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studentfocus February 11 17

interpretation of financial statements as a key management skill so it is likely to be included in the examination.

L.O. 5 Critically appraise and evaluate contemporary management accounting methodology to support the effective management and control of resources.

Activity based management and costing is covered in Drury Ch 10 and 22, strategic and other contemporary management accounting approaches is covered in Drury Ch 22 and students can research the role and limitations of budgets by looking at the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable website.

L.O.6 Analyse the risks attached to environmental change, the consequences and appropriate responses.

Risk Management is covered in Reuvid (see the ABE Reading List) and Ball (also on reading list and covers international aspects). Look on for ‘risk mapping’ and ‘risk surveys’.

The assignment The assignment is focused exclusively on L.O.7 of the Syllabus: ‘Critically appraise the importance of communication for information providers in organisations and appraise and develop your own communication skills.’

It is about communication, not how to resolve a performance issue in the organisation. A number of students are still ignoring the assignment specification, which asks them for their personal reflections and to chronicle the development, delivery and the communication of a performance issue within the workplace to the managing director (or equivalent) of that organisation. Instead, currently candidates are often (incorrectly) looking at a performance issue and analysing how it can be resolved. These assignments, some of which are excellent in their analysis of the issue, completely ignore the requirement of the assignment. The maximum mark that can be awarded in these cases is the 10% available for identification of the performance issue and reasons for the choice.

The candidate is required to choose a performance issue in their own organisation or an organisation of their choice, the recipient of that information

and then decide how to communicate that information. Communication could be via a presentation, via the web, presentation notes, meeting agenda and notes, a printed document, a brainstorming session, newsletter, a reception, lobbying, focus group etc. The student needs to choose a method and justify the method chosen. It is a requirement of the assignment that the communication is included as an appendix to the assignment; however, it does not form part of the word count. They also need to reflect on how adequate the communication method chosen actually was, the lessons learned and consequent behaviour changes both personally and within the organisation.

It is vital to recognise that the marking scheme is there for a purpose i.e. it will be used as the framework for marking the assignment. Most assignments are unbalanced and ignore one or more of the elements in the marking scheme. This means that no marks can be given for the marks allocated to that aspect. The marking scheme has five elements:

l Identification of the performance issue and reasons for the choice (10%). This must be of a substantial nature, preferably of strategic significance, for example a liquidity problem, inadequate I.T., poor employee morale, poor product or inadequate service. It does not need to be financial. The reason for the choice could be personal, or due to access to information or the importance of the issue.

l Appraisal of the communication methods available for the performance issue identified (20%). The marks are given for consideration of well researched and well argued options, evidence of wider reading and appropriate referencing. A bibliography using the Harvard System is essential. I do not want to be prescriptive on references and expect wide reading around business communication.

l Justification of the student’s specific choice of communication method for the performance issue identified (20%). To achieve an excellent mark, students must show knowledge of the theory, preferably balanced against an appropriate hypothesis of their own. They need to consider the nature of the issue and its importance to the organisation’s managing director or someone of equivalent status

in the organisation. What determines the effectiveness of the method in the given situation?

l Chronicle of the development of the communication itself i.e. how the student planned and prepared it and changes it went through (20%). Once the method is chosen, the communication (agenda for brainstorming or meeting, the presentation, PowerPoint slides, discussion notes, results of a focus group etc.) needs preparing. This will be an iterative process which will change as the methodology develops. What are the influences? How would you evaluate the chosen method in the light of this development process?

N.B. It is highly unlikely that a memo or simple letter highlighting the issue will be effective. The communication method needs to explain the issue and how it might be resolved.

l Reflection on the communication and whether or not it would achieve its objective of providing useful information to the managing director, or equivalent (30%). This issue has been ignored by most students who are consequently only able to achieve a maximum mark of 70%. Some link to reflective learning, to reflect on the process undertaken in the assignment, is required here. Students need to ask ‘what did I get out of this?’, ‘what are the lessons learned?’ and ‘how will it impact on my own and the organisation's behaviour?’. A learning log written during the assignment process may help but is not required. Candidates should consider how they would react if they were the managing director and they received the communication attached as an appendix to their report. A conclusion evaluating the likely success/failure of the communication method should be included and if this (as it may) shows that the method is unlikely to be successful, this is perfectly acceptable.


John Burnup. John is ABE’s Programme Chief for Financial Management and the Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management. He is the Subject Examiner for MFRP.

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