University of Texas at AustinFall 2007
GENERAL MANAGEMENT AND STRATEGY
Office: CBA 3.246
Text: Porter, Michael E. Competitive Strategy. (New York: Free Press, 1998).
Office Hours: Tuesday or Thursday by Appointment. Contact in class or through e-mail to arrange time.
Perspective and Themes
This course is about the creation and maintenance of a long-term vision for the organization. This means that it is concerned with both the determination of strategic direction and the management of the strategic process. As such, it deals with the analytical, behavioral, and creative aspects of business simultaneously.
The course is organized around six themes in strategic management: the role of the general manager, the components of business strategy, corporate strategy development, divisional-level strategy development, managing strategic change, and the development of general managers.
Our perspective in this course is that of the general manager whose responsibility is the long-term health of the entire firm or a major division. The key tasks involved in general management include the detection of and adaptation to environmental change; the procurement and allocation of resources; the integration of activities across subparts of the organizations; and, at the most senior levels, the determination of purpose and the setting of corporate direction.
General managers, from our perspective, are managers who are in the position to make strategic decisions for the firm. Note that such managers are not “generalists” in the sense that they need to know a little bit of everything, but not very much of anything. To be effective, general managers need to have in-depth understanding of the generic problems in all the relevant functional areas. Furthermore, they must be able to deal with problems and issues at the level of the total enterprise and its relationships with relevant external environments.
Functional specialists can benefit from the general management perspective even though they may not be general managers. Every function’s actions should be coordinated with the overall needs of the business. In fact, functional specialists are the people on whom general managers must rely to implement their strategies. Since such functional managers can be subject to suboptimizing pressure, they too need to understand the general manager’s perspective.
Components of the Course
The pervasive concept in this course is that of strategy. We will start our study of strategy at the business level and examine the challenges of managing a firm competing in a single industry. An integral part of this study will be an exploration of the components of strategy and how they vary among various settings and situations. In most large and medium-sized firms, corporate strategy is different from business strategy because of the multiplicity of businesses in which the firm is involved. We will explore the differences in corporate and business-level (or divisional-level) strategies and the requirements each places on managers at different levels in the firm. At each level of strategy, competitive strategy considerations will be considered.
Successful general managers are highly competent in problem identification and analysis and have a strong action orientation. One purpose of this course is to provide an environment that will allow you to hone these skills, while at the same time gain a conceptual understanding of the strategic manager’s task.
Strategic management is more than analysis. To be sure, strategic analysis is a major part of this course, and we will explore and apply several analytical techniques for positioning a firm or a business unit within a competitive environment. But strategic analyses are complicated by the trade-offs inherent in any situation. These...