1/2 an MBA

That’s what you can call yourself after completing one year in a two-year MBA program. But simple math aside, it is very interesting to find out what that means. Are we really halfway there to figuring out the science of management? Or can we now at the glance of a balance sheet understand the complexities of a firm?

During the first year, we are taken through several core disciplines of business to get a holistic view of all the 'cogs in the wheel'. I would be lying if I said that the first year was easy – it was quite intense. But in reality, I am glad I had the opportunity to cover everything I did. On the way, I also picked up some important skills. Amongst them, working in a team was the most engaging and challenging.

For me, one recurring theme in teamwork is consensus building. Dealing with diverse viewpoints and then catalyzing them toward one goal is never easy. Furthermore, mistaking consensus for building unanimity seldom leads to an optimum decision. The key to building consensus actually lies in the ability to mediate, resolve and finally extract value from any team discussion.

Extracting value was always the trickiest part of consensus building. Primarily because my mindset on 'value' was still stuck on building unanimity within a team. My discussions were always directed  toward arriving at a logical decision the fastest (and our tight deadlines never helped the situation). This would sometimes lead to a less then optimum decision (exposed in class during presentations and polite Q&As that follow).

This mindset changed very early in the semester and mostly due to one seemingly innocuous story about two sisters and an orange. The story is of two highly competitive sisters quarreling over a single orange that they both wanted. Neither of them would budge until their mother intervened and decided that the only way to resolve the dispute was to cut the orange straight down the middle and give each sister one half each. The first sister then squeezed her orange half to make a drink of fresh orange juice, while the second sister grated her orange half for peel to add to orange scones. As a result, the sisters only got half of what they wanted.

Whilst building unanimity, we always aim for an equal parts solution where we try and split the orange 50-50. To extract maximum value out of a discussion, however, we must have the ability to listen, understand and communicate the other persons needs and wants. Its only then can we try and strive for a 100-100 result for all stakeholders. Once the team agrees on the 'value' to be extracted, then consensus building then becomes a win-win exercise for all. Of course, there will be several conflicts, mediations and discussions before any value is created.

Hopefully, practicing value creation with my MBA teams now, would give me the confidence to implement  it in the future. However, changing a mindset takes time. I guess that’s why it’s a two-year program, and I am only halfway there.

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Chiranjiv (Jiv) Mukerji is an MBA Candidate 2013 and MBAA President. Hailing from Mumbai, India, Jiv’s concentrations include Marketing and International Business. Having lived in and traveled to four continents, Jiv believes he is a global citizen and has gained a unique perspective on cultural diversity and business. A self-proclaimed foodie, sports expert, and movie critic rolled into one, Jiv’s range of conversation is limitless.

For more information about the UIC Liautaud MBA program, click here.