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B820: Strategy

Course Profile

B820 course certificateThis compulsory course helps you to develop a better understanding of what business strategy entails both theoretically and in practice. You will improve your skills in strategic thinking and develop your own view of your role in making strategy in the organization.

Strategy is often seen as one of the key tasks of senior managers, and this course will be particularly helpful to middle managers preparing themselves for more senior positions. It will contribute to your practical development as a manager by providing insights into the theory and practice of managing strategy across organizations. It is concerned with what determines whether an organisation survives, prospers or dies. Survival and prosperity depend on the solutions to such questions as which products or services to offer; whether to pursue single or multiple lines of business; which markets or clients to aim for; whether to limit activities to local markets or pursue success internationally; how to acquire appropriate technologies, knowledge, finance and human resources; in what combination to apply resources to operations; which skills and capabilities to develop; and how external parties such as competitors, collaborators and government will respond to the solutions found.

Success in strategy depends on matching an organization's distinctive assets and capabilities to its external relationships. The course encourages you to understand the structure of the industries and markets your organisation participates in, and to analyse the nature of its external relationships with suppliers, customers, competitors and collaborators. At the same time it helps you to assess the resources and capabilities your organisation possesses, both physical assets such as control over distribution channels and intangible informal networks with important partners.

The importance of seeking strategic advantage over competitors is stressed, and you are encouraged to recognize sources of advantage in the distinctiveness of your organization's resources and capabilities and in the structure of its external relationships. Organizational resources and capabilities are defined broadly in strategy, and the course considers not only technological capabilities and human skills, but also how structure, systems, culture and power develop to create overall capabilities for organizing activities. Managing structure requires the strategist to be aware of the boundaries of the organization, and the course suggests situations in which either competition or collaboration is more likely to lead to success.

Another important task for the strategist is the management of activities to add the most value to resources contributed by all stakeholders and interested parties. This requires an understanding of stakeholders' power, their objectives, and the reasons why they have chosen to collaborate through the organization. The course discusses the organization's purpose, and extends this to consider corporate governance and the influence of government, regulation and other institutions in the environment.

Finally we describe strategic process, noting the effect that contingencies such as hostile, unstable or uncertain environments have on the way that strategies are formed, how organizational politics and culture affect strategy, and the choices available to strategists. The course helps you to understand why your organization's strategies will sometimes be realized very much as planned, and sometimes emerge, without planning, from managers' actions.

For most middle managers strategy presents a change in the complexity of management. The strategist must first and foremost manage the long-term prosperity of the whole organization. This requires ability to bring together the sometimes narrow views of technical, functional, departmental and support activities, and at the same time to recognize which of the issues facing the organisation are truly important or strategic. Once a complex problem has been analysed and a strategy formulated, the task of implementing it remains. That is never easy, and the strategist gains skill from experience and practice.

The course promotes the skill of strategic thinking by supplementing your practical experience with appropriate theories, frameworks and concepts that aid understanding of strategic issues, and then by applying these tools in practical examples, in case studies and in your own organization.

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