June 28, 2006

Summer gyaan

And after I'm through with it please do not come searching for me with a sawed off double barrel shotgun. Thats the precise reason why I had 'gyaan' factored in the title of this post.

Well it all started off with me getting my posting at Corporate Strategy. After going throught the strategy course in Term III, I was convinced that this was another faff job. Not to question the professors credentials, but more as an expectation gap. Well thats how I started off, with faff, in the first review due April end. Shockingly, the guide shot it down and thankfully, he dint castrate me. We have been so used to the method of strategising in cases without knowning the context of the situation that we have become champions at rattling arbit fundaes on comparitive advantage, co-operative strategies, Porter's five forces, Red & Blue oceans, BCG matrix, etc. What happenend at ABG was different.

After the April review, I was urged to start reading history. Yes, history. So for a week all I did was read the stories of the industry I was working on. After that I had a fair idea of how the industry had moved over the years. In short, I got into the context of my work. The project suddenly came alive when I understood the background of work and the future implications of my work. History provided the base to understand competitor actions, which in turn helped to understand the motivations behind those actions, which finally led to isolation of their strengths and crytalised into the way they evaluate alternatives (which is what strategy is all about). Then of course you got to validate your hypothesis (as to how a competitor evaluates alternatives) by looking at their annual reports, law cases, analyst reports, etc. (The finance part!)

By May end, I was done. Better still, I was able to strategize for the business unit I was working on. I divided the critical factors for alternative evaluation into three main categories and devised a model. The model was short and to the point. It captured everything I wanted to say, each category described by one word that stood for everything within it. I showed the model (just the model, without the background, context and the research) to a friend, a fellow MBA student, and a pretty decent one at that. Guess what he told me? "What gas man! What the hell does this mean?" I presented the same thing to my Dept. Head. This time after updating them on the background, context, and the research analysis. "Excellent" was the reaction.

The point I want to make is this. In B-Schools we are presented with the tip of the iceberg. This may not neccesarily be the fault of the case writer, professor or the student. Companies are wary of revealing much especially in a market as competitive as today. But we can surely do a little better with some background information; and I'm not talking of the little paragraph before the actual case begins. I'm talking of the stories of the industry. What caused the change, why did the industry move the way it did, how did they evaluate their alternatives, and so on. Without it, strategy is and will always be faff.

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