The differentiator of the UEA MBA is the Management Consultancy Projects module. It serves as a capstone module that requires you to deploy the subject matter expertise learned on the modules of the MBA programme. Students are given opportunities to apply their learning on other modules in a teams of 3-5 to solve real life business needs.
There are two consultancy projects in the module, the first is an intensive three week project with smaller organisations and the second is a longer term project with larger client organisations. Our students have just completed their first project working with three high growth SMEs, they are:
Equipmake, a £1M turnover business seeking to expand, a regional consultancy practice.
WLP which is looking to grow their business to achieve its 3 year strategic vision
Swift Technology Group a hi-tech carbon fibre business that manufactures small aircraft and provides consultancy services to the sector.
The module Leader Graham Manville says that “work integrated learning using live consultancy projects provides MBA students with a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate their subject matter expertise and several alumni have made the transition into management consultancy.”
Joshua Jones, a current full-time MBA student has written about his experience of the consultancy projects which can be found below.
We are halfway through our consultancy module and it’s the day of the first meeting with the client. Driving through country lanes in our rather plush hire car, (courtesy of Norwich Business School). We’re prepared, we’ve read the client brief, and we have questions to ask them. But there is of course an anxiety of not knowing what to expect, coupled with the self-doubt. A feeling of charlatanism, are we pretending to be consultants or are we consultants in training?
The module had started a few weeks earlier and our lecturer Graham had already filled our heads with various, processes, frameworks and philosophies. From the practical project planning to inspiring insights into the impact of consulting on business and society, and on top of that we had the 5 months of lectures behind us, not to mention the years of experience. It was easy to forget after all that we weren’t new to business. I’d founded and ran a company of a similar size and nature to our clients after all and now we had our experiences neatly articulated with the language and models from the MBA.
This training had empowered us and we were prepared, weren’t we? Surely we had nothing to worry about. I think this anxiety is itself a mini version of what a student gets when they graduate and this project was to be a safe and simulated environment for us to succeed and grow our confidence or fail and… Well, best not to think about that. Eyes on the road, we’re already running late as it is!
We arrived at the client’s office and took our seats. We were joined by three members of the client organisation and after the pleasantries, went through our prepared list of questions and attempted to get as much information as possible in the short time we had. The experience felt very real and not simulated, although the client was perhaps a little more polite and patient than he would have been if he were paying us! Nevertheless, we left with the information we needed.
We spent the next few days putting together our proposal and it was around this time that cracks in the team began to appear and conflicts around motivation and engagement began to surface. This was in stark contrast to our behaviour as a team only days earlier at the team building event. It had felt like we had gelled and would face any challenge as a focused unit, but in practice it was turning out to be a different matter. Of course, these issues were likely to surface in our professional careers if we were to work as consultants in varying teams (as I was) and it was all part of the experience. All our issues were met head on and through communication and perseverance we made it work as a unit.
The client had offered use of their office to work from which was a perfect opportunity to spend time with their staff. This time was to turn out to be invaluable as many of the insights we gained from talking to staff would greatly shape our end proposal.
Fast forward through all these ups and downs and I’m back in that car hire and on the way to present to the whole client company, an audience consisting of up to 15 people, most of which are experienced consultants themselves. But this time feels different. This time it’s not about who we are, whether we’re faking it or even whether we’re prepared. Now we are more focused on one thing: we have identified a problem and we think we have found the solution. We’re excited to communicate it and if we’re anxious about anything, it’s that our ideas will be accepted and adopted.
As it turns out, they were!