How can I describe 2020 IMD MBA International Consulting Projects experience? As the Program Director, let me take you through this years’ journey to give you a feel of what it takes to make the most in-depth integrated MBA consulting experience a success in a Covid crisis.
The IMD MBA International Consulting Projects, started in the 1980s, are an integral part of the overall IMD MBA experience. Each project consists of a team of 4 to 5 MBAs coached by an IMD Faculty member working on a significant client strategic challenge. This happens over 1 week part-time between May and September and 7 weeks full-time between September and early November. Teams learn how to analyse unstructured information, then structure, synthesize and present it in a coherent manner to their client companies. They develop their projects typically over three phases finalizing with a truly actionable implementation plan. They learn what it really means to work as team – the highs and lows of disagreeing, re-synthesizing, working late evenings and weekends — while looking for a great position after graduation.
So now to 2020
It all started nicely back in January 2020 with approximately 75% of the project spaces filled by repeat and new clients. And the projects were very interesting. One was with a Russian chemicals giant about their overseas expansion; another with a paint multinational focusing on a key initiative they would want a deep dive after completing their strategy review. Our projections were straightforward; we would have enough excellent projects diverse in geography and in industries to announce to the class by the middle of April.
Then, Covid hit
Almost overnight we received several project cancellations. Panic at first, but, then we doubled down. By working with the broader IMD faculty community and their contacts, pushing off the announcement dates to the MBA class, we arrived at more than enough excellent consulting projects. The participants made their selections and the teams were created.
Then the next challenge came up. Many of the clients could not come to campus to meet the teams in June. We pivoted and enabled most of the client meetings to take place on Zoom, Webex, Teams etc… Then, the project schedule moved from September to October due to other program shifts. All of the clients had to be assured that their project would still continue.
When the projects started, the Covid second wave was picking up steam. Most teams had to pivot from travelling to the four corners of the world to travelling virtually through Zoom. Most on-the-ground fact finding trips to Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, the US, Netherlands, Morocco, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, to name a few were cancelled.
And yet, despite all of these shifts, pivots, and uncertainties, the MBA teams rose to the occasion. They learnt how to address significant strategic challenges in an integrated manner, exploring how to work as virtual teams, and finally delivering significant value add for the client companies. I could not be more proud. Congratulations to all!