In October this year I enrolled the Advanced Management Program at Kellogg. The school’s reputation (MBA program ranked 1 or 2 in the world by The Economist) and the program description were interesting enough to catch my attention.
The truth is, and I couldn’t imagine, not in my wildest dreams that it will be not only interesting, but a life changing experience. My expectations from the program were that I will be able to check my practical management competencies acquired throughout my 22 years professional career, against management competencies described in theory. But it wasn’t about that. Not even close. It was much, much more.
Let me start from the beginning – the AMP content. I don’t know if that was the intention of the program designers, but for me the program was intended to develop us in three different dimensions: Analog, Digital and Formative. When I say Analog I mean “traditional management skills but on advanced levels” – covering topics such as managing teams, organizations, business cycles, finances, marketing, crises, communication and media relations, after action reviews, boards, M&A, etc. By Digital I mean “skills for digital times” – learning about innovation strategies, the future of innovation, leading innovation from the C-suite, big data & analytics, social networks, artificial intelligence, customer centricity, marketing in a digital world, design thinking, data visualization, etc. And finally, by Formative I mean “mental and physical shaping for leadership roles” – such as vision, purpose, focused growth, critical thinking, executive judgment, mind persuasion, decision making, negotiations, value-based leadership, leadership lessons and career paths, how to become the best, how to inspire, how to tell stories, leader as a coach, self-reflection techniques, resilience (both mental and physical), how to avoid burnout, etc. With about 30% of the time dedicated to the development of each of the three dimensions, I found the AMP content perfectly balanced. Let me explain why. As a prerequisite, we, the participants have to be experienced managers already, so there was no need to aquire, but only to advance our traditional management skills (and that is the Analog dimension); as we were middle-aged professionals, we needed to better understand the future trends and digital transformation challenges of our organizations (the Digital dimension); and finally, as during our careers we were focused on our day-to-day management activities, we needed some time to reflect on what was behind us and where are we now, so we can be able to see clearly what should we aim for in the future (the Formative dimension).
Not only was the content, AMP was superior in the terms of the quality of the teaching staff, the learning approach and the facilitation of discussions among the participants. Big portion of the 30 group learning units were taught by prominent clinical professors. These remarkable individuals came from CEO roles in billion-dollar companies, partners at top VC firms and top-ranked military officers. Their practical knowledge, their humility and willingness to share their personal stories, successes and failures, helped us to get to the essence of leadership. At the same time, the classes taught by tenured professors were also unconventional – it was all about immersion, interaction, case studies, simulations and role playing. We were shifting through different worlds, from corporate setting on the Wall Street, through a Tokyo earthquake, to Mt Everest Summit. In the same time, we were analyzing Tolstoy, acting in a play and conducting a real symphony orchestra. It was like big kids playing serious games and learning. Just phenomenal!
Besides the group learning approach, I found the individual approach as another important aspect of the program. Peer Coaching, Executive Coaching, sessions with a psychologist, abundance of self-reflection and personality tests such as KF 360 Feedback, AJIL and NTR Cultural Values were extremely valuable for addressing our personal strengths and weaknesses and sketching our future career paths.
From the organizational point of view, the program was flawless. Accommodation, classrooms, logistics, meals, site visits (such as Chicago’s 1871 and United Center), sports and entertainment activities (group yoga, bowling competitions, karaoke, ice hockey game visit, clubs and restaurant nights, lake walks, as well as some small elements of surprise) were just perfectly organized and synchronized.
These social activities combined with three weeks of intensive collaborative classwork leaded to another, equally important gain from the program. And that was the strong bond between the participants and making friends for life. We were learning from each other, experiencing cultural differences and values across five continents; we were celebrating, laughing and crying together, literally. And when I say “us” I mean also our Academic Directors and our Program Manager.
So to summarize – AMP was a world-class education combined with purification of our minds through reflection and contemplation, intended to prepare us for future leadership roles. Furthermore, AMP proved to be instrumental as a powerful lifetime support platform. As a result of the alliances we made, we are now helping each other overcome personal and work-related challenges. Imagine this: one of us has an important meeting or issue to solve. Immediately, the remaining CEOs from the class start assisting him/her – coaching, advising and sending solutions. It is like many CEOs work as one.
My engineering mind thinks of AMP as a process where we were disassembled into pieces – that were cleaned and broken ones replaced – then assembled again and new software installed. This newly assembled, high-power engine was than connected to a huge knowledge database – no subscription fees involved! J
It felt like 10 years ago when I visited Japan for the first time. For me, Japan was a newly discovered, innovative planet and ever since then, I was telling my friends that visiting Japan is a must in one’s lifetime. Now the list is extended. AMP is a must for anyone with a growth mindset.
Being away just about the same amount of time as we spent together, I dedicate this reflection to my dear friends: Darlene, Karla, Ick Soo, Don, SJ, Won-chul, Michael, Christian, Adrian, Andrew, Jaime, Axel, Nori, Djole, Marshall, Diana, Fred, Bob, Kate, Naini, Jane and all the Kellogg’s professors. Special thanks to Zafirovski Executive Education Program, Mike, Ana, Robert, Biljana and the remaining Macedonia2025 team.
Fired up, ready to go!
N.B. Fired up, ready to go, just accidentally became our class mantra and has nothing to do with politics whatsoever.