Full-time MBA: Our first consultancy project

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Tushar Arya, VP Finance and Administration, Class of 2016 looks back on the Not-for-Profit Project – the first of three live client projects

It was the first week of MBA. I was sitting with nine other members of my Not-for-Profit (NfP) consultancy group, our supervisors and representatives from our client, the Intensive Care Society. I barely had any idea what was going on for most of this first meeting. It was the first time I had come to the UK, and being new to the country and the culture, I was still making efforts to understand the country’s formal business culture.

The whole NfP project is structured in a very unique way. Although it starts early in the MBA programme, it is complemented by a number of academic sessions and resources which cater to the various requirements of the project. As we progressed through the first term, the project started taking shape and got more interesting for us. Every group discussion involved hours of ideating and brainstorming. Various marketing concepts such as the perceived image of a brand, the augmented product and customer convenience were now being practically put into use as we worked.

It was a bit challenging at the start considering the teams did not have a hierarchy like in an office environment, and each team member had a completely different professional and cultural background. But this is also the beauty of working in a diverse international team; we were able to draw on a wide skill set and we had different perspectives on the business issue in hand, which helped us perform a much better critical analysis. During this process I could see how the team dynamics were slowly forming. We were learning how to work with each other and that we could get better results as a team, rather than as individuals. At the same time, we were learning about the various elements of a consultancy project. I must also make a note of Brathay, the three day on-site adventure and team-building trip, which was a great experience that helped us learn a lot about our team members and, more importantly, about ourselves.

Working on a consultancy project can be different to other projects in many aspects. It helped us realise the importance of questioning the client’s basic assumptions. This process also helped us understand how to analyse a business problem and, crucially, how to question the seemingly obvious.

I feel that our supervisors played an excellent role. Each group of five/six students has an academic supervisor, who ensures that the group has a sense of direction and is also available for guidance on various aspects of the project. While we received guidance that helped us stay on track, they also forced us to think rather than simply telling us the right method.

I wouldn’t say that report writing is an easy task with Harvard referencing haunting us initially, however it made sense when every recommendation we made to the client was required to be backed up by evidence and data sources. Even though I was only in the second week of my MBA I also had to know about certain legal standards – I guess credit goes to the ‘Manchester Method’ of learning through real projects!

Late nights and consecutive working weekends were becoming more common. But in the end we completed the project in good time and the output was good. The day for final presentations soon arrived and our clients’ satisfaction was evident from their reactions. The questions they raised made it clear that they were happy with our recommendations, and that they were looking forward to delving further into the plans to execute at least some of the suggested options.

By the time the project was complete, I can confidently say that I had a great understanding of the team. We had learned about each other – how we work, our core competencies and our weak areas – and the whole project was an enriching learning experience.

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Manchester Business School has a global reputation for innovative and influential teaching and research, which impacts business on a local, national and international level. We call this Original Thinking Applied.

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