Personal reflection on MIP

How I experienced it and the feedback I got from the students:

In my opinion the subject had better results than previous years due to better lecturers, more time spent on managing the course (we spent 50% more time on the subject than allowed by the budget) and better students. Im thankful for the fact that Im allowed to work with the best students in business. They keep amazing me with enthusiasm, energy, new solutions, ambition and humor.

As for the other side of working with students, I sometimes find the lack of reflection difficult. I also find the harshness of their communication and the lack of empathy shocking. It seems the view of students on teachers and education is not much better that that on politics or the IRS (belastingdienst). They want results and succes and they want it now, if they dont get it its your fault. Still, working with the future leaders of our country’s businesses is a wonderful opportunity for me.

I learned a lot too. There are some good things and some improvements I got back from the evaluation:

+/+ personal involvement

+/+ motivating to get the most out of the student

+/+ unorthodox elements

+/+ engaging and entertaining

+/+ have students find things out by themselves

+/+ treat students like normal people, not kids

-/- chaotic

-/- late with appointments and feedback

-/- sloppy

-/- not explaining enough about expectations and procedures

From a student in the digital evaluation:



De structuur van het vak. Blackboard is ook bijzonder chaotisch ingericht, net zoals het course manual wel verbetering kan gebruiken. Ik vermoed dat de cordinator een bijzonder getalenteerd consultant is, maar dat zijn talenten niet zozeer het organisatorische vlak beslaan. Zoek hierin samenwerking met iemand die hier wel getalenteerd in is. Dat is ook een van de adviezen die wij kregen als groepen, zoek ieders kracht en laat deze uitkomen en vind hier harmonie in. Dit kan zeker worden toegepast op de organisatie van dit zeer kansrijke vak.

This is the score I got so you know:

evaluatiemip.jpg

I want to thank all of you students, mentors, faculty, companies and advisors for the experience and the possibility to make this work. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, what more can you ask? Im curious what I will be doing next year, no idea yet. If you have any idea what I should do please post a comment or mail me.

This interview with Chris Botti sums it up nicely: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2009/04/29/lkl.chris.extra.cnn?iref=videosearch

The MIP-2009-subject evaluation

The subject MIP 2009 has ended,

From the evaluation we got back from the students about what they learned I give you the following points. I selected a series from the feedbackform that I got from our Admin to show you the differences in experience. In answer to the question ‘what did you learn from the course?’

6. I learned how consultancy works in real life. How to talk with clients, how to gather information.
7. How to work and act as a consultant
8. Not really something that I did not learned during the projects in my previous study. (things like
the importance of deriving the right customer wishes and things like that
9. Working in a group, and handle with the problems during the process with my group members
10.how to write a consultancy report, and working on a practice base of doing research and writing a report that will be used for practice goals.
11. Cooperation with teammates from different tracks.
12. Writing a consultancy report
13. Nothing
14. Working in groups
15. working in a team on reallife case
16. nothing
17. I improved my analytical skills along with presenting and explaining to practitioners. Specifically about our project, I learned a little bit more about the Dutch Judiciary system. Learned how to work in small\large scale group with people from different backgrounds.
18. Real life case. Balance between rationalism and people.
“Levenservaring’ is the best term I can come up with.
The deliverables are so intangible that it is hard to adequately describe what I have learned.

To me it shows that its very difficult to teach and make all involved happy. Many people think they are not learning but its never true. There should be something you could learn if only how NOT to organise a subject or how NOT to conduct a consulting job or for that matter, how NOT to mentor. If you did not learn anything during 2 months you could be in the wrong program.

Some of the mentors do sense, during the course, that the students go through a development, learning a lot from the experience and having difficulties with applying what they have learned before. We see students do a very professional job, excelling in all that is asked from them and even surpassing the expectations of the client and the mentor.

Apart from that some of the mentors also sense that some students are naive in their approach of companies, lack practical experience and some mentors even question the value of this type of education (MSC in BA) for recruiting companies. Many students don’t have any practical experience once they enter working life. It seems students have not much affinity with the process of work, doing business and handling professional relationships.

The question ‘Which aspects of the course should be
improved according to you?’ yielded some of the following:

2. Regel voldoende opdrachten voor de gehele groep of regel geen enkele opdracht. Dit is zo flauw. Wat is dan het nut van het feit dat we zelf een organisatie dienen te vinden? Zo doe je af aan je eigen opdracht. Ontzettend krom..
9. I really do not like that we cannot pick our own teammembers. Although I do not have real problems with my group, but it somehow felt uncomfertable in a project as in important as this one. This didn’t gave me the exciting feeling to do the project as I wish I could have. I know in real life you cannot pick your collagues and clients as well, but at least you have a choice to work there or not. Also, the handing out of the projects were chaotic. With a lot of ‘fighting’ over the projects, my teammate and I managed to get one. Also, the project was really far. I had to travel 2,5 hours to visit the company.
19. MIP takes a lot more time when you want to do a good investigation.
20. Frankly it is quite idiotic to organize assignments for 1/2 of the group. Either don’t organize
assignments at all or you make sure you have enough assignments for all the groups.
21. Time schedule. The input is way too much for a course of 3 credits.
22 It should be entirely English speaking course – for everyone. The groups are too big. Communicate the requirements more clearly.

The question: ‘Which aspects of the course are you satisfied with?’ was answered with the following first 9 points of 39
1. good idea to practice real consulting project.
2. Het concept, het idee dat we als studenten zelf een organisatie zoeken om daar advies aan te
geven. Het kan heel leerzaam zijn, maar de structuur van het vak doet hier aan af. Er worden veel kansen gemist omdat het niet goed, of half geregeld is.
3. it is a real-life case, which makes it interesting. students get to learn how the consultancy works
in practice.
4. Good tutorial teacher!
5. Flexiable time arrangement
6. None
7. emparical course, team composed with students from different specialization
8. real life experience.
9. Practical perspective of this course. The course takes up too much time to be worth only 3 ECTS. It is not in proportion.
There is not a lot of guidance from the faculty, but maybe that is not needed. It is a good opportunity to get know the consulting world.

The mentors need to involve students more, give more feedback (structure and feedback are really needed) and give more attention. There was a difference between the approaches of mentors which is normal in teaching. This could have been solved by more communication between mentors. The distribution of assignments definitely should have been better and the composition of teams was not up to standard.

Some months ago the news got out the subject will be dropped in the new program starting 2010. I hope some new experience oriented course or internship will come back.

MIP opening.jpg

Change-management

advisory for X-Department of a large Dutch insurer, wanting to change their knowledgemanagement. The project group worked on this problem for 2 months and consisted of five students Business Administration. You can see them in this picture.

Within X-department (700) there is a lot of knowledge available, but the problem is that this knowledge is not shared effectively among employees. Employees who work for X-departmnt posses a lot of experience- and specific-knowledge which is not retained of stored when they leave the company. Several employees suggested tackling this problem, but high managerial action has not been made thus far. The question asked by the MIP team:

Which problems are present at our department concerning the organization of knowledge management and knowledge management systems?

By conducting seventeen extensive interviews (six in-depth and eleven semi-structured interviews), desk research and field research the current situation and the possibilities concerning knowledge management from the practical and theoretical perspective have been described. The issues found:

:: lack of facilitating, stimulating and influencing knowledgesharing between departments

:: on the organisational level

    – lack of management attention

    – knowledgesharing responsibilities unclear

    – lack of knowledge about knowledgemanagement

:: on the systemslevel:

    – too many systems involved

    – quality of the systems

Good things:

:: a lot of initiatives on local level

:: knowledge sharing within department good

:: open attitude towards knowledge management

In the report some reflection on a transition or changemangement approach is also given.

During the project the students went back several times to keep the client updated on the progress, the issues and the actions to be taken. This picture shows the team doing a ‘major findings’ presentation near the end of the project.

During the last presentation the students shared their results, had some discussion and received very positive feedback. The client shared with the students that they had learned a lot. The students got a 9.

Klankbordsessie.jpg

The gossip

I got from this team was very interesting. We sat down for 20 minutes talking about MIP and how they experienced it and what the gossip was during the project.

The mentors were very different in their approach. Some were practical, some were theoretical. Some of the lecturers were easy to approach some difficult. Some had regular meetings with the students, some worked through email. Also the influence of the mentor on the team differed. Their mentor met them every week, visualised the project many times and managed the expectations well.

My opinion: work and workrelations are subjective, personal and contingent on the situation. One of the aims of this project was to have students encounter ambiguous situations.

They also heard some Complaints about MIP. Some researchprojects had boring subjects. Others had too much work. And many students would prefer this course in the bachelor. They also heard about freeriders and unmotivated people in teams, this should be solved by the mentor.

My opinion: the management of the workload should be in defining the project. Apart from that, the nature of the course demands that we have this kind of problems. If we want controllability we should revert back to standard Harvard cases. This is not desirable as you dont learn as much.

As it turns out they find it interesting to work with students from other Master tracks. Apart from that they learned from organising the research and their team. The most interesting thing they told me was that the students talked amongst themselves about the abilities of other students. So they found out about members of other teams and their capacities like level in english, computerskills, cooperationskills and motivation. This had not happened much before.

My opinion: I was amazed by this comment, my experience is that the students are very well organised and gossip a lot. I also think its good to share experiences with other subjects and people with other interests, otherwise the students get only one focus.

Im not sure about it all, from the amout of gossip I heard, if the workload is too much. Still they had enough time to gossip :-) But maybe my friend is right, you are only part of an organisation if you take part in the gossip. If this is true we had a good organisation going.

MIP team photo.jpg

Student M about MIP course :

Looking back on the past two months I realize that I have changed. It’s not that I have become a different person, but my attitude towards this study has changed. I wouldn’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but I really feel better walking into the VU building than I did two months ago.
Some of you might think, what the hell is he talking about? So I will explain…

For the first time during my study at the VU I feel that I am doing something with a real purpose. During most of the courses we are obligated to write a paper by reading some literature and doing some analysis. Sometimes this can be quite interesting, but most of the time I feel that these papers don’t really contribute to anything, because no one every looks at this stuff anymore. How many real time problems have I solved over the last couple of years during my time at the VU? Non !!…And how many virtual cases and companies have I worked for over the last couple of years?…

The past two months have been different .. We have worked on a advice for a ‘real’ large insurance company, where our research did matter, and where our results are taken seriously. Last Friday, for instance, we had the last meeting before the final presentation were we presented our results to a group of six managers. They were enthusiastic about our plan, which made me feel proud…

Update on

the whereabouts of the Managerial Integration Project students. They have now arrived in the last and final week of their projects. As you know they were developing a project for a company, mentored by a lecturer from VU University and using their skills and knowledge from previous years. I will give you some examples of what they are doing in this last week apart from finishing their reports and making powerpointpresentations.

One team is doing a workshop, based on their researchmaterial, with the steeringcommittie of a big insurancecompany focussing on KnowledgeManagement. By using the form of a workshop they want to draw the committeemembers’ attention to the fact that knowledgemanagement demands knowing the real problem, seeing some different aspects of a solution and that it needs an implementationplan. The discussion with the client will focus on the issues at hand (which will be perceived differently by different participants) and possible solutions (hypothesis is that they think a good system is the sole solution where a cultural program also is an important succesfactor). The students worked hard on the workshop, good work it seemed.

Another team is dicussing their report with their mentor and it seemed there were some problems. Yesterday I had a very nice discussion with them and we concluded that their definition of professionalism is ‘no emotions or feelings’ and ‘following the good procedure’ and ‘doing things right’. The result is that their relationship with the mentor is in jeopardy. We agreed that today they will focus on fixing the relationship and receiving feedback. They learned that relationship is key to doing a good assignment and that you have to take your emotions and feelings into account.

A third team is developing a cardgame to confront the client with their lack of some competences. The company wants to expand abroad but for this to be succesful you need to be well organised. For example, in terms of leadership they are missing some aspects. Now, the game is that the client has to guess which aspects they do/dont have in each theme. Then the students will show what they think they do/dont have. This way they will stay out of a head on discussion and make it more ‘light’ to talk about. We try to play with the form and still stay true to the content and the analysis.

These are some of the things going on.

“where do I start

and why doesnt anybody tell me what to do?".

Thats the main question for most students in MIP, or for some, because it seems they change quickly. In the first week of working there was some resistance to the subject, the lecturers, the approach and the assignments. But now it seems its moving.

Japan, april 2007 104.jpg

Japanese schoolkids, all the same and very obidient.

Yesterday I mentored a group of 5 students with one guy from Greece. After noticing he had been quiet for 20 minutes in the meeting I asked him: "what will be your input in this team?" He sais: "well, I will wait for instructions from the other students" I tried to explain to him that we expect a little more than soldiering and following the roadmap from our students. This is supposed to be the highest education you can get so it should be for the people that steer, not follow.

For me, studying is the one way to create your own work, to be the boss ofr your own stuff. Its the way forward to make things and change things, to make use of your faculties. Also to handle complex situations and make the best of it.

The source of the new is the random. Gregory Bateson

Still its understandable that the students are confused and expect structure and help. I think we need to help but not show, we need to give attention but not pamper and make them self sufficient but not arrogant. After 2 months they should have the ability to create their own problems and solve them, they should be proud of their work and they should not need us anymore. As far as I can see most students get this far and I’m proud of them.

Japan, april 2007 048.jpg

Japanese students lined up in the trainstation, very quiet.

The second round

of 360 degrees feedback is coming.

In the first week the students had to judge eachother and give rates concerning the functioning of their teammembers AND themselves. This week they will do the second judgment, all as a starting point for the end evaluation.

The general idea is that these students should be giving eachother feedback all the time. And together with the feedback from lecturers they should be able to develop themselves very well. But, it turns out that the grade is most of the feedback they get in their courses, not much more than that.

In a few weeks time they will be judging the whole performance of the team and its members at the end of the course. Now that they know the parameters it should be much easier to make a well founded judgment and lesson for the other person.

We introduced this method both as a learning tool and as a checking tool. We as mentors judge the team and its members but this is only one reference and sometimes a bad one as such. We also want to introduce some methods they learned during their studies and will be using when they enter working life. This method, 360 degree feedback, was actually introduced during the courses of Organisational Development and Change which most students did last block.

Learning and experiencing should go hand in hand. Actually, if a medical students sees patients and tests his/her knowledge every day, why dont we go out to companies with our students much more? They should even see dead companies (bankrupt), just like a docter sees corpses.

For an explanation of the instrument go to:

Wikipedia 360 degrees

Students visiting a company, 2006.

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MIP student vandaag

Tijdens een MIP bespreking gister vroeg ik aan een student zijn ervaringen op papier te zetten. Hij zegt er nog twee te sturen aan mij. Zie hieronder:

MIP
Sinds eind februari ben ik begonnen aan mijn laatste project in teamverband voordat ik aan mijn afstudeerscriptie begin voor de Master Bedrijfswetenschappen. Aanvankelijk dacht ik dat het weer een project zou worden waarin je max. 4 uurtjes in de week mee bezig zou zijn: Wat artikelen lezen, beetje samenvatten, beetje kletsen met de teamgenoten die ik verder toch nooit meer zie, beetje laat uit mijn bed komen, beetje pokeren, sporten, werken en een beetje mijn tijd uitzitten totdat ik eindelijk dat rottig papiertje heb, zodat aan de slag kan. Niet dat ik weet wat ik hierna wil doen, maar ik ben in ieder geval toe aan een nieuwe uitdaging. Waarschijnlijk is deze houding niet helemaal representatief voor de gemiddelde Master student, maar dat ben ik waarschijnlijk ook niet.

Even terug naar het project.. Mijn verwachtingen met betrekking tot de opdracht en het project bleken niet helemaal te kloppen. Het begon al bij de samenstelling van het projectteam. Normaal gesproken ben je als student vrij je eigen team te vormen, zodat je, zoals gewoonlijk weer bij dezelfde maatjes zit waarmee je de afgelopen 2 jaar in projectteams hebt gewerkt. De jongens waarmee je de afgelopen twee jaar iedere vrijdagnacht mee op stap gaat, waarmee je iedere dag luncht, die je iedere dag belt,die jou iedere dag bellen, die de dezelfde humor hebben en waarvan je weet dat als je een keer verzuimt bij college dat ze je aftekenen. ..Deze keer was het anders met drie en half nieuwe gezicht(en) in een team, waarvan ik die ene maar voor de helft kende omdat het die gozer was die het vorige jaar tijdens ieder college een karrenvracht aan vragen op de docent afvuurde (ieder jaar heeft wel zo’n vent).

Tijdens de eerste groepsmeeting moest ik mijn verwachting omtrent het project voor het eerst bijstellen. Het bleek namelijk dat ik in een zeer ambitieus projectteam terecht was gekomen, die er geen gras over lieten groeien en per direct aan de slag wilden om zowel een goed resultaat neer te zetten, als minimaal een acht te halen (zodat het cum laude slagen niet in gevaar kwam) en 9 of hun 10 persoonlijke leerdoelen te behalen. Ik moest even acclimatiseren…
Wordt vervolgd

Reaction of the student, sorry in Dutch,

Feedback van een anonieme student.

Inderdaad een e-mail met scherpe bewoordingen. Uiterst bewust gekozen bewoordingen dat wel. Allerminst bedoeld om dhr. Guldemond te schofferen maar echter wel om de ernst van de frustratie voldoende over het voetlicht te brengen.

Vanzelfsprekend komt de bewuste e-mail in de eerste instantie over alsof het een geïrriteerde en verwaande kwast van een student betreft en roept het de vraag op of deze student ook zulke felle bewoordingen zou gebruiken in communicatie met een bedrijf en/of klant. Dat was dan ook precies de bedoeling. Een persoon die begaan is met zijn vak en kwaliteit hoog in het vaandel heeft staan neemt aanstoot aan deze e-mail. Hij wil een reactie, gestructureerde feedback en meer gegronde argumenten voor loze termen die in die mail gebruikt worden. Een ongeïnteresseerd persoon die denkt alles al wel te weten zal denken ‘zak in de stront’. Noem het een vorm van voorselectie, een trigger. Dhr. Guldemonds reactie: Ik wil graag een gesprek. En dat kwam er natuurlijk.

Afwegingen voorafgaand aan het gesprek:

– Fouten worden gemaakt en komen overal voor, mensen mogen echter wel worden gewezen en/of worden afgerekend op die fouten. Het argument dat het project nog maar net begonnen is gaat daarom niet op. Juist omdat het project nog maar net begonnen is moeten dingen goed gaan, dat noem ik ‘eerste indruk’. Wanneer die eerste indruk niet positief is kun je mensen bijna onmogelijk mee krijgen en activeren omdat je het vertrouwen vanaf minuut 1 al verloren hebt, als je dat überhaupt al hebt gehad. In het bedrijfsleven gebruiken ze daar fancy termen als commitment, support en backing voor. Draagvlak dus. Als je het mij vraagt moet je verlies daarvan dus voorkomen, en niet repareren.

– De overweging betreffende de verdeling van opdrachten en dat daarbij de assistent ‘omver zou zijn gelopen’, waarom niet gewoon een online inschrijving laten geschieden door de groepen en aan de hand van een loting deze opdrachten verdelen?

– Waarom is er niet gereageerd op e-mail’s die ik stuur;

– Waarom niet gewoon zeggen dat er inderdaad dingen fout zijn gegaan en hier excuses voor maken?

In een constructief gesprek bleek dat er van organisatorische kant ook wat frustratie aanwezig is, desinteresse bij studenten, beperkingen vanuit de opleiding, een 3-puntsvak, beperkt budget enzovoort. Factoren waar ik veel begrip voor heb, maar feitelijk geen rekening mee hoef te houden. We hebben van gedachten gewisseld over de klachten en elkaar’s visie op het geheel gegeven. We bleken het eens te zijn over de toegevoegde waarde van het MIP-traject en Dhr. Guldemond blijkt inderdaad van het type begaande docent te zijn die een hoop energie en tijd in dit vak steekt om het een succes te maken.

De insteek van mijn e-mail was om vroeg aan de bel te trekken en eens niet de passieve student te zijn die het allemaal wel over zich heen laat komen en er niets aan doet, zoals zo vaak het geval is.

MIP is voor mij één van de weinige vakken die de VU te bieden heeft die je werkelijk helpen het bedrijfsleven te snappen. Wat mij betreft draait een traject als dit een stuk langer en intensiever.