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Massey Executive MBA helps provincial businesses grow

The Massey Executive MBA team onsite with Whanganui & Partners.

Massey University’s refreshed Executive MBA programme features a more integrated approach focused on solving business problems, rather than teaching abstract academic courses in isolation. 

A key part of this approach is the new integrated project, which for the 2019 cohort, is a partnership with regional development agency Whanganui and Partners. 

“They are a business, with business problems in their own right,” says executive qualifications director Dr Patricia Bossons. “They also give us access to all the businesses in the Whanganui area, which will contribute real-world, live case material throughout the Executive MBA programme.”

Students launched into their integrated project immediately, with their first contemporary strategy session taking place in Whanganui.

“Instead of staying in the conference centre classroom where we ran the orientation day, we moved to the home of the integrated project and engaged with strategy in real time, with live business issues,” Dr Bossons says. 

“The mayor and the head of the council joined us at various times. We had a presentation from local iwi and a presentation from a group of youth representatives who are working with Whanganui and Partners to make Whanganui more attractive to its younger population.”

Design thinking in action.

Working with businesses on live problems

The contemporary strategy course, led by design thinking expert Professor Hamish Gow, gave the students concepts and tools to apply immediately to some of the business situations in front of them. 

Four local organisations participated in the programme by inviting students to visit their businesses so they could better understand the challenges they face. All demonstrated the potential of regional New Zealand in a way that surprised many of the students, Dr Bossons says.

The participating companies were an innovative safety helmet producer that has achieved a huge global reach for its product; a shop-fitting manufacturing business that works with national chains, including Mitre 10 and Countdown, and uses an exemplar lean manufacturing process; an aluminium boat builder that builds mussel barges for the Marlborough Sounds and the Waiheke and White Island ferries; and Whanganui airport, which is serviced by Chatham Airways and is largely unexploited from a business perspective. 

“We already have three students developing ideas for leveraging the business potential of the airport, and a fully engaged business leader happy to work with them,” Dr Bossons says.

Following the success of the contemporary strategy weekend, the students will revisit Whanganui as a “project” for each of their courses.

“While they might be physically back in their regional cohort groups in Albany, Wellington and Auckland Airport, they will work with a business in Whanganui on an issue that relates to the subject of the course being taught,” she says. “Whanganui and Partners will connect Executive MBA students with the best-fit business for each topic.”

Students get a briefing for their integrated project in the programme's pop-up classroom in Whanganui.

Innovative, refreshed programme

The integrated project is just one of several innovations in the refreshed Executive MBA programme. Others include:

  • A strong focus on ethics and other leading-edge business themes, including working across cultures, digital transformation and sustainability.
  • The creation of a personalised learning journey so students become reflective practitioners as they work through the programme. This is done with specialised software that allows students to compile a portfolio of their experiences, including reflections on their experiences as they happen. The private portfolio will form the backbone of the assessment for a new course on applied personal leadership.
  • Three sessions of one-on-one executive coaching as part of the applied personal leadership course. This will allow students to identify the particular leadership development issues they want to work on. By the end of the programme, they should be able to articulate the leadership value they offer to business, in their chosen context. 
  • The applied business research project will focus on live business problems. Students will work with a real issue that has meaning for them and assessment will include a presentation of outcomes to a panel of senior executives. 

The Executive MBA also includes an international study tour and the programme is currently in discussions with overseas business schools to provide opportunities for students to take a special option course overseas.

“No other MBA in New Zealand is designed to deliver this blend of real-world application in real time,” Dr Bossons says, “and the strong thread of personal leadership development, running in parallel with the technical business subject learning, is unique.

“We want to partner even more closely with business to inform and develop the programme as we move forward so we are the programme of choice for future strategic leaders.”



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