These past two days have been great, thanks to Professor Maury Peiperl. His class was titled “Execution & Change”. Nothing very exciting or new you would say, having dealt with the topic of change in a number of classes already, such as Strategy and Organizational Behavior. But boy did he put a twist to it.
Each class started with a different piece of music, ranging from Beethoven to Miles David to Simon Garfunkel. Maury didn’t use the music purely for entertainment purpose, or as an attempt to re-energize the class, but as an example of change. Each of these musicians had changed music, in one form or another. Music plays a big part in my life, so naturally I loved it. The cases we worked with were also very interesting, showcasing the difficulty of implementing change in an underperforming organization, which is a bit like trying to relay train tracks whilst you are on a moving train. And what style do you pick? Are you going to be inclusive and consensus oriented or are you going to be a “take-it-or-leave-it” type leader? The latter was not a popular choice, but the cases revealed that in some scenario’s it was necessary. And successful. I think everyone would like to think that they can make changes whilst still being everyone’s friends, but reality tells us that that’s simply never going to be the case. Wherever you go, you will always have naysayers.
In the last part of the class we discussed the term “success” from a career perspective. A hot topic right now, as you can imagine, with all the job search frenzy going on. We discussed one case whereby a very well educated, but possibly over-specialized individual decided to take a very drastic career change as he struggled to find a job on his level. He ended up taking a very different job on a much lower level, as it allowed him to spend more time with his family. The thoughts on whether or not he was successful ranged greatly in the class; some felt that he was successful because success is valuation of your life as a whole, and not just from a job perspective, and others said he was not as he had the potential to do more and he given this up which was a waste. Naturally the term “potential” is subjective, but still. My thoughts went to how you view education; if having access to good education is a given, as it is in say Western Europe, fulfilling your potential plays less of a role then when access to good education is limited. For those for who have been one of the few in their social environment to receive good education, I can imagine that the pressure to leverage that to the maximum is great.
I must take my hat off to Maury. Not only for the fact that these were some of the best hours that I have spent in the auditorium, but also because it must have been hard work for him. Right now our class is a million miles away thought wise, messy, restless and tenser than a violin string, so to get and hold our attention for 4 times 4 hours must have felt like trying to heard a bunch of cats for Maury. Or rather, like his first time conducting an orchestra – fun yet frustrating. But at the end of it all, this orchestra of MBA students gave its conductor a standing ovation as a recognition for his outstanding performance! Bravo!