I’m currently in my fourth and final semester in the Wake Forest University Schools of Business (Formerly Babcock Graduate School of Management) Executive MBA program. Our capstone, of sorts, is known as the Management Practicum. Dan Fogle, our faculty sponsor, has set the requirement for this year that all of our team-based practicum projects must have a sustainability or environmental theme. There has been great enthusiasm among the cohort for this and I’m excited for my specific project.

Wake Forest University Schools of Business

Wake Forest University Schools of Business

I learned today that Wake Forest recently received accolades for its attention to sustainability by the Aspen Institute. According to the news release, The Schools of Business rank 43rd among the Global Top 100 Schools and have been among the top 50 since 2005. Projects, like our practicum and the hiring of a sustainability director are real signs of applying these themes to the curriculum in a meaningful manner. We had the opportunity to meet with Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, WFU’s new sustainability director this morning and lunch. She provided a good forum to validate the ideas of our projects, as she’s certainly been someone with her “ear to the ground” on these topics for a while.

The projects among the class certainly are wide of field, even within the scope of the “green” universe. Some of the topics include:

  • Solar power rollout in the US and remote locations in Central America
  • Lean manufacturing with a focus on reducing environmental impact
  • Environmentally preferential sourcing policy development for municipalities
  • Groundwater conservation in India
  • Improving environmental impact of large data centers

I can’t talk much (yet) about my team’s project, but it involves Eco-labels such as Cradle2Cradle, LEED, and GreenSeal. The topic is actually very closely tied to this article from triplepundit. The question of whether government intervention is required as the impetus of implementing sustainable practices is a huge one. Our team is monitoring closely developments in the State of California, the EU, and China to come to a conclusion on this that might predict the strategic direction firms in all industries must consider. This is a matter of real business, whichever way this particular question falls. I’m pleased that I’ll be wrapping up the MBA in December knowing that we’ve tackled one of the most important business questions in my generation and all those to follow.


Principled Leadership

August 29, 2009

I thoroughly enjoyed John Allison‘s visit to our Executive MBA class at Wake Forest University this morning. Mr. Allison is the Chairman and former CEO of BB&T, and has recently joined the faculty at WFU.

August 28, 2009

John Allison at WFU, August 28, 2009

Mr Allison’s discussion was focused on the values that he help ingrain into the culture at the bank:

Reality (Fact-Based)
Reason (Objectivity)
Independent Thinking
Justice (Fairness)
Self-Esteem (Self-Motivation)
Teamwork/Mutual (Supportiveness)

We had the opportunity to discuss the sub-prime mortgage crisis and how BB&T really got screwed by being forced to take TARP money. The real takeaways from the discussion, though, were the perspectives of a principled leader. The values described today seem on the surface like any other set of values you might see on any corporate bulletin board. When you study them in detail (and hear Mr. Allison describe them), it’s clear that these are the virtues of humanity, and not just a set of characteristics that might assist in business goals. The most poignant set of the values are the ones centered around objectivity and fact-based management. The most memorable quote from today’s session is that the number one reason a small business will fail is because the leader evades reality. You have to know your place in the real world around you.

BB&T has put a focus and premium on individualism, which could be a real risk. However, because the vision and goals are clearly defined and permeated through the organization, the individualism should ultimately lead to creativity and innovation, rather than anarchy. As Mr. Allison transitions to academia, I think he knows and can have confidence that his company is as well-poised to weather any shocks and disruptions as a company can be in these times. This is another example to me how the people in business are more important than any product or technology for ensuring long term value.

Twitter for MBAs

March 24, 2009

My school chum, Brian Gracely, does a great job summarizing Twitter with a summary on usage and a summary of Twitter’s business. I know there are a ton of tutorials on Twitter out there, but this might give you a glimpse on what we’re talking about in B-school. 

As you may be able to tell, I use Twitter to supplement this blog and to try to put a personal face on my company. I’m also in the process of kicking off a corporate Twitter presence, but I’m still trying to figure out the strategy there. Vision Point Systems is by no means in the mass market, so I can’t take the approach of the Starbucks or the JetBlue‘s of the world. I suppose my goal is benefit from associations with the rest of the local Twitterverse. 

I’m open to suggestions.

Today’s IT Management for MBA’s class had one interesting takeaway for me: a list of complaints companies typically have with IT vendors. The list, as adapted from a 2007 Forrester Research study is basically as follows:

  • Cost savings not as much as expected
  • Inability to respond to changing business needs
  • Inflexibility towards price, volume or scope changes
  • Not enough time invested by the vendor towards making the contract successful
  • Not enough effort towards continuous improvement
  • Lack of cooperation with other vendors or suppliers
  • Poor or inconsistent quality

I read this list as good checklist for what a company like Vision Point Systems should be pitching to all potential and current clients. I believe we already do a good job of incorporating the tenants associated with avoiding these mistakes into our business culture, and that this is a main reason for our success in the face of competition from other larger and more established IT consulting companies. I’ll certainly be sure to emphasize these aspects even more from here on out.

IT Management for MBAs

January 10, 2009

I started the second semester in the Wake Forest Executive MBA program today. One of the classes on the transcript for this semester is Information Technology Management. As you can imagine, there’s a good mix of technology tenderfoots and techies in the program. It will be quite interesting to me to see how this class progresses.

Today’s opening session left me with the following thoughts.

  • The professor does seem to appreciate the fact that we are living in exponential times, as is very well communicated through this video. I sensed an academic concession that the topics covered in the class will be outdated soon after this session is finished.
  • There is a negative bias against “IT” from those people who are in non-IT positions. I got a real reminder of how much of a hindrance infrastructure IT folks are perceived as, and how nervous managers can get when it comes to business application implementation.
  • The Client-Server model seems to be pervasive. SAAS was mentioned briefly, but there was an emphasis on how systems are centralized in hardware server.

I’ll keep posting on other interesting items covered down the road.