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AMBAZING Accreditation!

7 November 2021

The Business School is so delighted to have achieved AMBA accreditation! It’s a globally renowned hallmark of quality that simply and clearly communicates the excellence of our MBA programmes. AMBA accreditation places our MBA programmes in the top 2% of the world and the accreditation panel definitely put us through our paces in order to assure themselves that we were worthy!  I was seriously impressed/afraid when, on the first day of their visit, over lunch, one of the panel quoted the title of a graduating student’s dissertation with me as part of our chat over lunch.  I have to confess, I gulped, as it gave an indication of the level of preparation that they had already applied to the process.

But accreditation processes are more than just the achievement of an end goal. They are a brilliant way to push you forward – a fantastic improvement mechanism.  As ever, my thoughts turn to lean and accreditations are, of course, standards.  Standards in lean have so many benefits but they are often poorly understood and static, when they are meant to be flexible and dynamic.  Part of the problem with standards is that they are hard to both create and to achieve adherence and so the temptation, once they are developed, is to fight, fight, fight to just stick to what has taken so long to achieve. But so much is discovered during the process of creating a standard that it makes no sense to achieve something, and then relax.

The process of creating and achieving a standard is in itself a process of improvement.  You start to pull apart your current practices to determine how you are doing, to lay bare all of the intricacies of your operations, confronting problems and shortcomings.  Standards act as a mirror, encouraging self-reflection and setting a target to achieve excellence. It’s very unlikely that you aim for some kind of accreditation, or the creation of a standard, and think to yourself ‘we’ve completely cracked this’! If you’ve entered into it with the right spirit, you’ll know that you’ve just started on a journey of discovery and learning, one with an ever-moving end goal that needs to constantly shift with the times through innovation – as Jeff Bezos explained as part of this fascinating podcast I listened to today – he wants Amazon to stay hungry for innovation and constantly keep a ‘Day 1’ start up mentality because for him, “Day 2 is stasis, followed by irrelevance, followed by excruciating painful decline, followed by death … and that is why it is always, Day 1”.

I first experienced the power of accreditation with the Lean Competency System – a licensed service of Cardiff Business School run by the former Director of the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Simon Elias.  For one, the difference in ‘homework completion rates’ for accredited programmes as opposed to non-accredited ones was quite remarkable, but more importantly than that, getting one foot on the accreditation ladder was a powerful way and encouraging continual learning.  “I’ve just achieved level 1c, I’m now going to work towards 2a”, urging the learner forward.

Achieving the Chartered Association of Business School’s Small Business Charter was another important lesson in the power of accreditation.  Up until we started to work to achieving it, I had always focused Executive Education to corporates (mainly because they more likely had the budgets to be able to pay for it) but the opportunity to work to achieve the Small Business Charter opened my eyes to the importance of providing engagement and education opportunities to the small and medium size community – particularly important given our School’s mission to deliver Public Value.  Just being aware of our responsibility to make our research and teaching accessible to the small business sector, shifted my whole outlook on what we were about completely and has enabled us to now deliver our Help to Grow Programme.

So now we have achieved AMBA accreditation, in many ways, it feels like we are just at the beginning of our journey. Their accreditation report was so helpful in identifying where we could strengthen our offer. Of course, the other power of accreditation is the knowledge that accreditation organisations possess. They have such experience of seeing a wide variety of different approaches across the globe that they have suggested so many things that we could do to expand our reach, suggestions that will be very helpful when developing internal business cases.

So whilst we have a moment of celebration, we know that we mustn’t now relax, we have to keep pushing forward, speeding away from stasis, and continually pushing for improvement and innovation.