Well that was a very intense 4 days, from the moment I entered the Cranfield Conference Centre after rescuing another EMBA student who I found wondering around campus until I left 95 hours later it was full on but everything and more that I’d hope it would be.

For some reason, I didn’t feel nervous, a little anxious maybe. Was it because I was use to the environment, that I had insider knowledge of what to expect and I didn’t have the extra stress of getting lost on campus (I mean clearly Building 122 is going to be next to Building 3)? Quite possibly, being an insider (and not a seed as a couple of members of my team suspected) especially on the first day does have some advantages.

In some respect I felt like my 13 year old self again starting upper school, albeit not wearing a uniform and having every item of my clothes and possessions named (I did get a new pencil case though). Was it more daunting now that I was older? Yes a little, as I have had many years of over analysing my behaviour and how I might be perceived by others (ladder of inference comes to mind here). I very much liked to be liked.

Rather than giving a run down of each day, I will just pick out a couple of my highlights and surprises from each day:

Day 1 – Orientation Day

o Registration – I now see why they allocate 2 hours to this. There were 4 different stations I had to go to and thank goodness I listened to my colleague and made a run for the lecture room door at the first hint that we were going to registration so to be near the front of the queue.

o Meeting the Supreme 7 aka my learning team – I mentioned these lovely people in an earlier post so have a read if you can.

o The Welcome Dinner – listening to David Beever, former chairman of Premier Foods speak about how the Cranfield MBA changed his life was so inspiring. Also, just in case you’re wondering I went with ‘black heels’ in the end (see my last article to make sense of this).

Day 2 – Organisational Behaviour

o Professor Richard Kwiatkowski – having worked with Richard for many years I finally got to experience him in action. Let’s just say I was not disappointed.

o Belbin & MBTI – with this being my area, I was very much looking forward to these sessions. I enjoyed seeing my team’s reactions and confusion when reading their reports and being able to explain different elements of them felt good. I will never forget one of my team member’s reaction to his MBTI report, he thought he knew himself until he read his report. Thank goodness for the Best Fit session which I hoped brought him a little clarity and not more confusion.

o 50% of my learning will come from those standing at the front of the lecture room, the other 50% will come from my peers. And, in some cases the ratios of peer input could be even higher.

Day 3 – Strategic Marketing

o Every ‘Star’ will become a ‘Cash cow’ and we all need ‘Cash cows’.

o Even markets have levels of attractiveness.

o Marketing models – who knew there were so many? Not me that’s for sure.

Day 4 – Strategic Operations Management

o  Building the Bridge with my LT, quite literally – this was a great team building activity, you know the type, those you initially dread but actually don’t mind doing and then eventually secretly end up enjoying. In case you’re wondering our bridge managed to hold 2 bottles of water! Also was great data for our QOITs (next time you see an Cranfield Exec MBA alumni just mention the word QOITs to them and wait for their reaction).

o Everyone is in Operations! That’s right in some way or another we all have our hands or at least fingers in some of the operational activities within our organisations.

o Operational models – who knew there were so many? Not me that’s for sure.

o SCRUM – this model doesn’t just have to be used in business, tried it at home with my boys as a way of speeding up the painful bedtime routine in a series of visual tasks. We’re 3 days in and so far so good, although I suspect it’s more the incentive of a pack of Pokemon Cards if they stick to it for the next 11 days rather than the model itself. Anyhow at this stage and with time so precious, I’m just glad to be able to save even 10 minutes and my voice – maybe I could experiment with a new model with them each week. Now there’s an idea.

Top tips from me (I can’t take credit for all of these)

o  If you’re running short on time, prioritise the pre-work and complete anything that says ‘prepare’, ‘plan’ and ‘discuss’. Look at those which say ‘Read’, only if you have time.

o A great app for your pre-work is ‘VoiceDream’, it reads PDF documents with a high level of accuracy.

o If completing the EMBA as part of the Level 7 Senior Leader Mastership. Make notes (even handwritten ones) of anything you attend/complete that you could use to evidence your knowledge, your skills and/or your behaviours. You can always disregard them at a later date but it is better to have more evidence than not enough to choose from.

o  Asking questions – if you don’t understand a particular model, rather than ask the lecturer to explain it further just ask ‘Google’ as my boys would tell me or even better ask a peer if they can explain it to you. Not a big thing really and I understand this is not always possible but often slides were rushed or even skipped as we ran out of time.

o Be open to new experiences and walk into each session with ‘magnet eyes’ and ‘listening ears’ (taken from my son’s school) as the lecturers and your peers give you golden nuggets of information and their experiences that aren’t on the slides.

So in answer to the question I posed in my last article, is it goodbye to my life for the next 2 years? Absolutely not! My life has been changed but in such a positive way and when my 5 year proudly informed me that he’d told all his 17 girlfriends (yes that’s right – he will soon learn that 1 is more than enough) that I’d gone back to school to make myself more cleverer, in that moment I knew I’d made the right choice in starting the EMBA. Although in my son’s mind, what he is learning is far more difficult than any of my subjects and maybe he’s right as it can be hard learning new things no matter what age you are.

Roll on Module 2 and cheers to all those other crazies embarking on this journey with me! Now to choose a new backpack, do I go for one in black or burgundy? And no the Exec MBA is not just an excuse for me to buy myself new things as one of colleagues assumes.

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