From the monthly archives:

September 2011

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am taking a “Database and Web Analytics” elective class this first module of the fall term at GWSB MBA program. The required reading for this class is Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning – not exactly a textbook, but rather – a high view of employment of analytics in a wide range of businesses published by Harvard Business School Press. The book gives a lot of specific examples from real world companies and how they engage analytical methods, often interchangeably called business intelligence outside the book. I am still in the early chapters of the book so I could not give a thorough review of it. But so far it is an easy read mostly aimed at whetting you appetite for use of analytics in your business.

From the title of the book you could guess that the emphasis is not on applying business intelligence to routine operational processes, such as supply chain management, but rather on using analytics for getting competitive advantage through strategic enterprise-wide application of analytics to distinct capabilities of the company which may lie in various departments and functions, including supply chain management among others.

However the very first thing that perked my interest for the book was a forward by Gary Loveman, the CEO, and what not, of the Harrah’s Entertainment. I first learned about him while preparing analysis of the case Harrah’s Entertainment: Rewarding Our People in my Human Capital Management class in Spring Term 2010. The case was set in 2001, not long after Gary Loveman  started his full-time tenure with Harrah’s as a COO in 1999. The emphasis of that case was quite a bit different, so the analytical inclinations of Loveman did not shine through that much in the case, though there were cursory references to his MIT and HBS academic past.  That’s why I got intrigued to see him giving a forward to this book.

So I did a bit of digging around and found out that he is indeed a quant buff very heavily employing analytical methods, including statistical analyses, throughout the company. The article on Bloomberg.com reads like a business thriller – Loveman Plays `Purely Empirical’ Game as Harrah’s CEO. One of the highlights in the article for me, the poet that I am, was Loveman’s own admission: “The quantification on Macau took me in the opposite direction. You had to have a kind of intuitive courage and I am not well suited to those kinds of decisions” (emphasis mine). This was in reference to a particular deal, which Loveman called his worst mistake.

As for me, I have been getting more and more sold on the usefulness and importance of quantitative analysis and employment of business intelligence in the business throughout my course of studies in the part-time MBA program at GWU School of Business. Dah! ;-) And this article just confirmed that quantitative analysis and intuition have to work in accord, not at the expense of each other. Very difficult balancing act, escaping many otherwise brilliant people in business.

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The Businessweek online has recently placed a video interview with the dean of the George Washington University School of Business – Doug Guthrie,  who answers this question. The highlights of the GWU Business School approach to business education, as per dean’s interview, are the corporate social responsibility, sustainability, ethics and global perspective. These core elements need to be embedded into the business education, and this is the aspiration of the GWSB faculty and administration. The dean also emphasized again the unique location of the school that allows to it to effectively embed all those aspects into its curriculum and total student experience. By the way, this location advantage is also reflected in the tag line of GWSB: “In the Center of It All.”

From personal experience, I know that additional sustainability and international elective courses are required for graduation, on top of the core curriculum courses, and international or global business cases are extensively included into most of my courses in school. I have seen the roster of elective courses on sustainability and corporate responsibility offered in the school and it seems rather adequate to me. However, I have heard at least one of my classmates complaining that there were not enough sustainability courses available at school. As a matter of fact, the complaint I heard was in fall 2010, and since then the business school seems to have increased the offerings in sustainability domain according to the article in the George Washington University newspaper – the GW Hatchet.

For me it is hard to objectively evaluate this, since I don’t know what other schools offer in this area. But The Aspen Institute publishes its biennial ranking of Business School – Beyond the Grey Pinstripes – measuring them on “the integration of issues concerning social and environmental stewardship into the curriculum”. According to that ranking GWSB holds position 9 in the US, and 11 – internationally, out of 149 business schools participating in the surveys that lead to the ranking. Which means that our school does something right or, that many other schools are even less concerned with the “social and environmental stewardship” issues.

Interestingly, Harvard Business School is not included in the ranking, reportedly because they did not participate in the survey. Speaking of the “rankings fatigue” ;-) . Anyways, embedded at the end of this post is the interview from Businessweek. If you have other “why’s?” about MBA, here is my post on “Why Part-time MBA?”  

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Fortunately, the fall term of MBA at GWU School of Business did not kick in into the high gear yet, and I can take some time to relax without going into great bouts of stress. Even though it is going to change very soon, as the first module is almost half-way through, and I have my first deliverable this week already. So the pressure is definitely ramping up.

However, I was still able to catch the last moments of lull  this past weekend.  I went to Synetic Theater with my wife and elder daughter to watch Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Undoubtedly, the play itself lends a lot to the thriller part of the Synetic’s production. But the way they have been able to super-charge it and turn into a live high action show is truly amazing. I have been to quite a few of the theater’s shows in the last few years and I already mentioned that I am repeatedly astonished  with how they manage to bring something new in both interpretation and implementation of the classic text every time without fail.

Since Synetic is performing in the genre of physical theater, most of their performances are a fine blend of drama, music, choreography, and even acrobatics. So most of the shows are quite dynamic, but this time I was finally able to articulate to myself the catch phrase to describe it. This is the phrase I used for the post title: high-octane action-packed live thriller. And the only way to truly understand what it means is to see it with your own eyes. So you have a chance to witness this true marvel, but only till October 2nd.

True to my mind-set influenced by the MBA experience though, I had a nagging thought at the end of the show. The show had been on only since Thursday, and it was a Saturday night when I went to see it. Nevertheless the theater was filled only about half. I am aware about the problems with attracting, or rather creating new theater-goers in our time. And I am confident that Synetic attracts a lion’s share of the theater-going public in the DC area. Still I believe that given their unique unmatched talent and the genre of the physical theater in general they have an appeal and potential to attract much broader audience not only in terms of demographics, but even geographically. In my opinion, with proper marketing they should not have any trouble to fill their shows and have people scapling tickets before the shows, just like Bolshoy Opera and Ballet don’t have issues with filling the Kennedy Center on their tour to Washington, DC.

Anyways, something to think about.

My other reflections on the Synetic shows:
Othello by Synetic Theater
Synetic Theater’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

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Earthquake-East Coast- Impossible!

Earthquake-East Coast- Impossible!

This picture was used by my professor in the first on-campus class this year I had on Wednesday – Risk Management (for Projects). I cannot figure out the name of the cartoonist, but the date is very clear – 1990. This is a great illustration about some of the approaches to managing risk, arguably the most prevailing. People think that they have it all figured out and and just assign probabilities of events, like in this case – IMPOSSIBLE. Of course the geoscientists have known about much higher probability of this happening, but at the level of ordinary people, including project managers, business managers, country managers it was just that – impossible. Just coming back to the old adage – “nothing is what it seems”.

So I am taking this course in Risk Management just to get a better grasp of dealing with uncertainty in projects, business and life at large. Among many definitions of Risk Management given during the class, probably my favorite was: A proactive and realistic alternative to “ALL WILL GO WELL”.

 

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