John Varano


Masters in Major Programme Management




Management Consulting



By John Varano

A Sense of Urgency: The Peaks and Troughs of Study

Another day, another Systems Engineering case

Another day, another Systems Engineering case

It has been a little while since I have written my last post. Typically, I would be excited and enthusiastic to transfer thoughts from pen to paper. However, in the last couple of months, my professional, personal and study commitments collectively have limited my capacity to engage and write. During module three of Systems Engineering, I admittedly felt that my energy was not there. While it is exciting to be amidst Oxford landmarks, being among brilliant academics and highly ambitious and intelligent classmates, I was not in a state of mind to be in an enriching and intellectually stimulating environment. At that time, I was a vehicle travelling on vapour and in need of a major service. I sensed that everyone around me was moving at an accelerated pace. I was a passenger sitting in looking from the outside rather than being an active participant and in the moment.

Completing the third module of my master’s programme was tough. The honeymoon period of being an Oxonian, the matriculation ceremony, immersing and studying new subjects, the formal dinners, the white and black tie balls, and the old being new was no longer in vogue. Reality set in by the fact that studying is a challenging undertaking, particularly at Oxford University. In my first post – My Journey to Oxford – I recall the notification of being accepted: I found “myself overcome with a number of emotions, not the least of which was pride. This pride, however, was tempered by humility – evoking the numerous sacrifices my parents had made to help me reach what once appeared impossible, as well as the enormity of joining the ranks of Oxford’s eminent and world-renowned alumni.” Where is that feeling now? Why has my personal transformation effort encountered a trough?

As John Kotter identified, any transformation effort “is a process, not an event. It advances through stages that build on each other and it takes… [time]. Pressured to accelerate the process… [we] skip stages, but shortcuts never work” (Kotter, 2006). The lesson learnt for me is to ensure that the best chance of success for the remainder of my master’s programme is to follow Kotter’s advice, particularly working with my cohort to drive a powerful guiding coalition to get through, plan for and create short-term wins, and consolidate improvements, and produce more change.

In a couple of weeks, I will return to Oxford for my fourth module and I am eager to continue my path to transformation and reunite with my cohort. Any personal endeavour faces peaks and troughs. The key learnings from the modules I have completed to date have equipped me with the heuristics that I will utilise to continue my personal transformation and eventually, accomplishing my childhood dream.

A cold winter at the Saïd Business School

A cold winter at the Saïd Business School

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