At a glance – September 8th 2014

Due to a lot of changes in my life (mainly starting a new job) there has been a change in my scheduling of classes. I moved around some stuff so as to adjust to my new work schedule. At last, I have a rhythm now and can be brave enough to take on some classes.

Courses completed

  • Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship
  • Introduction to Marketing
  • Foundations of Business Strategy (FOBS)

Up-coming courses

  • University of Pennsylvania: Introduction to Operations Management (starts in 22 days)
  • University of Lausanne: Unethical Decision Making in Organizations (starts in 13 days)
  • University of Michigan: Introduction to Finance (starts in five months)

Reading list books completed

  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
  • The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

FOBS: Final thoughts

I chose this course to learn how strategy works, and how to go about it. Having no prior knowledge of this, I found the course to be highly informative and engaging. As mentioned earlier, this was by far the most interesting MOOC in my free MBA.

The format was excellent. The videos were of really good quality and, since they were studio-recorded, there was no distractions as compared to videos shot in a classroom setting. Once again, the videos were short and to the point, without seeming shallow or hurried, and this was appreciated. The reading material provided in chapter-by-chapter PDFs from the professor’s real textbook was good and concise. The strategy analysis provided a perfect opportunity to apply all that we had learned.

I, however, wasn’t too sure with the whole up vote/down vote system. Each class in my undergraduate degree had some points for participation; however, I felt that in an on-line class there shouldn’t be any points contributing to the grade awarded as many people, including myself, do not participate as much in the forums due to time constraints. Also, I felt that many people up-voted others so as to get them to up-vote them for the points only. Very few times did I feel that the post or comment deserved an up-vote. In a classroom setting at least a lecturer can determine the value of the contribution, but in an on-line setting, and especially an MOOC one, it is impossible.

Not participating in the forums cost me an 8% grade, but I did well in the other elements of the course and got my statement of accomplishment with an 84.2%.

Professor Lennox has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the subject, and a great way of engaging students (which is a great feat, considering that it is an on-line course) and I would recommend this class to anyone who would like to learn the basics of business strategy.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this course or my review of it, please let me know in the comments section below.

FOBS: My progress so far

As part of the grading scheme, students of the FOBS class were expected to carry out five peer assessments of the final projects in which we applied the strategists toolkits learned. The points were awarded based on the following rubric:

  • Analysis of competitors
  • Analysis of environmental trends influencing the industry
  • Analysis of industry structure and dynamics
  • Analysis of organization’s capabilities
  • Assessment of sustainability of competitive position
  • Articulation of a clear set of recommendations
  • Synthesis of analyses into a compelling argument
  • Use of data to support arguments
  • Strength of strategic logic and reasoning
  • Flow and organization of report

Each student could select any organization, provided it was not the subject of one of the course cases (e.g., Google, Apple, Piaggio). For those who were interested in working directly with an organization, the FOBS team solicited entrepreneurial ventures, small businesses, and non-profits to participate through a partnership with Coursolve.org to create a special forum where organizations and students can meet up.

The purpose of the analysis was to assess the current competitive position of the firm and to make recommendations on how to improve that position. The audience for this report was the CEO or President of the organization, and as such the report had to be concise and to the point.

I chose Eveready East Africa as the focus for my analysis. I was interested in analyzing what this East African behemoth could do to save itself from folding due to untimely self-reinvention. Having being a monopoly for a long time, owning one of the biggest production plants in Africa and having an extensive network of distributors has done nothing to slow the hemorrhaging of money in losses. I presented its competitive positioning and did a Porter’s  five forces analysis in my previous post and gave recommendations on possible ways forward. My peer-assessment grade was 74.

At a glance – July 28th 2014

As time goes by, I find interesting courses that I add to my MBA to address my personal interests. Below is a Gantt chart representing my progress so far. The courses in italics are those on my watchlist.

Gantt chart - 28th June 2014

On-going courses

  • Foundations of Business Strategy (FOBS)

Courses completed

  • Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship
  • Introduction to Marketing.

Up-coming courses

  • University of Florida: Personal & Family Financial Planning (starts in 22 days)
  • University of Michigan: Introduction to Finance (starts in October)
  • University of Georgetown: Globalization’s Winners and Losers (starts in October)

Reading list books completed

  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
  • The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

FOBS: My progress so far

The last six weeks have been quite busy, so I have not posted as regularly as I would have preferred. This post gives a summary of the last six weeks in the FOBS class.

Structure: The class is divided into weekly modules. Each weekly module consists of an introductory video, a reading from the strategist’s toolkit, a series of video lectures, a quiz, and a case where we will apply our toolkit to a business to illustrate points in the lectures.In general, all video lectures for each week will be made available by 23:59 GMT on Sunday of that week. The course will culminate in your submission of a strategic analysis of an organization of your choosing. This will serve as your final exam.

The workload is medium (about 5 hours a week). The discussion forums are very active, and I have been reading people’s comments but not really participating due to time (which is unfortunate as it will cost me 8% of my grade). The idea of an active forum is to simulate a real life classroom. I am really enjoying this class for several reasons:

  1. The class is by far the most engaging I have done on Coursera. Professor Lennox is great with his content, and his videos are brief but educational. Most are no longer than 7-8 minutes each. He is energetic and has many examples that help me remember the content much more easily. The only improvement I would ask of him is to give more diverse example and not just American based ones.
  2. The cases allow me to apply the tools that I have learned about and get feedback.
  3. I redid all but one of the quizzes in an attempt to improve my score. I found the questions slightly tricky but I think I did OK in the end.

FOBS week 1 quiz FOBS week 2 quiz FOBS week 3 quiz FOBS week 4 quiz FOBS week 5 quiz FOBS week 6 quiz

We have reached the end of the lecture series and submitted my strategic analysis of Eveready East Africa in which I applied five tools from my strategist’s toolkit.

SAEEA 1 SAEEA 2 SAEEA 3 SAEEA 4 SAEEA 5 SAEEA 6 SAEEA 7 SAEEA 8 SAEEA 9 SAEEA 10

In two days time the evaluation phase will be opened, where we will be required to peer-assess 5 submissions. Failure to do so will result in a 20% penalty on the final grade.