From the monthly archives:

March 2010

12/31/2011 I have uploaded brief analyses for all case studies I had in my Human Resource Management course at my MBA program at GWSB:  Nordstrom: Dissension in the Ranks?  SG Cowen:New Recruits, Citibank: Performance Evaluation Case Analysis, Harrah’s Entertainment: Rewarding Our People Case Study.

Have not had enough time to post lately as I have been doing a lot or writing for my classes. I finished and submitted to the group my part of the research on the Nordstrom: Dissension in the Ranks case for Human Capital Management class. So far, my write up is the first for our group.

Most of the cases I have had in  my classes since the start of the MBA program have been from Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) cases. So I would assume that the names of the cases are familiar to many MBA students in all MBA programs accross the country. Interestingly, the same Nordstrom case was also a part of my Managerial Accounting course. From the case it’s obvious that at the end of the eighties Nordstrom screwed up big time in managment of their Sales Per Hours (SPH) performance evaluation system. Not only did they lose millions of dollars in settling labor disputes and suffered partial loss of business reputation at the time, but they also became the fodder for the MBA textbook case which is probably going to be studied in business schools for years to come.


Another interesting point is that our professor in Managerial Accounting gave quite different appraisal of the Nordstrom situation than what we are leaning to in Human Capital Management class. Whereas in Human Capital class we are mostly going to bash Nordstrom management for all the failings of the SPH performance evaluation system, the professor in Managerial Accounting offered an argument in defence of that system, because it allowed to weed out all low-performing, low-motivated sales clerks, and reward handsomely the driven high-performers. Admittedly, there were some shortcomings in the implementation of that system anyways.

I also had to do personal write up on another case: SG Cowen:New Recruits. There was another group that did formal presentation of the whole case in class. But everyone else in the class had to prepare a written answer to one of the four questions in the case. We had to identify two candidates from the pool of four to make a job offer on behalf of the company if we were on the recruiting committe. During the presentation the group conducted a mini-poll to see how many votes each candidate received from the students in class. The most striking result was that Martin, one of the candidates in the case, was dinged almost unanimously by our class of about 50. To me it was obvious that he was not a good fit for the company, even though he had some very strong background, and was the only Wharton student in the pool (the rest were from Cornell). But I was still surprized by such an overwhelming consensus on his candidacy in our class. The rest of the candidates received some overlapping support from the class, probably with some slight lead of Natalya – another candidate in the case.

From now to the end of the module it is going to be very tough. Many deadlines for write ups in Entrepreneurship are coming up, as well as a mid-term exam in Data Analysis next Monday, our group presentation of the Nordstrom case is due next week too, and finals being just half way of the module now. I have to prepare a lot of midnight oil to burn :)

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If you followed this blog for a bit, you might have noticed that I have been participating in group projects in some of my classes since the beginning of  my part-time MBA program. So far, I have co-authored two group research papers (Business Ethics and Global Perspectives) and have been doing group assignments in Managerial Accounting and Microeconomics.

I find these group assignments to be a very crucial part of my learning experience. A few most significant benefits/challenges:

  • Learning from others, as other students from different backgrounds often have interesting insights. Even if sometimes those insights turn out wrong or irrelevant for the “final answer”, you learn about the potential pitfalls of various approaches.
  • Getting to know new classmates in a more personal way which is mostly not possible in a lecture setting.
  • Doing the balancing act of reconciling everyone’s schedules and other constraints if the group face to face meeting is necessary.
  • The last but not the least – working the group dynamics, with sometimes conflicting interests, and occasional ego bursts, or just people not delivering their share.

This last point is becoming especially obvious in the latest group assignment I am working on in my Managing Human Capital class. The particular challenge of this assignment is that that we have 10 (ten!) people assigned to a relatively small project – four questions to a case study need to be squeezed into 8-10 pages write-up and 20 minutes in-class presentation. The very first challenge was to creatively divvy up the work among all of us, so that everyone had their part to contribute.  That we managed to do quite efficiently via online collaboration. However now we will have a bigger challenge to tie all these people with their small chunks of work into one cohesive paper/presentation. We already got one discontent voice about how this is going to work.

By the way, I remember talking last summer, before the start of my own MBA studies, to one of my undergraduate acquaintances who did her MBA in Thunderbird some ten years ago. I was asking all kinds of questions, including the ones about the specific challenges of MBA experience. One of the things she mentioned was that she did not like the group projects. The reason for that was this need for working the group dynamics and also dealing with the “free riders”. She said, often times it would be easier to do the whole thing by herself, than to deal with the group.  That was when I decided to avoid this reputation by all means. That’s why I am almost done with my assigned write up section, so I will be free to deal with other issues as they come up. :)

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There was another blast class in Entrepreneurship this week. From the two first classes it seems that the main purpose of our instructor in this class is to evoke our creativity and show us how indispensable it is for those of us who aspire to venture on our own or join a start-up after getting our MBA degree, and in business environment in general.

Professor already mentioned that in a seven week module there will be not enough time for all the material that used to be covered under the standard format of 14 weeks/3 credits. So some parts of the old course will be squeezed out from our current course. Namely, writing the business plan, among other things. Based on the syllabus we will still have an opportunity to try our hand in preparing Executive Summary and doing the Elevator Pitch.


But, as it seems, creativity is not going to be sacrificed in the course. I actually have had this dilemma about the MBA program in general. The standard curriculum in most business schools is focused on introducing the students to a rather rigid, formalized way of thinking and manipulating the data. It is also geared to equip us with the standardized tool set for solving business problems. This is, no doubt, a very important skill set to acquire in the business school. However, I always had this thought in the back of my mind, that this rigid approach, exacerbated by the fast pace of packing a lot of knowledge in a short period of time, would force us into a very formal, standardized and somewhat narrow mind set, would not allow us to develop some other softer, but still very important business skills, including creative business thinking. 

As a matter of fact, I remember reading an article in the summer before the start of my MBA program, that one of the complaints from the recruiters was that the MBA graduates in general were well equiped in “hard” business skills, such as analyzing financial statements, or performing statistic analysis. But they were relatively lacking in the “softer” skills, like leadership, negotiations. I don’t remember if creativity was explicitely mentioned among those “underdeveloped” soft skills, but this is what came to my mind when I was reading the article. 

That’s why I personally see this creativity slant in the Entrepreneurship course as a welcome respite from some other less “creative” classes. To some degree I feel that my right-brainness in a way is “rehabilitated” in this class. Not that I am the most creative person in the room, but I have always thought of myself being more on a creative side of business.

Anyways, back to this week’s class. This time professor brought one of his PhD students, and let him run the class. The guy was no less enthusiastic on the subject of creativity than the professor. And since he is younger, he brought even more energy in presentation. Admittedly, we did not learn much in a formal way, but he provided some invaluable pointers for further learning and provoked us to let ourselves play. Overall it was a well-prepared and conducted interactive presentation on the subject of creativity in entrepreneurship and business at large.  

Just a couple of things the PhD student gave us as interesting resources:

I also found these two  recent articles in Businessweek on Entrepreneurship being hot among MBAs now that the traditional MBA jobs in finance, investment, and consulting have become more scarce and less lucrative:

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On Monday I finally got my grades for Global Perspectives. The Managerial Accounting grade came within a couple of days after the final exam. I waited to get both grades before posting on that. Both grades came as a surprise to me: a pleasant one and somewhat disappointing, even though I got straight B’s in both classes.

The Managerial Accounting was a pleasant one, because of the blunder I had on the exam. I am quite happy that I was able to pull it out for that grade. The Global Perspectives grade was a bit of a disappointment, as I was really confident that I did reasonably well on the final. Turned out I was over-confident – I missed a couple of questions. Besides, our group paper on FDI to Russia was also just a B. Probably, it was a significant contributing factor to the final cumulative grade too. Well, as the saying goes, they don’t call it a B-school for no reason :) I looked up the group paper, but professor’s notes were mostly illegible. I guess, I will never really know what were his thoughts on grading us lower than we expected :)


For the last week the MBA students were on a “forced” spring break. Since the MBA program is on on a seven weeks modular schedule, while the rest of the University is on a regular 14-weeks mode, the rest of the University had their legitimate spring break. Ours was after the first week of classes already started, not much of a relief. The spring break was the reason that I did not post in the meanwhile, as there was nothing really worthy of writing about.

Now we are back to school, and the “adrenaline rush” is kicking in again. Forward to more excitement! ;)

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Laptops Banned from Universities Classrooms

March 14, 2010

Don’t panic, they are not outlawed yet. But the trend is there. In my MBA experience at GWU School of Business I have encountered different policies by different professors on the use of laptops in the classroom. There were two classes (Financial Accounting-1, Judgement and Uncertainty) where the use of the laptop was highly desirable, even though not […]

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MBA Textbooks — Inter- Or Not Inter-(national) Edition

March 10, 2010

Over the weekend I had to order the textbook required for my Human Capital Management course which started today. When I looked up on the internet the required book from the syllubus (A Framework for Human Resource Management 5th Edition, ISBN-13: 978-0136041535), I was not shocked to see the list price of $132. What’s new? I […]

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Entrepreneur Is a Verb – Unorthodox MBA Notion

March 9, 2010
Two Dice

Tuesday class in Entrepreneurship was a blast. Professor has been teaching it since mid-seventies, so he can afford to be unorthodox. There were quite a few ideas he introduced in the class that would probably not fly if he was a younger member of the faculty. But this is a charm of having a seasoned educator, […]

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Data Analysis and Decisions: Venturing Further into Uncertainty

March 8, 2010

On Monday I had my first class of the second module: Data Analysis and Decisions. This is a continuation of the course I took in the Fall Term – Judgement, Uncertainty and Decision Making. I have different professor this time, just hope he will be able to explain the material at least as clearly as […]

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Celebrating End of First Module of Spring Term at GWSB Professional MBA

March 7, 2010

It just happenned that way that both our kids had sleepover arrangements out of house on Saturday night. Not a very common occasion in our family. So I decided to make some fringe benefits from this coincidence: to have a night out with my wife. Regular a la carte menu for such occasions for us (not that we […]

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Global Perspectives Final Exam – Done

March 6, 2010

Yesterday I had my last final exam in module one of the Spring Term at GWSB – Global Perspectives. Overall exam was not very difficult, especially given its open book, notes, internet access format. There was only one question I somehow had missed during the course regarding “foreignness liability”. Thanks to internet access I was […]

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Managerial Accounting Final Exam-Done!

March 4, 2010

I had a major blunder with my final on Managerial Accounting. I knew in advance that the case for exam will be posted on Blackboard a day before. But with all this cramming for the exam proper it absolutely evaded my mind. It was like a blind spot. I felt pretty good before the final […]

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MBA Exams Session – Funny Side

March 2, 2010

Bookmark this on Delicious I have been reviewing the material for Global Perspectives final exam on Wednesday (tomorrow), when I incidentally found out that the final is actually on Friday. I was not planning to post anything until after my both exams, but now as I am getting a little breather, I decided to place these […]

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MBA Blogs, Community and Resources

March 1, 2010

I have had a placeholder on my site for MBA Resources since I started this blog. But unfortunately I was not able to fill it up with any content so far. Admittedly, there are other sections of my site that are empty too for now, but eventually I am going to put some helpful links and […]

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