.

Role of Analytics Consultant

According to a survey of the data analysts, almost all the analysts (99%) “Inform” their clients by answering “what happened?” question using the data. 30% of the consultants diagnise and give answers to “Why did something happen?”. Around 13% of them provide predictive analysis that indicates what will happen. Only 3% can give prescriptive suggestions on what shall a company do based on the data.

Types of Data & Privacy

The data in a company falls into different categories:

  • Based on the format : Structured or Unstructured
  • Based on location of the data: Internal to the company or external data source.
  • Fast or Slow depending on generation or accumulation speed.

When dealing with the data, Data privacy one of the primary concerns European Union has strict laws related to data privacy, website has some relevant information :

Organisational Behaviour

The main topic for this session centred around Employee Engagement. The topics discussed included how to keep employees motivated, and why should a company focus on employee engagement. Prof. Patrick shared some surveys on employee engagement details across the globe: Japan has the lowest engagement across the globe (UWES). We also discussed burn-out in the employees and how to handle it.

Guest Lectures by Doug Baillie

Doug Baillie from Unilever, gave two guest lectures as part of the Organisational Behaviour sessions. He recently retired from Unilever where he served as Chief HR officer during the last 5 years. He worked at Unilever for 38 years, practically his entire career. During that time he worked in South Africa, India, UK, Australia and the Netherlands.

He gave two sessions – first one about the leadership challenges in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world explaining how the role of leadership at a company impacts the outside world. In his second session he explained his own personal leadership journey, highlighting the lessons and suggestions he has for us.

Personal Leadership Journey:

  1. Always be the best one
  2. Discipline, Trust, Teamwork – It is better to give away trust.
  3. Always do what you say you will
  4. Leadership is about serving other people
  5. Be aware of the culture
  6. Have a ‘can do’ attitude
  7. It is never too late to learn something new

Leadership Advice:

  • The buck stops with you.
  • Check your body language, not just your words.
  • Recruit and Keep the best in the team.
  • Look out for oxygen thieves.
  • Never bad mouth the past.
  • Listening and Visibility are very important.
  • Top position can get quite lonely.
  • Relax up (the hierarchy) and stop stressing down (the reports).
  • Empowerment serves as a great signal.
  • As a line manager, you won the talent agenda, not the HR.
  • You can never communicate enough.
  • Look out for external risks.
  • Always, Always, Always win with integrity.
  • Don’t forget to have fun.

Team Representative Meetings

I joined the meeting from my team. Karim Jazzar, our Director of Executive MBA program, chaired the meeting to get the feedback from the students. The teams expressed some concerns about how course deadlines and interesting discussions about different professors’ teaching methodology. From our team, we had fairly positive feedback so far. We appreciated the effort by the management to get our ongoing feedback.


We finished and submitted our team assignment for Organisational Behaviour. We analysed the effectiveness of new Disney Animation System’s restructure worked after Pixar’s acquisition, exploring the cultural differences, team structure etc.

In the next post, I’ll add the notes from Series 5 classes, so keep reading!

Learnings from EMBA Series 3 Classes

I attended Session 3 of Executive MBA classes last Friday and Saturday. This week we had one Organisational Behaviour and two Managerial Accounting Sessions. I wrote down what I learned and what happened from my own perspective.

The Assignments

During this week, we submitted our first individual assignment in Business Analytics and also a team assignment in Managerial Accounting.

The individual assignment in Business Analytics focused on statistics. The case data in question contained customer satisfaction data at a call center of an insurance company. The questions we answered included describing the data using the standard statistical summary (mean, mode, standard deviation etc.) and explaining what they meant, looking for interesting things in the data. We also took a look at the data to see if the data conformed to normal distribution and calculated confidence intervals for a given data type.

We used the data to try out Hypothesis test to decide which whether two check similarity between two variables. Finally, using single and multi-variable regression models we checked which questions that call centers ask have an effect on the ratings of the customers.

I used R to do most of the calculations, but the rest of my team preferred Excel.

For the team assignment, we divided the tasks up into accounting, review, and submission. As a team we felt it went pretty okay with a rating of 3 (on 1-5). After the sessions we reviewed what went good and what we can improve for the next time. The lack of proper-planning caused the extra 2 points, it seems. For the next time we unanimously agreed that we will proactively work on assignment to reduce last-minute crunch.

Organisational Behaviour

We discussed “Motivation and Persuasion” during the session. First some of my EMBA colleagues presented about “Givers and Takers”. We all answered some survey to get an idea of what percentage of “giver/taker/matcher” personality we have in each of us. I got 53% Giver, 40% Matcher and 7% Taker.

The discussion/articles we read propose that organisations work most effectively when most of the employees behave generously toward their colleagues. But at the same time people need to manage their genrosity by watching out on not becoming too timid to ask for help, carve out specific times to help others and have right amount of empathy to not to give away to emotional appeals.

Later the session turned towards motivation and Persuasion. First we watched a video of Sir Alex Ferguson, a repetitive theme during OB sessions. He had the motivation type nick-named “hair dryer motivation” – which means yelling at a close distance. In the discussion followed, the class had different ideas, some of them disliking the style, most of them agreeing with the type, in the context of sports/football. We also looked at Al Pacino’s speech from the movie
“Any Given Sunday” and Google Ireland’s recruitment video.

Key Takeaways:
– Money, often touted as “hygiene factor” in motivation, can work as a motivator in some cultural contexts.
– ‘Up or out’ strategy in the companies will cause more problems to the employees.
– Every company has “Finders” – people who find work, “Minders”- who manage the work(ers), “Grinders” – who do the work.

Managerial Accounting

We had 2 sessions of Managerial Accounting with Prof. Murray. We discussed 4 cases in total during the sessions with topics: Direct and Sunk costs, Contribution, Cash flow and profitability, and strategic decision making. The cases and discussions in the class ranged from Cycles to Cigars to Cars! One of the most important discussions in the class explored how to get out of the “middle”. When can company doesn’t have cost structure to compete with low cost competition and at the same time doesn’t have the same brand equity to compete with high-value competitors, the company gets stuck in “the middle”.

The professor also explained the Porter’s five force analysis – a framework for analysing the competition. These forces,listed below, determine the profitability of an industry.
– Threat of new entrants
– Threat of substitutes
– Bargaining power of suppliers
– Bargaining power of buyers
– Industry rivalry

Key takeaways:
– Formulate assumptions, but keep validating them by considering the context & behaviours.
– Managers focused only on accounting numbers will make bad decisions.
– Examine *all* possible alternatives.
– Don’t make a decision about the future based on bad decision in the past.

I kept fighting through the accounting concepts, but this week I started with another book Accounting for Non-Accountanting Students that started to help me a bit more. I also had one-on-one with Prof. Murray, who explained most of these concepts applied to software business lingo, which helped me a lot!

On motivator words

Some advice from Frederick Herzberg, who developed Motivator-Hygiene theory

This might seem obvious, but the motivator words have never left industry;the substance has just been rationalized and organized out. Words like “responsibility”, “growth”, “achievement”, and “challenge”, for example, have been elevated to the lyrics of the patriotic anthem for all organizations. It is the old problem typified by the pledge of allegiance to the flag being more important than contributions to the country – of following the form, rather than substance.

Learnings from EMBA Series 2 Classes

Friday and Saturday we had 2nd series of sessions, which kicked off two new courses: Organisational Behaviour and Business Analytics.

Organisational Behaviour

Prof. Patrick Flood from Ireland teaches Organisational Behaviour. During the first session we discussed how to assemble and lead an executive team, the challenges related to it. We used Linda Hill’s Note on Building and Leading A Senior Team. Most of the guidelines for managing executive team sounded fairly similar to managing any other team.

To have an effective team, the CEO should manage the team’s boundary – managing relationships with external parties and monitoring competitions. Managing the team itself means facilitating the process and setting up an effective decision making structure. When measuring the team’s effectiveness, one should not only consider the team’s performance but also review how the team learns and adapts to new situations and how the individuals learn and gain satisfaction. Concerning the size, small teams (5-10) work more effectively than larger teams. Diversity in the teams encourage innovation, but it could also lead to politics and divergent behaviour.

While the note we read rejects the idea of flat organisational structure as “unrealistic and even undesirable”, in the second session we saw a counter example – the Orpheous Chamber Orchestra which doesn’t have an conductor. We discussed a video of the orchestra process in action. While not having a clear leader/conductor, the members of orchestra seem to have a shared-leadership. I felt the video did show a “core” orchestra members who decided the direction. It looked like the members need to spend additional effort and time to make sure that the orchestra functions effectively. The concept itself looked similar to Holacracy – which Zappos recently used to reorganise the company.

Prof. Patrick has one interesting observation about the stages that effective teams go through – Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing. Over 14 years, I did see these in action at various levels in almost every team, but never thought that these stages as a mandatory path for an effective team.

Business Analytics

On Saturday we had the first session of Business Analytics, taught by Nicole Huyghe, the founder and managing director of Boobook. As a preparation, we studied the Big Data book and did a small exercise in descriptive statistics. During the session Nicole explained how to use statistical methods to understand the data. As usual, rather than focusing on too much theory, she explained the application of the techniques. I enjoyed the class, because I use statistics and Machine Learning during my day job and current project. We also touched upon hypotheses testing and regression models. The (mandatory) statistics refresher course helped in reviewing the managerial use of statistics.

Team Updates and Team Charter


This week our team had our first dinner! We discussed the life story and got some time to get to know each other. We also worked on team charter that we will use for the term 1. We had to pick a leader for our team, and we agreed that everyone gets to become the Leader to gain experience. My turn starts tomorrow and lasts for 2 weeks. I don’t expect difficulties in leading an awesome team where everyone has great enthusiasm and motivation.

Trip to South Africa

On Saturday, our team picked (won) Cape Town as our study trip destination via the lottery. Practically everyone in the class wanted to go to Cape Town. With my unfamiliarity with South Africa, I got confused why people got discouraged when they got Johannesburg as their destination. In any case, our team will fly to Cape Town in July for study trip.

In two weeks the programme continues with next sessions of Managerial Accounting and Organisational Behaviour.

The fantastic first week of EMBA at RSM

My Executive MBA at RSM has officially started on 1st February, and I had a fantastic time during the week. The week started with the Introduction Day, with Director of the Programme, the Dean, and others explaining the logistics. The day ended with a photo session, for which I hope I posed well.

The Class

I have a lively and vibrant section of around 60 classmates – with professional backgrounds in marketing, advertising, corporate finance, medical research, aeronautics, consulting and many more.

The Teaching Method

I got a good glimpse of a new teaching method at RSM which I didn’t experience before.

The teaching method focused on “why” rather than “what” with lots of participation from class with discussions, questions. The courses or lecture sessions primarily cases or real-world examples, especially Managerial Accounting, more on that below.

The Courses – Personal Leadership Development

The courses kicked off on Tuesday with two days of Personal Leadership Development taught by Prof. Daan Van Knippenberg and Prof. Dirk van Dierendonck with guest lectures by Prof. Milton Sousa. As a person who spends most of the time in Emacs with, admittedly unwarranted, skepticism against MBAs, I did have some doubts on the course’s content. I thought the course would have some wishy-washy hand-wavy nature.

But the lessons and sessions did away with my scepticism. The content of the course comprised Value Based Leadership, Finding leadership strengths, Personal strengths (based on the pre-course surveys) and finally a great “working together as team” game. The ample amount of discussions in the class have helped a lot in understanding what these things mean.

Most of my classmates in the class, along with me, knew a lot of the things before: what motivates people, what values should we look for etc. But we learned by questioning each other on how to implement the actions to motivate people.

I got some important observations on personal surveys during the session.


Interpersonal Strengths: I need to pay attention to how I assert my needs.

Interpersonal Problems: I have to review my dominant attitude and to spend more brain cycles on understanding the views of others.


Interpersonal Sensitivities: I get bothered by or very sensitive to dependent, passive, and controlling personalities.

Values-based Leadership: I got a pleasant surprise in this survey, when my expectation of “sharing the lead” got less than the feedback I got from people I worked with.

Goal Orientation: Looks like I focus too much on my performance, way above than class average. I can only “blame” the competitive schooling system of India that I went through.

Overall, I have gained some good insights about leadership and this class kicked off with a nice note. I look forward to the future sessions what more I can learn.

The Courses – Managerial accounting

Prof. Murray J. Bryant taught the course of Managerial Accounting. I have an Engineering degree in Electronics and Communication systems, and for during my entire career the work primarily involved (mon)keying code on computers. I never read or understood any accounting artifacts (e.g. Balance Sheets, Income Statements) before. The first session of the course confused me like a deer in the headlights, partly due to flu/fever and partly due to my brain going “depreciation amortization contribution … wat!!!!”.

But, the way Prof. Murray explained the cases, from real-world and real businesses, fascinated me and made me appreciate the importance of understanding the accounting to get a picture of a given business’ health. With 5 more sessions to go, I could see myself spending more time learning these things to become better.

The Team


Now, on to the most important part – At the beginning of the sessions, we got grouped into teams. Each team has around 6 members. During the course, I worked with the amazing team pictured above and for the rest of the term these guys will teach me a lots of things :) While the team just got started, I think we have nice balance of different personalities that I could learn from over the next 6 months!

Some Minor Concerns

My understanding and performance during the Accounting bothered me. With clearer expectations of the (esp. Accounting) sessions I could have worked better. Most of my colleagues with accounting/economics background did very well. I could also blame this on my lack of business/economics education and my lack of preperation.

I did have some concerns – the vegetarian food served during the week underwhelmed me. It could have been better.

All in all, I had a fantastic first week experience of MBA at RSM, stay tuned for more in the coming months!