Masters in Major Programme Management
Life in the MMPM is about balance, with full-time job and family duties locked into a tug-of-war with academic responsibilities without respite. Hardly breaking news. Nevertheless, how does a battle-tested project manager and major programme management aspirer fall victim to dipping into the ‘dark web’ of time panic management principles?
A little misbalancing here, a dab of faulty forecasting there, an overreliance of ‘what worked before’ everywhere… is it any surprise megaprojects fail so often? Thankfully the scale is tuned way down on your first assignment, despite what pressure, hope, and aspiration might suggest.
Let’s look at a few aspects of my assignment writing process to maximize the odds of success and make your life easier throughout. Hopefully some of my smart (and not-so-smart) decisions can help you along your way.
All-nighters as an undergrad? Par for the course.
All-nighters during an MBA? Badge of honour.
All-nighters for the MMPM? Abject nightmare.
An all-nighter is, naturally, the most extreme form of panic management and (hopefully) not employed by any of my colleagues (I was, admittedly, getting low on sleep but not quite that low!).
Programme Director, Prof. Guy Ainsley, wisely warns, from the outset, not to backload your work at any point of the module. When it comes to assignment production, he couldn’t be righter.
Recall all those hours spent on bibliography formatting, re-reading for typos, or figure, fact, and quote hunting that you perennially under-planned for during your bachelor’s? Amp those up with the pressure of meeting Oxford-level quality of output and the unique set of administrative hurdles to clear en-route to submission. A logistical track field, it is.
Oh, did someone say ‘administrative hurdles?’ Well, well, well now…
Let’s assume disaster does not strike (i.e. your WIFI does not conk out – a very real possibility – so have that mobile hot spot at the ready) when submission deadline looms.
Studying at Saïd Business School (SBS) brings with it a wealth of resources and tools that alone are worth the price of admission. Being an SBS scholar also bears the highest of standards in excellence, security, and confidentiality. It’s part of makes the school and larger university worthy of its lofty reputation.
To make use of these, however, requires a significant user-driven commitment. Citation guides, platform logins, plagiarism tools and guides, formatting rules… everything from metadata removal to idea attribution to word counts require the strictest attention to detail and can seriously contribute to panic management if not given.
Don’t risk a last minute 2FA failure lock you out of clearing these hurdles.
Skipping into the study style preference realm, leveraging past study techniques is a great starting point but be prepared to adopt new tactics despite their unfamiliarity.
I’ll be honest, I made the mistake of trying something too new, too ambitious. I jumped fully-into a ‘take handwritten notes throughout the readings’ strategy. After all, it has been proven to be the most effective means of material comprehension and retention. As a bonus, it reduces screen time and enables one to work longer and more effectively.
The proof was in the pudding… at least the first taste. It worked incredibly well for class discussions when material seemed to come back more naturally than past techniques yielded.
What I hadn’t fully anticipated was the impact it would have on the writing process. With a wealth (think Bezos/Musk-level) of material to draw upon, sifting through it to find supporting evidence or past insights turned out to be an impediment, particularly as we got to crunch time.
It’s no fun wondering ‘what if?’ especially given each assignment bears the full weight of your module grade.
My guess is, post-pandemic, your at home work station is probably already pretty optimized. That said, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a supportive chair, adequately sized desk, good lighting, and hassle-free tech set up.
I moved to Oxford for the programme and spent a fair amount of time setting up my workstation after the first experience of back pain in my new environment; I wasn’t risking any recurrence during the writing process and quickly found a proper external monitor, layout, and made other purchases to propel my productivity (nod to plants: love a great desk plant).
Recognize that video calls will take a back seat to paper scattering and how the different type of work involved in an assignment writing requires corresponding tweaks to your set-up. A mock run through of how you envision working might be a worthwhile exercise. I was surprised how often I still propped up my tablet in vertical orientation next to my 27” display.
It might be a bit more of an investment but trust, it truly will yield a worthwhile ROI.
If the pandemic brought us one here-to-stay positive change, it’s the emphasis on our collective mental health. Along with proper task and time management, self-care management must equally and regularly be attended to.
Study sessions with colleagues are fantastic; they can inspire both in ideation as well as motivation. Group chats are invaluable; they can serve as a much-needed outlet as much as a lightning-fast answer to a question.
Screen breaks are non-negotiable: they can double or triple your productivity for hours with just 15 min of investment. Earned indulgences are savoured: that chocolate, espresso, or bag of crisps tastes ever sweeter and can keep your sanity in check.
Whatever picks you up, rewards you, calms you… put aside justification and judgement. ‘Just do it.’
Having completed my own post-mortem of sorts, I’ve identified the low-hanging fruit and deepest pitfalls and made the adjustments necessary adjustments to avoid the pitfalls noted above.
For those embarking on their first assignment, I implore you to use whatever means of the above can help you do avoid the trappings of managing panic instead of production; your grade (and health!) will thank you after.
While I regret not being able to incorporate more of the insights I accumulated throughout the module, I quickly came to letting those go and accepting that’s always the case when push comes to shove… or to launch, as a certain extraplanetary mission might entail. 😉Back to top of article