According to the BCom Graduate Profile, the University of Auckland Business School aims to “Prepare its graduates to succeed in complex, uncertain and globally competitive world” (Smith, 2014). I believe Management 300 has fulfilled that promise better than any other course I have studied previously in the duration of my three years at university. This paper has been an extremely difficult yet rewarding experience for me, as it has always challenged me to push beyond my limits. Through my experience in this course, I have been able to gain many valuable and applicable skills for any given situation that lies ahead of me. If there was one main thing I could take away from this paper, it would be the importance of learning. There are so many aspects of learning that I had never actively been previously aware of. I know for a fact that I will never cease to learn – wherever I go, I will always be learning. I believe Management 300 has provided me a solid foundation on the process of learning, learning through reflection in particular, which is far more superior than being given a direct answer to a problem. In this summative journal, I will be outlining what I have learnt, and how this has prepared me better for the corporate world.
Before starting this course, I had never fully appreciated the value of self-reflection. Every week for the duration of ten weeks, I was asked to write a learning journal by applying Daudelin’s framework which consists of four different steps - articulating the problem, analysing the problem, formulating a tentative theory, and finally, developing an action to diagnose the problem (Daudelin, 1996). At first I was a little sceptical about how much I could learn from this framework as it seemed like such a simple and obvious concept. However, when I was able to apply these steps into concrete experiences - especially Mike’s Bikes, I have come to the realisation that these four steps that could potentially change the outcomes of a given situation. If applied correctly, it could be the single most effective tool in determining success. The importance of reflection began to become much clearer to me during weeks six and seven where my team’s performance in Mike’s Bikes kept dropping dramatically with each rollover. A little perplexed and confused, I was left struggling to understand why or how my team’s performance in Mike’s Bikes had gone down to a mere SHV of 0.09 (Lee, 2014d) . In week seven, when I had to provide feedback to one of my team members, I had noticed how Williams (2014) suggested in his learning journal that we should stop trying to fix the problem and rather start analysing the underlying cause of the problem. This level of thinking is well supported by Argyris (1991) where he addresses the importance of double loop learning. I found that I too was able to actively engage in double loop learning without much effort. For example, I had analysed all the reports, gone through all the spreadsheets, and even summarised the manual in the hopes of trying to understand where we were going wrong (Lee, 2014b). Even though my efforts of trying to find causes to the problem did not direct me to a plausible solution in fixing the problem i.e. a decrease in our shareholder value, it did however help me a lot in other areas such as critical thinking skills. This level of thinking has provided me a good foundation for conceptualising different hypotheses to help me look beyond the most obvious problem which is a crucial and single most important component of good self-reflection, just as reflection helps foster double loop learning (Synnott, 2014).
During the break, my team met up with Peter who was helpful in directing us to the potential cause of the problem. Having met up with Peter exposed me to different ideas I had not yet thought about. He also assured us that we had not yet hit rock bottom, and that we were able to change it around (Lee, 2014e). According to Kolb (1976) in order for me to be an effective learner, I must first be able to observe the problem from different perspectives. By reflecting on the suggestions of improvement made by Peter and Smart-Sims, I was able to make better and informed decisions that may have contributed to the success of the increase in our shareholder value. For example, as the operations manager, I thought that having no idle time meant that it was good, as the production is working at optimum level. However, after meeting with Peter, I found out that my understanding was wrong, and that having a little bit of idle time may do more good than harm. It was only when I was exposed to a different perspective that I was able to critically reflect upon my other decisions also (Lee, 2014c). Furthermore, by applying the same principle – learning through reflecting, it is evident that the quality of my weekly learning journals had increased. For example, in some of the weeks, I was repeatedly asked to use Daudelin’s framework, requesting me to critically evaluate and articulate what my actual problem was to develop a better understanding of how to solve the problem. However, in the last few weeks of the weekly journals, the feedback I had received began to have a completely different tone all together. It was much more positive and it was focused more on things I was doing right. The only reason I was able to make a difference in the quality of my writing was because I was able to apply the constructive feedback given through reflecting upon suggested improvements. I learnt that by being exposed to different perspectives and ideas, I was able to apply the knowledge gained from reflecting into making better actionable decisions in the future.
One thing I had begun to notice after a drop in our SHV was the significant difference in the interaction between the members in our group. Another member had also picked this up, and have mentioned it in her learning journal (Bell, 2014). She feared that we were at the risk of ‘groupthink’ and I have to admit, even I may also have contributed to this. The reason for this was because as our performance was dropping, so was my level of confidence (Lee, 2014f). I was so afraid of performing badly, that I was too afraid of voicing out my opinions - because what if the outcomes of my decisions are not desirable? What if I become the cause for our team’s downfall? What if I am lacking the knowledge to make good decisions? It was beginning to become harder for me to make ‘economically rational decisions’ (Christensen, 2010) as I was so consumed by the overwhelming emotional attachment to the game, my desire to succeed. I had fallen into what Argyris (1991) labels as the ‘doom loop’ where my failure-phobia had made me so much more vulnerable. To be completely honest, I felt like I was kind of just thrown into the simulation without sufficient background information. I have never studied Operations Management in my life, and I had never been very strong with numbers. My initial choice was to be either a CEO or a Research Developer but I was appointed the role as an Operations Manager which was extremely difficult for me. It was hard for me to adapt into a culture filled with so much ambiguity and uncertainty and I was quite resistant to change (Spreier, 2006). The unpredictable nature of the market and competition did not make it any easier.
I know that no matter what decision I make, it is always going to involve some form of risk that may end with outcomes that are different from what I had originally intended (Buchanan & O’Connell, 2006). Just because a decision may seem good, it does not guarantee a good outcome (Christensen, 2010). For example, in week 2 my group decided that it was a good idea to pay off all the debt which at the time, seemed like a good idea because it had worked well for our practice rollover, only to find out that it was an incomprehensible mistake. Sometimes, it is better to use your intuition and gut feeling than trying to analyse patterns and data to formulate a logical explanation of why things happen (Buchanan & O’Connell, 2006). By relying on this gut feeling and intuition, I was able to see an improvement my confidence levels (Lee, 2014b) and by developing a positive attitude towards my decisions, I was able to become much more comfortable in voicing out my opinions which resulted in my team peer review feedback saying that I contributed to the team by voicing out opinions, critically analysing each decision. Nobody can learn for you (Lee, 2014a) and I guess this is how it will be like in the corporate world – always challenged to face unfamiliar and ambiguous situations without sufficient background knowledge or training.
I learnt that whatever the situation may be – whether good or bad, unpredictable or highly predictable, it all depends on my attitude towards learning from that particular situation (Kolb, 1976). For example, when my team was not performing as well as I had hoped, I could have let myself blame other factors for my mistakes (Lee, 2014c). Or, I could take this as an opportunity to learn, as a stepping stone for success, reflecting on what the potential problem could be and understanding where I went wrong so that I will be less likely to make the same mistake again. This was how I was able to contribute towards the success of our team in the last few rollovers. I took every opportunity as a platform for learning – whether it would be through success or failure (Kolb, 1976). In week six, (Lee, 2014b) I mentioned how I was actually happy that we were making mistakes, because that means we have much more to learn from it. In the end, our group was able to make the most significant increase and improvement than any other team, from a mere SHV of $0.09 (Last place) to $52.17 (Placed in the middle). I know that if we had a few more rollovers, we would definitely have been capable of hitting a much higher SHV. I would have to owe this success to the attitude towards failure, and again, the ability to reflect from mistakes and learn to make better decisions.
I have learnt so many valuable and readily applicable skills that has made me better prepared for the complex, ambiguous and competitive corporate world because of my experiences of working in teams, in unpredictable and ambiguous situations, and most importantly experiences in learning through reflection by either using Daudelin’s approach or Kolb’s learning cycle. As I prepare myself to enter the workforce, I will try and take more time aside to critically reflect upon my actions just like I was able to in this course. I have learnt that I should be more open to different ideas and reflect by observing different perspectives. I will not hesitate to take any opportunity whether good or bad as an extra tool for my learning. Of course I am not perfect, and I know that this will require much more time and practice to master. But at least from my concrete experiences, it has built me a good foundation as a stepping stone for success, because these skills are practically applicable in any situation that I will encounter in the future. The effects may not be immediate, but if I was able to change the results in less than twelve weeks, then I know I will be able to succeed in changing my behaviour in preparation of the corporate world. At first, a little confused and maybe a little frustrated, through a series of trial and error, success and failure, reflecting, observing and applying knowledge I have definitely become a better person than I was before I started this course. I just wish we had a little bit more time, because I know if our team was given the opportunity to race a little longer, we would be able to have been able to accomplish greater success.
Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Reflections, 4(2), 4--15
Daudelin, M. W. (1996). Learning from experience through reflection. Organizational Dynamics, 24(3), 36—48
Bell, C. (2014, September 19th) All sales but none of the profit. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=87204541
Buchanan, L. & O'Connell, A. (2006). A brief history of decision making. Harvard Business Review, 84(1), 32—41
Christensen, C. M. (2010). How will you measure your life? Harvard Business Review, 88(7/8), 46-51.
Kolb, D. A. (1976). Management and the learning process. California Management Review, 8(3), 21—31
Lee, M. (2014a, July 25th). Learning through reflecting. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Learning+through+Reflecting
Lee, M. (2014b, August 29th). What is going wrong? Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=87199707
Lee, M. (2014c, September 19th). Learning to fall, learning to fly. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=87204403
Lee, M. (2014d, September 26th). Doing what we aimed to achieve. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Doing+what+we+aimed+to+achieve
Lee, M. (2014e, October 2nd). Only a few rollovers left. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/only+a+few+rollovers+left
Lee, M. (2014f, October 10th). Last journal, doing what we can. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Last+journal%2C+doing+what+we+can
Smith, P. (2014, June 23rd). BCom Graduate profile. Retrieved from: https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/BCom+Graduate+profile
Spreier, S. W., Fontaine, M. H., & Malloy, R. L. (2006).Leadership run amok. Harvard Business Review, 84(6), 72—82
Synnott, M. (2013). Reflection and double loop learning: The case of HS2. Teaching Public Administration, 31(1), 124--134. Doi: 10.1177/0144739413479950
Williams, V. (2014, September 19th). https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Rock+Bottom?focusedCommentId=87204893#comment-87204893