What you will study
Strategy is the way in which organisations and individuals orient themselves towards what they see as success in their various fields of endeavour. Traditionally this has been taken to involve formal sequences of analysis, planning and choice, and implementation of coordinated activities in pursuit of deliberate goals. Other schools of thought have argued that the wide gap between intention and achievement means that the study of strategy should focus on how winning strategies actually emerge almost in spite of such processes. As the world grows more complex from rapid change in technology, lifestyles, markets and politics, it becomes increasingly difficult for strategists to interpret and exploit opportunities for long-term advantage with any certainty. Strategy is thus a dynamic and controversial field, but an understanding of it, and the ability to critically apply strategic thinking, is more important than ever in the twenty-first century work environment.
You will learn
Critical thinking skills: the module encourages you to adopt a critical perspective from the outset – not only supporting your detailed familiarisation with a range of theories and models, but also requiring you to take account of the circumstances and contexts in which these theories and models have been developed and applied. This is by no means a negative exercise; instead, the thorough grounding that the module offers will equip you with the skills to evaluate and select from a diverse body of knowledge guided by its appropriateness to the situation in question. This is a very important benefit from the point of view of how the module will enhance your employability. The challenges of contemporary management in whatever field necessitate precisely this kind of critically informed decision-making, rather than a sole reliance on established modes of thought.
Professional and key skills: In common with the other modules in the Business Studies programme, the module uses The Open University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) with a particular focus on facilitating collaborative learning. Employers consistently give high priority to the skill of team-working when asked what they look for in graduates, and the module aims to give you ample opportunity to develop and demonstrate this vital professional accomplishment both face-to-face and online. Some assignments (TMAs) include important elements that require you to work with one or more colleagues, culminating in an extended group project in the second half of the module where you will carry out joint analysis of a major case study. This mode of study has the additional benefit of helping to address the potential isolation of being a distance learner, and allows you to learn with and from like-minded students supported by an expert tutor. The assignments will develop and demonstrate your skills in analysis, problem-solving, decision-making and information literacy.
Knowledge and Understanding of Strategy: There are six blocks in the module:
Block 1: Introducing strategy starts by examining some common definitions of strategy and teasing out their assumptions and implications. After an overview of the module content, you will be introduced to the fundamental skill of critical thinking and invited to see strategy as a social process that includes you both as learner and practitioner.
Block 2: Analysing your environment examines the ways in which organisations make sense of their external and internal environments, and discusses the strengths and limitations of each technique. Stakeholder management will also feature, leading to a consideration of the wider context (ethical, political and international) in which strategy takes place.
Block 3: Strategic choices continues our critical examination of models and concepts espoused by strategists working broadly within the economic rational tradition. We explain the thinking behind common strategic moves, and relate the ways in which organisations make sense of their environments to how they select strategy to further their competitive and corporate aims.
Block 4: Collaborative analysis will extend your own analytical and decision-making skills, as you work with other students online on a case-based task. The block is activity-based and develops a combination of skills that are highly relevant to employability – team-working, information literacy and problem-solving. It presents an opportunity to relate theory to practice in a way that will increase your grasp of the debates around strategy and develop your confidence to engage in them. In addition, material developed in Block 4 contributes towards your mark for TMA 04.
Block 5: Strategy implementation seeks to demystify what in many respects is the least well-understood aspect of strategy – putting plans into practice. It examines major influences on implementation such as culture and leadership. This block will also take account of an important focus of contemporary research, ‘strategy as practice’ – the close analysis of what strategists do – in order to examine precisely how strategy ‘happens’ in organisations.
Block 6: Where next for strategy? – as a dynamic field, strategy needs to address the challenges of an increasingly unpredictable world. This final block looks at some of the directions in which contemporary strategic thinking is moving, including complexity theory, which seeks to understand how organisations can co-evolve harmoniously and successfully with their continually changing environments.
The focus throughout the module on developing skills (cognitive, practical and professional) closely reflects the Quality Assurance Agency’s benchmark statement expectations for business studies and clearly expresses the module’s intention to enhance the employability of its students. Although it has a significant theoretical component, the module’s emphasis on practical application of strategic models also supports employability across a range of sectors.