Henley Family Friendly MBA Case Study

The Nature of an MBA

“The MBA has generally earned a reputation as a Marriage Break-Up Academy (MBA). We believe it is irresponsible and unnecessary for MBA programmes to be designed in such a way that they damage families and children. Good educators can do better,” says Jon Foster-Pedley, dean of Henley Business School Africa.

Henley’s Belief

“We believe that business is, and should be, a force for good by providing better solutions to increase the quality of lives and societies and that the type of leadership needed is inclusive, socially aware and intelligently balanced. It must, too, be commercially astute, focused on quality outcomes and be adapted for our complex challenges,” says Mr Foster-Pedley.

He says that Henley Business School Africa’s Family Friendly MBA programme is achieving this by linking an MBA that is already flexible in design, suited to mature learners with senior titles and growing families, to a new process of family involvement.

“This family involvement includes half-day sessions before the start of the MBA with partners, where they hear from previous students and their partners about how they developed strategies to manage the MBA together. Students have full and in-depth briefings into what the MBA stress points are, help with planning as well as the family benefits of Henley MBA.”

Mr Foster-Pedley says that students work with experienced facilitators on listening and communication skills, sharing concerns and plans and assisted in building networks amongst the families and partners to assist in mutual support. During the MBA we have regular, at least monthly, free sessions in the evenings or weekends where students work with and listen to experts on topics such as positive parenting and working with gen X, future-proofing children, project management and a number of other topics and tools.

Students are also given sessions on systems thinking and complex project management. These sessions include the whole family and with films and jumping castles provided for the children as well as catering.

Feedback

The feedback and reaction has been overwhelmingly positive from families. We have an increasing number of couples doing the programme together and partners doing the MBA when one of the couple has finished.

Michelle Clarke and Freddy Niehaus

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Michelle and Freddy have been together for over four years and started their MBA journey in April 2013 as a couple. They were engaged November 2013 and have two boys aged 7 and 14. Freddy completed his MAP+ course with Henley Africa during 2012 and was introduced to the culture and vision of Henley Business School Africa.

“The focus on family values and the importance of a work-life-study balance was very appealing to both of us. This was emphasised during every workshop and engagement with the personnel and lecturers of Henley,” says Freddy.

“Our particular concern was centred around the balance of our family and the potential impact it could have on our relationship and children by having two people undertake the MBA journey. This however turned out to be the best decision we made – to do this together.”

“We are in the fortunate position that both of our boys understand the importance of this journey to us as individuals and as a family. It not only taught us about a balance in life, but also imprinted these principles on our children. Although the MBA takes up quite a bit of our time, we found an adaptable model to accommodate the needs of our family, work, study and social life.”

“At the introductory workshop to our MBA in April 2013, Henley Africa dean Jon Foster-Pedley said that one should not be ignorant to the impact that life’s events could have during the MBA journey. It was not necessarily specific to the MBA, but rather an amplification of life’s events due to the additional pressures associated with a Masters Degree,” says Freddy.

In January 2014 Freddy’s mother became terminally ill. “This happened as we were due to submit our Managing Financial Resources assignment and commence the preparation for the March exams. This left both of us in an emotional state with additional demands on our already limited time. During this difficult time Henley was extremely supportive in a personal and professional capacity.”

“Henley’s family values and aim to develop a strong society, came across strongly. With the support of Henley, we were able to manage our time effectively, spend more time with Freddy’s mother in her final days and complete our assignments and exams successfully. The flexibility of the Henley MBA and its focus on family friendliness definitely made a positive impact in our lives.”

“The benefits and drawbacks of doing the MBA as a couple, social as well as academic, meant that we were not alone during testing times. This helped us significantly during assignment deadlines as we were able to discuss and research the subject matter in more detail. We are of the opinion that it assisted us in moving forward at a sustainable pace by working together during our individual assignments.”

“One of the drawbacks of doing it together, and we say this tongue in cheek, is that should one not be in the mood to study at night, the other one is easily convinced to put that evenings’ study on hold too.”

“We realised early on our MBA journey the true value and meaning of time. This guided our priorities in terms of activities in the work-life-study balance.”

“We can testify to the impact the Henley MBA journey had on our lives. We started this journey to become masters of business as our sole priority, and ended up learning the deeper aspects of being human and our purpose amongst mankind for the greater good,” concludes Freddy.

Amanda and John Gaspar

Amanda and John are newly married. They started the programme in March 2014 and were married in April 2014. “The biggest drawcard was the emphasis Henley places on ‘balance’. Balance between work, MBA, family and lifestyle,” says Amanda.

“We both have senior positions at work but also consider ourselves as outdoor enthusiasts. While we were very interested in partaking in an MBA programme, we made a decision up front that it could not be at all costs. Also knowing that we were embarking on an MBA journey so early in our marriage we wanted to ensure that we would also have our time.”

“A true hallmark of the programme is that ‘work-life balance’ continues to be emphasised. It is definitely not just a marketing tool. Throughout the programme personal development and other sessions have been on offer to Henley Africa students to help manage this balance.”

“Further to learning offerings, the Henley Africa faculty have been extremely supportive towards many members in assisting them through the programme when unfortunate life happenings have occurred. We had first-hand experience of this earlier in the year when John was in ICU for six weeks. The support was humbling. The family friendly offering definitely kicked in. Henley understands that life happens and when it unfortunately happened to us, the team was behind us 100%.”

Amanda says: “In addition, the way the lectures are timed throughout the year gives you adequate time to have the ‘balance’ while still being able to maximise your learning. Other MBA programmes require continuous evening classes or bi-weekly weekday classes which is not conducive to both our work and home environments,” says Amanda.

“While the lectures are not as frequent, it has in no way compromised our learning. The lectures provide the theoretical base which is then required to be applied practically in your work environment. This largely forms part of your assessments. It does not mean that the workload is any less, what it does mean is that much of your learning is ‘on the job’; a brilliant way to bridge the gap between theory and business.”

“The benefits include us both driving the same ship in the same direction, understanding of the time and dedication required and co-ordinating this time between us, having our own mini syndicate; we are able to discuss and bounce ideas off each other and co-ordinate social events together. As far as there being drawbacks, honestly, we haven’t experienced any.”

“We have thoroughly enjoyed the programme so far. The lecturers have been outstanding, facilities conducive to learning and the experience overall is one we would highly recommend to partners wanting to partake in an MBA,” concludes Amanda.

Preshinee and Shan Reddy

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Preshinee and Shan have been married for almost 23 years with two boys, Kyle and Nolin ages 20 and 15 respectively. “We both have full time jobs and a business (takeaway/restaurant serving Indian food). Shan is an operations manager (SAP) and Preshinee is an Account Manager.” Both are employed by multi-national companies. The shop is managed, under their guidance, by Kyle. He is also studying part time.

“With an extremely busy lifestyle, doing an MBA seemed like a mammoth task until we attended the open day at Henley Business School. What was so attractive was the flexibility. We were convinced that we would do this,” says Preshinee.

“My current job includes extensive travel and I am able to incorporate my travel into the entire plan. Although Nolin is 15 and very responsible, he still requires attention and guidance, which is still possible with the Henley Africa MBA.”

“One of the best decisions we have ever made is to embark on the MBA together. We have always worked as a team, in our marriage as well as all areas of life. Doing the MBA has opened a whole new world, not only with regard to business but also to personal development.”

“Personally, I view the world with different eyes. Working in a group has been a tremendous advantage with everybody encouraging each other along this journey. When we initially started, the work/life/family balance was not aligned but this has improved and continues to improve over time. We are enjoying every bit of this experience and would recommend it to others,” says Preshinee.

“Doing the MBA together has strengthened our already strong relationship, not only as a couple but as a family. Both children are inspired by us working together. Socially, we came close to destroying a relationship in the family by not attending a wedding of a close family member because we had a workshop that was scheduled at the same time. We managed at the last minute to re-arrange with Henley to accommodate us in another class and this was the ultimate test of the flexibility of Henley. Amen to Henley for salvaging that relationship.”

“Academically, we try not to compete but to continuously encourage each other. We do have a difference in opinion at times but agree to disagree and leave it at that. I think that PD1 assignment of self-review and reflection was an eye opener for most of us. As a couple we got to know more about each other that we had never discussed in all our years together. It created a deeper understanding of our character.”

 “The journey is not over yet but we are on track. It was not easy as there are times when life happens and you have to deal with it. We are looking forward to the next stage and we believe, together with our team we can do this,” concludes Preshinee.

Parma and Sandy Govindsamy

Parma and Sandy are married with two young children aged 4 and 7. “I started first in 2013, and was attracted to the Henley programme by the accreditation and flexibility it offered. Sandy attended the family orientation workshop and started thinking about enrolling when she heard about the strong family-friendly orientation of the programme and understood that she could structure study time in a very flexible way. She enrolled for the flexible MBA a year after me, in 2014,” says Parma.

“The benefits at Henley are the flexibility of the programme, ability to structure study time very early or late in the day and being able to minimise impact on family life. Henley Africa also runs fantastic family-friendly workshops run by interesting thought leaders and we have really enjoyed the events centred around parenting and work-life balance.”

“The benefits are that your partner completely understands the demands the MBA places on your time and is very open to picking up extra duties at home when you are on deadline. It also doesn’t feel as lonely as it may have been, since we have a sounding board for ideas, assignment topics and to commiserate with when it all gets to be a bit much.”

“The drawbacks are that you need to be very selective when accepting invitations. The other drawback is that one parent is sometimes left alone while the other is on assignment deadline.”

“Doing the Henley Flexible MBA was definitely the right decision for our family. I highly recommend and promote the programme to anyone I know who is interested in the MBA programme and who has this misconception that all MBA programmes negatively impact the family. Henley has lived up to its reputation of being family oriented.”

“What is really interesting is that the academic director and Dean, Jon Foster-Pedley, understands the pressures of family commitments and is very determined in his approach to making the Henley MBA programme family-friendly and also invites students to put forward ideas on how to build this reputation further,” concludes Parma.

Conclusion

The Henley Family Friendly is one of our greatest differentiators. It provides families with the tools and support to receive a high quality degree whilst still being mindful of their families.