Monthly Archives: August 2009

Over the past month four MBA students have shared their internship experiences from Toronto, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Calfornia.  The posts show that Myha, Jon, Maria and Abhay drew very heavily on lessons learned from the MBA programme, with strategy and organisational behaviour being especially useful.

I’ve picked my favourite post from each blogger: Read more

The remaining days of my summer internship are dwindling rapidly. And the act of wrapping up my projects and preparing a presentation to the Multilingual Community Interpreter Services’ management and board of directors to debrief them about my experience and projects, has forced me to reflect on the events of the past three months. Read more

Based on my own observations, the business school courses that generated the most amount of grumbling amongst the student body were those in organisational behaviour (OB) and human resources management (HRM).

Some students were unhappy with these courses because there was no “right” answer, meaning that grades would be assigned based on subjective rather than objecdtive criteria. Others felt their tuition money and time could be better spent on courses that equipped them with concrete marketable skills, such as learning how to value a company. Finally, there was a subset of students who felt these courses were of little relevance to them since they were already well regarded by their peers and superiors with respect to their leadership abilities. Read more

When I meet up with my family and friends whom I have not seen since starting my internship in June, I am invariably asked the question “what aspects of your schooling have you been able to apply to your internship?” Read more

With one day left in the beautiful San Francisco offices of the Environmental Defense Fund, I already find myself shifting my mental mode back to that needed for graduate school. Read more

The dilemma of successful entrepreneurship involves the macro-economic, political and social climate of a country and whether these actually lend themselves to a culture of enterprise development. Read more

Shane, Tara, Renee, Tshiamo and Hendrick, front Jacob and Sam)

(The team loading up the Lapdesks for our trip – up from the left: Shane, Tara, Renee, Tshiamo and Hendrick, front Jacob and Sam)

I feel truly privileged. The trip to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) last week was in many ways a personal enrichment journey . The type of journey that inspired me to revisit my fundamental values and plans for the future. Spending time with the school children was incredibly touching. Bringing a smile to their young faces will remain with me forever.

Whatever expectations I had when Shane and I headed to KZN for the handover ceremonies and client meetings did not prepare me for what was in store. Read more

Coming into my final week with the California Fisheries Fund, I am finally winding down my efforts to help the fishery at Morro Bay, California create a lasting branding effort for their local catch. Read more

My biggest concern for the performance evaluation and measurement framework is its successful implementation. While I can develop a detailed and top-notch implementation plan, it will not succeed if all the necessary ingredients are not in place and the organisation’s actions do not reflect the recommendations contained in the plan. Read more









One of the few shortcomings I’ve found in the social venture capital approach is its heavy dependence on a steady stream of entrepreneurs who are interested in serving our target market of low-income consumers.  But we are not in search of just any entrepreneur.  Read more

I sometimes miss things about my life as an officer and soldier in the US Army. Rare are the organisations in which its members are so committed to its mission, to each other, and to a sense of an ideal, a higher purpose. Heading into the theatre this past weekend to watch The Hurt Locker, I was at first nervous: I haven’t always dealt with Iraq war scenes on TV or in other movies in a positive manner. Read more

One of the social impact targets that MCIS has is to facilitate the entry of newcomers into the labour force by providing interpreter training.  Training is provided at no cost and financial support for the program is funded through profits generated from MCIS’ interpretation and translation activities.

Before coming to Johannesburg I knew that Lapdesk was more than just a kidney-bean shaped ergonomic desk. What I didn’t realise is that this is a company interested in not just improving school infrastructure, but also in raising Africa’s human capital. Starting with South Africa, Lapdesk aims to address skill shortages and stimulate children’s physical development.

Pupils at King Zwelithini primary school

Pupils at King Zwelithini primary school

 Read more

I just spent an amazing weekend outdoors with my EDF co-workers, on a self-titled mini-vacation to Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco in Marin County.  The primary feature of the weekend was a nice nine mile hike up over the highlands and down to Muir Woods National Monument, one of the gems of the Bay Area.  It was a great time for camaraderie and out of the office bonding;  the rare gorgeous weather lead to a great day among the Coast Redwoods.  It was also a great time to get to know my counterparts in the office a little bit better, and for them to get to know me, which I have to admit, brought up some very interesting conversation.  Read more

“So what is it that you do at Lapdesk?” my friend Paul asked me one evening.  “Well,” I started explaining, “it varies every day – that’s the beauty of working for a small entrepreneurial  company”. My goal coming here was to avoid being a cog in a system. I hoped to have my imagination stretched, my assumptions challenged and my newly-minted MBA skills employed to the fullest. And they have been. Read more

I am happy to report that my proposed performance evaluation and measurement framework was well received and approved by the board of directors.

The next step in this project is to develop operational strategies and tactics to get the framework running. Part of this work entails reviewing existing business practices to determine whether or not they will support the framework. Read more

The California Fisheries Fund is definitely still a start-up. The rapid changes of direction; the nebulous defined roles and responsibilities and the need for self-starters to go through their days doing just that.

Even over the short seven weeks I have been with the CFF, I have experienced the turmoil that goes with working in this kind of fast-paced environment. Right now I feel as if I could throw out half of the draft fund operations manual I was given when I started and in fact, have been trying to do just that with my work on defining, refining and updating our mission performance metrics. Read more

In our class on operations management we learned about the perils of long queues in a service-oriented business and strategies to eliminate waiting time, such as reducing service time and establishing pooling efficiencies. Read more

I just returned from a field research visit to Kenya’s Coast province. The hub of the province, the town of Mombasa, is a renowned tourist mecca and jumping off point for some of the most stunning beaches East Africa has to offer.

But outside downtown Mombasa, poverty is conspicuous and sprawling. I was visiting retail pharmacy chains, large hospitals, NGOs and small-scale providers and learning about the differences in the health needs of the population there compared with inland areas.

Traditional healers on the roadside

Traditional healers on the roadside

One unique and distinct barrier to accessing formal health services among the population in the Coast is an entrenched traditional belief system. For example, many low-income patients will consult a muganga, or witch doctor, as a first-line of defence when they are sick. The alleged medicinal concoctions offered by these mugangas are mostly bogus mixtures of powders and herbs that are typically useless and sometimes harmful. On top of that, the muganga will demand payment with the threat of a curse. Families have been known to sell their goats – prized assets – to pay muganga fees. Worse, some expectant mothers believe that their baby will be still-born if they do not consult a muganga during pregnancy.

A local doctor and I lamented that these practices continue to have a detrimental effect not only on his business, but more importantly on the population’s health. If an individual is truly sick, mugangas will only serve to delay seeking effective treatment and could lead to complications. Further, muganga fees may send a family even further into poverty and leave them unable to seek additional treatment. Read more

With a month left of my internship, the push is on for me to finish developing the performance evaluation and measurement framework that I was hired to develop.

Several interesting challenges have been encountered in the development of this framework.

The most interesting and frustrating challenge has been helping some members of management understand the issue and importance of alignment. Specifically, the performance measures chosen should be aligned with the organisation’s goals and it is these goals that drive the development of the performance measures and not the other way around. Read more

I now have a little over two weeks remaining with the California Fisheries Fund and am in the process of drafting up my final project papers and presentations, a little of which I have given a window into through this blog.

But more important than those white papers or recommendations that I leave with my clients, will be the impression that I leave behind.

I doubt very much that I need to explain the difficulties with its reputation that the MBA degree is experiencing in the greater market place. I have spent time and effort this summer trying to dispel those myths, not only to my co-workers at the Environmental Defense Fund, but also to those of you who may be considering an MBA education, but aren’t sure that a business degree is going to allow you to make the positive impact you desire in the world. Read more

Recently, the front page of one of South Africa’s largest newspapers, The Star, ran a lead story, “Gauteng Online slammed as R3bn flop – ($385m/£226m). The project – to make all of Gauteng’s public schools wired to the Internet through special computer labs – has been beset by problems. The labs have been slow to be built and deadlines have not been met. Read more

When it comes to all things ocean, I am the first to admit that I am completely a fish out of water.

I was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, went to West Point to join the Army over the Navy and have yet to take the sailing classes on the Charles river, offered free to all MIT students. And while I love to eat fresh fish, especially cooked over a fire or grill, I am just not going to be able to name all 50 plus species of rock fish that populate the coast of California. Read more