Business Ethics – 4 steps to ethical decision making

Cutting corners, that is what we as human beings do. Now, that by itself is not wrong, finding a more comfortable, simpler way to get a job done is smart. But the line that separates ethical behaviour from unethical behaviour is narrow, and if you are not careful in your search for the smartest way to work, you could just end up crossing that line!

Before proceeding with the blog, I would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year 2021!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

What is ethics? 

It is merely the belief of what is right or wrong based on the individuals’ morals/values, which in turn might be dependent on the society or culture to which the individual belongs to. So, what does this mean? Simply put, ethics is very individualistic; what I believe to be right or wrong might be antithetical to what you believe to be right or wrong.

Having said that, as a society of human beings living in the 21st century, we generally have a consensus on what humanity considers ethical and unethical behaviour, as a result of which, laws are created to uphold and protect what we believe is ethical behaviour. Now, some of these laws might differ from region to region; however on the whole, most laws are put in place to protect the innocent and to uphold what society considers ethical.

Laws

Formal laws typically represent a consensus on ethical standards.

For companies and organisations, the laws and standards that are used to judge the ethics of an individual can be extended on a much grander and more detailed scale thus incorporating the ethics of society on a corporate level. So, if a company is known to follow the law, by implication, it is an ethical company. But that need not always be the case.  

Yes, laws can be looked on as a standard for companies to follow; however, they are just a basis for an ethical discussion. Because at the end of the day, the legal ethics will depend on whose eyes they are viewed from. For example, while stealing is considered illegal everywhere and therefore unethical, it is unfortunate and criminal that in some countries child labour is still legal and therefore ethical (at least from their point of view), even though a majority of the nations will consider it unethical (and in my personal opinion, it is).   

Ethical decisions

There are several factors, such as values, morals, culture, etc., that can have an impact on ethical decision making. For example, if you ask a group of individuals a precise and narrow ethical question, you might get as many answers as there are individuals answering the question because each person is influenced by their upbringing and life experiences.

There are also some circumstances when an otherwise unethical behaviour may be looked upon in a favourable light. For example, a town devastated and cut off from aid by a natural disaster might force some desperate people to contemplate unethical actions like breaking in and entering an abandoned home or store to scavenge items and materials required for survival. Is this behaviour ethical or acceptable? Maybe not. But until we are put in a situation like that, who are we to judge?!

The point is when we make a decision, all we can do is to make the best decision we can at that moment.

Ethical decisions in organisations

Most organisations today have a diverse and multicultural workforce. While this is undoubtedly beneficial, there are also a number of challenges to be overcome, especially when aligning decisions with ethics.  Not everyone is going to agree with the ethicality of a decision! Also, you don’t want an organisation where everyone thinks the same – “groupthink”.

So, how do organisations work towards overcoming these challenges? 

  1. Code of conduct/ethics – Organisations need to start a ‘written code of ethics or conduct’. It has to be a written, physical document that is easily accessible, prominently displayed (on notice boards, company intranet, etc.) in the organisation, widely circulated among employees, made a part of induction for new employees, and made a condition for employment. What a code of ethics does is outline what the organisation considers acceptable behaviour, giving a baseline of what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’. 
  2. Ethics programme – Set up training programmes for employees that will educate them on what the organisation considers ethically acceptable decisions. The best way to learn is by example, so ensure that most of the training is situation-based.  Show examples of decisions made in the past, the challenges the decisions makers faced while deliberating, their logical reasoning, and finally why they arrived at the decision they did. Make it into a case study to get an understanding of what the new employees think and the decisions they would have arrived at in the current work environment.
  3. Ethics hotline – Most organisations do not want unethical behaviour to go undetected for a long period of time. The longer unethical behaviour takes to come to light the greater the damage to the organisation. Most people do not want to be labelled a ‘snitch’; it is a good way to lose the trust of co-workers and get isolated within your organisation. It could also have an effect on your reputation, which will, in turn, have an impact on your promotions and future employment. But for the benefit of the organisation, unethical behaviour needs to be brought to light, and the sooner, the better. Setting up a hotline that guarantees anonymity, and gives protection to the whistleblower against retaliation will encourage reporting against unethical behaviour. However, the organisation also has a responsibility to investigate comprehensively and arrive at an independent conclusion to not only protect against false reporting but to protect all the parties involved.
  4. Leadership by example – We throw the term ‘work culture’ around quite often.   Work culture is corporate behaviour which is set or determined at the top and trickles down to the rest of the organisation, and ethics forms an integral part of this behaviour. Most people in any position of authority usually set an example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, which clearly send the wrong message to their underlings, and this is what usually ends up being the norm that is followed. There are very few leaders that are able to set the right, positive and ethical example because of the temptation to bend ethics in favour of greater profits. Actions speak louder than words and leaders have to set the example at the top for the organisation to follow.

These are just a few guidelines an organisation can follow to develop and encourage ethical decision making. What are the steps followed by your organisation to encourage ethical decisions? Any instances that you know of where companies have cut corners in their search for easy profit, and what were the consequences? Comment below.

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and business ethics forms an important part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

5 key skills and attributes for effective Legal Leadership

Leadership is a subjective term. We see and hear about effective leaders leading a department, a company or a country. But it is difficult to really quantify or describe what leadership is. You can recognize good leadership examples when you see them but it’s difficult to define. Some leaders are ‘born leaders’, they are a natural, and excel at what they do, while others learn to become good leaders by cultivating attributes and skills, behaviours,  or sets of competencies, that are practiced and mastered to become an effective leader. 

I have talked in the past about Sustainable Leadership in our blog – what it is, and what its principles are. There could be several styles and types of leadership, and areas where leadership is required. One such areas is law and that is called legal leadership. Legal leadership particularly identifies how leaders behave, and how they govern others directly and indirectly, by controlling organizational structures and processes in a legal department or a law firm. 

Douglas B. Richardson says, “All great leaders do five things well, Imagine, Invent, Inspire, Inform, and Influence”. Though all leadership is fundamentally the same, legal leadership can take many forms, involve distinct roles and have different objectives. In a legal department, leadership has many faces: the chief legal officer (CLO), the managing attorneys, the servicing lawyers who work each day with the clients, and all of them should be leaders. Therefore, a legal leader is faced by a unique challenge of leading leaders as more often than not they end up leading other lawyers who are independent identities, individual contributors, pretty much people who do not follow anyone, do not like to be led, trust their own gut, and do not collaborate easily.  

Phew! Legal leaders have to be one hell of a leader!! 

Legal leadership can take many forms

Being a leader in a legal environment is challenging and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, what is required to be an effective legal leader? Law firms and corporate legal departments have identified some basic qualities and attributes that a leader should possess. Here are the five skills and attributes that are important for effective legal leadership: 

1. Collaborative skills 

Legal leaders usually find themselves managing large teams and complex cases. They usually have different and difficult sets of people at both ends of their stick. On one end are their own team members. And at the other end are the clients from diverse backgrounds, personalities, education levels, experience levels and requirements. The legal leader plays a key role in coordinating all the aspects, and people in bringing out the desired legal outcome. 

Exercise collaboration with effective communication.

A good legal leader should hit the ground running through effective and early communication amongst the team members, and letting everyone know their tasks after a brainstorming session. Follow up and make sure to listen to their colleagues’ ideas or the issues they are facing, and help them overcome their obstacles and provide the resources if required.  

A legal professional must weigh in everything, facts of the case, potential risks and their consequences

2. Good Judgement 

Success in any profession is highly dependent on good judgement, and this is especially true for the legal profession! It is one the most critical attributes that a legal leader must possess – to apply good judgement and make sound decisions. Legal professionals are faced by situations every day where they must make complex decisions by weighing in the facts of the case, evaluating potential risks and their consequences on the case and on the firm/organization.

Good judgement also requires excellent problem-solving skills. A good legal leader must be able to pre-empt the issues, and must have ideas and many solutions to a problem.  

However, the leaders must not isolate themselves or feel solely responsible for a decision. Though they are leaders, they are still a part of the team, and must seek input of their peers and other experienced legal professionals on critical matters.  

Self-awareness is an important quality of an effective legal leader

3. Self-awareness 

While most of the legal professionals, lawyers, and para-legals would call themselves lone-wolves and individual contributors, they are still part of a legal team. As they become leaders, most lawyers face a hurdle what’s called ‘expert identity trap’.  This means they identify themselves as subject matter experts but do not necessarily see themselves as a leader. Though several attributes are required to be a good legal leader, self-awareness is one of the key qualities of an effective one.  

All legal professionals are bound by the model rules of professional conduct

4. High ethical standards 

The legal profession is heavily based on trust, and each member’s ability to demonstrate highly ethical behaviour. Failure to do so will have many adverse outcomes such as not being able to gain the trust of their client and/or colleagues, and even more critical, being disbarred or legally charged and disciplined for misconduct. All legal professionals are bound by the model rules of professional conduct and they must understand their responsibility as the stakes involved are high! 

5. Diplomacy 

Diplomacy is one of the skills that a legal leader must have to climb the ladder of their legal career. A good leader must exercise diplomacy in handling clients, project the professional image of the firm, and must be respectful of their colleagues. The legal profession is an intensive and demanding career. It is critical for leaders therefore to keep calm and show virtues such as understanding, compassion, and integrity. Diplomacy is not something that one can learn overnight, it is a gradual, self-grooming process that can be effectively used to resolve any conflicts, and manage differences and disagreements. 

To be the best legal leader, it takes lot more than just being book-smart too; one needs to be street smart. Our MBA Legal Leadership prepares you just for that by providing a deep understanding of the key concepts and theories of leadership and their application in a law-oriented organization. Talk to our advisors today to learn more about the programme. 

#DILO (A day in the life of) a master’s student – Beatrice

Through the #DILO series of blog posts we have been bringing you insights into the life of our master’s students, sharing their thoughts and opinions, ups and downs, and key learning points during their online studies. The whole idea behind this series is to make you aware of realities of online studies, and help you in decision making.  

This week we take a look at a day in the life of our MBA student Beatrice. Beatrice is an electronics engineer with over 19 years of experience working in IT. She is currently studying for the MBA in Management Consulting, offered through our exclusive partnership with York St John University, UK, and working for an American company as an IT Project Manager. Along with handling a full-time job and a master’s programme, Beatrice manages a busy household with a husband and two daughters. Here is an insight and some words of wisdom that Beatrice had to share from her own experience. 

With the MBA Management Consulting you gain an understanding of consulting techniques and develop a range of transferrable skills

An Introduction 

Which Uni are you studying with? 

York St John University (UK) 

Which programme did you choose and why? 

I chose the MBA in Management Consulting programme. It allows me to improve my knowledge and complete my profile as Project Manager. 

The Study Plan 

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week? 

Prepare a study plan and pick a time of the day that works best for you

I planned the modules to avoid overlaps and could make it as planned. It is important to allow at least four to five hours a day, 4 days a week. This can be increased to 5 hours a day when approaching assignment deadline. 

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?) 

Allow yourself enough time for each
assignment

What worked best for me were early in the morning and late in the evening, when there is no distraction (work, children, etc.) 

How much time did you devote for each assignment? 

Generally, 4 to 5 days. Sometimes more, depending on the topic. 

Travelling and Communication 

How did travelling impact your ability to study? 

When travelling, other activities make it more difficult to find the required hours to study 

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences? 

We used e-apps that allowed delayed interactions (email, campus portal, WhatsApp). 

A typical day as a master’s student 

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you? 

1. Spend 2 hours early in the morning, reading and watching class videos  

2. Spend 1 hour at lunch time to review and make some researches  

3. Spend 1 to 2 hours at late evening to write or complete researches 

‘Research’ is an important aspect of Master’s studies. Learn to research effectively.

Any advice? 

It is important to have:  

1. The support of your entourage  

2. A schedule that includes your studies, work and personal activities, even leisure. Follow it as much as possible  

3. A contingency plan 

Well indeed, incredibly helpful advice from Beatrice. A contingency plan not only saves you from an unpredictable situation but also helps you follow your study plan with confidence. To get you through the master’s studies we have a great faculty who are subject-matter experts, guide and encourage the students to achieve their potential.  

If you have been dreaming of joining a master’s programme or have had this personal goal to gain a higher education, now is the time! Take the valuable advice from our current students, gain from their experience, add your own unique study strategies, and make your own success stories! I would love to feature you one day on our college blog. 

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

What I wish I knew before starting a business -Robert Kennedy College Blog

Once upon a time (about twelve or thirteen years ago), I decided to try my hand at starting a manufacturing business. Why? I was in my 20’s, with an MBA and a few years of work experience under my belt, and I had a dream – to leave my mark on this world, to become the next Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, and I figured, if things go to hell, I was young enough to risk it and still have time to bounce back!

There is of course a lot more to this story and my thought process that lead to my decision, but this is not the point of this post. The point is, when you do decide to start a business there is this steep learning curve, and as the business is your own, there are a lot of factors that must be considered while making decisions. 

Many factors that must be considered while making decisions

Like me, if you came from the corporate world, still early in your career with limited managerial experience, you probably just had to look after a very specific task – sales, marketing, a small part of finance, etc. But when you are the head of your own business (no matter how small), you need to be involved in everything! Business Plan, Finance, Revenue, Marketing, Sales…

Strategic Management

When you have so much on your plate there is a risk of your dropping the plate and causing it to break into many tiny pieces (the “plate” here is your business :D).

Understanding how business works, the points to consider before making a decision, and knowing and correctly identifying the different sources of information on which to base your decisions is paramount for the success of your business. This is where strategic management takes on a whole new importance in your thought process. It does not matter how big or small your business/company is, start thinking strategically!! 

Think Strategically

Three principles underlying strategy: (1) Creating a “unique and valuable” [market] position (2) Making trade-offs by choosing “what not to do”, and (3) Creating “fit” by aligning company activities to one another to support the chosen strategy 

Prof. Michael E. Porter, Ph.D., Harvard Business School

The simplest definition of strategic management is “the formulation and implementation of the major goals and initiatives taken by an organisation’s top managers on behalf of owners, based on consideration of resources and an assessment of the internal and external environments in which the organisation operates.” Strategic management provides overall direction to a business and involves specifying the organisation’s objectives, developing policies and plans to achieve those objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the plans (source: Strategic Management for Voluntary Nonprofit Organizations, Roger Courtney).

A system of finding, formulating, and developing a doctrine that will ensure longterm success if followed faithfully.

Dr. Vladimir Kvint, Chair of the Department of Financial Strategy at the Moscow School of Economics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University

So, how do you go about making your life (business really) easier by implementing strategic management?

First, identify your goals – let’s say your goal is to increase annual sales, but what does that actually mean? It is just too vague. Quantify and be specific. As an example, our goal is to sell 100 ballpoint pens and 200 ink pens by the end of the next financial year.

Now, how do you go about achieving this goal?

  • Start by identifying what goods you are going to be manufacturing (in our example they are pens), then the market to which you will be selling these manufactured goods.
  • Next, organise the resources you will need to achieve your goals, like putting in place purchasing and supply chain management to ensure a timely supply of raw materials, people and equipment to carry out the manufacturing process, marketing and sales team to bring in clients, and employing or contracting an adequate support staff (if you are unable to do it yourself) to carry out other support functions.
  • There are also a number of external forces that can have an impact on your business strategy. One of the tools most used in understanding these forces and helping in developing a strategy is Michael E. Porter’s Five Forces Framework which is a business analysis model that helps explain why various industries are able to sustain different levels of profitability. The Five Forces model is widely used to analyse and determine the corporate strategy of a company.

Porter’s five forces are:

  • Competition in the industry
  • Potential of new entrants into the industry
  • Power of suppliers
  • Power of customers
  • Threat of substitute products
A graphical representation of Porter’s five forces

Understanding the principles behind strategic management might take time, but when it comes right down to it, you will find that it is basically logic. The challenge is in getting the right data from the right sources on which you can base your decisions, and of course the methodology you use to analyse the data to arrive at your decisions. A wrong strategic decision may end up costing you dearly.  


This is why strategy and strategic management is an important module in a number of our online master’s degree programmes

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time.

Top 5 differences between an MBA and an Executive MBA. Which one is better for you?

Pursuing the master’s degree is a big decision in many people’s lives. Choosing which programme will be most beneficial for one’s career development can be nerve wrecking too. Because there are choices – too many choices! For example, one might decide to go for an MBA programme, however, there is a choice to pursue an Executive MBA (EMBA) too! As an aspiring student, which one should you choose? Let us explore the differences, pros and cons of both so that you can make an informed decision. 

1. Admission criteria 

One of the foremost differences between an MBA and the EMBA programme is the admission criteria. For most of the MBA programmes minimum experience required varies between 1-3 years. Sometimes, even fresh under-graduates can also apply for MBA programmes given a good academic record.  

On the other hand, an EMBA typically requires candidates to have on average 3 to 6 years’ work experience with at least 2 to 5 years of managerial work experience. Our current MBA students and alumni for example, possess on average 5 to 10 years of work experience, holding leadership and management titles in companies such as risk and quality managers, heads of sales, senior corporate trainers, marketing directors, lawyers, consultants, politicians and diplomats, company presidents and CMOs. 

2. Pace of study 

The MBA programmes are typically pursued on full-time or on-campus basis, and have very demanding schedules. They have more traditional and rigid course structures. An EMBA on the other hand, offers a more flexible study schedule, and are typically delivered in blocks (weekends, once a month, etc.) or online. The majority of the EMBA students are working professionals with busy work schedules. Thus, to optimize their time, EMBAs offer lecture sessions at rarer, but more intense intervals than their MBA counterparts. When done online, these really put flexibility at the forefront. 
 

3. Intensity of the programme 

While both programmes focus on the same core modules, the degree of intensiveness in both varies. For the EMBAs, I will use an analogy of a multi-vitamin supplement – a power packed mix of various vitamins all together in one. Similary, EMBAs are intensive, and one should be ready to absorb a lot of knowledge in a short period of time.  

A regular MBA programme however, spreads the modules over a period of time. The course material is widely distributed and thus is comparatively less intensive than EMBAs. 

Group of students at the Residency in Zurich (At the moment we are conducting Online Residency in light of Covid-19 restrictions).

4. Curriculum and focus 

In an MBA programme, since it accepts candidates with fewer years of experience, the focus is on teaching and developing management knowledge from the basics. It has a broader choice available in terms of the electives that a student can choose from. An EMBA programme, however, has a higher bar set in terms of experience from its candidates. While some of the core modules are same as an MBA programme, an EMBA programme has a more focused approach.  
 

Celebrating our Graduates – University of Cumbria

5. Financial implications 

An EMBA wins over an MBA programme any day when we talk about financial implications of both. Firstly, an EMBA candidate can continue their day jobs and get paid to support their education. MBA programmes with full-time study schedules make it more difficult for students to continue with their jobs. Secondly, since a large portion (or in our case, all of the programme) is studied online, one saves a huge amount of money in travel and living expenses. Thus, the return on investment on an EMBA is typically much higher than a regular MBA programme.  

Money matters..

There is of course the issue of programme cost – these vary wildly though, and you can find really expensive programmes in both EMBA and MBA settings. 

I hope the above provides a few points to help you make the distinction between an MBA and an EMBA programme. 

Robert Kennedy College offers online MBA programmes – which are much closer to EMBAs than they are to MBAs because of their flexibility and incredible value for money. We do that in exclusive partnerships with the University of Cumbria and York St John University. Check out the list of various MBA progammes that we offer and choose the one that best suits your interests and career.  

Energy and Sustainability: Everything you need to know

In my last blog, I spoke about Leadership and Sustainability while explaining briefly what sustainability is and its three interlocking aspects. One of the three interlocking aspects was the Environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability is about the environmental impacts associated with the business while ecological sustainability is about its impacts on biodiversity. And what affects both environmental and ecological sustainability is Energy. 

I guess you take the hint that in this blog I will talk about Energy and Sustainability.

Energy constitutes an important part of the environment. Energy production is a dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for 60% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy has always remained a critical pillar contributing to human well-being and poverty alleviation. It is important for economic development. Over the centuries, the ways and means by which we source energy has changed dramatically. One of the most critical challenges that the world faces today is sufficient access to clean energy for all. Hence the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), which calls for universal access to sustainable energy by 2030. 

Evolution of energy sources

Our historical and current energy systems are dominantly based on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Fossil energy was a fundamental driver of the Industrial Revolution. It also led to the technological, social, and economic development. Our energy production systems have important environmental impacts with carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that the fossil fuels produce. 

It is because of these negative impacts of fossil energy that the world needs to find alternative sources of energy, sources that have a lower impact on the environment.

In order to better understand the energy requirements and eventual transition to cleaner sources, it is important to understand how the energy consumption has changed in a region and across the world; how the energy sources have evolved and what kind of access society has to which energy sources.

For example, according to a World Bank report 2016, only 7% of the world’s low-income households have access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking; the average share in Sub-Saharan Africa was 13%; and approximately one-third in South Asia. An in-depth analysis of these factors would truly reveal our energy requirements and energy source evolution. 

The renewable sources of energy broadly include: the traditional biomass (burning of wood, agricultural waste biomass, and the forestry materials), hydropower, solar, wind energy, and other renewables like geothermal energy. 

Let’s have a look at global energy consumption.

Global energy consumption

The chart below captures the energy consumption pattern from early 1800s to modern world 2019. While our dependency on traditional biomass has more or less remainedconstant over 219 years, energy production from renewable sources is still a significantly low percentage as compared to total energy generation through fossil fuels.

How much Energy does the World consume:

Global Fossil Fuel Consumption

As seen in the chart below, the main sources of fossil fuel production and consumption are coal, crude oil, and natural gas. Coal was the sole source of energy production until the 1870s after which oil and gas took over. Gas production was 14,119 TWh and oil production 37,024 TWh. Over two decades, it increased to 53,620 TWh and 39,292 TWhrespectively. 

Global renewable energy consumption 

The Paris climate agreement (December 2015) sets long-term targets for its member nations like reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. There is an ever increasing need of renewable sources to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions. This can be achieved with two sources of energy – the renewable technologies and nuclear energy. The chart below shows the renewable energy generation from the 1960s to 2018. 

The process of transitioning from the fossil fuels to the renewable sources is termed as decarbonisation. The modern renewables including hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal,and modern biofuel production show a considerable increase since the 1960s with the world producing approximately 6.63TWh of modern renewable energy in 2018. Hydropower accounts for more than 70% of this total production. 

Affordable and clean energy – why does it matter?

First the question is “why do we need affordable and clean energy?” and second “what kind of sustainable energy sources?”. It is one of the United Nations Sustainable development goals to have affordable and clean energy. 

So why does it really matter?

1. Economic Development: Nations need energy and electricity to power their economies. Without a sustainable source governments cannot achieve sustainable economic development.

2. Reduce Disparity: The divide of the rich and the poor, the privileged and the under-privileged has widened amongst the developed, developing, and third world countries. About 789 million people around the world lack access to electricity (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/energy/)


3. Reduce air pollution: Clean energy is the only solution to the growing air-pollution concerns caused by coal, oil,and gas.4. Better healthcare: Energy is key in facilitating state-of-art healthcare facilities in a country. Fighting diseases, formulating vaccination, and fighting pandemics such as COVID-19 is attainable with a steady supply of energy – even better with renewable and clean one. 

I truly believe that every one of us has a role to play in energy consumption / energy saving, reducing greenhouse emissions. A small effort such as switching off the meeting room lights after a meeting, or taking a bike or public transport or walking can go a long way in reducing greenhouse emissions. And for those who live, breathe, and sleep energy, we offer a 100% Online MBA in Energy & Sustainability. Chat with our advisors for more information. 

Challenges facing Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management professionals in Africa

Once I started writing this blog, I realised my folly. The topic of my blog might sound simple, it was anything but, especially for me – (1) my knowledge of Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management (PLSCM) is entirely academic, and (2) I am not African, nor have I ever worked or even visited Africa.

But I do know that Africa is the future and has the potential for dramatic growth (if she is able to tap into that potential), and effective management of PLSCM will play a pivotal part in this future, given the resources in raw materials that Africa has.

And hence my topic, and my folly, and something I felt needed to be done.

What I didn’t realise when I picked this topic was the resources I had on hand. As of today, Robert Kennedy College (RKC) has a very large number of students from Africa who are doing or have successfully completed our 100% Online MSc programme in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and this is the resource I tapped into when writing this blog. 

I conducted an online survey of these students (of which about a hundred participated) and asked them about the challenges they face as PLSCM professionals in Africa, the image below indicates a country wise breakup of the response we received from our students to the survey.

Country wise breakup of the survey response received

The following are the top five responses I got back from the survey. Now, while this blog is Africa-centric, I find that these challenges are universal, and effect Africa as a whole, other developing nations, and even the developed or “first world” nations to some degree.

Top 5 challenges facing PLSCM professionals in Africa

Infrastructure – is the foundation on which a strong PLSCM function is built. The whole point of having a streamlined and efficient PLSCM department is to effectively purchase (at best costs) and move raw materials and finished products from point to point in a timely and less resource intensive manner. Efficiency also means having the products readily available, while at the same time not leaving them idling in a storehouse somewhere. To enable this, state of the art, physical infrastructure is needed – from roads and railways to airports, seaports, and safe and secure areas (such as industrial zones, etc.) for manufacturing and storage.

“A change in policy is required as there is a lack of willingness by African governments to invest in infrastructure development.”

Current student of our MSc programme in PLSCM

Corruption – the universal bane to businesses, and something that is global, encouraged and fostered by everyone involved, willingly or unwillingly. It is easy to blame a corrupt official for delays and holdups, until palms are greased to get thing moving without looking at the reasons why. Are you encouraging the behaviour by paying the bribe? Is your competitor paying bribes to hold you up? Why does the official need the money, is he paid enough? Are the laws strict enough to prevent corruption?

“Effective specially designed civic education programs at the grassroots level, to empower the people to make the right choice of leadership to drive the change that is needed.”

Graduate of our online MSc in PLCSM

Policy Change – As one of my former managers once told me “If you are comfortable then you are not growing”. And while this is true, who doesn’t like being comfortable? From our survey, this seems to hold especially true in Africa. For policy changes to take place, something big should have happened for the powers that be to even consider a change, and even then, comities have to be put in place to suggest the changes and then review the suggested changes, all this taking forever. By the time the policy change comes about, it will usually be outdated.

“A paradigm shift from traditional procurement method to e-procurement method. Also, government policies need to be critically reviewed across the board in order to encourage small and medium scale enterprises in Africa. Manufacturing sectors should not be left out as well as they are the process owners.”

A suggestion from one of our online MSc in PLSCM student

Stuck in time (Slow to incorporate modern methods) – A follow on to the previous point, it is not just the people in power who are slow to incorporate change, but also the people who do the work who are slow to embrace change as well. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But what people don’t realise is, it is not about fixing it, it is about bettering it. People get comfortable and don’t want to change or learn new ways of doing things, and then complain about the people above them making life difficult by not embracing change and current best practices.

“Changes in technology are associated with high set-up costs. Financial constraints are a major drawback, especially in some developing economies, when it comes to capital projects. Modern procurement is now taking place online, but many companies still haven’t adopted to these technological changes. Most functions now and procurement is done online while in Africa most countries still do their procurement manually. This is basically because of poor infrastructure, weak strategic alliances and reluctance to change that makes people not adopt these changes.”

A thought from one of our MSc PLSCM students

Cutting corners to save time – another universal truth. After doing a job for a period of time, we begin to believe that we know best, and can make a process better by cutting corners. But what we fail to understand is that we are but a single, small cog in the machine, and a process is in place to help the whole machine run smoother. By cutting corners and not following the process, all that might be achieved is to throw a spanner in the works. If you believe there is a better way to do something, take it to the management and make you case, it might just increase the efficiency of the whole machine.  

“Build Collaborative supportive systems and structures that work for both governments and stakeholders.”

Suggestion from a graduate of our online MSc in PLCSM

These are just some of the most basis challenges that a PLSCM professional faces in Africa. I am sure there are a lot more complicated and technical challenges out there that will confound even the most seasoned PLSCM professional. Constantly learning and getting your knowledge up-to-date is required to stay ahead of the curve. Robert Kennedy College, through our exclusive partnership with the University of Salford, UK, offers a 100% Online MSc in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management to better prepare you for the challenges to come. Here’s what our students said about this in our survey:

This is what our students had to say when asked during our survey

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

The Internet of Things – Wooohhaat?

The first time I heard the phrase “The Internet of Things (IoT)” (and that was not too long ago), my reaction was – “Wooohhaat the hell is that?! Speak English man!”

Now, my understanding of IoT is still very limited, and when I decided to write a blog on one of the new programmes we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) launched through our exclusive partnership with the University of Cumbria (UoC), UK – 100% Online MSc Computer Science and International Business, I was happy to find that one of the modules in the programme was IoT.

Now, what can one actually write about a management programme in Computer Science and International Business? I certainly couldn’t think of anything, apart from information about the programme, which can anyway be found on our website. So, I decided to get a better understanding of IoT and pass it on to all those in the same boat as I, or who may be looking to do this programme with us.  

What is the Internet of Things?

We live in a digital world and have reached a point where most anything in the digital space can basically talk to other “things” digital and share data – we can share data through networking between our communication devices, between multiple and different apps and software. But until quite recently, this sharing was not possible in the physical world.

But now, technology has advanced to the point where we are able to build a network of multiple physical objects, connect it to the internet, to send, receive, and interpret data. And this is the Internet of Things.

I know it sounds complicated, but nowadays, we actually see it in a number of places and don’t actually realise it, taking it for granted. I saw it work at the end of last year and was impressed but did not know what I was looking at. 

My family and I were on holiday in Abu Dhabi and were lucky enough to be staying at W Hotel, Yas Island, and got an upgrade to a suite. The entire room was connected. As an example, every item in the minibar was detected and listed as removed on a screen. Housekeeping restocked as soon as we were out of the room and it was billed automatically.

People who use Google Home, Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, or Philips Hue are already familiar with the technology. 

How does IoT actually work?

The working of IoT can basically be broken down into four sections:

  • Hardware – is what helps us connect digital items to physical objects. The hardware is what senses things and converts that to data. 
  • Data – is the information that the hardware collects. It is what will help us make sense of how everything is working, becoming the true universal language, the universal language of “things”.
  • Software – is what interprets all the information and enables the use of information. Software is what takes data from the hardware and extracts value for the end user. 
  • Connectivity – without connectivity there is no IoT. 2g, 4g, 5g, wi-fi, Bluetooth, without connectivity there is no exchange of data and IoT would have only remained a concept that some genius penned down. 

Is IoT practical?

The simple answer is – YES! This is not science fiction; it is already is daily use. It is cheap and easy to build – the hardware can be bought out of the box, the software is readily available (that is, for those of us too lazy or who don’t have the knowledge to make or create it on our own, but are good at marketing and selling). And finally, they are simple and easy to use, especially if you make it compatible with Google, Apple and Amazon. And because of cloud computing and networking, IoT can be done from anywhere, at a low cost, with minimal maintenance. 

In fact, most of us already use IoT today, from turning on our Philips Hue lights to a colour and brightness matching our mood, to automatically switching on or off our air conditioner and heating systems, to security systems that monitor our homes and alert us when there is an unauthorised entry. All this is done live, from the tips of our fingers, with your preferences backed up on the cloud and available across all systems.

The impact of IoT on industry

According to a McKinsey & Company report in 2017, the impact of IoT across industry will be approximately US$11 Trillion annually by the year 2025.

The impact on industry is already telling, especially in terms of cost savings. As an example, vertical farms, where the only human interaction needed is at the time of planting. Watering, trimming, and harvesting are all taken care of by IoT systems.

Another good example of IoT integration to reduce costs and increase profitability is the city of Barcelona, which was one of the first European cities to adapt smart city technologies. Simple implementation of parking sensors informing motorists of where parking spaces are available has increased the revenue generated from parking to over US$50 million per year. By having IoT systems in public lighting has enabled Barcelona city to reduce their energy costs by over US$37 million per year. And finally, their smart gardens have saved them US$58 million a year by just efficient water usage.

And as technology is always changing, the city of Barcelona has also incorporated these changes to have a direct and positive impact on the lives of its residents. The use of smart phones has enabled residents to receive instant alerts and updates from the city about employment, housing, administration, mobility, health services, security and utilities. 

A recent study (2018) of McKinsey: Smart Cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future distinguished 55 applications within the fields shown below. According to this study, these applications are capable to improve quality of live by 10 – 30%.

Now for the cons of IoT

The “force” cannot exist without the “dark side” (Star Wars reference), and now that we have ranted and raved about how wonderful IoT is, here are a couple of its more obvious drawbacks. 

The biggest and most obvious disadvantage of IoT is data security and privacy. As mentioned earlier, creating an IoT device is not too difficult or expensive to make, and in their rush to become the first mover and trendsetter, most manufacturers tend to overlook the security aspect of IoT. Keep in mind, in most cases, you will have to enter your personal information, and in some cases, even your credit card information to effectively use your IoT enable devices. Now, these devices usually work in a network and are on the cloud, so if there isn’t firewalls and security, your privacy and data can be at risk. 

Another unexpected drawback, if you can even consider it that, as it is caused due to the increase in efficiency due to implementation of IoT, is to increase in the short-term unemployment. With the increase in efficiency, the workforce required to do a particular job will be streamlined. While this has the positive impact of reducing costs and the turnaround time to job completion, it also has the unintended consequences of leaving a large percentage of the workforce either unemployed or having to be retrained in a new job skill.

A good example of the massive impact IoT is having on the retail industry is Amazon Go. The evolution of how everything from merchandising and stocking, supply chain management, human resources, and billing, in the retail industry is just amazing to see.


Finally, the importance and potential future impact of IoT cannot be understated, especially in the era of social distancing. The judicious and responsible implementation of IoT will free up humanity to do what we do best – create, innovate, learn, socialise and moving on to the next “big thing”. Which is why IoT, as a study module, is integral to a number of programmes offered by Robert Kennedy College

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

Breakthrough Technologies through the eyes of Bill Gates

“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”  Bill Gates
 

 

We are changing the world with technology, with software being the big change agent. And the man who has been instrumental (the change agent himself) in bringing this technological change is Bill Gates. Bill Gates needs no introduction. I believe his name is synonymous with the innovation and change in the world of technology as the world sees it today. Bill Gates, one of the richest entrepreneurs, innovators, one of the most influential persons in the world and an immense philanthropist, revolutionized the technology industry when he co-founded Microsoft in 1975. And the rest is history. 

Gates say the advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life. I am not going to lay out the advantages or importance of IT in business or as Bill Gates mentions, in our everyday lives. This is more about what is going on in the world of Information Technology and how new breakthrough technologies continue to disrupt the world.  

MIT Technology Review has been presenting ten breakthrough technologies every year. And in this list’s history of 18 years, the 2019 edition was curated by none other than Bill Gates. There could not be a better person than Gates, sharing with the world which new technologies he believes are poised to deeply impact our lives.  

MIT’s 2019 breakthrough technologies fall into 3 categories – climate change mitigation, healthcare and AI. These are some challenges and opportunities for our future society and communities. Based on Bill Gates’ beliefs, these chosen technologies indicate a trend of transition in technologies – from those that mostly made life longer to those that mostly make it better. 

Here goes the list: 

  1. Robot revolution—robot hands that can learn to manipulate unfamiliar objects on their own  
  1. New-wave nuclear power—Development of both new fission and fusion reactor designs making them safer and cheaper  
  1. Customizable cancer vaccines— Companies like BioNTech and a treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to target only tumoral cells  
  1. Predicting premature babies—a simple blood test that can predict chances of preterm birth, potentially saving many children’s lives  
  1. Probe-a-pill—a swallowable device that takes image the gut and even performs biopsies.
  1. Plant based burgers—The aim is to drastically cut emissions from the food industry by inventing both plant-based and lab-grown meat alternatives.  
  1. Separating and ‘Repurposing’ Carbon dioxide—Companies like Climeworks based in Zurich, are looking for economical techniques for absorbing CO2 from the air and locking it away. Companies aim to produce methane from carbon emissions and also sell carbon dioxide to the soft-drink industry 
  1. An ECG-enabled smartwatch— Electrocardiogram – popularly known as ECG – will be available as wearable technology. The wearable will be able to detect atrial fibrillation and continuously monitor people’s heart and health conditions, giving early warnings of problems. 
  1. Self-contained toilets—The low-income countries cannot afford the luxury of a sewer system. Gates says, “A self-contained toilet takes the human waste, liquid and solid, and in most cases does some type of separation. The solids you can essentially burn. The liquids you can filter” 
  1. All- capable AI assistants—Expect better conversations with AI Assistants that are capable of much more than just conversations like taking meeting notes and shopping online.  

Bill Gates is not just a believer but an avid investor in the development of these innovative technologies that are bound to change the world. As he says,

“How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” 

I for one believe the world is witnessing how IT has transformed businesses and is an integral part of its success. RKC providing online programmes understand the importance of tech and thus offers Online Masters that provide you with the necessary knowledge and skill to excel in the field of IT. Chat with our advisors on WhatsApp to know more about our 100% Online MBA specializing in Information Technology. Because in the words of Bill Gates,

“Vision without execution is daydreaming”. 

5 reasons why a career in Healthcare is not as bad as it seems today

I promise this is not another COVID-19 update, myths and truths or uncovering the facts where and how this deadly disease started, blog. There is more than enough information out there – and I’m talking about reliable sources only – enough to overwhelm most of us. 

These are challenging times for us as individuals and for society at large – humanity some might say. The global pandemic has changed the way nations operate and has impacted the global economy. The greatest and gravest impact of the pandemic, however, is on the healthcare systems around the world. With about 3.8million COVID-19 cases in 210 countries and territories (as of May 9th, 2020), the healthcare systems worldwide are immensely stressed. (https://covid19.who.int)

Healthcare systems are hit hard both directly and indirectly (too many patients at the same time, too many doctors becoming patients, lacking resources, inability to attend to other conditions, etc.) 

The World Health Organisation said so much: 

Countries will need to make difficult decisions to balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, while simultaneously engaging in strategic planning and coordinated action to maintain essential health service delivery, mitigating the risk of system collapse

WHO, March 2020

So, if this is not an update, nor a myth-busting blog, what is it? 

I would like to focus on the positives of this situation from an educational point of view, thinking especially of those who envisaged a career in the healthcare sector, people who are looking to switch careers, or someone already in the healthcare sector looking to verticalize their career path. Now is the time to “quarantine” and study!  

Choosing a career for yourself might be one of the biggest decisions you take in your life. Some of us are fortunate to follow our passions and interests and make a successful career out of it. Sometimes after pursuing a career for a whole number of years, we realise that it is not something we want to do for the rest of our lives. We’ve got to rationalize our interest and weigh the pros and cons a career offers. If you have been thinking what’s in it for you, here is what a career in the healthcare industry has to offer: 

Humanitarian side

While every profession tends to serve society in some way (well at least that is what I like to believe), in my opinion, healthcare is the noblest. The potential of changing and saving lives puts you on a higher pedestal as a professional compared to any other. If you have an innate desire of helping others and uplifting humankind, healthcare is the right place for you.

Tremendous Growth Opportunities

Surveys and labor statistics reveal that healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries with an estimated addition of 1.9 million new jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare occupations was projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. 

Healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. This projected growth is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare services.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Challenging situations like the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 have created a need for strong healthcare leadership. The present outbreak is far from over, and the healthcare sector is operating at maximum capacity. There is an urgent need to adequately plan and utilise limited resources. At the same time, it has become all the more imperative for the healthcare systems worldwide to be prepared for any future events, as the COVID-19 pandemic is definitely not the last one.  

The sector offers a number of growth opportunities that are wide ranging, beyond the conventional patient care field of being a practitioner, nurse or therapist. There are opportune avenues for both horizontal and vertical growth in the sector. As the healthcare paradigm continues to evolve, there is a greater demand for innovation in healthcare technology, guided by the vision and sharp business acumen of a strong healthcare professional. 

Dynamic

Most days, a healthcare professional will bring new challenges and should bring with them joys and job satisfaction. Demand is changing and so are the roles in this industry which adds to its dynamicity.

 Flexibility

Healthcare offers flexibility in three ways. First the flexibility on choice of profession. You have a plethora of options to choose from: patient care services, government relations, human resources, planning and development to name just a few healthcare management positions you can get yourself into. 

Then you can choose the environment you want to work in. The healthcare management professionals are not limited to jobs in just hospitals. There are great career opportunities in consulting, state and federal agencies, insurance, laboratories and universities.

Thirdly, this industry is not bound by borders. The experience in the field is highly regarded across nations making you a valuable asset wherever you go (with few exceptions where licensing might be necessary).

Competitive Salary

Last but definitely not least, healthcare sector jobs are well paid and rewarding in the monetary sense as well. On an average, the median salaries of healthcare professionals are higher than the annual wages of all other occupations. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm)

A master’s degree could provide you ‘the edge’ to make a move into or to grow within the healthcare industry. The enhanced knowledge and multifaceted skillsets will allow you to make progress by leaps and bounds in the field.  

Because let’s be honest – who hasn’t had a bad “boss”? Highly competent people with tremendous skills in their profession, parachuted in leadership positions without preparation. That “joy and job satisfaction” we were mentioning earlier are highly impacted by leaders who are not fully prepared to lead other people too. 

Our Online MBA Healthcare programmes will help you understand international perspectives and also how to analyze the constraints and trade-offs in developing and implementing national health strategies, health care financing, economic evaluation, the role of effective change management and technological development. 

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the healthcare management programmes offered and the application process. Remember to ask about our “quarantine” discounts and check your eligibility. 

On behalf of the entire RKC team, a special thanks to all healthcare professionals across the world for working tirelessly to keep our communities safe. Our gratitude to all of you responsible citizens for staying home and helping stop the spread. #thankyouheathcareworkers