Sunday 18th of December and it is two days after the end of some of the busiest weeks of the Executive MBA to date. With Semester 1 of Year 2 complete, most students could be found making up for lost time with family and friends, Christmas shopping, or simply enjoying their freedom again. All except for our team of five daring Executive MBA students who traded Dundrum Shopping Centre for a small meeting room in The Radisson St Helens Hotel. Acting as a team of consultants, we were challenged to dissect a case on McDonald’s proposed global turn-around strategy within three hours, followed by a 25 minute presentation outlining our proposed strategy and rationale. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from the MBA to date, we set to work confident we could solve McDonald’s strategy dilemma. The Smurfit MBA team’s preparations for the John Molson International Case Study Competition 2017 were truly in full swing.
The journey began on October 11th when the second year Executive MBAs were invited to participate in ‘trials’ to establish the UCD team that would travel to Montreal to participate in the competition. Organised by John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, the competition is the largest and longest established business case competition of its kind in the world. It takes place in Montreal every January and is a round-robin tournament consisting of seven rounds of unpublished business cases over five days. A total of 36 international universities will be represented in 2017 including teams from Canada, America, Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Chile, Sweden and Germany.
The UCD team was selected following individually prepared presentations on a sample case on microfinancing in rural India. We were informed by Smurfit School that we would receive all the support we required and determined to make the most out of this opportunity, we set about honing our strategy and presentation skills.
First up was an intense session on strategy analysis with Professor Pat Gibbons. Pat is the team’s coach and will travel to Montreal to provide guidance and support throughout the competition.
Next up, Paul Slattery took the team for a master class on how to present, prepare Power Point slides and communicate effectively with an audience, in this case the local business executives who will act as judges in Montreal. For anyone who has had a class with Paul Slattery, they will appreciate how valuable a session in such a small group proved to be. The evening with Paul was challenging but thoroughly enjoyable, provoking more than a few laughs from the group along the way as we perfected the art of corporate story telling amongst other skills.
With our foundation sessions complete, it was agreed that real life practice cases would be the best way to develop our skills. Our first practice case revealed to us the scale of the challenge we were facing within a tight three hour preparation window. It highlighted many areas for development; we lacked structure, time efficiency and a clear direction. This led to a sense of panic during our preparations as the clock ticked down and this was apparent to Pat from our rapidly cobbled together presentation slides. However, we surprised ourselves in getting through the presentation fluidly. Whilst we had some doubts about the arduous challenge facing us, they were quickly eradicated at this point as we knew we could only improve with practice.
Over the next few weeks we worked rigorously to evolve as an effective team under time pressure and developed a clear process for tackling case studies. Our rate of improvement as a team has been incredible and has only been matched by the rate of learning as individuals. Speed reading, effective group brain storming, clear communications, strong Power-Point slides and strategic thinking have all been key takeaways for the group.
The preparations are now complete and all that is left for us is to execute our plan. The team travel to Canada confident that our committed preparations will bear fruit as we represent UCD on the world stage. In reality, we are unsure of what to expect from our competitors but ultimately; win, lose or draw we are satisfied that we have already learnt more about strategy, presenting and most importantly team-work than would ever be possible in a classroom. It has truly been a fantastic experience to date, and we look forward to jetting off to Montreal to put our MBA skills to the test.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Professor Pat Gibbons for the huge amount of time and advice he has given, Paul Slattery for his guidance on presentation skills and finally Ro Downing and all at Smurfit School for facilitating this invaluable experience and providing all the support we could have wished for.
The competition runs from the 1st – 6th January and a further blog post will follow in relation to our experience in Montreal. Hopefully we will be talking about the first UCD team to win the John Molson International Case Study Competition. One has to believe to achieve.
Declan Walsh ~ Executive MBA, Year 2
On behalf of: Derek Anderson, Anne Marie Barcoe, Tanya Kenny and Catherine O’Brien