A field report by Marianne Ohm, Managing Partner of codiviti UG and participant in the 6th General Management Plus Program.
May 20, 2019: Coming from Germany, USA, Japan and Sri Lanka, our group came together in Düsseldorf to join the first module of WHU’s General Management Plus Program. This eight-month-long program aims at developing new concepts for a learning center in Bandarawela, Sri Lanka, in order to improve future prospects for young people located in this area. During the program, we will be supported by a partner-team in Sri Lanka as well as by staff members at WHU and BOOKBRIDGE. During the first three days in module 1, we worked on the development and implementation of strategies. The long-awaited kick-off of our Business Impact Project took place during the last two days. Starting now, we have eight months to define, advance, and implement our project.
How to implement strategies successfully
During the first two days, Prof. Peter Witt humorously – and sometimes provokingly – introduced the overall topic business strategy. Using many practical examples, we learned what constitutes a good strategy formulation and, as a team, developed our own strategies. We also got to learn strategic instruments for innovation and marketing. We especially focused on the challenges in implementing strategies that arise due to emotional factors: Only a small part of our decisions are made rationally. On the last day of the Strategy Essentials Program, Prof. Miriam Müthel demonstrated how to drive the implementation of strategies forward. Additionally, we discussed the topic of change management, focusing on motivating people and inspiring them to follow their own goals (“The people side of strategy”): Why and how do we change communication, leadership and corporate culture to implement our strategy?
Beyond learning – connecting with other high potentials
Our team included company executives as well as self-employed entrepreneurs. During coffee breaks, lunch and a get-together on the first evening, we had plenty of networking opportunities to gain exciting insights into each other's daily work. In the course of three days, we got to already know one part of our team for the Business Impact project.
Business Impact Project – ready, set, go!
During the last two days of module 1, we finally learned more about our project, and got to know our team (especially the participants located in Sri Lanka), a potential investor and our coaches. Dr. Carsten Rübsaamen, founder and CEO of BOOKBRIDGE, passionately introduced us to his Social Enterprise as well as to non-profit companies in general, using some success stories as examples. Having started with a large delivery of books to Mongolia and the following construction of a local learning-area, there are now 28 learning centers in Mongolia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Inspiration for our project
At the end of January 2020 we will travel to Sri Lanka to implement our project. To prepare for this, Sujitha Miranda, Country Manager of the Learning Centers in Sri Lanka, came to Düsseldorf. She informed us about the political and economic situation in Sri Lanka, "our" learning center in Bandarawela, the Dos and Don'ts of her country and its beautiful countryside. Sujitha's story was very inspiring and motivating. During the first evening in Düsseldorf, she told us about her road to BOOKBRIDGE and how she became a Country Manager in Sri Lanka.
Working in a diverse and virtually connected team
The program kept preparing us for the joint project, but we still didn’t have enough information about what the actual project would be. After a few more days of suspense we finally got to learn our entrepreneurial challenge for the next months: We would work on further developing and refining a learning center in Bandarawela which would give young people in the region better prospects for their future.
During these first days, we grew together as a team, supported by a team-building unit, which helped us to establish some basic rules for our work as a team. It became clear to us that there are several challenges awaiting our team: During the program, most of our communication takes place virtually, we live in different time zones and we have different cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, our project team consists not only of the participants of the GMP+ program, but of the employees of the learning center in Bandarawela as well. Therefore, a common vision and honest communication are central aspects for our work as a team.
To establish a smooth teamwork, we also got an introduction into our collaboration tools (such as “Teamwork” and “Zoom”), a first conversation with our potential investor and reflections on our project’s vision.
We will meet again one week after the first module in a video conference. For now, we said goodbye in order to return to our home countries, with many unanswered questions but also a lot of motivation , we said goodbye.
I am happy to take up this unique challenge to make a difference in Sri Lanka!
Marianne Ohm is 27 years old and has been into various fields of voluntary work for almost 10 years. She is CEO of codiviti UG and regularly gives lectures on topics such as future skills and programming. Her hobbies are meetups, reading, crafting and strength training.