A Changing World – Executive MBA courses from a student perspective

In this blog Dr. Ilse von Watzdorf, Executive MBA student at MSM, shares her experiences from the recent Executive MBA courses Change Management, and Leadership and Organizational Behavior.

"On the 10th of April 2021, we started our final modules as the EMBA8 group together. It is a bittersweet moment, where you simultaneously realize how far you have come, but also how much there still is to learn and explore. You recognize unexpected friendships were forged, partnerships discussed, and futures planned.  When we started this journey together in 2019, none of us could have guessed a COVID pandemic would befall the world a mere 3 months later, little did we know the world would go into lockdown. The changes we all have had to make, not only in terms of study but in the way we live, have been profound. We went from face-to-face, to online classes/networking. 

These circumstances, however, only highlighted how resilient humans are. Ultimately, no matter how uncomfortable and unwelcome these challenges might have been, they have and will bring about growth, and new opportunities, and we will adapt.

Despite the challenges, MSM has transitioned the Executive MBA onto an online platform. And as soon as lockdowns ease, classes would once again resume, albeit in a slightly different setting, and in a different location.

Ironically, the module theme this time, was Changing World, and covered the disciplines of Change Management, and Leadership and Organizational Behavior. 

In Change Management during the first four days of the module, Dr. Geert Heling started us off with Organizational change, differentiating between imposed change and evoked change. We discussed various tools available to analyze and guide the process of change. There was focus on factors which contribute to organizational culture including our mindsets as professionals, and our own varied cultural backgrounds. We then explored behavioral change, analyzing the forces driving, as well as those resisting change. Lastly, how do we communicate change, how do we effectively influence those around us, and how cognitive biases influence the way we think and communicate. 

Dr. Stephanie Jones guided us through Leadership and Organizational Change, starting on Day 5 of the module. We started off by entering a simulation, Mutari by Prendo. This is a simulation in leading change and requires a newly formed group of ‘executives’ to work together as an integration team, in a post-merger integration exercise. We were expected to create a change management strategy, and implement it whilst overcoming resistance to change, keeping in mind, maximum earnings can only be achieved with revenue growth, combined with a cost saving strategy, whilst simultaneously gaining and maintaining stakeholder support.

Subsequent days were taken up by analyzing your individual personality and your leadership style. This was very much a “get to know yourself” experience, approached from various perspectives. Amongst the topics discussed, were the Seven Transformations of Leadership” by David Rooke and William R. Torbert, mapping out a development path as a leader, as well as “Entrepreneurial Leadership” by Stephanie Jones and Martin Tynan, where transactional and transformational leaders were contrasted. The importance of sustainable leadership was highlighted, and lastly, Leadership during the COVID Pandemic and after, received some especially important airtime.

Inspirational guest speakers were hosted, including Sam Curry, the CSO of Cybereason who spoke on successfully navigating your way into the C-suite, and Jim Van Hulst, a former Executive MBA student of MSM, on Leadership and Digital Transformation.

This module was essentially a path of self-discovery, analyzing and understanding your individual leadership style, realizing that leadership is a process of transformation, and the importance of this process in achieving sustained success. We gained insight into designing, communicating, implementing, and integrating change within our respective organizations. 

Usually, the Executive MBA provides a flexible option for completing an MBA, studying whilst maintaining full-time employment, simultaneously maximizing networking opportunities. This was not possible for the last 12 months, when the COVID pandemic necessitated all lectures to be provided online.

I have had the opportunity to attend lectures and complete assignments from multiple places in the world, as far afield as South Africa and Italy, Mali and Manilla, from hospitals to airports and onboard ships to military training camps in the desert.

One feature of this Executive MBA, and probably the single biggest contributing factor to my decision to complete my MBA with MSM, is the availability of a Healthcare Management Specialization

Lastly, I expected a profound lightbulb moment with the information learned during these almost two years, but instead I got a gradual enlightenment, as the knowledge gained started influencing my daily decision making in subtle yet very clearly discernible ways."

Dr. Ilse von Watzdorf is a remote site medical doctor, trained in Emergency Medicine and Anesthetics.

Maastricht School of Management | Tapijnkazerne 11, 6211 ME Maastricht, The Netherlands | www.msm.nl | msm-infomail@maastrichtuniversity.nl