Monday, October 24, 2005

Comment of the Day 
I suppose it comes off a little arrogant to pronounce something I said as the comment of the day, but so be it. This was a good day in terms of comments for me, so I might as well celebrate it.

Anyway, today my old study group got together for our second reunion breakfast. After talking about our wives, how much we drank at the tailgate this last weekend, and other standard conversation we finally got around to the inevitable topic of 2nd year conversations: how EC classes are going. I think the reason this comes about is because inevitably people are disappointed in their classes. The reasons are numerous, but I think I really distilled the issue down to its essence in one simple comment:

“There really just isn’t that much to learn about management.”
- Mark

We laughed about that for a while, that perhaps I should be featured on the HBS website with that as my soundbite, but the fact is that in a definite sense it seems to be true. HBS is a general management school, and in that context there just isn’t that much in-depth knowledge to be learned about leadership, strategy, marketing, etc. Since you aren’t trying to learn the nitty gritty details of each specialty, but really how to manage each process, the lessons are general and apply to many situations. As such, after the first 10-15 cases in each class you reach the point where the major methods have been introduced and it is just a matter of applying them in a new situation, which makes for a less interesting class. So, every EC class is bound to be a little disappointing once the heavy duty learning stops. Finance, accounting, and tax can be different, but it depends on the class.

Anyway, after that I went on to my next class where we had Andy Bryant, the CFO from Intel, in class visiting. Our homework had been to create 3 slides on Intel’s biggest problems as if we were presenting to the Intel board (instead of just 2 of them, our professor and guest). Anyway, I think that Intel’s biggest problem is that their core business, which is all they have been able to do profitably, is growing slower. That isn’t really a problem, except that management doesn’t accept slower growth and is fighting it tooth and nail with their billions in free cash flow. I told them to be happy with their 10% PC market growth and give cash back to shareholders…not exactly what they wanted to hear. Fun discussion, though.

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