Category Archives: MBA

Leading Across Boundaries: Complexity

The Fall  2014 Leading Across Boundaries (L.A.B.) session focused on the topic of dealing with “complexity” in the workplace. In a recent global study, both CEOs and MBA students identified dealing with complexity as a major area of challenge in their work.  Bruce Avolio, Mark Pigott Chair in Business Strategic Leadership and Executive Director of the Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking (CLST) describes complexity as;

“1. When you have a lot of competing and difficult priorities to choose from and not all the information you need.
2. When you are trying to lead systems that have a lot of moving parts and you are trying to figure out how to integrate them to get things done.
3. When you have lots of competing priorities and have to determine how to get each done with limited resources.”

During the session, a panel of business leaders (Beth Schryer, Director 737 Business Operations for Boeing Commercial, Karen Clark Cole, CEO & Founder of Blink UX, and Nick Dykstra, Finance Director at Intellectual Ventures) sat with a group of ten MBA leaders to discuss the challenges they have with dealing with complexity in their current leadership roles. The panel then provided their strategies for dealing with complexity and responded to questions posed by the MBA leaders in attendance. Soleil Kelly, Foster’s MBA Association (MBAA) Leader and Bruce Avolio moderated the dialogue.

See photos of the event below:

FallLAB

 

 

 

FallLAB2

 

 

FallLAB3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.A.B. sessions enable MBA students to discuss topics of interest with business and community leaders while  developing their own leadership skills. The sessions are sponsored by MBAA and CLST. Visit CLST’s website to learn more.

A view of Japan from the Top: Event with Former US Ambassador to Japan, John Roos

Guest post  by Nick Dwyer, Foster MBA Candidate, 2016

Before enrolling in the full-time MBA program at the Foster School this fall, I often heard full-time business students characterized as “day students”. But with the vast number of engaging presentations, speakers’ series, networking opportunities and other evening events at our disposal, I now realize this was a misnomer. While I’m not currently taking any evening classes, my on-campus education rarely ceases before 6PM.  Perhaps my most notable example is the evening of November 20th, when I had the opportunity to hear from the former US ambassador to Japan, John Roos.

tateuchi_2014-roos-062
Ambassador Roos came to the Foster School as part of the Tateuchi Foundation Asian Business Distinguished Speaker Lecture, a series of annual speeches by business leaders focused on presenting US-Japan business opportunities.

By partnering with the Tateuchi Foundation, we can honor the legacy of Mr. Tateuchi’s business success and further the Foundation’s goals of promoting international understanding, knowledge, and relations.

The event is made possible by the Tateuchi Foundation, a family foundation charged with building bridges of understanding between the United States and Japan. Given this mission, its unlikely there is a more fitting presenter than John Roos, who served in his role as ambassador to Japan from 2009 to 2013.

One of the most interesting points of Ambassador Roos’ presentation was his atypical professional background for an ambassador. Unlike most American ambassadors to Japan, John Roos never held a significant public office before his ambassadorship and was not a political figure in Washington, DC.  Before Japan, Roos was a lawyer in Silicon Valley, where as CEO he led a premier technology law firm.

He explained that he was such an outsider that his wife quipped that he “didn’t have a chance in hell” before formally receiving his nomination for the post. But his less than common background was appealing to President Obama, who appreciated his experience in technology and innovation and his understanding of Asia-Pacific business. “But most of all, it was just a matter of trust” Roos confirmed.

tateuchi_2014-roos-120As someone who has always been interested with the economy of Japan, I particularly enjoyed watching Ambassador Roos interact with Japanese students in the Q&A part of the evening. What emerged was a major difference of opinion between the state and potential future of Japan. Several students commented they felt pessimistic about the future of Japan, given the weak economy, the high population loss, and the high national debt. Ambassador Roos reminded them that Japan is still the third largest economy in the world and that 90% of the world would trade places with them. When asked what is the best characteristic of Japanese business, Roos stated that “quality and attention to detail permeate the whole society” and there is a very high level of service, which can continue to drive the Japanese business.  He also sees the Japanese business culture beginning to address its lack of entrepreneurial thinkers and businesses, which will be key for future economic growth.

While Japanese business was a major conversation point for the evening, Roos also discussed a number of geopolitical issues, including the thorny relationship between Okinawa and the United States, the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, and North Korean threat to Japan. He also described the biggest challenge of his ambassadorship; the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. The link between national security and economic wellbeing was not lost on the ambassador, as he frequently pivoted between both topics.

In all, Ambassador Roos painted a complex yet optimistic picture of Japan and Japanese businesses. His belief in the country is illustrated by his current position on the board of directors at Japan’s largest electronics company, Sony. While Japan has to overcome it’s shrinking population and stiff competition, his ambassadorship allowed him to see up close what makes Japan so dynamic.

While I certainly don’t wish to underestimate my daytime classes and activities, Ambassador Roos certainly demonstrated that learning about global business doesn’t necessarily slow when the sun sets at Paccar Hall.

 

EMBA Skamania 2014

EMBA stuents arrive at Skamania The Executive MBA experience kicks off each fall with a five day residential program at Skamania Lodge on the Columbia River east of Portland. Away from the distractions of daily life, first year students immerse themselves in intensive instruction, collaborative projects and bonding with their fellow students. Here are some snapshots of this year’s residential session, with comments by students on the value of the experience, including a challenging class with the inimitable Charles Hill, Professor of Management & Organization and the faculty director of the EMBA Program.

Students studying at Skamania

EMBA students networking at Skamania

“The rapid pace of learning at Skamania was outstanding. The professors provided ample material to read, contemplate and absorb in preparation for five consecutive days of class. During the daily sessions, students were required to recall significant portions of the assigned material to examine precepts of micro economics, finance and leadership.”

EMBA student presentations

Professor Charles Hill in the classroom

“Charles comes at you as-advertised – fast and intense – with questions requiring that you to not only read the assigned material, but also to think deeply about it.  This deep thinking will get you about 60% of where you need to be.  From there, you have to take a deep breath, sit on the edge of your seat and lean into it.  Fortunately, the intensity of Charles’ class session is matched by his love of teaching and fair approach.  It won’t hurt too badly.”

EMBA study groups

Charles Hill

“The intensity at residency was unreal. Long days, amplified by classroom encounters with professor Charles Hill out of Scared Straight resulted in a searing educational experience. I’ve never learned more in a shorter time period. The fear of failure in the classroom quickly dissipates as everyone participates, and gets not-so-politely corrected by professor Charles Hill.”

EMBA student presentations

Charles Hill

“There were three constant thoughts that ran through my head while at Skamania and in the Charles Hill hot seat:

  1. No matter what you do, do not criticize the text or mention that it might be a little dry because the guy standing in front of you (Charles Hill) wrote it.
  1. If I look him directly in the eye maybe he won’t see me …. darn it, that didn’t work!
  1. Everyone is watching  so here goes nothing! Please be the correct answer, please be the correct answer….

On a serious note I remember thinking how interesting his class was and that despite being exhausted what a good job he did keeping us all engaged in the class. Additionally I recall thinking how impressed I was with the caliber of the professors and how lucky I was to be a part of such a smart and talented cohort, Skamania was a very humbling experience for me.”

EMBA students networking

Skamania at night

“Skamania overall was a tremendous opportunity to sit through several intense days of class and brush away the mental cobwebs.  More so, though, it was an opportunity to spend focused time with your new classmates and teammates.  A great time to start some shared experiences and friendships of a kind that are harder to find the older you become.”

Learn more about Executive MBA.

Is an MBA worth it?

When Dan Poston, Assistant Dean of Masters Program, recently addressed a group of prospective students interested in pursuing an MBA, he argued the practicality and attractiveness of MBA degrees to employers. “When recruiters recruit for MBAs,” Poston said, “they’re looking for someone who has been trained across all the different business disciplines.” Poston also discussed the Foster School’s full-time and part-time options, the enviable job-placement skills of MBA Career Management, and the high caliber students who enter the programs. Likening the process of selecting an MBA program to choosing a cruise, Poston believes that a positive MBA experience relies largely on the people you (the student) share it with. “You learn just as much from the people who are in the program with you,” he said. Watch selected clips from his talk below.

Do you know anyone who may be interested in earning an MBA while they work? Send them an invite to the next Work + MBA open house. See the event page here.

EMBA summer workshops

The UW Foster Executive MBA student experience actually begins with 36 hours of “summer workshops” held mid-July through mid-August. Designed to prepare incoming students for the many quantitative classes of their first year, the 3 hour workshop sessions cover basic math through calculus, excel and accounting. Students attend the workshops in-person on the Seattle campus, participate virtually or subsequently view recordings of the sessions.

Following the Summer Workshops, students are welcomed “back-to-school” at the end of August for an all day program orientation. At the back-to-school day, students meet their study team and larger cohort, receive fall quarter materials and hear from program alumni. Spouses and significant others are welcomed too. Below are a few photos from the 2014 workshops.

Prof Matsumoto meeting students

EMBA students raising hands

EMBA students networking

EMBA students presenting

EMBA students networking

Classes for first year students begin in late September at the fall Residential.

Learn more about Executive MBA.

Foster students manage the business end of the UW’s EcoCAR Challenge

UW's eco carA team of UW students recently took second place in the EcoCAR 2 Challenge. Its modified Chevy Malibu traveled 48 miles on an electric charge before switching to its biodiesel engine—making it the most energy-efficient car in the 15-school international competition. A brilliant feat of engineering.

Behind that engineering was some savvy business support from Foster School students. Nicholas Wilson (MBA 2012), Tyler Rose (MBA 2013) and Taj Matthews (MBA 2013) served as business managers for the first stages of the three-year project. Alex Ong, a senior studying finance, took the engineering and design team through to the finals earlier this year at General Motor’s Milford Proving Ground.

The son of engineers, Ong has no formal technical training of his own. “But I’m interested in cars and I knew a few things,” he says. “Enough to get the conversation going.”

His role was to manage the project’s six-figure budget, cultivate and communicate with sponsors, and provide financial reporting to funders and competition organizers—GM, the US Department of Energy, and a wide range of transportation and renewable energy firms and organizations.

In Detroit, the team finished first in eight categories, including quickest acceleration, lowest energy consumption and least greenhouse gas emissions. While his colleagues put the car through its paces, Ong presented the team’s financials to a panel of judges representing the sponsor organizations.

It was a unique experience, this working collaboration of engineering, business, communications and visual arts.

“There’s nothing like it at the UW,” Ong says. “It was an incredible interdisciplinary learning experience where you had to work together with people who have no knowledge of your expertise and vice-versa. Otherwise, the whole project falls flat.

“That’s about as real world as it gets.”

The UW has been selected to compete in EcoCAR 3 beginning this fall. Ong plans to recruit fellow Foster students to better distribute the workload and formalize procedures to ensure continuity over the project’s four-year run.

The team just learned that they get to play with a Camaro this time around.

Senioritis? Bah. Count Ong in.

Sustainable Big Macs: The plan for a leaner, greener McDonald’s

McDs_Langert1Imagine going into a McDonald’s and learning that all of the beef used in their hamburgers was sustainably sourced. Not only that, but the restaurants were using less energy, recycling more and adding more fruits and vegetables to their menu. Seem far-fetched? Not when you learn that the company, famous for its fast, low-cost food items, has been developing sustainability initiatives for the past three years. Enter Bob Langert, McDonald’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and keynote speaker at Foster’s Fourth Annual Idea Lab. Speaking to an audience full of MBA students and Puget-sound area business leaders, Langert talked about supply chain, consumer buy-in, and championing sustainable beef at the home of the Big Mac.

Having labeled McDonald’s as a company in transition, Langert hopes that their involvement in the sustainability movement– which he thinks is “too small [and] too niche”– will jumpstart supplier and consumer buy-in. McDonald’s has developed a plan, dubbed “Our Journey Together. For Good”, to make their menu both healthier and sustainable. The plan’s goals include:

  • To begin serving sustainably sourced beef by 2016
  • Add more fruits and vegetables by 2020
  • Reduce fat, sugar and overall calories in their food
  • Provide 100 percent sustainably sourced coffee
  • Reduce restaurant energy consumption by 20 percent
  • Increase in-restaurant recycling by 50 percent.

To achieve these goals, McDonald’s first priority is to address the supply chain—which Langer believes accounts for 80 percent of the corporation’s environmental impact. While aggressive, this certainly isn’t the first time the Golden Arches has addressed food sourcing.McDs_audienceClose

Dressed in chicken suits, Greenpeace activists staged protests in European McDonald’s restaurants with the hopes of raising awareness of deforestation in Brazil due to soya production in the Amazon. As it turned out, Amazonian soya was a major source of soy for McDonald’s food products. Surprising cynics (and probably a few Greenpeace protestors), Langert met with the activists, even traveling to the Amazon with them to get a first-hand picture of the devastation. Within three months, Langert says, McDonald’s was able to negotiate a moratorium on Amazon soya. Reflecting on the experience, Langert said, “[I’m] proud of the work, not proud that it came through a crisis.” The soya-based deforestation problem was a watershed moment for McDonald’s, driving the company’s other environmental initiatives like responsibly sourcing their coffee and their fish—100 percent of which comes from sustainable fisheries. With a focus now placed squarely on their beef suppliers, McDonald’s hopes to do the same for the millions of hamburgers they sell each day.

From enlisting the consulting expertise of famed animal science doctor and autistic activist Dr. Temple Grandin to honing in on their message, McDonald’s approach to the beef industry has been multi-pronged. Recalling his keynote speech at the first annual Ranch Sustainability Forum earlier this year, Langert reiterated the importance of coming together as a community to be more environmentally responsible and forward-thinking. “I kept saying we’re on the same page. We want sustainable beef to sell more beef.” However, Langert knows that sustainability isn’t limited to suppliers. Pointing to the trouble their European restaurants are having convincing their customers to recycle (crew members are manually separating garbage from recycling), Langert acknowledges there’s still a long way to go. When asked if it’s possible that customers are fatigued by sustainability messaging, Langert half agreed, stating that while McDonald’s Chief Brand Officer is coming up with “disruptive ways to reach consumers” he knows that what they’re doing right now is not enough. He added, “The plan right now is not consumer-centric. Our time now is being spent within the supply chain.” That’s not for nothing. Langert said that he continues to be astounded by the progress made on the supply side, stating that “suppliers discussing sustainability is a big deal.”

McDs_qaThere’s no doubt for Langert that McDonald’s has a challenging road ahead to achieve total supplier and consumer buy-in, stating, “When you try to develop something bold, there’s a lot of resistance.” However, Langert maintains that the folks at the Golden Arches are committed to taking sustainability beyond the “small and niche.” Within a few short years, McDonald’s may evolve in to paragon of environmental stewardship in the business world and possibly beyond. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

This event was co-sponsored by Foster’s Net Impact MBA club. Net Impact is a new generation of leaders who use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest problems. They put their business skills to work for good throughout every sector. By doing so, they show the world that it’s possible to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and planet too. Learn more about the club here.