b-school, Henley, MBA, Personal

A kill is a kill (my MBA Integrated Management Project is finally done!)

Hectic days. I was in Oman for a presentation with a British company (I had so much fun, they are great and the experience was great, maybe one day…), and then a dozen days in India (trying to move forward the management centres for Delhi’s airport). I did also manage (although I don’t know exactly how) to finish two more assignments for my MBA, closing my second stage.

The biggest one was the Integrated Management Project: an assignment that spans three subjects: Global Business Environment, Strategic Direction and Corporate Finance and Governance. They must be all taken into account and integrated into one big assignment, having an holistic view and approaching the analysis through different angles. It’s about tackling some challenge for your company… analysing the context, creating strategy by means of thinking strategically and assessing the value that each strategic option is going to add.

In my case I analysed a proposal that Ryanair made to Barcelona’s Airport: establishing one of their operational bases there in exchange for a drastic reduction in fees. Studying the case took me lots of hours but it was really interesting as I began with a very specific point of view on what to do, influenced by my preconceptions and, through the systematic application of models and sound reasoning, reached very different conclusions. The intellectual journey was more than interesting. The conclusions as well. I could finally prepare a clear strategy for the airport while identifying the issues that must be changed internally. (Sorry I can’t publish my conclusions here publicly). The exercise was really useful as it provided me with the chance to reflect over my previous project, something we tend to obviate as we go straight ahead into new challenges.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 9 November | 11.53.30

This means I’ve completed the “Managing the organisation” and “Making business choices” stages, and I’m now facing the third stage “Making a difference” which includes Leadership, Reputation and the huge, scary “Management Challenge”. My proposal for the management challenge has been already accepted so I’m getting back on track. (more info about my management challenge quite soon)

Perfection would be great but, when you’re finishing assignments in airport lounges and while flying ten kilometres high, while living an hectic life, well… perfection means asking too much. My engineer side tells me to find a balance between time, cost and quality, a compromise to move forward. My economist side tells me to focus on substantiality, to choose the right granularity so that the figures are meaningful. That’s what I’m striving to do right now.

In those circumstances, a kill is a kill. Let’s move forward 😉

b-school, Henley, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

To boldly go where no man has ever gone before

The last workshop at Henley is over, and I’ve already started feeling that something is missing. Still in the Greenlands, it’s hard to interiorise that two and a half years of MBA have gone so fast. And with them the successful completion of a huge airport terminal, my first steps in India, and other huge, very relevant projects that have meant a qualitative leap in my career.


I still have a lot to go. Not only my Management Challenge that I’m starting now (If any expatriates in India want to participate, please contact me!), but also the assignments I still have to finish. And the decisions I may have to make to move my career forward can possibly entail a considerable amount of thinking.

This last workshop has been especially eye-opening. We’ve reached a degree of companionship with my colleagues that I never though possible. We’ve taken care, supported each other. I have to find a way to make it last, for this feeling to survive, for these links not to dim into oblivion. To my colleagues for their support through the process (that I still need for the next half year): thank-you.

And also to tap into the great reservoir of people that enrol in the Henley MBA. We had our last party along with a group of Henley Nordic that had their starter workshop. I was chatting with some of very interesting Swedish guys. By one side, they made me realise the march of time, on the other they also made me verbalise why it was worth it. Thank-you.

And to the staff, from support to feeding us, to motivating and pushing us out of our comfort zone to challenging our proposals and trying to dismount them. I can write no names as any list would be unjust but, thank-you.

Thanks to you all, and many more that have supported me from my personal sphere, I’m on my way, my own way, to boldly go where no man has ever gone before. My own personal challenge, my own special journey.

And to those reading this 🙂 sometimes I wonder how is it possible anyone could be interested in what I write, lest thousands. Thank-you 😉

b-school, Economics, Economy, Henley, Macroeconomy, Thoughts

Thinking of Walter Bagehot (forgotten panics and not-so-forgotten bankers)

After a weekend in Henley closing the strategic marketing and global business environment modules, and endless talks about the capital markets, including a valuable late-hour conversation in the plane with an economist whose expertise are intangibles, I felt I needed to dwell on the past knowledge to gain some perspective on the issue.

And who better than Walter Bagehot and his Lombard Street. I’d rather externalise the explanation on who’s Walter Bagehot using Wikipedia, but it suffices to say that he was the chief editor of the Economist, as well as a banker, and had studied mathematics and philosophy. What’s more interesting, that was in 1873.

1873 was also a year of panic: another crisis that lasted for four years (roughly like the 1929s’ depression), beginning with a mortgage crisis, another link worth externalising to the Chronicle Review. (Thanks to Brisebois 🙂 )

Many will see analogies between what has happened in the past and what’s happening today. Even though, we tend not to care about what happened so long ago (or maybe not that long) and good lessons are simply forgotten. We could know so much if we simply didn’t collectively forget!

Because, in times of panic, what should a central bank do? Bagehot thought “that it must in time of panic do what all other similar banks must do; that in time of panic it must advance freely and vigorously to the public out of the reserve.”

But still a conditions for the intervention: “first that these loans should only be made at a very high rate of interest. This will operate as a heavy fine on unreasonable timidity, and will prevent the
greatest number of applications by persons who do not require it. The rate should be raised early in the panic, so that the fine may be paid early; that no one may borrow out of idle precaution without paying well for it; that the Banking reserve may be protected as far as possible.”

Where should we stop? “that at this rate these advances should be made on all good
banking securities, and as largely as the public ask for them. […] But if securities, really good and usually convertible, are refused by the Bank, the alarm will not abate, the other loans made will fail in obtaining their end, and the panic will become worse and worse.”

“The only safe plan for the Bank is the brave plan, to lend in a panic on every kind of current security, or every sort on which money is ordinarily and usually lent. This policy may not save the Bank; but if it do not, nothing will save it.”

After all, some things could be done much better, but doing nothing leaves us all worse off. Guess what, the alternative was also tried a lot of years before, in the panic of 1825, also another long-lost panic, when “the Bank of England at first acted as unwisely as it was possible to act. […] The reserve being very small, it endeavoured to protect that reserve by lending as little as possible. The result was a period of frantic and almost inconceivable violence; scarcely any one knew whom to trust; credit was almost suspended; the country was […] within twenty-four hours of a state of barter. Applications for assistance were made to the Government, but […] the Government refused to act…”

Ring a bell, maybe?

Aviation, b-school, Barcelona, Henley, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

The holidays are over (still here after a busy summer)

Another year is over, and I’m left cold sober. That’s how a song from Queen begins. In my case it has been an interesting but feverish year. I’ve done so many things that I can’t recall them all.

My first year in the Henley MBA is over. I have passed all three exams and I feel relieved, I had my doubts that I’d pass them all. Henley Management College has just become Henley Business School in the University of Reading. That means a lot for the future prospects of the school as it will make new additional resources available to reach new heights. It’s good news.

We had a workshop about global business environment and strategic marketing. I especially liked the first part, reflecting about the global economy and how the different economic areas in the world compare, and the current macroeconomic trends.

Later, reflecting about it, I envisioned myself as an agent of globalisation. After all I had been a few days earlier seeking business in Delhi. I can’t write much about it but Spanish companies do need to go out and compete, and who is going to do that if it is not ourselves?

Yes, that’s the Taj Mahal as captured by my mobile phone. That was one outstanding moment of the summer. I will never forget this image.

In the meantime things are on track for Barcelona’s new terminal. The building is almost complete and we are testing the first systems. The last sneak peek is from one of the busiest commercial areas. A few systems are already installed and the first system trials will begin in one month. Below is an image of the first screen ever working there, still on the floor although the support structures are already installed.

The bottom line: I’m still here. I’ll keep you appraised 🙂

b-school, Henley, HRM, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

After the final exam (aka after the storm)

The exam was really stressful. More than three hours writing like crazy. At the end I was rather confused, not really sure of what to expect. Fortunately, it was over.

I sat the exam at Barcelona’s British Council. I thought it would be a better experience than taking a plane and driving to Henley. It was a good idea. The place is just ten minutes from home.

On the other hand it was rather weird to be the only one taking the exam. The invigilator was there only for me. At least he was nice and had a thick book to read so he didn’t spend three hours glancing at me in suspicion. That would have been awkward.

Half full or half empty, who knows. I hope I pass. In the meantime I just need some time to relax. And that’s what I did on the weekend. The garden needed my attention so I just focused on trimming the bushes and getting tired. Oh my, my arms got so bruised!

The view from home is rather relaxing. The weather wasn’t perfect. It was the fourth rainy weekend after the most severe draught that I can recall. From scarcity to the most rainy May in 25 years. Our water reserves have tripled and reservoirs have reached 60% capacity. It looks like we’ll have enough water for the time being.

I like it when the beach is almost empty, and the showers scare the tourists. The calm seems to envelope everything, the air is fresher, the plants greener. This spring the plants are blooming like never before. Let’s forget about the price of oil, the high interest rates, the lack of liquidity and the forthcoming stagflation. It’s time to enjoy… at least for a while…

The garden this year is full of Mediterranean roses. The plants grow by the hour. A good omen? I hope so.

b-school, Henley, MBA, Thoughts

Countdown to my first year exam (it all comes back to this)

Yes, I admit it: I am nervous. Been there before, but I still feel the anxiety to sit an exam. Maybe I shouldn’t. I am supposed to be wiser, older (that’s for sure), more mature and self assured than before. But still I insist into getting myself into the verge of anxiousness again, clouded by emotions, cluttered by several contradicting feelings.

Because the whole spectrum of learning comes down to this, the whole personal development rhetoric melts and, what is left, is hard bone again, the same measurable and accountable bottom-line: exams.

Sadly, the whole learning experience converges and funnels to an exam. It all revolves around being tested, thoroughly or not, with a closed set of rules that deprecate initiative and enforce strict followership of rules.

After all that disquisition around soft and hard people management models, after all that rambling around the balanced scorecard, after acknowledging uncertainty and complexity, all the roads end here again, in a cold, specific and simple figure, the mark.

I wouldn’t want to practice the cynic or sceptic here. It’s simply that I am nervous. There must be a better way to assess people than the one I have experienced this year. I simply don’t feel it’s fair. A friend of mine just advised me not too read too much about the case: it could be counterproductive. Excuse me? Counterproductive trying to learn more? Since when? Yet I fear he’s right.

If I had to change one thing about the MBA it would be its assessments. I can’t agree with certain doctor at Henley that decided to judge me by her obscure set of rules instead of listening to me and being fair. But not being British has this things, and you learn to live with a cultural gap. Where would be the international experience if everything was just like at home?

Yet another day less in this countdown to Wednesday…

Aviation, b-school, Blogging, Henley, HRM, Management, Project Management, Projects, Thoughts

Living with the Terminal 5 syndrome

As the average reader of this blog knows, and wordpress knows such individuals exist to my amazement (THANK-YOU), I do several things in my job, one of them is the integration of the baggagge system in the Terminal South (or Terminal D) in Barcelona’s airport.

Well, it used to be one of them… but it has been growing and growing, absorbing my time and effort, sometimes with complex things, of course, but very often with little and silly things, sometimes simply to overcome the lack of communications between parts in a huge project, sometimes just repeating the same things again and again.

Organisations prepare themselves to manage projects. They start shyly with one and, if they are able to envisage an strategy, they include project management into their capabilities. There are models to describe how project management competencies are integrated into organisational capabilities. Different organisations are at different levels, and thus are able not only to manage projects but also to increasingly learn from them.

But, at the end of the day, panic happens. That’s when they forget everything and start to triple-check everything based on the gut feelings of people, high enough in the ladder, that don’t really know about the systems to be implemented. Trivial things get inflated and strategic things suddenly obviated.

That’s what has happened to me with the Terminal 5 syndrome (to know more about Heathrow’s Terminal 5 click here). It will take some time to settle. In the meantime some issues have been enshrined as the most relevant by the organisation and are draining a lot of resources. Yes, organisations are able to learn a lot about project management but, when panic starts, they sort of regress to a previous state, top level managers want to micromanage what they still don’t know anything about, and reality gets distorted to adapt to the top management expectations.

A hard critique? Fortunately the tide is just a tide and we will be able to focus the existing energies on the real issues… having top management’s attention is very helpful as long you can manage it in the right direction, and to help you instead of interfering.