Friday, 16 November 2012

Not-for-Profit and The Royal Holloway MBA

Over the past couple of years whilst I have been involved in the recruitment of prospective students onto The Royal Holloway MBA I have reasonably often asked about the relevance of this programme for the public and third (not-for-profit and charities).   The stereotypical MBA would be expected to look for a high pressured, well remunerated role in the financial services or consulting sectors. Fortunately, whilst a few do follow this path, the global group of MBA candidates that start each year in September at the iconic Egham campus tend to follow a much broader range of paths on graduation.

Royal Holloway used to offer a wide range of public sector specifc programmes and modules, but as the differences between the three sectors have reduced, these highly specialised options no longer exist in our portfolio with lecturers considering private, public and third stream sectors as a matter of course. Perhaps due to the liberal arts history of the College, Royal Holloway tends to see MBA candidates join from very wide backgrounds that includes representatives from all three sectors.

As part of a regular lunch time speaker session, laid on specifically for the MBA group, Peter Berry came to campus on a foggy, damp, November day, to share insights from his illustrious career, which included rescuing and reinvigorating the not-for-profit Crown Agents organisation, as well as being decorated by both Britian and Japan.  Using an example of change management he described how he had recommended to unpick the civil service pyramid organisation that saw a product led orientation staffed by personal fiefdoms switched to a market facing one that required 30% fewer staff, but resulted in a more efficient and effective organisation.

Peter also regaled a story that challenged the idea of assessing a charities effectiveness by measuring its running costs as a percentage of turnover, preferring to encourage the Royal Holloway MBA group to consider mission effectiveness.  His organisation set up a logistics operation to deliver essential food aid to people isolated by war, in both the former Yugoslavia and then in the African lakes (Rwanda).  The introduction of convoys of well paid ex-soldier driven trucks replacing low cost and heroic locals, protected by guards, whilst more costly to operate, were considerably more effective at completing their missions, and thus saving starving people in great peril. 

Having operated in many parts of the world where corruption was the norm, Mr Berry talked through how he managed to ensure that his entire organisation understood that moral and ethical behaviour was a fundamental requirement, however elusive the concept was to define.  The value of integrity in doing business was also highlighted, that whilst some significant markets were unaccessible due to the firm stance taken by Peter in his leadership role, this position in itself also opened up other opportunities. 

Growth in non-goverment organisations (NGO's) and charities was identified as an important area for MBAs to consider for their future careers.  Peter rather surprised the group at one point by suggesting that having fun is vitally important, and that you should never consider moving for less than a 20% improvment in your package - but this might not be a financial 20% - but may be entirely for fun.  He flagged that many non-profiteering organisational roles do not pay badly and when interesting work, combines with good training and development and enjoyment of the work (for an outfit that is about doing good for society) - this is a combination that can offer satisfaction that a high salary for work you hate cannot compete with. 

Peter Berry neatly answered one question about the validity of The Royal Holloway MBA in the public and not-for profit sectors by identifyingkey skills of ensuring the mission is delivered as being crucial, and suggesting that the training offered in the MBA programme would give individuals the capabilities that should make them highly desirable and effective managers and leaders in these sectors.

It was also clear from the strong and positive thanks that was given to Peter after his talk, that several students were positively invigorated about the possible opportunities companies like Crown Agents might hold for them going forwards.