It is the time of year when your scribes reach out to industry to find consulting opportunities for the University of Western Australia MBA intensive cohort - this year for two different courses, either a longer management consultancy project, or a shorter scenarios (strategic foresight) course.
This year, from September to November, some 30 MBAs will complete nine-week long management consulting projects for entities in the private sector, public sector and potentially some not-for-profits also.
Elsewhere at the end of August, around a dozen UWA MBA's along with practicing managers from around Western Australia will undertake a week-long scenario planning and strategic conversation exercise, for which, again some ‘client companies' are required. This course is run jointly with the Australian Institute of Management, Western Australia (AIM-WA) as part of their Executive Education program.
So, the invitation is open to resources companies to get in touch - and that invitation extends to MiningNews.net too of course.
Here are some FAQ's as to what you need to know:
How much paperwork is required?
The process for both is unlike any other at University in that it is ‘low-doc' - actually it is ‘no doc'.
For the nine-week management consultancy project, the first part of the process is just to come in for a ‘meet and greet' discussion with the MBAs to describe a potential project. Dates this year fall in the first half of September - on Monday and Thursday evenings over three weeks.
For the scenarios project, things move a little faster still. After email and phone discussions, representatives of the client company will be required to attend parts of the week-long course running from 24-28th August. Likely a ‘project start' on the Monday, interim presentation on the Wednesday and final presentation on the Friday.
What sort of projects work?
Again, for both projects, anything that keeps your C-suite awake at night - but for which you have not had the time to fully analyse, is a good summation. It might be something in the ‘important but not urgent' category - for example seeking to understand the mineral opportunities, policy settings, competition, and success factors of entering a new country.
For the scenarios work, something that sits in the ‘unknown but interesting' box is usually the best subject material - something you know your organisation should pay more attention too, but is not within its normal scope of expertise.
What sort of projects don't work?
In your scribe's experience over several years running projects, those Projects with a very strong internal focus are difficult. The MBAs tend to work from the business school - so they will have a limited optic on the internal workings of your company. ‘External'-focused projects assessing markets, competitors, policy, benchmarking, and the like work better than ‘internal' projects dealing with decision-rights, organisational capabilities and structures and so forth. This applies both to the management consulting and scenarios projects.
How much does it cost?
Nothing: It is free. The requirement on you is to be sufficiently engaged to help steer the MBA team along however. Typically, that means touching base once a week - either in person or via a conference call, Zoom, Teams etc. More frequent contact is fine too: No project is ever quite the same.
As discussed, the engagement requirements for the scenarios course are for (some of) the relevant decision makers to attend kick-off, interim and final meetings, during the week of 24-28th August. You are of course welcome to attend more often - or send other team members to do so. For both projects the more you put in, the more you get out.
What are the chances of getting an MBA team?
Perhaps just shy of about 50:50 this year. For the management consultancy we'll have 7-8 teams and around 15-18 companies come in and have a chat. At present there are 7-8 slots remaining - but we can usually find a way to squeeze you in for a meet/greet session. For the scenarios work, we'll need two companies, ideally.
When will I know if I have a team?
The MBAs will choose their projects by Monday 21st September and immediately hit the ground running for nine weeks. For the scenarios work, ‘negotiations' are already underway, with decisions on participation likely being made in short order.
What are the deliverables?
The deliverables for the management consultancy project are two-fold: Word reports and a final board-style Powerpoint presentation - hopefully not of the ‘death by Powerpoint' variety. The Word reports relate to sub-sets of the overall project. So, taking the country-entry example briefly mentioned above, you might expect a short reports on the policy settings, a case study of past success, a competitor analysis and a piece on in-country do's and don'ts, opportunities/risks etc.
For the scenarios project the deliverables will be interim and final ‘board-style' presentations, along with voluntary participation in ‘strategic conversation' exercises. You (and your team) are also welcome to attend the actual scenario planning to get a bit of an idea of that process too.
What are the backgrounds of the MBAs?
A variety of backgrounds. In a particular team you may find a lawyer, an accountant, an engineer and a scientist. The MBAs are doing the project to learn how to be generalist consultants, of the EY, Deloitte, Bain, BCG, McKinsey-type. Those companies hire smart people with business acumen, structured problem-solving skills and who have some concept of what is called the ‘consulting toolkit'.
The same applies for the scenarios course, which is around two-thirds MBAs (as above) and around one-third members of AIM-WA who are typically mid-level managers at large Western Australian based organisation (mining, oil, agriculture, finance, public sector, etc.,) who are undertaking such courses as part of corporate development programmes.
What about confidentiality?
Confidentiality agreements are routine for both courses - however, for the management consultancy project they are typically signed once a team has chosen your project - so don't include any sensitive information in the initial meet/greet session.
For the scenarios project, the one-week focus, and two client companies, means that whilst confidentiality can be handled, ideally anything that is ‘confidential' does not make a good subject. Ideal subjects are the ‘external' which are often of general concern to many parties, think COVID-19, trade wars, global geopolitics, environmental change, etc. It is more of an ‘open strategy' approach.
What do I do next?
Get in touch. We'll arrange the time for you - and answer any further questions.
In closing, the whole process of liaising with companies to discuss projects is insightful in itself. Some companies are decisive and fast in their decision-making. One example your scribe recalls was of a division of a major diversified mining company. On contacting the division president, the answer came back the same day: "Yes, we're in. Deal with Joe Bloggs and he'll be your contact point".
That experience however is fairly unusual. Other companies are a little less decisive. Occasionally the University itself has put up a project - and likely will do once again this year. Not surprisingly the University process takes a little longer - well actually a whole lot longer! This year the internal University process started some months ago - and 10 emails and three coffees later things are still unclear as to what the proposed project might be. The stereotype holds - in that the private sector has considerable advantages over the public sector. The source of that advantage? Someone is actually capable of making a decision in the real-world! Perhaps the University consulting project should look at the clarity and effectiveness of decision-rights?
We look forward to hearing from you - and to guiding the MBAs through some great consulting projects once again this year.
Allan Trench is MBA Director and Professor at the UWA Business School, a non-executive director of several ASX-listed minerals companies - and the Perth representative for CRU Consulting, a division of independent metals and mining advisory CRU Group. Allan will be running the nine-week Strategic Analysis and Consulting Project - and may make an appearance or two at the one-week Scenario Planning & Strategic Conversation course (firstname.lastname@example.org).
John Sykes is undertaking a multidisciplinary doctorate at the Centre for Exploration Targeting, UWA and a sessional lecturer on the MBA programme at UWA Business School. He is also a strategist for MinEx Consulting and a director of Greenfields Research, both consultancies specialising in the analysis of mining and exploration across the base, precious and specialty metals sectors. John will be running the one-week Scenario Planning & Strategic Conversation course - and may make an appearance or two at the nine-week Strategic Analysis and Consulting Project (email@example.com).