BSN alumna Christel Dingerdis was influenced by her own practice when she started her MBA. Fellow students gave her a different perspective on the challenges faced by Cordaan Work and Daycare. This helped her in her dissertation research: “What motivates Cordaan Work and Daycare to prioritise the client.” She graduated with this research in 2018, and to this day, her dissertation still influences her current role.
What motivated you to do an MBA?
“I had been working at Cordaan Work and Daycare for 14 years and wanted to take a step forward as a manager. I felt that I needed more than just work experience. So I was looking for an MBA programme that would give me more of a theoretical foundation that I could put into practice immediately. The MBA at Business School Netherlands met my needs.
What pressing and complex issue did you address in your MBA dissertation project?
“In 2015, there was a transition in the Dutch healthcare sector from process- and product-oriented work to more customer- and service-oriented work. Cordaan Work and Daycare had not fully embraced this positioning. The key question was How can Cordaan optimise the customer experience and what strategic choices should it make to achieve this? This required initial research into how different stakeholders perceived service quality and customer orientation. Employees, clients/families and referrers were all included in this study”.
How did you involve people in your organisation in this research?
“First, I emailed colleagues to invite them to take part in a survey. The main message was: We are embarking on change together, so please contribute! I got good cooperation because after 14 years I had built up a strong network. When you have warm contacts, it motivates you to act more quickly. The customers also participated actively. I visited them personally to give them a questionnaire. I also held dialogue sessions with clients/families to gather more input on Cordaan’s customer orientation. This created support”.
What changes did your MBA dissertation project bring to the organisation?
“My research showed that the perception of clients/families was different from Cordaan’s own perception. The organisation was primarily focused on internal processes and not enough on the experience of clients/families. As a result, they did not feel connected. Staff also felt disconnected from this bureaucratic structure, which often prevented them from serving clients effectively. This had a knock-on effect on clients/families, who said they were not being served well and quickly enough. By uncovering these issues, Cordaan Work and Daycare innovated the customer experience process.
My dissertation was a catalyst for organisational change and provided valuable information.
What is your current role within the organisation you work for? And how do your MBA and dissertation still influence your current role?
“I now work as a primary process manager at the Blijf Groep. This is an organisation dedicated to stopping domestic violence and exploitation in relationships. I represent the Blijf Groep on a tactical, political and strategic level to funders and chain partners, such as municipalities, safe home organisations, youth welfare organisations, etc. The MBA has helped me to become a better manager and to look more into organisational development. Also, my dissertation still influences my current position.
“I’m always on the edge of my seat, wondering if the clients have been helped in a sustainable way.”
How did you use Action Learning in your dissertation research?
“To sharpen my problem statement and research question, I first consulted with my subgroup during Action Learning sessions. Action Learning teaches you to really open up to the questions and insights of your peers. When you come in, you are influenced by your own practical experience. Fresh perspectives from peers from different industries help you see things differently. It also gives you a clear research framework”.
If you had faced this challenge before your MBA, would you have approached it differently? Would the quality have been different?
“Yes, I would expect so. The MBA made me look more broadly and differently, using the tools, methods and subset available to me. Otherwise, I would probably have had tunnel vision due to my healthcare perspective”.
What did your MBA and dissertation mean for your personal development?
“Doing an MBA and writing a dissertation is an intense process and an intellectual challenge. It has taught me to delve into specific topics, to reflect and to ask questions rather than immediately proposing solutions.
I am much better at problem solving now.
How do you look back on the support and interaction with fellow students during the dissertation period?
“Very positive. My internal supervisor was a critical questioner, which kept me on my toes. My subset peers were also incredibly valuable in this regard. Their questions gave me more insight. That’s worth so much more than just my own perspective. It’s also nice to discover commonalities and realise that they are facing similar issues”.
How did you manage to balance your personal life with your dissertation research?
“It was quite a challenge. My children were 3 and 5 years old when I started the programme and I was working full time. My father also died during that time. It was a difficult time. You don’t have complete control over what happens during your studies. What you can rely on is a good and tight schedule. Holidays like Easter were off the table for a while. It’s important to communicate with your family and involve them in the process so they know what to expect.
What are you most proud of when you look back on your dissertation?
“That I just did it! I still remember driving my car with my dissertation in the passenger seat to hand it in. The overwhelming feeling and relief was so satisfying. It gave me confidence for the defence”.
The icing on the cake was the graduation ceremony at the Kurhaus. It was a beautiful moment.
Do you have any advice for organisations facing a similar problem?
“Make sure you keep communicating with your customers. Focus on the customer experience and make it an important and recurring topic”.
What advice would you give to current and future students about writing their dissertation?
“Start early, plan well and make sure your problem statement and research question are clear. Use your subset to avoid tunnel vision”.