Management – Restructuring
We talked about an interesting case – People Express, a first airline to come out in 1980, right after the deregulation of the industry. They had a unique and entirely novel approach to people management, encouraging high-performance, leveraging employee’s commitment, giving out company stock to each employee, etc. They were a huge success story in the early eighties in all areas: one of the best places to work for, beautifully performing stock, and a great flying experience. Harvard picked them to be a cornerstone case for one of their human resource management courses. Unfortunately, they wanted too much too fast, and failed as quickly as they succeeded, becoming a part of Continental Airlines in the late eighties. Harvard immediately dropped the case, but Wharton retains it to this day, showcasing how the road to financial hell might be paved with great ideas.
Working lunch session – meeting about the international seminar next year. As expected, no one seems to want to go to Europe, with northeastern Asia (Japan, China, or Hong Kong) being the most popular choice for now.
Tough day tomorrow – FAP presentations in the morning, followed by the econ final. And yet, our paper is not finished, the presentation has only the notes written up, and I still have to go through the last year’s econ final. Not to fear, our team spends the entire evening working feverishly on all of these, so that we are all happy with the results when we finally call it a night at midnight. Along the way, though, there were some nervous laughter bouts, and other painful reminders of the undergrad all-nighters, even though working till midnight can hardly qualify as an all-nighter. Probably the toughest point this semester.
Management – FAP Presentations
During the semester each study group had to conduct a field application project (FAP), essentially a management consulting project for a company of the group’s choice. The last class was devoted to presentations of each teams’ results. Ten companies, ten fascinating stories.
• “BigFishCo” – one of the big 4 accounting firms (they wished to remain anonymous). Storyline: accountants work insane hours, with one interviewee, being not that far out of the ordinary, reporting 85 hour work weeks for an entire year. Another reported working 12-14 hour days without weekends on an important client project for 3 months and receiving a $500 bonus at the end. That’s the weird part about it – they work like crazy but aren’t paid that much (of course, everything’s relative); in fact, in this firm, the salaries are about 25-30% lower than at competitors’, even though the firm is doing great financially. The carrot is the opportunity to make partner and make millions; however, few seem to live that long. Oh, what was the project about? The problem they are having is huge turnover – 20-25% a year and can’t seem to figure out why.
• ERisk – a risk management consulting boutique, with a conflict, mistrust, lack of appreciation between the consultants and the sales people who sell their services as well as the company’s product. Turns out my sales team’s problems aren’t unique at all. In this shop, one of the sales people, who is supposed to be selling this sophisticated software product to reputable financial institutions, is widely suspected of selling speedboats on the side. Another has not sold anything in the three years he’s been with the firm. Hmm, my own efforts do not seem so paltry in comparison.
• SEC’s Enforcement Division – top-level lawyers prosecuting the likes of Enron. In contrast to BigFishCo, these folks work regular hours and even though they could be making 2-5 times as much across the street, say that “you couldn’t pay me enough to work the insane hours of the private law firms.” Interesting issues balancing who gets and who goes after the more challenging cases, versus the ones with more publicity, versus the ones at the frontiers of current practice. How do you keep these top-notch lawyers, who are purposefully not just going after the money, motivated?
• IntraLinks – the universal problem of software developer motivation. Everyone’s smart, everyone makes good money, however, they all ask themselves – where do I go from here? What is the career progression for a software developer, especially one who does not want to move into management?
Econ – Final
Finally, the final final. Not too difficult, not too easy, glad it’s over. Toasting the end of our first semester – and discussing the vacation plans for the next 3 weeks. Second semester starts mid September. Not that we are free until then – we already have all of our books and some assignments that have to be done before classes start. Nah, I am not going to think about them at least for a couple of days.
Well, not really. Severe thunderstorms in Boston cause a 2.5 hour flight delay and the best thing I can find to do is starting up on those reading materials for next term. The light reading – Paul Krugman’s bestseller “Peddling Prosperity.” I already like his New York Time columns, so I enjoyed the reading.
When we finally got on the plane the pilot asked 2 trivia questions, offering seats in the empty first-class section for correct answers. The questions: 1) where is Pocahontas buried; 2) name the US presidents not buried in the US. I missed both questions, although I should have been able to answer the second one.
Home sweet home! With a homecooked dinner still waiting for me in celebration, even though it was 11pm when I got there.