Strategic Issues in Management Series (formerly MBA Update) Recap

Fall 2007

The Innovative Organization

Professor John Graham

On September 27, 2007 Professor John Graham presented an informative session on The Innovative Organization. Participants learned about the origins and processes of creativity, tools and techniques to enhance creativity, and how to apply those tools to solve business problems. Professor Graham also explained how creativity helps companies sustain an advantage in the competitive business world.

The session explored keys to creativity: freedom, individualism, egalitarianism, and diversity. Additionally, several innovative concepts were presented, including: The Ten Faces of Innovation, The Revised Technology Adoption Life Cycle, and Keys to Creative Negotiations.

One other key concept presented by Professor Graham in this session was ‘Open Innovation’. ‘Open Innovation’ is the practice of leveraging internal and external sources of ideas and being open to using other avenues for launching and commercializing new offerings, such as licensing or through partnerships. Professor Graham explained how this approach not only allows companies to generate ideas and products more quickly,  it allows them to bring those products to the market faster and more efficiently.


Managing Employee Performance

Professor Jone Pearce

On October 11, 2007, Professor Jone Pearce presented a session on Managing Employee Performance.

Performance management is one of the most important tasks a manager performs. In this session, Professor Jone Pearce discussed how managers can motivate employees, establish accountability, measure performance, and create formal and effective performance appraisal systems.

Participants learned proven applications to understand motivational problems, set clear expectations and give effective performance feedback by: basing feedback on objective information, describing actions, not personalities, and describing the effects of the actions. Participants also learned how to make any performance appraisal system work by making sure that: the system is motivating the actions wanted, internal inequities are managed, and that attention is directed to organizational performance.

In this highly interactive session, Professor Jone Pearce explained how effective performance management requires information and accountability (through feedback and performance appraisals), an understanding of organizational incentives, and knowledge of what motivates employees.


Coaching for Excellence

Dr. Angela Tripoli

On October 25, 2007, Dr. Angela Tripoli presented an exciting session on Coaching For Excellence. Participants learned about Executive Coaching and why coaching is important in the competitive and dynamic environment.

There are various reasons an individual might want to hire a coach; some include:

  • To become a strong leader that adds value
  • To help navigate new challenges with a new promotion or job
  • To be the best at what they do
  • Frustration from difficult relationships, politics, or conflict
  • Being at a crossroads and contemplating a career or life direction change
  • Wanting a better quality of life

Effective leaders need three sets of coaching skills:
  1. Being a partner
  2. Figuring out the real issue
  3. Supporting action and alignment

Dr. Tripoli discussed how coaching is a professional partnership that supports the achievement of results. Coaches can help individuals clarify and align their visions and goals and establish strategies. Because coaching is a partnership, coaches also are responsible for holding individuals accountable for their actions and for providing honest and confidential feedback and guidance.

Dr. Tripoli explained that effective coaching results in higher performance in employees, less guidance over time, better relationships, and greater satisfaction and retention, but careful consideration needs to be made when selecting a coach to ensure a good fit.


Business Process Improvement

Professor Reynold Byers

On November 1, 2007, Professor Reynold Byers presented an exciting and informative session on Business Process Improvement.

Professor Reynold Byers demonstrated the Process and Enterprise Maturity Model (PEMM), which is a tool to evaluate a company’s “readiness” to engage in deep process change. He emphasized that a firm’s success is dependent on the firm’s “readiness” for change. Real-life company examples were used to demonstrate the importance of process audit and management.

Participants then engaged in self-evaluation exercises to help determine their own company’s capacity for process improvement, and then discussions took place to help individuals better understand the implications of their findings.

In this session Professor Byers also discussed how a firm’s success is affected by the inherent link between a firm’s operational structure and organizational structure and how it is important for them to be matched and managed carefully.

Spring 2007


Building Strong Brands

Professor Imran Currim

On March 29, 2007, Professor Imran Currim presented a session on Building Strong Brands.

A brand is intangible but it may be the most important asset to your company. Participants learned theories, models and tools for branding decisions. Professor Currim showed participants how to use valuable tools, such as Factor Analysis, a Brand Value Calculator, and Product Life Cycle Analysis, to enhance the sustainable competitive advantage of their companies.

Leading in the 21st Century

Professor David Blake

On April 12, 2007, Professor David Blake presented a session on Leading in the 21st Century.

Leadership is never something that one has. It is always earned and given. Having a position may help with the exercise of leadership, but many people have the title as a leader but do not have leadership skills.

Leadership is developed through behavior and performance, and the reactions of others to that behavior and its implementation. It is neither personality nor a collection of traits. Instead, leadership is doing--- doing a lot of very different things all of which contribute to effective leadership. Leadership behavior and leadership strategies do and should vary depending upon the situation; therefore, it requires an arsenal of thinking patterns and actions.

At the “Leading in 21 Century” seminar, participants learned various effective leadership skills, such as shaping organizational culture, and managing leadership and fellowship. They also examined reasons why and how leaders fail in leadership.

Competitive Intelligence

Professor Leonard Lane

On April 26, 2007, Professor Leonard Lane presented a session on Competitive Intelligence.

You want to improve your business, but so do your competitors. You have their business information but they also have yours. How can you gain a competitive advantage in your industry that is cluttered with too much information?

In the Competitive Intelligence session, participants learned to ask the right questions and implement the right research methods for their competitors and industry. By learning Key Intelligence, they improved their skills in analyzing competitors’ behaviors and strategies. Some of the tools that Professor Lane reviewed were Porter’s five forces model, benchmarking, SWOT analysis, and scenario analysis.


Sharpening Your Negotiating Skills

Professor Lisa Barron

On May 12, 2007, Professor Lisa Barron presented a session on Sharpening Your Negotiation Skills.

Are you tired of negotiating at work and in your personal life? Negotiation is a skill that most people have to learn and practice. In this session, Professor Barron assisted participants in developing the ability to use effective techniques to generate agreements. They gained insights into their own feelings and beliefs about negotiation, and developed a repertoire of negotiation skills. As a result, participants learned to maximize the value obtained in making deals while minimizing conflict.

Fall 2006


Mergers and Acquisitions

Professor Philip Bromiley

On October 6, 2006, Professor Philip Bromiley presented a session on Mergers and Acquisitions. The session explored the rationale for Mergers and Acquisitions by identifying both financial and strategic reasons a company would want to acquire or merge with another.

The session focused on the fundamental issues underlying most decisions of mergers and acquisitions:
  1. Does the acquisition improve the company?
  2. Can the company improve the acquisition?

Improvements can come in various forms which lead to consideration of economies of scale, economies of scope, improving operations excellence, acquiring new or improved technologies, acquiring new and necessary products, acquiring new capabilities and the corporate restructuring. Throughout the session, Professor Bromiley and the participants discussed these issues in the context of real mergers.

The session was characterized by a highly interactive format which was encouraged by Professor Bromiley. Thus participants took advantage of the vast experience and insights that Professor Bromiley brought to this important and timely topic that has become a significant approach in many strategic decisions.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Bottom Line

Professor Dennis Aigner

On November 3, 2006 Professor Dennis Aigner presented a session on Corporate Social Responsibility. The session explored what the role of American business is in society and examined ways to go above and beyond the three key areas of compliance:

  • Environment
  • Worker health & safety
  • Community investment

Participants learned that there is a correlation between financial success and socially responsible action. Corporations are impacted by policy, economic drivers, values/ethics and media filters when determining how to balance these two areas. There are different theories about corporate responsibility and the role of management to improve profits and social welfare. Companies now are under more pressure to be socially minded and environmentally conscious. Socially responsible investing is the fastest growing part of the US mutual fund economy. Professor Aigner provided many real and current examples of the growing awareness and increased actions on the part of corporations to attend to the issues surrounding the protection of the environment.

This session was characterized by a highly interactive format which was encouraged by Professor Aigner. Thus participants took advantage of the vast experiences and insights that Professor Aigner brought to this important timely topic that has become a significant approach in many corporate decisions.

Spring 2006


Building and Sustaining Growth Strategies

Professor Brad Killaly

Professor Brad Killaly addressed the critical issue of how organizations build and sustain a growth strategy. To crystallize this discussion, professor Killaly began with a detailed presentation of the sources of competitive advantage. His premise is that only when the source or sources are understood, can organizations then decide on appropriate and effective growth strategies. The discussion also included rich examples and implications for how competition is conducted in various industries.

Most importantly, analysis of where and how organizations grow is essential to developing a viable strategy. Professor Killaly discussed aspects and implications of vertical and horizontal growth, including the analytical perspective on “make or buy” decisions, outsourcing, and growth through mergers.

Overall, highlighting what growth means for a particular organization, considerations on alternatives in developing growth strategies, and clearly focusing on competitive advantage, resources, and capabilities, as essential to sustaining growth were major factors in the model and discussion of this important subject.

The Innovative Organization

Professor John Graham

On April 7, 2006 Professor John Graham presented an interesting and informative session on “The Innovative Organization.” The session was one of a series of presentations on current thinking in management as part of our MBA Update program.

Professor Graham began by exploring the approaches to stimulating creativity in organizations and identified ten “mental” blocks that keep individuals and organizations from unleashing creativity and innovative thinking. An interesting facet of the discussion was the personal perspective on the particular roles individuals are likely to play in the exploration of innovative ideas. Clearly, the valuing and management of diversity may be an important key to creative ideas in organizations and teams.

Discussion of the adoption of innovative products was based on the Geoffrey Moore book, Crossing the Chasm, which is the latest perspective on how segments of the population respond to new production and the implications for marketing strategies. Professor Graham made specific suggestions regarding available techniques which can help to develop an innovative organizational culture. Overall, the session was unique, informative, and relevant in today’s pressure filled marketplace where innovation may in fact be a matter of survival.

Executive Leadership

Professor Lisa Barron

On April 28, 2006, Professor Lisa Barron explored the interesting and important nuances of Executive Leadership. The session was highly interactive and included exercises that elicited perceptions of effective leadership practices from the participants. Critical questions like “what makes an effective leader?”, “what specifically are the characteristics of effective leaders?”, and what really is the difference between leading and managing were dissected and debated.

Professor Barron was able to relate the conclusions reached from discussion to one of the current leadership models receiving much attention. The perspectives provided from participants seemed to match closely the model presented by Posner and Kouzes in “The Leadership Challenge.” This provided some credence to the notion that this particular model is in fact derived, for the most part, from the experience of those observing leadership practices.

Overall, the spirited discussion could well characterize the session. Professor Barron’s skill in facilitating and summarizing the debates was extremely productive and useful in providing ideas and suggestions for leadership development.