Thunderbird consulting teams create sustainable business solutions and transfer their knowledge and skills to their client organization. The strength of the Thunderbird approach lies in combining students’ professional experience and academic expertise with the client’s knowledge of their home market. Thunderbird consultants create a comprehensive work plan to address the needs defined by the client and bring fresh eyes to a business problem, along with a research-based approach to finding solutions.
A 2009 project by Thunderbird Student Consultants: Honeywell Aerospace
Recently, Honeywell Aerospace began to focus on the utilization of international engineering outsource companies and how they might provide maximum value to Honeywell Aerospace Engineering teams. The Thunderbird team was asked to assess how Honeywell Aerospace compared to other aerospace companies in managing outsourced engineering services and to provide guidance on future strategy and improvements.
“…considering the typical time commitments and usual rotation of people, it would have taken us [Honeywell] maybe two years to create the roadmap/framework that the team produced in less than two months. This team produced important tools that we can leverage to follow the strategic roadmap suggested by the team.”
- Paul Walia, Honeywell Aerospace
Consulting teams have direct access to internationally recognized Thunderbird professors who have business intelligence, financial analysis, supply chain resources, marketing/brand management and organizational consulting expertise. Professor Michael Finney, TEM Lab Faculty Lead, provides academic guidance and oversight to every team. Charles Reeves, the Lab Program Director, coaches the teams and provides logistical support. Teams in the field are assigned a research assistant on the Glendale campus who has full access to Thunderbird’s world-class business library and resources.
How does the student team engage with the organization?
TEM Lab consulting projects take place over five weeks of full-time work in the field. Two additional weeks are spent in orientation (pre) and debrief (post) on the Thunderbird campus. The team will travel to the client’s location and work with them on site. Generally the team will require significant access to the client’s office, personnel, internal information, and perhaps customers or other elements of the local business environment. The client is responsible for “plugging-in” the team.
Prior to departure, the consulting team forms its own internal structure and the team leader contacts the host organization for initial discussions. This is when the project deliverables get refined and the team can begin focusing on the project parameters. By the end of the first week in the field the team has finalized their work plan and the client signs off on it. This plan guides the work and outlines the resource commitments necessary to reach the project deliverables.
What areas and what industries does TEM Lab serve?
TEM Lab serves all sectors: government, for-profit and not-for-profit. TEM Lab works in emerging markets, defined as most locations outside of North America, Western Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Thunderbird MBA students have a wide variety of professional and cultural backgrounds. TEM Lab teams are capable of taking on a wide variety of business problems, including marketing, finance, supply chain, strategic planning, human resources, and so on. Click here to see descriptions and blogs from past TEM Lab projects. For specific projects, the capacity of a Thunderbird consulting team to meet the goals of a host organization depends on the skill sets of students enrolled in the course. Bottom line: TEM Lab will not send a student team to work on a project if the students don’t have the experience and knowledge to be effective. Matching student skill sets to projects is done on a project-specific basis.
How much does a TEM Lab consulting team cost?
A TEM Lab consulting project costs approximately $25,000, including international administration expenses. This figure can vary depending on project location and living costs. The budget will be negotiated prior to deployment. A team treasurer tracks all expenses in the field in accordance with Thunderbird’s travel and expense policy. Half of the initial budget estimate will be due upon engagement. The remaining will be due at the end of the project and subject to revision based on actual costs. The team treasurer reports weekly on the expenses and they will be monitored to ensure that costs are in-line with the budget.
What is the end result of a team’s work?
The team creates a work plan to arrive at deliverables specified by the client. These deliverables depend entirely on the organization’s needs. For examples of past project deliverables, please click to see sample project synopses: sample Nha Trang synopsis - sample RDTech synopsis.
Click here for other examples of Thunderbird Student Consulting projects.
What kind of a timeline does TEM Lab function on?
During the Spring of 2014 the Thunderbird academic calendar allows two separate project timeframes as follows:
Spring 2014, Module One: January 27 - March 14
Spring 2014, Module Two: March 24 - May 2
Of note, client communication with TEM Lab begins before the seven week engagement. TEM Lab administration will be in touch with the client system to finalize the deliverables and clarify logistical details, plus the team might reach out in advance of the project to begin planning their work.
It is not uncommon for TEM Lab to undertake sequential projects or to create Institutional Partnerships that provide for multiple teams over a longer timeframe.
TEM Lab will be finalizing Spring 2014 projects by September of 2013. We need this lead time in order to recruit students and form teams for each project. TEM Lab features a competitive application process and is only designed for the best Thunderbird students who have already completed comprehensive pre-requisite courses. We cannot guarantee to clients that every project will receive a team—this depends on student interest and availability, and we will not assign a team to a project if we do not believe the team is excellent. We endeavor to be as transparent as possible in this process.
To bring a potential project to the TEM Lab pipeline, contact Program Director Charles Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can my organization engage a TEM Lab team?
Please contact the Program Director, Charles Reeves, at email@example.com, for initial discussions that will determine whether the proposed project can satisfy the needs of both the organization and Thunderbird. If so, an initial project synopsis will be developed. (sample Nha Trang synopsis - sample RDTech synopsis). A budget and timeline will also be defined.
If a project is accepted it will be submitted to students when the class is being formed for the following trimester. For example, projects to run during the summer will be proposed to students before the end of the spring trimester. If student interest and skill sets match the project, a team will be formed and project plans finalized.
How are students prepared for a consulting project?
Students eligible for TEM Lab are in their second year of studies at Thunderbird and must have completed rigorous pre-requisites. Before deploying, students are prepared logistically, mentally and academically by the TEM Lab Faculty Lead and the Program Manager. Generally, one week is spent on campus gathering resources relevant to the region and industry. During this week the TEM Lab staff orients the team for their departure and an additional conference call with the client is held.