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When management theory results in the creation of a learning center - General Management Plus Program

November marked the second edition of the General Management Plus Program of WHU Executive Education. Designed for executives in middle management, this continuing-education program combines general management expertise with practical implementation. Over a period of eight months, program participants take part in three modules of theory at WHU and apply what they have learned to a business plan for a learning center in Cambodia. In the fourth module, the participants travel to Cambodia themselves, where they lend a helping hand in building the learning center.

One program participant had this to say about the first module:

When management theory results in the creation of a learning center

The several-month General Management Plus Program (GMP+) at the WHU Campus in Düsseldorf began with a five-day module devoted to the topic of Business and Strategy. Nine other participants and I can look back on an intense week of seminars, discussions, and personal coaching, and on the launch of our "Business Impact Project" in Cambodia.

What sets WHU GMP+ apart from other executive programs, and what makes it very special for me personally, is its extraordinary combination of theory and practice: Together with other professionals from different industries, I will apply what I have learned to developing and implementing a social business designed to improve education in "the world out there."

In its effort to plan and implement the learning center in Cambodia, our team is assisted by BOOKBRIDGE, an NGO that builds bridges between people and cultures. During one intense day of the workshop, BOOKBRIDGE familiarized us with Cambodia and instilled a keen interest in our intercultural learning challenge. Initial video conferences directly networked us with our local project partners in Asia – so the first bridges have already been built.

Backed by the concentrated expertise of our team and the new knowledge we have gained and spurred on by motivation and inspiration of so many, I am looking forward to our joint learning journey – and to Cambodia itself!

Ann-Kristin Montino, Stiftung Mercator GmbH

Read more about the General Management Plus Program.


CIO Leadership Excellence Program at WHU

The Executive Education team welcomed 19 IT managers to the WHU Vallendar Campus from October 20-24. The agenda of their WHU continuing-education program focused on extending general management expertise and leadership skills. The CIO Leadership Excellence Program, which is organized in cooperation with the CIO Magazine and with the support of Hewlett-Packard and the CIO Foundation, has been held each year since 2012.

During the five days of the program, executives dealt in-depth with the topics of strategy, leadership, and competition. Specifically, in a business simulation led by WHU Professor Thomas Hutzschenreuter, participants assumed the role of a CEO and were then required to pass through several lifecycle phases of a company as they managed their imaginary businesses. In addition to an exchange of ideas at a substantive level, the CIO Leadership Excellence Program offered a wide array of opportunities to make new contacts in the CIO community, e.g. during a joint evening cooking project.

Most of the participants, who work in well-known companies such as SMA Solar Technology, EON SE, BMW Group, or HP Deutschland GmbH, will see one another again next year: participants seeking certificates of successful completion attend not only the basic module in Germany but also a module abroad, in India or China, focusing on intercultural management; they also complete and submit a thesis. About 20 managers already spent one week in Shanghai and Beijing in May; this will be followed by a visit to Mumbai and Bangalore in India in the spring of 2015.


Looking for the local hero

Executives open learning center in Cambodia

On May 2, 2014, ten managers entered a yellow-painted building in Cambodia, about 10,000 kilometers from here: Düsseldorf, Germany. They were surrounded by hundreds of children, who also wanted to see the building from the inside, which resembles a library: long rows of shelves filled with books sorted by topic and language. What connected them was their curiosity to discover the recently opened learning center in the rural town of Tonloab, Cambodia.

Education is valuable, but unfortunately not very common in the rural areas of Cambodia. Bringing education to one of these areas has for nine months been the ultimate goal of the General Management Plus Program participants, and became reality this May with the support of social enterprise BOOKBRIDGE, which builds learning centers in Mongolia and Cambodia. In the first three modules of the program, the participants gained knowledge on strategy, leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship. With this knowledge they created a business plan, generating a learning center that would be self-sustainable within one year (Business Impact Project). The fourth and final module was about implementing this concept in real-life on-site.

During the first module in September 2013, Carsten Rübsaamen, founder of BOOKBRIDGE, gave a short introduction to Cambodian culture. This was the starting point for establishing conference calls on a regular basis to discuss the status of the Business Impact Project. “First, we split up into working groups that would focus on different topics”, Rebecca Stallbaumer says, who participated in the program. “It was necessary to find out what the community needed. One team looked for the ´Local Hero´, who would be responsible for the learning center in the future. Another team was responsible for finding a suitable building and the third team focused on marketing and communication.” Making time in the evening for the conference calls after a long day of work in their full-time jobs required discipline and organization from each participant. During the preparation period, the group experienced the ‘investor pitch’ as one of the highlights of the project, presenting their business plan successfully to their investor ´UBS Foundation´. Another highlight was the message coming from Cambodia three weeks before the opening, that they had won Vannak Pen, who is a small businessman from the area, as Local Hero for the learning center.

“It was quite a team challenge for us when we were in Cambodia”, Stallbaumer admits. The participants had only met and got to know each other during the modules on the Campus in Düsseldorf; one week together in Cambodia with oppressive and hot weather, different hygienic conditions, and a strenuous agenda would be something completely different. “Though, we worked together well as a team, because we knew each other’s strengths. For example, we had a designer and a civil engineer in our team, who then took on the job of planning structural modifications for the inside of the building” Stallbaumer says.

The learning center is located in a school building in Tonloab in the province Takeo and gives access to books in English and Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, and to computers that were donated by the company of a program participant. The local ministry of education helped the participants with finding an adequate location. Moreover, it was not always easy to cope with the different cultural values – the team was set up very informally: every team member had much autonomy in their respective area of responsibility. But when dealing with local contacts, hierarchy, and protocol often played a large role. “This became clearly visible during the opening ceremony”, tells Stallbaumer with a smile. “About 300 guests listened to the speakers, who were allowed to talk in a certain order, and there was a strict seating plan.”

The implementation of the Business Impact Project in an emerging economy and the trip to Cambodia was an unforgettable learning experience for the program participants, who come from South Africa, Germany, Mexico, and Brazil – not only for their personal lives but also for their future leadership tasks within companies. To conclude the project in full, the project team still has two tasks to complete: to hire a librarian and to arrange fundraising for scholarships for children and adolescents of socially deprived families, so they can enter classes given at the learning center.


Insight into the Chinese Economy

In May, the program participants of the WHU CIO Leadership Excellence Program traveled to China in order to learn about the characteristics and challenges of the Chinese economy. The trip to China was the second module of the program which had started in fall 2013. The first module focused on “How to face leadership challenges as a Chief Information Officer”.

Throughout the trip through China, the 20 IT-Executives gained a deep insight into the Chinese economy and culture. The four-day Executive Education program in Shanghai and Peking combined academic parts with company visits. In various talks at FUDAN Business School, the participants learned about the economic conditions and current developments in the Chinese political system. During company visits at SAP, HP, and Daimler the executives were given the opportunity to exchange experiences with Chinese CIOs and participated in lectures on differences in company culture. Finally, a visit to the European Union Delegation and the European Chamber Delegation concluded the program in a perfect manner.


Negotiation skills for managers

Negotiation skills are essential in many corporate situations, as well as in personal life. WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management now offers an Executive Education program providing executives with the key tools and techniques for effective negotiations. This practice-proven program for managers, with a focus on multiparty and intercultural negotiations, starts in Düsseldorf in June 2014.

Executives often experience that negotiation strategies are significantly influenced by the personality traits and cultural backgrounds of the people involved. WHU has developed an Executive Education program preparing managers for the difficulties which may occur while negotiating. The program is beneficial to executives who would like to enhance their negotiation skills and expertise as well as to those who are not highly experienced in negotiations yet.

“The winning formula for negotiations is: patience, persistence plus practice,” says Professor Lutz Kaufmann, Faculty Director of the program. Participants will on the one hand learn about key tools and strategies for negotiations, and on the other hand, they will be confronted with heterogeneous negotiation situations. By making use of, for example, role-plays, participants will experience different scenarios and practice and improve their communication and influencing skills. By combining theory and practice, participants will gain more confidence in navigating complex negotiations and will learn to achieve better results in negotiations.

As cross-cultural misunderstandings are often deal-breakers during negotiations, the WHU Negotiation Program emphasizes intercultural negotiations: “If you really want to understand the motives which drive the other party, you need to understand why they behave in certain ways”, explains Kaufmann. Knowing the principles of cultural analysis and the culture-specific values and communication habits, common mistakes based on biases can be avoided.

The 5-day program will also go deeper into advanced negotiations, whereby complex multi-issue negotiations play an important role – a skill which – once mastered – will contribute significantly to successful leadership.