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NUS MBA BMA 5013 Corportate Strategy Special Term 1

BMA 5013 Corportate Strategy is a core module in NUS MBA program, class date was from 18/05/2019 to 22/06/2019, the special term 1, this course was taught by Professor Brian Tan. Text book usage was Strategic Management: Concepts: Competitiveness and Globalization, 12th Edition Michael A. Hitt | R.Duane Ireland | Robert E. Hoskisson (H/I/H).

Class participation: 20%
Group project: One Report Submission, 30%, One group presentation (10 minutes): 15%
Three Contemplation Diaries, 2 best score will be chosen among the three. 35%.

The group project was a strategic issue facing a public listed firm based in Singapore, and to propose a solution to this issue.

This course is mainly about high level corporate strategy which includes: Strategy concept and key framework (PESTEL, Porter’s 5 forces, modular design etc), industry and competitive analysis, resources and competency analysis, growth strategy, alliances, M&A, competition, Strategy implementation etc.

Below was one of my three contemplate diaries.

Better Strategy and Poorer Strategy

I always feel confused about a saying I heard before. “From retrospective point of view, if your company had big success, all your random decisions and even wrong decisions were good strategy. If your company were a failure, all your good strategy planned ahead was bullshit! ” A lot of people agree with this viewpoint, and conclude that corporate strategy is useless. We have two dilemmas here: 1, people tend to make judgement about good strategy and poor strategy simply by the outcome of the strategy used. 2, planned strategy hardly evolves and catches up to the fast changing circumstances. It seems to be a harsh reality, but how to refute this seemingly reasonable argument?

First of all, we should not go to extreme that to assess the corporate strategy only by the outcome, instead we need to look at a strategy with multi-dimensions perspectives. Corporate strategy decisions may include various aspects such as enter, retain or exit a given business, whether grow through alliances or acquisitions, and how to allocate internal and external resources etc. We need to look at each aspect of the strategy and not only a particular outcome. And a strategy was formed based on the earlier limited information, and can easily fail without modification when unfit circumstances were developed. Furthermore, a good strategy requires a good implementation to have a success outcome.

Secondly, we need to admit strategy cannot be magic bullet to solve all the problems, statistically corporate strategy has a high failure rate, but we cannot say corporate strategy is useless simply because some strategies didn’t work as expected, if get rid of corporate strategy the failure rate might be even higher. The point is, effective use of the strategy can reduce the likelihood of failure, and no strategy is perfect and guarantees to succeed. We should put all strategies into a prospect situations that are constantly changing, strategies can guide people to make better decisions under difficult situation but cannot guarantee the successful result as circumstances continuously changes, so either we prepare an even higher level strategy to cover the known unknown or we evolve and change our strategy as time passes by whenever the situations changed.

Thirdly, as strategy is a nebulous concept and often being misused, a tactical level project failure doesn’t mean a strategy failed, corporate strategy should be focusing on higher level success. For example Alibaba published Laiwang (来往) application as a new social networking in 2013, which allows the instant communication between the merchant and end customers, this is to enter into social networking market to compete with Wechat from Tencent. Obviously this move of Alibaba was not successful, eventually Laiwang changed its direction after failed to compete with Wechat, but failed in this tactical project doesn’t mean Alibaba has failed in corporate strategy, they have changed the strategy under the new circumstances.

Fourthly, some firms may not have a strategy, they brainstorming the ideas and let the strategy formed into its shape when tactical project evolved into bigger strategy project, and the evolving strategy is not static during the progress. In certain cases, firms setup the corporate development plan and didn’t call it strategy, but we cannot say they don’t have a strategy. The firm may have strategy but didn’t document it properly or manifest the strategy explicitly. Furthermore, under dynamic situation and uncertain competitive environment, we need to make strategy flexible to cope with the uncertainty and the accompanying risks. Wechat project from Tencent was the extreme case a tactical project was developed so successful and it became the corporate strategy. WeChat is all-in-one app from Tencent and China’s largest and most dominant social network, it reached 1 billion DAU (Daily Active Users) in 2019 and it is a great success for Tencent. But when Wechat was first developed in 2010, Zhang Xiaolong, the person started the idea about Wechat, had only a small team comprises of ten developers, Including back-end developers, three mobile front-end developers, UI, and himself, and created the first version in two month. Wechat project was almost close down because of the other internal competitive projects in Tencent. Few people can expect Wechat can have such a success as of now. At the beginning Wechat project was not a strategic move for Tencent, the strategy took shape during the development of the Wechat project grew bigger and more successful, and it became corporate strategy of Tencent.


BRIAN R. TAN: Insights into an investor who is an asst professor
Strategic Management: Concepts: Competitiveness and Globalization, 12th Edition Michael A. Hitt | R.Duane Ireland | Robert E. Hoskisson (H/I/H).

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