Thursday, April 7, 2016

What I Learned as a GLOBASE Participant and Leader

GLOBASE Guatemala 2016

by Kyle DeLapp, MBA’16

Kyle DeLapp
Over the course of my two years in the Kelley Full-Time MBA Program, I've seen many examples of why this is a world-class program. The best example of this is the Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) program.

I was fortunate enough to be involved as a participant and as a leader for GLOBASE Guatemala. It was one of the major reasons I came to Kelley and both years I found myself learning more about the world, how business works in different cultures and geographic regions, and how I fit into the mix. Here are a few things I took away from my experiences:

As a participant:

Business is Ubiquitous

Before Kelley, I owned a perfume and fragrance business. Throughout my time there, I built relationships around the world and ran a supply chain spanning from China to the U.S. that ended in Dubai and Moscow. While in Guatemala, I was able to bring much of that expertise to the table and applied it to challenges my client was having importing products from China, Brazil and Spain. Interestingly enough, whether it's being practiced in a New York High rise, a developing nation, or in a volcanic crater, business is pervasive and instilled in every part of our lives. Sure, every business has unique attributes that create different challenges and opportunities, but the core operations span oceans, nations and cultures.

Culture Matters, Especially in Communication

We live in a very low context culture where we’re solution driven, often self-starters who may have many relationships but few close ones. In Guatemala, the culture is very high context and relationships are the crux of interaction. During our first meeting, we focused as much as possible on building a relationship. We made small talk, asked about their families, their interests, and anything that might help establish familial, societal or economic connections. We may see this as a little too personal for our first meeting in the U.S. but it’s crucial to establishing trust within their society. Guatemala is a prime example of why it’s so important to understand your audience and how communication shapes relationships.

Be MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive)

After I earn my MBA, my peers and I will be expected to solve complex, challenging problems. Oftentimes we will be expected to do this with little information and/or time. Many consultants practice the MECE principle and GLOBASE participants learn from a former Accenture manager and professor, John Wisneski, about how to identify root causes and issues so that the teams can focus their time and resources where it matters. I worked with Food Machine, an importer and distributor of commercial grade food machines, both years. With only seven weeks, my team was hard pressed to sift through different challenges faced by our client including working capital scheduling, variable demand and supply and inventory management. By using the MECE framework, my team was able to identify inventory management as the most significant root cause and provided updated inventory management systems and processes as well as historical and lead time analyses.

As a leader:

It’s Difficult But Worth Every Second

GLOBASE is one of the premier leadership development opportunities offered at Kelley. In collaboration with a faculty and a staff advisor, student leaders plan and execute all aspects of the GLOBASE course including developing course content, selecting and managing participants, selecting clients and scoping projects,  assigning project teams and coaching participants, managing course budgets, and managing logistical aspects of course execution and travel. This wide range of responsibilities provides a unique, integrated leadership experience with the opportunity for substantial professional and personal growth.

Understanding Team Dynamics is Essential  

I led two teams, one dealing with internal customer identification and one with compensation structures. Starting off with a team charter, each team was able to identify their strengths and weaknesses, goals, priorities, and roles and responsibilities. While this can be a sensitive conversation, it helped set expectations and opened each participant to communicating with each other. Each team was unique in their own way and had vastly different team dynamics yet each built processes to manage conflict and identify and build pathways to success.

Good Leaders Shape Teams, But Team Empowerment is Key to Success 

There's always a healthy balance between leading and managing. Throughout the seven weeks, both teams walked through different frameworks to identify issues and opportunities with each business. Sometimes these conversations would happen organically and sometimes, as a leader, it was important to highlight certain elements that the team may have missed in their research. It was essential that both teams felt empowered to think differently and comfortable enough to explore the road less traveled. By creating an atmosphere where everyone’s voice can be heard, it can bolster a team’s creative power and enable a more complete and versatile solution.


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