From the monthly archives:

June 2010

I know, I know, I already reported it once, almost two months ago, that my first year of part-time MBA was over. But it was according to the business school’s schedule, not my personal. If I did not take take classes in the first summer term module, then it would indeed be the end.

But now I can honestly say to myself that the first year of MBA is finished. For some reason I don’t feel the same level of exaltation that I had back at the end of the Spring Term, just a deep sense of relief and calm serenity ;-) It works for me.


I am still waiting for my grades in both classes I had. In Business and Public Policy we had our final paper and in-class group presentation on Tuesday last week. Yesterday I submitted my take home exam in Nature of Markets. I don’t expect any surprises with grading, so I can mostly take my thoughts of the school for now and engage myself into other, no less pleasant, things in life: going to the pool with the kids, hiking on weekends, preparing for a vacation trip, read for pleasure, etc. And the beauty of it all is that I have 2 (TWO) FULL MONTHS of SUMMER BREAK. That’s a big luxury. I really feel for some of my classmate who opted for both Summer Term modules. That would be too much for me. My summer break is much-needed and well-deserved, and I am taking it!

There is still another test for my professional certification that I need to take in less than two weeks from now, but that really does not bother me too much. You always can re-take it without negative impact on your graduate GPA for the rest of your life :-). So I will take it easy.

I hope I will not disappear from this blog for the rest of the summer, but I am not making any specific promises. I have a lot of stuff I would like to put on the blog, but I don’t want to strain myself either. On the other hand, now that I don’t have homework and required readings, maybe I will fill this time with updating the blog. We’ll see how it goes, stay tuned! Have a great summer!

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Since the term had been winding down to its end, and I was basically done with all my deliverables, last weekend my wife and I had a little treat: another theater night at Synetic. I had a post back in February about this theater and their Antony and Cleopatra play.

I know it may sound ridiculous, but I think of Synetic as of “Apple” in its latest stretch of innovation from IPod in 2001 to IPad- 2010. This outlandish comparison is influenced by the Apple, Inc. case we had to work in marketing course this summer term.


It’s really funny how MBA affects the way of thinking and the view of the world. In a sense you start to look at things from a very specific and somewhat narrow perspective. Yes, it’s true that your perspective actually broadens and becomes more systematic and synthetic in everything referring to business. You gradually become able to look at business in more integrated fashion: see it from different angles, whether it is statistical analysis or ethical implications. But at the same time, you start to apply the same methods of analysis to other things, seemingly unrelated. I would put it this way: MBA broadens your way of thinking about business, but narrows your veiw of the world. I don’t say it is inherently bad. But now it makes much more sense to me that business schools try to attract diverse application pool in many regards, including professional backgrounds, undegraduate majors, phylantropic endeavors, etc. MBA program will instill the systematic approach of business thinking in the students, but it is very crucial to have something besides that. It is a sort  of checks and balances in professional business education.

Back to Synetic.  Why I compared Synetic with Apple? Because every time I come to their plays, I wonder what else can they come up with to surprize their audience? Have not they already done a great job in their last play? Can you really add something new to it? Are they going to plateau this time and just give another great performance, like the one before?

But every time I come, it’s not ‘just another great performance’ – I am utterly bedazzled every time with their interpretation of the seemingly known texts. And this time with Othello they again were able to astonish me beyond my expectation. Just like Steve Jobs and Apple with its streak of innovation of the last decade :-) .

As one critic wrote about Synetic’s Othello, “I thought they had reached the pinnacle with their last outing, Antony and Cleopatra, but clearly there’s no end to the brilliance of this company when it applies its physical theater style to the Bard. Hyperbole? Head to the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater and judge for yourself.”

I fully undersign under those words. If you are around DC area, the play is going to be on till July 3, so there is time to catch the magic.

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Have not been able to post lately due to the overwhelming amount of work in business school. As much as I prefer qualititative over the quantitative classes, in terms of time it is not really easier. In quants it takes me a lot of time to comprehend the concepts and their application. In qualititative classes it takes no less time to do research and write papers. I have a tendency to get caught up in research to make sure I cover all the bases in a comprehensive way. Sometimes I spend hours in research to write just one paragraph. So staying up till wee hours of the morning has been way too common occasion for me in the last three weeks.


I mentioned before that this summer term both classes I have are non-quants: Business and Public Policy and Nature of Markets, aka Introduction to Marketing. In both classes we have to do case studies. All marketing cases are group assignments, and we have to crank out a case a week. There is some levereging in that, because we have divvied up the cases within the group, but still we have one final case to not just write a paper, but also do a class presentation.

In Business and Public Policy I wrote two cases so far and there is one final group project. I got maximum possible points on the first one about PR crisis in Toyota recalls. The second one was done in a more hop scotch manner,  so I am waiting to see by how much I missed the mark. Our group project and presentation is shaping up quite nicely so far, so I hope it will give us above average grade overall.

This Saturday I have a “chain-group-meating” in the afternoon. First for marketing, then piggy backed on it – for Public Policy. It’s going to be at least five hours total. I am not sure if I am more concerned about “brain freeze” or “brain meltdown” as a result of that. :-)

The only consolation is that it is going to be over next week. After final presentations we will still have a take-home exam in marketing. But next weekend it is going to be done at any rate. Can’t wait for a summer break and vacation. GWU School of Business is offering two summer modules, but I opted to have a little break and take vacation instead of the second module. I will have total 18 credits by the end of this module, so I am pretty much on schedule with the program. To make up fot this little summer lull I have already registered for 9, instead of my usual 7.5 credits in Fall term. But it’s is to early to fret about that yet.

I will update my status with the Summer term once I am done with it. For now, back to studies.

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A few weeks ago I was at my friend’s house in the deep countryside. It was a day full of fun which my family enjoyed thoroughly, but there was one particular experience I wanted to share, because it gave me some invaluable insights on the leadership and management styles and philosophy from a seemingly menial task of herding the sheep.

Towards the evening the hostess asked me if I could help her to herd the sheep to the area away from the newly planted kitchen garden. They have some 15 sheep, and their dog had turned out to be useless for this kind of work. They just moved from the suburbs a few months ago and they learn the ropes of living on a farm as they go. So the dog they bought turned out to be a guard dog, not from the shepherd breeds. Tell me about learning from experience ;-)

When she asked me to help, I assumed this was just a standard operating procedure, and gladly agreed, as I love all these authentic experiences that are not commonly encountered by a regular suburbanite.


This herding experience turned out to be far from the ordinary. What we were actually trying to do was to get the flock from one cross-fenced area to another on their property. While the hostess was trying to entice the sheep to follow her through the gates, I was actually acting as the shepherd dog, trying to flock them together and direct them to the desired gates. I had to run, try to circle them, intercept their movements, to play on their instinct to flock together and so on. It was some great twisted combination of physical exercise and the game of “Strategy” :-)

After quite some effort and about half an hour we managed to get them from one open area to a somewhat smaller fenced section, but we had to get them through two more gates to the desired destination. Then the dog came from the house and scattered away all the sheep. Bummer! At that point it was getting dark and we had to leave business of herding unfinished. Here is a perfect video amazingly authentic to my personal experience. Watch the video, it’s really funny.

But this exercise made me think about human analogy of management and leadership. This style of management -herding the flock- is actually not as uncommon as it might seem in our “enlightened” era and all the advances in management theory. Quite many managers in business and leaders in public arena are still treating their subordinates and constituents as a flock of sheep which needs to be herded and manipulated into going through the “desired” gates. In the clip it is referred to the dog’s tactics of “intimidating them [sheep] into going in the right direction”. Even if it is done in more subtle inconspicuous or sophisticated ways, this still is the underlying philosophy of those “shepherd dog managers”.

What I found from my “shepherd dog” experience is that this style of managing is very work intensive, exhausting, and not that effective at all. The sheep do not know why they need to go to the desired gate, whether it is to protect them from predators, bring them to “greener” pastures, or get them vaccinated against desease. (Admittedly, once in a while they are also herded to the gate to be taken to the slaughter house :-(  ) But since the sheep do not have high level reasoning anyways, shepherding them could be the only means to get them to the desired destination. Especially if you have a trained real shepherd dog, not a volunteering human amateur :-) Otherwise, the proverbial stubborn sheep will just display their proverbial trait to their best.

Then, a few days later after this countryside visit, I stumbled upon this video of Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action  on TED.com And it was resonating exactly with my thoughts on the leadership from the shepherding experience. People – employees, subordinates, voters, students, children… - are not sheep. If y0u want them to do something you need to inspire them by showing them “WHY”, not just “WHAT” needs to be done. Of course the “WHY” should be somewhat worthy and compelling in the eyes of those who you lead. I think I will incorporate this shepherd experience and the video in my future MBA course on Leadership. Please, enjoy the video, it is quite inspirational.

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