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Reflection of Consultancy Project Essay


This document has been created to acknowledge the completion of the project, which focused on brand development opportunities and alternative market strategies for the national banjo manufacturing company. The project specifically targeted its subsidiary. It is a premium quality British manufacturer. Its brand name is known as the ‘The Shackleton Brand.

Following a brief summary of the company and its key strategic objectives, we presented the findings on the current consumer expectations and potential customer groups in the ‘Market Survey Results’. Short term, medium term and long term goals were presented with the support of ‘The Future Timeline’ and ‘The Model of Strategic Growth’ for ‘The Shackleton Brand’. I applied the Customers Focus and Innovation Module when I used the 7P’s for marketing.

It was the main part my allotment in the project with regard to ‘The Shackleton Brand’ development. My contributions to the team included developing possible brand images and slogans for the company. I used the two modules that I took in the MBA, which include the Brand Now Module and the Consumer Brand Module.

Literature Review

Theoretically, the concept of reflection was initially proposed by John Dewey when presented an approach of thinking about the experiences one has undergone in practice. According to Dewey (Redmond 2003, p. 9), the process of reflection is able to make an individual understand the reasons and causes behind the outcomes that were once considered unclear and unsettled.

Dewey held that the higher-order practice could be achieved by integrating theoretical ideas with observations derived from experience. The model of reflection was built from the accumulation of thought emerging from several authors. The concept of reflection was developed further through Mezirow’s seven levels of critical reflection.

Mezirow’s seven steps start with the creation of awareness about what is happening and conducted through observation (Redmond 2003, p. 16). It is followed by feelings about what one perceives in the occurrences of taking action. The third step is evaluating whether the feelings and perceptions are objectively aligned with reality.

The fourth step involves evaluating the usefulness of values associated with different perceptions of the experience. The first four levels deal with consciousness of action, outcomes, and feelings. From the fifth to the seventh level, they deal with aligning the concepts used in learning with the understanding of outcomes.

Redmond (2003, p. 16) refers to the process as meta-learning. In the fifth level, the learner judges the adequacy of the explanations and values found in the fourth level. In the sixth level, the learner assesses how he has used intuition in the areas that provide inadequate information.

In the seventh level, the learner identifies the influence of cultural, psychological, and social pressures on his/her judgment (Redmond 2003, p. 17). The process helps the learner to judge the objectivity of his/her judgment. The concept of reflection has also been developed through the works of other authors such as Freire, Brookfield, Habernas, and Schön. Most of the steps involved in the reflection process are repeated by different authors.

Brookfield has outlined five levels that cover the seven levels described by Mezirow (Redmond 2003, p. 21). Schön’s process of reflective practice describes six levels of carrying out the reflection process (Redmond 2003, p. 37). There is a higher form of similarity of the steps outlined by different authors.

I feel that identifying the surprise result is important because it is the essence of experience. Schön’s reflection process highlights the need to identify the surprise result (Redmond 2003, p. 37). That which does not align itself with theory should be studied repeatedly to find ways of developing a strategy on how to respond to it when it occurs another time.

Schön’s fifth step involves inventing a strategy that will help the practitioner to deal with the surprise outcome if it happens again. In the sixth step, known as reflective practice, the practitioner tries out the new strategy (Redmond 2003, p. 37). I feel that Schön’s process offers the learner an opportunity to find out whether outcomes match theoretical models.

Whether they match or not, they offer the learner an opportunity to form a strategy to deal with similar situations in the real business environment. According to Schön (Redmond 2003, p. 34), a learner was supposed to learn by working side by side with the practitioner and reflecting on his/her experiences. In the case of modern learning, most of the learning process occurs in the classroom in the form of theoretical models that simplify evaluations.

I consider a case like this one important in developing a strategy to deal with a real business consultancy process. I find that the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is simplistic in understanding the stages that a learner undergoes in the reflective process. It was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 (Moon 2013, p. 73). It is considered an extension from David Kolb’s four stages of carrying out the reflection process created in 1984.

I noted that some of the stages outlined in the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle are similar to the ones described by the other authors. Gibbs discussed six stages that simplify the reflection process for the learner. In this paper, I have used the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle as a requirement as well as for its simplicity.

I have also tried to align the stages I underwent in completing the project to the Fisher’s Transition Curve. Fisher’s Transition Curve was first presented to the 10th International Personal Construct Congress held in Berlin, in 1999 (Amory 2011, p. 277). I found out that Fisher’s Curve is appropriate to match my feelings with theory at different stages of the project.

It is effective, especially when trying to do something for the first time. I experienced anxiety because I considered the national banjo manufacturing company a large client. Probably, it has received better reports from more experienced consultants than us. The feelings changed after meeting the client because they expressed that they had great expectation on our findings and recommendations.

They did not perceive us as inexperienced rather than a group that can offer new findings and recommendations. In carrying out the market survey, I experienced the feeling of a threat. My knowledge was that the market survey requires a lot of resources in terms of statistical skills and funds.

For a more complicated study, we would have needed to reach a certain level of respondents to be considered of statistical significance. My stage of gradual acceptance occurred when we decided to work out with data that we were able to collect. I felt that every voice derived from the customer matters, even if it is not geographically distributed. It may turn out to be a reflection on most areas. I will have the ‘moving forward’ feeling in case I am required to complete a similar project.

Description of events

One of the important events was project planning. The team agreed to document a considerable amount of words every week to avoid the problem of lateness in completing and submitting the report. The final compilation of the report was made from the pieces of material that were created during the previous weeks.

Another advantage of documenting pieces in the week in which they occur is that memories are clearer when they are documented in a period not longer from the occurrence of the events. However, reflection requires someone to take time away from the events. The combination of the two considerations helped us to have facts the way they had happened as well as allowing us time to separate from events in order to carry out an objective reflection of outcomes and expectations.

In recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of our team members, we Z accepted the role of assisting Daisy. Daisy had the problem of creating her part of the report. Z revised all of Daisy’s part in depth with regard to the language problem. Daisy had a weakness in expressing her thoughts.

In this part, I realized that project planning and recognizing constraints to project completion are essential for a successful project completion. I consider the project successful because it was completed within the schedule, the quality was verified as good, and the cost was minimal.

The main event in the project was the market survey, which we conducted in the city centre. I learnt how to approach people, who I was meeting for the first time. There were two options which we could have used to form groups for the survey.

In one, we could have divided ourselves into two groups and go to different areas of the city. In the other option, we could have worked as a single group and choose different spots in the city at different times of the day. In these approaches, we wanted to increase the number of people who accepted to become respondents to our survey.

Increasing the size of a group increases credibility, but it reduces the speed of conducting the survey. In order to balance the trade-off between credibility and speed of completion, we choose to conduct the survey as two groups in different parts of the city at different times of the day.

I realized that there was a challenge in this event when a considerable number of people refused to take part in the survey as respondents. A good introduction with a new respondent increased the chance of conducting a good survey. I resolved to encourage the team to recognize that the market survey is the most important part of our project.

I made them understand that different people have different reasons for refusing to be interviewed or to fill-in a questionnaire. They could be in a hurry. Others could perceive that the questionnaire is too long for their valuable time. We had to review reasons on why people could refuse to be interviewed. We resolved to consider the fraction of the sample that accepted to be our respondents.

We considered the data collection process a success provided that those who accepted were a good fraction of the total number of those who were requested. The team tried to do this task perfectly by asking more than 1000 people in the market using the face to face data collection method. Each member on the team asked more than 200 people. The team got favorable responses from around 200 people. Data from more than 160 respondents were valuable to the project.

In solving the challenge, we had to put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer and to answer how the survey would be important to the consumer. The first thing after introducing ourselves to the consumer is that they ask themselves how the survey will be beneficial to them. We had to develop a favorable response to the question to increase the number of people accepting to take part in the survey.

We used a common response where we replied that the company was seeking to increase the standards of customer service and its product based on the views of the consumer. The consumer usually asks the question internally. As a result, it is necessary to give out the benefits of the survey to the consumer immediately after the introduction without expecting them to ask the question aloud.

When we went to the streets to find out about the popularity of the brand, we realized that we had to recognize the target market. In other words, we could obtain a skewed result if we targeted a group different from the brand’s market niche.

Our best strategy was to seek potential customer areas, such as streets aligned with pubs, studios, and other entertainment-related spots. We also sought the opinion of the general public to enable us to find out if there was a difference in perception between the sophisticated customers, who are more informed about musical instruments, and those who rely on general knowledge.

Feelings

I felt anxious as we started because I had to learn that people will respond differently to the same situation based on their interpersonal skills, knowledge, experience, and social and cultural background. One of my experiences is to try and understand what makes team members act differently to the same situation. I formed an opinion of working in a team.

I have to accept that my ideas are not always superior. I have come to understand that I have a superior perception of my own abilities. I also learnt my nervousness when we conducted the market survey. I realized that my weaknesses in some areas were being reinforced by the strength of others in the field.

I believed my analysis skills were superior. I came to realize that as a team sometimes you have to allow the other team members’ idea to be tried out, even when you think you have better ideas. Members democratically agreed on the best approaches and ideas. In the market survey, I felt that we had inadequate resources to carry out a meaningful survey.

Our numbers as a group were few and we did not have the ability to carry out interviews to cover a large geographical area. I knew that if the data had to be tested statistically there was needed to find out the influence of demographic factors that affect consumer behavior such as age, and consumer sophistication.

A more complicated form of survey should seek to analyze the individual and environmental determinants of consumer decision-making as discussed in the Consumer Brand Behaviour Module. The consideration of carrying out a survey that accurately captures the determinants of consumer decision-making appeared very extensive to me before we started planning for the survey.

I felt relieved when the group resolved to base the study of a few factors. The effect of working as groups during data collection helped me to reduce the anxiety of approaching people who are not known to me. As a marketer and a student in the business field, I felt that I must get used to approaching new people by controlling my anxiety.

I believe that the entire team had a good experience with the market survey, which was the main part of our project. It was a good opportunity to improve our interpersonal skills by interacting with other people directly. Conducting the survey gave us useful experience in dealing with customers in the future.

The market survey also contributed to establishing a good project environment, as the experience helped us to understand the situation better. It enabled us to develop better relationships in the team and to understand the customer. I advised Daisy to ensure that the company’s future value chain was clearly presented in the final report. I also supported Linz by editing the work after completing the design.

I felt that as a team we had to succeed by supporting each other. There was the need to create balance to avoid covering tasks that were assigned to others. However, we needed to complement each other with our strengths in areas of our weakness. Beyazit was very supportive and contributed numerous creative ideas to the project team.

I was actually a little worried about him at the beginning of the project because of my previous experience with him in another project. Later, I realized that Z is a hardworking person to have as a team member. I am certain that he was not the problem in the previous project. He supported the team by coordinating meetings with the client and the mentor.

He also did a very good job of revising the entire report in a short amount of time. It felt good to acknowledge the good work that every member of the team contributed towards the successful completion of the project. Acknowledgments should follow the completion of every task that forms part of the whole project. Members needed encouragement on a daily basis.

Evaluation and analysis

Daisy made a good contribution to the team, despite having communication problems. She came up with several good ideas for the project team, such as the CSR and value chain components. The most important thing was that she was very considerate to everyone. I believe that she did her best to produce good work for the team. In return, the team accepted her and was generally happy with her efforts.

Si Lin was the most creative member of the team. She is a hard-working person and has a good personality that makes you want to work with her again. She provided the project with good branding ideas, which was the main part of our project. I also really appreciated her efforts in designing the whole report.

I regard her as the main individual who helped us deliver a high-quality work to the client. With regard to my experience on the project, it was a good opportunity to improve my skills in working as a team and with different cultures. In addition, I improved my time management skills by respecting the other team members’ time and completing the work on time.

I also supported the team by contributing creative ideas; for example, I gave Z an idea for the Product Life Cycle Model. From it, he was able to draw the continuous life cycle by providing new versions of the product. I believed that everyone on the team had different capabilities and that each individual on the team needed to put in the same amount of effort into the project.

Based on that view, I think that everyone on the team should receive the same recognition because the best project outcome was actually the result of a well-coordinated teamwork. In analyzing separate parts of the project, I will start by a reflection on the market strategy that we provided for the client. We used the competitive advantage theory, where we examined whether the firm could pursue a low-cost advantage, differentiation advantage, or combinations of low-cost and differentiation.

The combinations commonly form the five generic competitive strategies. The low-cost strategy and the differentiation strategy are evaluated in line with the value chain analysis. The firm offers superior products and it was appropriate to recommend ‘differentiation with low-cost advantage’ as a long-term competitive strategy.

Our first process was to check if the brand has applied the concepts discussed in theory. Most managers are aware of the theoretical concepts and may apply them. However, they need to be reconsidered from time to time for the firm to incorporate best practices that are emerging in the industry. Some of the best practices may emerge from a different industry or sector.

For example, in the automotive industry, Toyota emerged with a reduced setup time and reduced inventory that enabled it to gain a ‘differentiated low-cost’ competitive advantage. The JIT system has been adopted by firms that are not found in the automotive industry. Our first step was to investigate whether all relevant best practices have been applied.

There were areas where the firm left out a best practice because it sought to control costs. In such areas, we weighed and evaluated the impact of the decision to the customers and the subsidiary’s revenue. When we looked at differentiation, the brand has done a good job by allowing customized banjos. For example, the banjos can be made available in different colors and varieties, such as the Banjitar.

It also offered products that supported its core business, such as The Shackleton’s mugs, sweaters, and beer. We suggested that the brand could subsidize some of the supporting products that appear as an alternative to promotions. A product such as a sweater would appear closer to the people when worn by someone in a group or a crowd.

It would stay longer in the minds of the people who see it than a television advert. However, it would reach fewer people. Support products have to be identified with a distinction of quality and be relatively low-priced. At that point, it was important to estimate the effectiveness of the product differentiation strategy used by the brand. I recognized diagnosis as a part of the consultancy process.

The Product Life Cycle Model enabled us to identify whether the brand should expect a high growth rate in sales or a reduction. The brand follows the organic growth model. An expected reduction would mean that the brand needs to re-energize, which can be done by reducing production costs to lower product prices.

It may also mean stopping the production of non-essential products and focusing on those that generate considerable amount of revenue. In choosing products to focus on, the brand should choose products that offer a competitive advantage to the brand. The banjo product life cannot be considered a mature product, even though it has stayed on the market for a long time.

A mature product should expect a decline in sales after a period of great popularity. I felt that the ‘The Shackleton Brand’ had not reached its period of great popularity and increased profitability, which invites new entrants and intense rivalry from other firms.

In the brand development, I realized that the brand is mainly recognized for its quality products supported with a several years of warranty for customers. They are also recognized for being British-made products. We asked ourselves about the perception that the brand wanted to last longer in the mind of the customer.

As described in the Enterprise Cultural Heritage theory, a better approach is to choose what the customers selected as the most outstanding factor in The Shackleton’s banjo products. We had already listed several factors that we thought were outstanding, such as being British-made. We knew customers could pay a premium price for banjos manufactured in the UK rather than those from emerging economies that rely on low labor cost.

Another aspect is their durability, which is part of their guaranteed quality. We had to list several factors and leave out an open point for any other factor that the customer feels is outstanding about The Shackleton’s banjos. When we looked at the 7Ps of marketing, we realized that the brand had done well with the product, price, people, process, and place.

However, firms cannot remain static on price because competitors always try to reduce the price. It is also the most visible part of gaining a competitive advantage. The brand could increase visibility by enhancing its physical evidence. It could partner with firms in the entertainment industry to feature in the most elegant entertainment scenes in the country. People are likely to associate elegance with the highest standard of quality.

I recognized value chain analysis as an important tool in identifying areas for improvement that may provide the brand with a competitive advantage. In general, models enabled us to make a quick assessment of the situation. We were left with adequate time to focus on creative developments because the models had enabled us to sort out potential areas of weaknesses in a short time.

We also made use of the consultancy process. Our strategy was to highlight alternatives and allow the managers of the brand select the best options. In areas where they had applied similar alternatives, we had to go back to investigate and assess their effectiveness to the brand. The consultancy process requires that we leave the client with the ability to continue without us, but also creates space for our future involvement if the need arises.

Conclusion and Action Plan

From the experience, I realized that people have different capabilities. Working together as a team, it was necessary to identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual members early to use it for the benefit of the team. It would have been a bad experience if we were to give a team member with a weak statistical background the role of leading the market survey.

We needed one of us to guide us in designing the questionnaire and what to look for in the answers that we collected. Daisy was appreciated, despite having a weakness in communication, because she had areas that she performed well. I realize that a team can perform better when members are able to align themselves with their strengths in each task.

For example, Daisy would have a problem with interviewing an individual with great language capabilities. On the other hand, she provided great ideas that helped the group in deciding what to look for in the survey. I have learnt that what actually matters is the team members’ genuine efforts in making the team successful.

I learnt that I should not use prejudgment in my perception about my team members. In the future, I will treat each task as a separate challenge to reconsider the strengths and weaknesses of team members. For example, my previous experience with Beyazit made me to consider him as a point of weakness in the team.

The perception changed once we started carrying out different tasks and assigning each other sections of the new project for leadership. I felt anxious when we started collecting data in the survey, but the presence of team members assured me that my weaknesses are covered. It helped me to feel confident in approaching new respondents.

The most important point is managing differences in personality and abilities for the greater good of team performance. In the market survey, I realized that statistics is an important topic in business similar to other subjects. I have always overlooked statistics in business studies, as a student.

I need to do more by myself to increase my abilities in applying statistical tools to collect meaningful data. Some of the data collected may not reflect the population because the data collection method is not statistical. Usually, I expect a survey to use more resources than we employed. The most important resource is statistical skills.

I have realized that models present a simpler way of assessing the brand strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. However, models are easily imitated by rivals. As part of the team, I felt that systemic thinking may be one of the tools for us to use in developing recommendations.

It is possible to emerge with something new that may make the brand the industry leader in something uniquely applied. I also realized that using models sometimes give an indication that everything has been done in the right manner. In that case, I should look at what can be continuously improved over time. Continuous improvement provides a way of gaining competitive advantage by making small improvements that gradually accumulate into a greater advantage.

Another alternative that I will start with as a consultant is benchmarking. I will check what competitors are doing that makes them succeed. If they are weaker, it will be effective to understand how they do it, so that I can tell my client to avoid taking a similar approach. Beating rivals first requires that you reach the benchmark, before you seek to exceed that which is already in practice by others.

The challenge found in benchmarking is that detailed information about competitors is usually inaccessible. It creates a need to imagine the linkage between what can be seen and what cannot be accessed. In the future, I will need to make estimates and probable alternatives that competitors have been using in areas that they have excelled. I will also need to identify what makes others fail in the industry.

Sometimes firms have a customer focus mentality, but they fail to recognize that one of the 7Ps refers to its employees. Motivating employees works for the good of the customer. In a rapidly changing business environment, competitors quickly adopt the best practices.

Satisfying the customer does not end only what they can be seen. As a consultant, I should seek to identify the latent need of the customer. It is described as something that the customer would want done, but they think it is not achievable at the time. Surpassing the customers’ expectation has become the new form of customer satisfaction.

A better alternative to assessing our project is that it should be rated against the work done by a consultant for the same brand. Expert judgment on our work is necessary because clients may have less technical knowledge or are more demanding.

We could be assessed more strictly against a benchmark set by an existing consultant without realizing that we employed different levels of resources. In making recommendations, I realized that the client will be interested in our alternatives only if they do not increase his cost or when they actually reduce his costs.

If they reduce his costs, they have to be those which will not compromise employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Sometimes customer satisfaction is based on a trade-off between the quality and the price. More differentiation helps to satisfy customers with different perceptions and expectations about quality and the price. Some care only about functionality at a lower price.

Others are willing to pay a premium price for customized products. As a consultant, I need to identify who the firm targets by its product in order to carry out a good analysis and make effective recommendations. Sometimes, the firm can increase its revenues by expanding the target groups.

Reference List

Amory, D 2011, Essential knowledge for personal coaches, Lulu Press, Raleigh.

Moon, J 2013, Reflection in learning and professional development: theory and practice, Routledge, New York.

Redmond, B 2003, Reflection in action: developing reflective practice in health and social services, Ashgate Publishing, Burlington.

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