More and more companies are looking for strategic thinkers.
Why? Because they want managers who understand an organization holistically; managers prepared to push strategic discussion and implement change swiftly.
That’s according to Martin Friesl, PhD in strategy, former project manager at Siemens, and professor of strategic management at Lancaster University Management School.
For Martin, strategy is the culmination of everything an MBA degree is about; linking finance, marketing, and operations together to generate the best business.
A top-ranked MBA
It’s no surprise then that the Lancaster MBA has just been ranked number one for corporate strategy for the third consecutive year by the Financial Times.
This is because the school is all about front-loading experience and back-loading theory. “We don’t want to just teach students about strategy, we want to teach them how to become strategists,” Martin explains.
There are three core parts to strategy, Martin continues, all of which are covered in different modules on the Lancaster MBA—the core Strategic Management module, which addresses the science and art of strategy, as well as four electives: Managing Strategic Change; Corporate Strategy; Mergers and Acquisitions; and Strategic Brand Management.
The first core part to strategy is the positioning of a company so that they have a competitive advantage in the market. The second is the corporate-level strategic issues of what business conglomerates should acquire, and the third is about the process of strategy-making, asking the question: What are managers doing when they develop new strategies?
Strategy in the real world
While most strategy modules elsewhere function on case study analysis, on the Lancaster MBA, there is not a single case study used in strategy classes. Instead, students are put into the shoes of executives, assigned real companies, and expected to develop and present to their class an effective business strategy using only publicly available information, every week.
These projects tap into MBA students’ professional experience, creating an environment where they have to bring this into the classroom and build upon it. Students are primed for lectures on the relevant theory so that they can ask Martin and his team more informed questions, thus gaining the most out of their learning.
“Modules start with students presenting, not professors talking,” says Martin, who teaches alongside Gerry Johnson, a best-selling author, and former PwC partner David Pettifer.
“Myself, Gerry, and David openly debate with each other in front of the students, so it feels like a workplace where professors are more like colleagues.”
It is this collaborative and mutual learning approach that shapes strategy at Lancaster. Because of this, Martin says, students are provided with the full complexity of strategy-making and all its difficulties, ensuring they're ready to be strategists in the real world.
Vivian Ephraim (pictured below, right) a current student on the Lancaster MBA, has experienced this learning environment first-hand. She’s only four months into the program but has already registered the value of the school focusing on people and what a diverse cohort can bring to the table, especially in strategy.
A former investment analyst, Vivian has ambitions to gain an upper management position in a private equity firm after graduation. An MBA degree with strength in strategy was high up on her list.
This, along with Lancaster’s diverse class—there are 22 nationalities represented in this year’s class—is what attracted her to the program, and has helped her develop both professionally and personally.
“If you’re a successful strategic thinker you’ll make the right investment decisions,” Vivian explains. “Engaging in practical strategy projects with a team full of different perspectives, constantly challenges, and improves, your decision-making process.
“Already, from Lancaster, I’ve gained an open mind, become more accepting of constructive criticism, and I now know when to speak and when to listen.”
This article was originally published on March 1st 2019.