From August 4 through the 11th, David will be part of Shenandoah University's joint study abroad program with the University of Oxford, focusing on Global Organizational Management and Leadership. From the UK, David has kept us posted on what it's like to be experiencing the second oldest university in the world. Enjoy his musings!
Wednesday, August 8, 2012: Had a great night's sleep and am finally getting adjusted to the 5 hour time difference. This of course will be a problem going back home but for me, it is usually less of an adjustment issue going west. As every morning since I have been here, it appears we will have periods of rain today. Weather has been like this every day, but temperatures have been between 55 and 75 each day. That is great since I have not seen any air conditioning in the dorms.
Today is a split day on activities. We have lecture this morning and free time this afternoon. We will be going on a visit to Blenheim Palace.
Our lecture today was presented by Dr. Liz David-Barrett. Her focus was on Bribery, Corruption and Ethics. She took a more participative approach versus straight lecture and power points. This kept the group involved so that they needed to give some meaning and definition to the issues of doing business in foreign countries. Overall, it was interesting and her style kept the program moving. In the end, this is a subject that needs to be discussed versus taught. Many shades of gray are intertwined in the process and it is very subjective. One of the neat references she utilized was RepTrak, a survey that is done annually in 15 key markets and ranks the top 100 companies in terms of reputation. Of interest is that BMW made number one on the list, then Sony, Walt Disney, Daimler, Apple, Google, Microsoft, VW, Canon and Lego. No company made the top ten list in all 15 markets. Her recommendations on how to do this within your company are: 1- Define your values, 2- Build a diverse set of relationships, 3- Seek local advice, 4- Be creative-within the law, and 5- Contribute to the community in ways that are appropriate.
After the morning session, I skipped lunch and ventured out to change money and purchase an umbrella. Since it had rained everyday and we were on our excursion, I thought this might be a great idea. Today, there was NO rain and the most gorgeous day since I have been here. Oh well, be prepared.
Our trip was to Blenheim Palace, about a 35 minute bus ride after walking to the bus station for about 20 minutes. The Palace is known for many of its residents' including Winston Churchill who died in 1965. Across the street was Chaucer's house, a very conservative home. The grounds and the Palace were beautiful and we spent roughly 3 hours touring. I certainly enjoy these Palaces and wonder what life would be like living in one.
After the Palace we all went to a Pub and enjoyed refreshments. I treated the group to a round. All of 22 pounds. In my opinion, this was very inexpensive considering we are near Oxford. You can tell the economy is not great here as could any tourist probably at the Olympics. From there, we took the bus back to Oxford and went to an Irish Pub for dinner and had a great time with the students.
Thursday, August 9, 2012: Today we have two presentations. Mine is after lunch, so I will have some prep time. We also moved to a bigger room which will be more comfortable. Dr. Catherine McKenzie presented this morning and will do part two tomorrow morning. Her area of focus is on International Law and Development and Challenges in doing this. Her program was one of familiarity given the focus on the multiple development banks: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank and International Finance Corporation (part of the W.B. and operates as a Public Private Partnership), along with the Regional Development Banks. She talked about the role they play and the difficult balances of granting or not granting loans to developing countries. A timeline is helpful in understanding global development:
19th century to 1945: Bilateral treaties used to resolve disputes between countries
1945 – 1955: Establishment of the UN, IMF, etc (for redevelopment after World War II)
1955 – 1992: Proliferation of infrastructure development as 70 new countries were created by decolonization; clean Water a big focus and to life expectancy
1992 – forward: Integration of Economic Development into Health, Education and Human Welfare
Three classification levels were created to organize need for assistance by the "banks": 1= Deeply Impoverished, 2= Stable and 3= Highly Developed. 1 gets grants, 2 gets low interest loans and 3 gets normal type loans.
She also talked about how agreements are made between countries. The Treaties are a long process. After negotiating the terms, which can take years, there is a document that is called the Treaty that is written up (much like a contract). Once this is written, it is usually signed by a top official (maybe the President). But it is not binding. It then must be approved according to country law by the top governing body of the country. This ratification is usually by the US Senate by a simple majority vote or by the upper house in a Parliament government. Then, it is still not operative as it must wait 90 days and be filed with the UN. Then it can become operative. Many times, a Treaty is signed but NOT ratified.
We then focused on the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank. In addition, she reviewed how in the past most loans were simple and discrete projects like building a bridge. Today's loans are more complex and the "Bank" not only lends money but Leadership and Government relations, etc. They are forced to act as the leadership team around the project as they are more and more complex in the projects. To showcase the complexity of these modern projects, Dr. McKenzie had the group bread into 3 smaller groups and each had a complex loan request to review and present. This was a great exercise for them as it caused them to integrate their thinking.
Lunch was next. This gave me time to set up and prepare. My presentation was in two parts. In the first half, I had two different themes; the first one was "What constitutes Human Resources?". This was a surprise to the group as to how complex the profession really is. The second area was fundamentals of types of businesses/organizations and drivers of each along with a few definitions of principles. The group in general was not aware of a lot of these issues. In the second half of my presentation I focused on Global HR. This was great and the class actually had some knowledge on this subject. My thrust was the use of action learning as a tool to implement when solving complex issues. I ran out of time, but left them with the resource books. Overall, we covered a lot of information in a short 3 hours.