How I learned to tackle business problems from multiple angles
by Sebastian Lanfranco | MBA Class of 2018 | Action Learning
Since starting my MBA journey at Asia School of Business, I’ve had the chance to work with people from all walks of life. In fact, ASB’s diversity is inescapable and is one of the school’s defining characteristics.
With a class full of students hailing from different backgrounds, every Action Learning experience is an opportunity to discover new ways of looking at and resolving real issues that affect our host companies in the ASEAN region. Having varied vantage points within the team makes for a collaborative and constructive approach to each situation, where new ideas build on previous discussion points and look at the issue from new angles.
More than once, my teammates have thought up approaches to business issues that stretched me well outside my comfort zone, forcing me look at a problem from angles that I would never have contemplated had I been working on my own. I consider these growth opportunities some of the most valuable and memorable aspects of my entire MBA experience.
An example is a recent Action Learning project I worked on in Bangkok. I was on a team with students from four continents and our project was to advise a Thai-owned supermarket chain on the expansion plan of its national distribution network over the coming decade. Over the course of a semester, we visited Thailand on three separate occasions for a combined total of four weeks.
We were tasked with identifying opportunities for regional distribution centers, assessing their financial feasibility and recommending a roadmap and timeline for execution. In order to understand the full extent of the issue, we started by visiting and interviewing people at company headquarters, warehouses and stores.
Hierarchy and respect are deeply embedded in the culture of this region, so our teammates from the region provided guidance on how best to navigate this environment deftly to ensure a successful outcome. We discovered constraints on the expansion plans — such as contracts with logistics companies, loading bays that could only accommodate for certain types of delivery trucks and short delivery windows for stores in city centers, among others.
Luckily, our team’s collective expertise included diverse fields such as engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, financial modelling, insurance and consulting, as well as law and sociology. We borrowed from these past experiences to come up with useful insights into ways to assess the host’s issues and deliver a project outcome that would create the most value. Our hosts were very pleased with our recommended roadmap and timeline, which provided a 15% reduction in projected costs compared to the status quo.
Thanks to this project I have great memories of Bangkok and was able to work on my business, cultural and personal development in many ways.