Suffolk Young Enterprise finals

By David Collins, Suffolk Business School

In my last blog which was, I acknowledge, quite some time ago I was looking forward to a family break. I have now returned – however reluctantly – from my trip to France. Indeed since this welcome break I have been to France, Belgium, Holland and North Norfolk!

I had intended to prepare a blog posting last week but a very crowded diary prevented this. Last Thursday, you see, I acted as the Chair of a University validation panel and in the evening I was privileged to attend the Suffolk Young Enterprise Awards, which was hosted by the University of Suffolk.

This event is the culmination of a process which sees groups of students prepare business plans designed to bring a product to the marketplace. At last week’s event the students reported on what they had done and on what they had learned and, perhaps most importantly, what they had earned through this process since this is no abstract exercise. In this regard it is perhaps worth conceding that I bought two ‘spinners’ for my kids from the team representing East Bergholt.

Aside from indulging myself in a bit of retail therapy I also took the opportunity to remind the students of the benefits of a degree education that will make them ‘career –ready’. In addition I took a moment to remind their teachers of the need to ensure their own continuing development. Teachers you see need to be ‘ahead of the game’ because they must prepare their students for a market that is always six years away! Given the complexities associated with leading a school I was pleased to be able to inform the teachers (and parents) who were present that we offer a range of postgraduate, MBA and MSc, programmes that have been designed to prepare participants for future senior management and executive positions.

The highlight of the evening was of course the prize-giving. I was invited to award a number of prizes on behalf of the judging committee and was pleased to accept. If I’m I really don’t enjoy having my photograph taken and would normally look for some way to wriggle out of this obligation. But I was pleased to set aside my normal reticence on this occasion for I was genuinely impressed by what the students had achieved. Indeed I found myself humbled by the quality of the presentations that they delivered last Thursday evening. In fact I am pretty well convinced that I could not do at 20 what the students last week had achieved in their middle teens!

Given these performance I do hope that I was successful in my attempts to persuade the students and their parents that they should continue their studies at the University of Suffolk.

Revalidating the MBA Programme

By David Collins, Suffolk Business School

The University of Suffolk ‘revalidates’ its degrees periodically. On a year-to-year basis we review the modules that we teach to ensure that these remain both useful and current. Every five years however we pause to engage in a root-and-branch review that, in effect, re-imagines our degrees. This process the University terms ‘revalidation’ and at present we are preparing for the revalidation of our MBA (Master of Business Administration ). What are we doing to re-imagine our MBA? I am glad you asked…

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University of Suffolk Waterfront Building. Photo (C) University of Suffolk

We are making a number of changes designed to ensure that our MBA continues to prepare participants for leadership and executive positions. In a blog I can only highlight a few of these changes so I will pause to pinpoint the following developments:

We have reviewed the content of our modules to ensure that, as far as possible, students work on ‘live’ (you will note I refuse to say ‘real world’) problems. In addition we have added more formative assessments to ensure that, as our students learn to become the ‘practical theorists’ that modern organizations need, they receive timely feedback on their ideas and plans.

Finally (within the confines of this brief account) it is also worth noting that we have changed the titles of our modules. This apparently cosmetic change is, for me, perhaps the most significant development, because it is designed to remind staff and students alike that although we generally refer to ‘management’ and ‘organizations’ as nouns; as things they are in truth more usefully constructed as verbs. And if you hope to make a difference in the (real) world you might do well to recall that managing and organizing are processes that we enact between us…

Don’t Give Up! Insight on the processes of academic publishing

By David Collins, Suffolk Business School

I received some good news recently…

A paper on the professionalization of management consultancy that I published in the spring of 2016 with my colleague Dr Nick Butler, of Stockholm Business School, has been nominated for the Urwick Memorial Cup. This is an annual award made by the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants for ‘outstanding research’ in the field of management consultancy. I am obviously delighted to be short-listed for this national award but my purpose in drawing your attention to this is not (simply) to boast. Rather I thought that this event might allow me to offer a little insight on the processes of academic publishing…

Our (I hope) prize-winning paper has, yes you guessed it, an interesting back-story. Back in 2013 I was working on a paper about the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) and its annual best-practice awards. In truth I had been working on this paper, off-and-on for about ten years. In 2013 – more in hope than belief – I sent the most recent draft of my paper to the editor of a journal called Culture and Organization. The editor found the paper interesting, and so, she sent it ‘for review’. Putting this another way, the editor sent the paper (anonymously) to three academics who were invited to comment on its merits.

Some months later (academics are pretty busy and don’t get paid for this activity) the editor wrote to me and shared the opinion of the international panel of reviewers whose services she had commissioned. The reviewers had enjoyed the paper but suggested that I might like to revise my work. To help with this one of the reviewers suggested that I should contact Nick Butler because he had been engaged in related research concerning the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC).

I duly contacted Nick who was kind enough to send me some published research and – very generously – an unpublished piece of research which he had been unable to place with a journal. I was intrigued by this unpublished work and volunteered to rework the paper with a view to securing its publication. Nick agreed to this proposal and over the next year we batted drafts back and forth across the North Sea. Eventually by late 2015 we had a paper we liked.

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We sent our paper off to a journal editor who promptly rejected it. So we rolled up our sleeves, did some further editing, and sent it to another journal….and promptly received another rejection. Eventually we found an editor who was willing to send the paper for review. And some months later the draft was returned to us for revision. Over the next few months we re-wrote the literature review completely and made other changes to the paper’s empirical section and to the concluding discussion… Ok, we pretty much re-wrote the paper.

Early in 2016 this activity finally paid off. We had backed our intuition and to our great relief the paper was finally accepted for publication in Management and Organizational History…and in 2017 it was nominated as you now know for a rather prestigious award.

So, what would I have you take from this?

It’s simple really. Take advice by all means but don’t give up too quickly on your hopes, dreams and aspirations! The market place is awash with products – ‘people carriers’ and ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ to name but two – which were rejected when they were first offered to consumers.

Further reading:

Butler, N & D Collins (2016) ‘The failure of consulting professionalism? A longitudinal analysis of the Institute of Management Consultants‘ Management & Organizational History, 11(1), pp. 48-65

Collins, D (2014) ‘Constituting best practice in management consulting‘. Culture & Organization, 22(5), pp. 409-429