Thursday, June 29, 2006

Apni Strategic Paathshala

To 'mini' and 'basanti': You asked me what I was writing, and here it is. I'd considered whether I should put it up on my blog or not, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been true to myself

There is a famous question that I had read somewhere. Have you ever seen dogs run after speeding cars? Well, the question is this: 'In case the dog manages to catch up with the car, what the hell would it do?'

The question should not elicit a mere laugh as response. The answer has deeper implications. For example, it is often said that is easier for a country's opposition party to sit back and criticize the policies of the ruling party rather than actually take reins of the country.

Similar allegations are made at students when they question, argue or shout and complain about the methodology of lectures. "So, you think are an authority on the subject, do you?" and "You think you can do a better job?" are some of the questions that one is faced with.

With all due respect (where none is due), yours truly is certainly not a canine who relishes chasing speeding cars. I believe in strength, similar to that of a lion. If a lion isn't bothered about a car in the forest, it wouldn't care two hoots about a car that passed within 10 yards of itself. But if the occupants of the car happen to annoy the lion, you can be rest assured your car will be smashed off the dirt track.

To the questions that have been put forth...No, dear sir, I am not a pundit on any subject, but then, neither are you. Absolutely NOBODY can be a pundit when one speaks about lectures on business (which yours truly has the pleasure of attending). And to the other question of whether I can do better, of course I can. Here's what I would do rather than conduct a strategic management class where the first 20 minutes of the class are reserved for a detailed 'academic' presentation (done by 2 students) and the rest of the class is a monologue by the professor. During this, the poor student who has paid for the lecture either SMSes his friend who is sitting at the other end of the lecture hall, or day-dreams about his/her boyfriend/girlfriend, or even worse, sleeps.

Of course, there will be that one mad student who will write about how he proposes to conduct a strategic management class and plans to put it up on his blog.

Well, here's the plan...

1. Bring in photocopies of any case study relevant to strategic management. Preferably, the case should be Indian, and (for Heaven's sake) RECENT. Who is interested in the problems faced by a company 3 decades back? There is absolutely NO relevance of such cases in today's dynamic and liberalized Indian economy.

2. Give the students 10 minutes to read the case. (Better than giving it to the students beforehand; in any case, the case is either read during the class or hurriedly opened 15 minutes before the lecture)

3. Form a random group of students, ask them to do a role play (CEO, Board of Directors, etc.) and form policies. Time limit: 30 minutes.

4. List down what was discussed. Ask the other students to comment/contribute/debate these issues. Let it go on for another half an hour. Get the maximum feedback from as many students as possible. [Philosophy: Students know a lot by themselves; the responsibility lies with the faculty to get the best out of them.]

5. Speak for the last 15 minutes. All the 'bhashan' about theory should be limited to this section only. Make the students realise that though things in the corporate world appear fragmented and is more touch-and-go, underlying it is a strong presence of theory.


Another idea would be to allocate role-play earlier, for example, student A as Lakshmi Mittal, student B as Aditya Mittal, and student C as Joseph Kinsch. Now, let them come to the class prepared with the case. That will ensure that they don't talk nonsense in the name of Strategy. Let them hammer out the details and the different viewpoints of the Mittal-Arcelor deal. That is current news, dude, not about some fish that died in 1979.

(I'm not an arrogant git and would obviously welcome any comments, feedback or improvements upon the method suggested. Again, there are many competent professors of strategy out there, and I would be more than happy to know how strategy management classes are conducted by them. The most favorite option would obviously be to forget about the whole deal and move on without commenting. You're welcome to do that too. No sweat.)


mini said...

laughs... awesome.. i am going to give this link to prof tomorrow;)

Basanti said... thats what dear jai was doing when Mr "dont remember his name" was TRYING to build strategies in a single,Air-conditioned (with few minutes of non-ac)semi-circled,well-furnished nirma class..huh??hehehe,i m with mini,btw if she doesnt pass it on to r very dear old "dont remember his name" prof..mind u,i ll c to it that it reaches his desk..hahaha!!

Shekhar said...

mini aur basanti: Why not, why not...bas zara ruk jao...let's submit the summer report aur grade mil jaye..uske baad bhej dete hain... ;)

arpz said...

Im reminded of a couple of my lecs , who come , stand and lecture about corp law, management & auditing ( of them handled 2 subj) in a class of 400 , you could be sure , you drop a pin and u'll hear the echo resounding the rooms , neva felt boring & they made these subjs so damn wonderful , that though im faced with a real life situation , i recall what he said , or would have said ... it always helps

arpz said...

but then , i did have my share of zit profs who made lives miserable and I felt like screaming "stop the f***g damn class , the class loser can do better than this ! "

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