The emotion when I completed my first semester was high, as technically one third of the MBA was done. This part of the course consisted of several modules covering diverse domains and they were all interesting in some form or other!
A key MBA module
If I had to choose one favourite Semester One module though, it would have to be Strategic Management. While, at first glance, some may perceive this subject as somewhat theoretical and broad ranging, in reality it is one of the modules, if not the module, which lays the foundation for the MBA because it comprises wide business frameworks which can be used as stepping stones through which to learn the nuances of other domains of management. It is also closely linked with other modules such as Operations & Project Management or Marketing. My fundamental inclination towards the module is also because it closely links with my previous roles (so maybe a bit of bias in my selection!).
How did it enhance my knowledge?
One of the highlights of this module for me was a session on Scenario Planning, one of the key areas in management.
When planning events prior to starting the MBA, I always made sure to build in a safety net via several layers of contingency planning, however this approach fundamentally stemmed from pessimism.
Scenario planning takes these aspects into account, however it also goes further and involves making an interesting analysis by considering lots of other factors, such as stakeholders, impact and uncertainty brought by the stakeholders, defining the scope of planning, and much more. These additional and diverse factors enhance scenario planning: by increasing the variables and dimensions and the scope of potential outcomes, they make the plans more thorough, robust and fool proof.
Scenario planning allows you to be both creative and methodical. It also provides an interesting vision in planning because there is no standard procedure; rather it can be based on free-form thinking.
The fundamental learning from scenario planning is that it is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong. This insight has changed my way of looking at the world, which I will apply to future real-world managerial problems.
The teaching approach in the module was a very interesting one as it had a combination of lectures, group discussions, simulated negotiation sessions and most importantly independent research. The two standouts were, firstly, the group discussion as it involved a realistic evaluation of case studies on several premier organisations such as IKEA and, secondly, a simulated negotiation conducted for a Joint Venture. This session revealed the negotiation skills of the cohort as a whole and it was a significant learning for me to understand how difficult business negotiations can be since most of the cohort were tough negotiators!!
Independent research was one area that I found daunting because of the quantum of academic research data available. For example, preciseness and objectiveness are key traits in Engineering while in Management it is quite the opposite, so the transition has been an interesting learning experience. Subsequently, this has instilled in me the quality of being concise and adept in my research skills.
Exposure to secondary data
Another key learning from this module was understanding where and how to get data about a firm, irrespective of its location, using data sources such as Mergent Intellect, Nexis, Mintel, Statista, and Bureau van Dijk to name a few. Understanding and referring to this data provided me with loads of insights into several firms. It inherently clarified the way firms operate, their key resources and their weaknesses. Strategy and strategic management is always based on logic, therefore the clearer the available data, the more rational the strategy that evolves.
An MBA is a transformative course with strategy and strategic management as its foundation. Although I have already worked for a reasonable part of my career in this domain, I found it illuminating to explore several areas more deeply and gain a wider perspective. This can be precisely explained by the onion model, in other words, peeling away the layers to gain a deeper understanding, starting with a macro perspective, then the industry perspective, then a firm’s perspective. This has made me more analytical and rational, and as a result my perspective of looking at a management problem has significantly changed from a narrow view to a much wider perspective.
Learning what not to do
One of the greatest insights from this module is learning the things not to do when making strategic decisions. As a task-oriented person with a strong inclination towards completing an activity quickly, I had always taken the same approach in my previous roles towards strategic tasks. This module has taught me that, when strategic decisions are being made, it is always better to concentrate on the steadiness of the direction rather than speed.
A sincere suggestion
In conclusion, this module has helped me develop a much stronger foundation in strategic management. If you would like to explore strategy or strategic management further before starting your MBA, then I would strongly recommend reading Strategy Safari by Mintzberg et al. It is a fascinating book to explore.
Read more of my MBA Perspectives