FLEX MBA Seminar Gets Real

Students sprint to help companies realize their potential.

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A dozen FLEX MBA students had what is known as a “sprint client engagement” last winter term. Over the course of three and a half weeks‚ these students had to learn everything they could about the client‚ its management consulting firm and the problems the client was having. Then‚ they had to make a presentation‚ suggesting solutions for those challenges.

What made this experience unique is that this wasn’t a typical classroom case study. The students met with the client (ixlayer‚ a start-up tech company in the health space) and the consulting firm (Accenture Ventures‚ a multibillion-dollar company which invests in and partners with start-ups) multiple times and then made their final presentation to the higher echelons of both companies.

“It’s not like you’re role-playing‚” says FLEX MBA student Robert Schuett‚ 59‚ a corporate director of strategic procurement at a medical and pharmaceutical device company. “You’ve got real organizations and real people. It’s their livelihood.”

Joshua Ehrig‚ professor of practice in the department of management at Lehigh Business‚ taught this seminar in management consulting as part of the part-time online FLEX MBA program. He partnered with one of his former masters students‚ Jake Gordon‚ who is now with Accenture Ventures & Open Innovation‚ to create this engagement.

“Three student teams worked on various areas—pricing strategy competitive analysis‚ and go-to-market strategies—collaborating closely with dedicated mentors from both Accenture and ixlayer‚” explains Ehrig.

“I learned a process for clearly defining a problem‚” says FLEX MBA student Caroline Graff‚ 28‚ a senior marketing operations manager at a data-enabled technology platform company. “And to be a bit scrappier moving forward‚ without all the information I may have wanted.”

Students got to experience the rollercoaster ride that is being a business consultant‚ says Ehrig. “We saw the students have all of these micro failures‚” he says. “They experienced the pain‚ but they learned a tremendous amount by going through that.”

The night before their final presentation‚ Schuett’s group gave a preview to ixlayer‚ “They pushed back hard‚” he says. “So‚ in the eleventh hour (and this is where it felt real)‚ we had to make changes‚ but we pulled it all together.”

“Learning should be applied‚” says Gordon. “In this situation‚ students had to be coachable‚ agile and adaptable‚ learning how to pivot based on what they were hearing from their clients.”

The students gave final client presentations to executives from Accenture Ventures and ixlayer‚ including a Q&A session with the global head of Accenture Ventures. “This created an environment that can’t be replicated solely in the classroom‚” says Ehrig.

“It clicked that these were real problems that they actually wanted suggestions on‚” says Graff. “I think a lot of the recommendations we gave to them were valuable.

Both Caroline Graff and Robert Schuett plan to graduate from the FLEX MBA program in May 2023.