Fulbright Research Fellow Netland Reflects on His Year at Georgetown McDonough

January 20, 2012 Netland

By Torbjørn Netland, Fulbright Visiting Research Fellow, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, 2011-2012
There is no other school in the world I'd rather spend my Fulbright year as a visiting Ph.D. candidate than at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
I study the management of international production networks, with an emphasis on what I label as “company-specific Production Systems.” Such systems are corporate improvement programs that multinational corporations (MNCs) develop and deploy with the purpose of improving efficiency in all their worldwide plants. Most MNCs have some kind of program like this – many of them heavily inspired by Toyota’s great success with its Toyota Production System. I take a case study approach, studying the Volvo Group’s global deployment of the Volvo Production System (VPS). Where in the world would you go if you where to study something like this?
In my opinion, there’s no right answer to this question. My topic is global business, but global business is always very local, just distributed all over the world. Thus, no place would be exceptionally better than the other. The question should rather be; who in the world would you team up with if you study this? For me, this is an easy one – his name is Kasra Ferdows, Georgetown McDonough’s Heisley Family Chair of Global Manufacturing. Back home in Norway and Europe, students of international manufacturing know Prof. Ferdows as a guru in the field. Thanks to a generous grant from the U.S.-Norwegian Fulbright Association, and an official invitation from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, I am given the honorable opportunity to work with this world-leading scholar.
But it does not stop there. Georgetown McDonough exceeds my highest expectations. Consider these few book-related examples: Travelling home from a conference in Orlando in 2008, I picked up a promising book at the airport. The book was titled The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, and was a masterpiece of a story – researched-based, insightful, and inspiring. It was just the kind of book that I would once love to write myself. The book is written by Pietra Rivoli, a professor of finance and the school’s deputy dean. Another book I’d highly recommend is the thought-provoking book, In Your Face: How American Marketing Excess Fuels Anti-Americanism, written by multi-awarded Johny Johansson, the school’s McCrane/Shaker Professor of International Business. A third example is Professor of International Business and Economics J. Bradford Jensen’s impressive and influential new book, Global Trade in Services: Fear, Facts, and Offshoring. If these few authorities are representative for the school’s faculty, it's easy to conclude: What an impressive faculty!
With its location in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business also is extremely rich in off-hour opportunities – a feature not all other elite campuses can claim. Immediate proximity to political speakers, Fulbright events, museums, restaurants, bars, pubs, and Hoyas’ football and basketball wins, are all available. Its central location on the East coast is even helpful for my data collection: The Volvo Group has eight manufacturing plants in the U.S. – producing trucks, buses, jet engine parts, boat engines, heavy vehicle powertrain, and construction equipment (Volvo Cars is owned by the Chinese company Geely, and hence not part of the Swedish Volvo Group). All of these are in the process of implementing the VPS and located relatively close to D.C. During this spring semester I aim to visit them all, investigating what managers should do to succeed with the implementation.
For me, there's not better place to be than Georgetown McDonough.

About the author:
Torbjørn Netland is a Fulbright Scholarship holder and a Visiting Research Fellow at McDonough School of Business. He is visiting from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway, where he currently pursues a Ph.D. in international operations management. In addition to his research, he blogs at www.better-operations.com, tweets as @tnetland, and can be contacted at torbjorn.netland@iot.ntnu.no. Until end-July 2012, you’re invited to visit him at Room 590 in the Rafik B. Hariri Building.