Coursera – Strategy Implementation


The class explains the process and pitfalls of implementing any strategy in the organization.  Links to additional materials were particularly enlightening.

  • Around 70% of change initiatives do not deliver expected results
  • On average, acquisitions of public firms result in 5.9% losses in value

Balance Scorecard dimensions

  • Customer (Time, quality, performance, cost)
  • Internal business processes (Delivery time, time to new product introduction etc.)
  • Learning (Employee skills, data)
  • Financial (Cost reduction, revenue increase)



Different types of organizational structure (divisional, matrix, etc.) can be beneficial for some strategies and not others.

Organization’s ability to simultaneously pursue efficiency in current operations and be adaptive to changes in the environment.

Excellent HBR article explains ambidexterity.


Interesting insight on the concept of “resistance to change” – technically, there is no “resistance to change” as a monolithic concept – there is resistance to negative consequences of an initiative, and they need to be addressed as specific problems rather than a problem of “change.”

If the anticipated change will result in the loss of status by some employees, then the field must research and develop strategies for dealing with the loss of status. Likewise, if the change will result in the loss of jobs, that issue must be dealt with. Labeling these difficult problems as resistance to change only impedes the change effort.

Interesting (as I read before): strong culture is not helpful for innovation, as it prevents the organization from challenging established conventions.

Netflis Culture presentation – very distinct approach, which makes sense


Interesting perspective on the informal networks of the organization, which can solve non-standard problems for which formal infrastructure may not be sufficient.

If the formal organization is the skeleton of a company, the informal is the central nervous system driving the collective thought processes, actions, and reactions of its business units. Designed to facilitate standard modes of production, the formal organization is set up to handle easily anticipated problems. But when unexpected problems arise, the informal organization kicks in. Its complex webs of social ties form every time colleagues communicate and solidify over time into surprisingly stable networks. Highly adaptive, informal networks move diagonally and elliptically, skipping entire functions to get work done.  HBR

Coursera – Strategy Formulation


The course concentrates on the variety of aspects that need to be taken into consideration during the process of strategy formulation.

Industry Analysis one of the consideration – the concept of “attractiveness” of a specific industry was interesting.  My guess, it can also apply to a supplier company looking for a “beach head” as a specialist in a specific industry – the industry needs to be selected carefully to assure that it has the resources for the offered product.


A very interesting point on off-shoring was discussed with a Lego case study.  Lego outsourced its operations to lower-cost location at one point, and then, reversed its decision.  Though the decision made sense at the time when it was made, the additional knowledge gained by the company with the experience of outsourcing suggested that it was not a good approach for Lego.

A rather eye-opening article The Hidden Costs of Offshore Outsourcing gives an excellent overview of additional costs that need to be considered.

  • The cost of selecting a vendor
  • The cost of transition
  • The cost of layoffs
  • biasesThe cultural cost

On average, IT organizations going offshore will experience a 20 percent decline in application development efficiency during the first two years of a contract as a result of such differences… lags in productivity can add as much as 20 percent in additional costs to the offshore contract.

Bottom line: Expect to spend an extra 3 percent to 27 percent on productivity lags.

  • The cost of ramping up
  • The cost of managing an offshore contract

A nice link from the course materials to an infographic of 20 cognitive biases with cute images and examples worth saving for…  future decisions of any kind 🙂

As all strategic decisions are made by boundedly rational humans in the situation of incomplete information, the image from the course below describes the situation perfectly.  The good news?  Everybody experiencing the same problem 🙂


Coursera – Strategic Management


The course describes the history of Strategic Management and the theories that dominated business world at different time.  Some of the theories were overly simplistic, and some relied on detailed process too much.  The interesting point of the course is the same mistake that generations of managers make in their approach to strategy decisions – over reliance on their understanding of the external environment and the future.

The course also mentioned “emergent” strategy, which I encountered earlier in management literature – a strategy retaining flexibility and testing which markets and directions can emerge.  Though it is a specific approach, we will probably see many companies lacking strategy claim that this is exactly what they are trying to do. 🙂

The class included a very interesting case study:

In the 90s and early 00s, Novell, a software company once dominant in the networking space, saw its market share decline steadily, as its proprietary “Netware” software was replaced by freely available Internet based software.

But in 2003, Novell execs took bold action. They acquired Ximian and SuSe Linux, two companies that offered free alternatives to Micrsoft’s Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) and Windows, respectively.

buffledNovell intended to continue to give away the already free Ximian Desktop software, and the already free SuSe Linux alternative to Windows. They would make money, not by charging for the software, but by charging only for support of the software.Software companies had historically made 75% of their revenues from selling software, and only 25% from selling support for their software. In essence, Novell was deciding to give up the 75%, and seek only the 25%.

This might seem like a bad idea, but there was a careful calculation embedded in this strategy. Novell had not been able to sell very much of its own proprietary software for a long time, so it had, as their CEO, Jack Messman put it, “been living on that 25% piece for ten years.” The absence of that 75% of revenues from selling new software was already reflected in Novell’s stock price.

But Microsoft’s stock price still reflected handsome revenues from selling software. Novell could give away the Ximian and SuSe software without affecting it’s stock price, but if Microsoft tried to give away Office and Windows — or if they even significantly reduced their prices — sales would decline and the stock price would fall, or even collapse.

So, ironically, Novell’s historical decline in sales of new software made it able to do something Microsoft could not afford to do. Novell could give away software. Microsoft could not — not without angering its investors. Novell reasoned that companies would find free software more attractive than expensive software, and move over to Novell’s desktop from Microsoft’s.

Coursera – International Marketing in Asia

classVery insightful class – it looks into marketing in general with Asian specifics.  The class indicates that though Asia itself might be considered as one region, marketing in Asia might be significantly different from Europe.  And – each of the countries in Asia will have unique aspects.  Though some high-end consumer categories (such as Golden Misses) might be somewhat similar in different countries, the significant difference exists in lower-income area.

The class also illustrated the change in Asian markets and Asian marketing.  Change could include luxury brands (migration from global brands to local luxury brands, which show more individuality) and also marketing techniques.

Very interesting – marketing in Asia becomes more and more important because of the significant growth of Asian middle class (ah – the North America on the chart is not quite moving in the right direction.. 😉 )


Asian market for luxury goods already surpassed European market, what was beyond analysts’ expectations.

Marketing from Asia

  • Though country of origin is a generalized representation of quality, brands ultimately override country of origin.
  • The same country of origin perception may be different in different industries.
  • Should a country adopt a Pan-Asian identity rather than associate itself with a specific country?  Possibly, if the association within that specific industry and country are not positive, but it might reduce flexibility for future branding efforts.

Marketing to Asia

  • Avoid template mentality; Asian countries are different from Europe and North America, and different between themselves.
  • Walmart was successful in China, but not in Korea (Korea already had a low-cost competitor; low car ownership hurt access, and consumers expected smaller packages and fresh items (curious: shelf height was too high for the local consumers 😉 )
  • Product created specifically for Asian countries by an Asian company (LG)
    • Company created an air-conditioner, which also protects the room from mosquitoes (important in Malaysia and India).  The company found a local spokesperson, who lost a child to a mosquito-transmitted disease.  Though the air-conditioner cost was more than a regular device, the market adopted the product (particularly parents of small children).  Interesting: a local marketer who had the original idea has to “jump through hoops” to convince the organization that the product should be created.

Approach to Marketing:

  • Etic: culture-free understanding (marketing is marketing)
  • Emic: culture-bound and context specific (each market is unique!)

Countries within the region might be quite different


(Familiar source

B-to-B Marketing in Asia

  • Buying Center needs to be matched by the Selling Center to target different people in the buying center at different time (good parallel to Account Based Marketing)
  • Access to decision makers in Asia can be more difficult because of cultural hierarchy and more prominent gatekeepers
  • Vendor needs to be become involved early in the process.  Excellent examples:
    • Steel manufacturer worked with an automobile producer to make automobiles lighter
    • Steel manufacturer worked with OEMs in excavation industry to optimize design and reduce processing costs

Market selection process in Asia

  • Decide if a company should move abroad (a firm should have economic or non-economic reason)
  • Find first market (many select Singapore as a beach head in Asia; the market represents ethnic variety and located close to other larger markets)
  • Curious recommendation: have a plan A and a plan B (for example, for luxury cosmetics, targeting women over 25 can be a good plan A, and targeting teenagers can be a plan B)
  • Positioning within the company also important (do not hire yes-people 😉  )

Coursera – Content Strategy 2: Expanding Your Content’s Impact

0-contentSecond class of the series was as insightful as the first.  It was also interesting to watch university professors discuss topics that are typically associated with “young people,” such as social media, and discuss these topics from a more analytical perspective.  It was a pleasure to see thoughtful analysis behind the recommendations, some of which I tried to follow intuitively before.

“Many organizations…  do not have a strategy.”  The class started with an explanation of the strategy itself.  (Interesting, the fact that many companies do not have a strategy is noted in a few business books and not that hard to see in the industry.)


Content-related roles in the organization, and in the mind of content creators might not be based on the right criterium.  Content strategists sometimes define their role in the aspect of the media they are using.  “I am a blogger.”  Better to think about who are you and what knowledge can you bring to the audience.  What role do you want to play?


This was one of the most interesting points in the class (from my perspective).  In many cases, the type of media is confused with type of content, and this confusion seem to be common in the business setting: “we need more video!”  Ah, it is as useful as a statement: “We need more pieces of paper!”  Though destingtion of content and media in marketing I understood well, the idea that the same confusion can happen in the role definition was a very valuable insight.


The class also discussed different approaches to “content strategy.”  Though I would consider “Nurture” part of marketing, and the realm of marketing automation, it was interesting to see how this topic is perceived from the content perspective.


Engagement is least effective

Just throwing in content and measuring it with the metrics available in Facebook and Twitter is the least effective way to go




The class paid specific attention to B-to-B content, and offered very insightful community classification (which, I think, is applicable to both B-to-B and B-to-C).


An interesting example of B-to-B community: private communities for CEOs.  Participants are vetted to make sure they are who they indicated they are, and competing companies might be separated into different communities to make them more comfortable.  (Clearly, these efforts require significant expense…  the community must bring business benefit to the organization and be appropriately staffed).

My experience with communities was curious.  Companies might set the communities, though the objective and “how would it benefit the business” may not clear.  In this case, asking the business to explain the objective for the community, typically results in a vague answer: “check with the community manager, they have some goals…”

The classification below is an excellent explanation when experts or peer-to-peer approach should be used.  In one situation I experienced, the company wanted to implement a peer-to-peer community, but the community members would be adamant that all they wanted to do was to connect with experts.  Now I understand the underlying principle of the disconnect.



Social Media should be taken very seriously as a market research tool.  People talk on social media before they talk anywhere else about a specific problem or issue.  Example: social media indicated unhappiness related to use of certain type of manufacturing approach by Lego brand.  The indication was small, but it preceded a more significant outcry that had to be addressed by changes in manufacturing.

Excellent class, full of insights, tips, and analysis of the fundamental points that easy to overlook in day-to-day efforts.  Highly recommend!

Coursera – Content Strategy 1: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization

0-contentThe class gives an excellent overview of Content Strategy and a few hints in some controversial areas.  Though I think I still believe that the end objective of content strategy is marketing…  or some business benefit for the organization, the debate on the topic was very interesting 🙂


  • Content Strategy uses credible, trustworthy, transparent media to communicate stories and information to enhance an organization’s strategic goals.
  • Unless organizations can reach people with content that matters to them – where, when, and how they want it – those individuals won’t give their time and attention to engage with the content that is critical to an organization’s success.
  • Organizations must provide engaging, credible, trustworthy and transparent content that enhances their target audiences’ ability to make important decisions in their work and personal lives.
  • Don’t overload people with too many non-strategic messages.
  • Know your organization’s most important, prioritized strategic goals; focus on them.

What the target audience expects from good content?  What should content does from the perspective of the target audience?

  • makes me smarter
  • gives me something to talk about
  • looks out for my interests
  • has an element of surprise/humor
  • inspires me

Stop looking at media as old and new media and start thinking about media that meets people where they are.

(If people are using public transportation, print media will be useful, if they are driving – not so much.)

  • Any content you produce is a product that needs to be marketed.


  • Experiences are how people feel, think and act when they consume your content or use your product.
  • The collective set of experiences that a person has with content creates their overall engagement with the brand.
  • Start with: what is the best media window in your reader’s day to engage with your content?
  • Is your idea best delivered as one type of media content, or should you think about a portfolio strategy?
  • Your audience uses many information devices during the day.  You need to make sure to leverage this information to truly engage your audience with your important stories and content.
  • The term “media” refers to the type of production used to tell a Content Strategy story.  That could be images, audio or text.
  • When we refer to “platform,” we are talking about the content’s destination: mobile, tablet, or wearable media.
  • Multimedia, then, refers to the use of more than one type of content  Multi-platform means you are producing content for multiple destinations. 


The biggest mistake you can make is to set out to do a video story, or an audio story, or a photo story – without knowing what the story is.  format follows story.  Not the other way around.

  • The key takeaway from a storytelling perspective is to remember to keep the experience appropriate to the platform.
  • It is important to tell a story that fits the devise both narratively and from a design perspective.


3 social media tools were mentioned (what makes complete sense):

Interesting: these are not “brand new” tools – they existed for years.  It was rather pleasant to see some stability in the industry 😉

The “Great Dilemma” of ‘in-house” or “outsource” – and a very interesting aspects I have not heard mentioned before… but completely understandable (particularly from the perspective of large, matrix organizations). It might be easier to control external vendors than internal resources in some aspects.


And – a little “content marketing” nugget:

67% more leads are achieved by the companies with active blogs (…and I assume these companies have proper calls to action 🙂  )

Coursera – International Leadership and Organizational Behavior

FranzVery insightful class with an in-depth analysis of international aspect of leadership.  Despite my work for international companies and bi-lingual – bi-cultural background, the issues raised by the class were eye-opening.  Some aspects of my native culture were also “new” – or rather not consciously examined before.  Highly recommend the class! Notes from the course:

  • International Organizational Behavior allows leaders to identify situations, where cultural differences need to be considered and adjust their own behavior when necessary.  This understanding should help navigate increasingly international business landscape.
  • Culture has been called “Software of the Mind” by Geert Hofstede.  Similar to software, it can be “updated” or it can change over time
  • Culture shapes cognitionculture
    •  individuals with a Chinese cultural mindset vs. a US American cultural mindset will interpret different the image of single fish swimming infront of a group of fish (US American cultural mindset: a fish leading the rest, Chinese cultural mindset: fish being chased by the rest)
  • Culture also shapes emotions

Two approaches to understanding culture

  • Dissecting culture to avoid superficial perception
  • Categorizing cultures to find key differences and make cultures comparable

Dissecting culture: the Onion model. onion Categorizing culture – High/Low context Model

  • High context culture: the meaning of the communication is derived from the context of the situation and relationship (Saudi Arabia, Japan, Italy, England)
  • Low context culture: the meaning of the communication is explicitly communicated (Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, USA)

Categorizing culture – Hofstede’s Dimentions culture-comparison (Excellent site with the explanation of the dimensions and an interactive tool for comparison – The Hofstede Center Cultural dimensions models can lead to “sophisticated stereotypes” issue, ignore internal contradiction within the culture and do not take into consideration cultural shifts. EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is not enough; CQ (Cultural Intelligence) is needed Communication barriers in intercultural communications:

  • Language barrier
  • Semantic barrier (understanding of the meaning, which can be different).  More difficult to detect, as there is an impression that the message is understood.

Low context and high context cultures

  • LC person communicating with a HC person: The LC person comes across as rude and too direct.
  • HC person communicating with a LC person: The LC person may miss a lot of the clues from the situation, she may not even know what to pay attention to.
  • If there is someone from HC cultures in the team, you want to use more face-to-face interaction.

You need people with very different, conflicting perspectives to make sense of a situation with very different, conflicting perspectives. This is where an intercultural team with very different cultural backgrounds come in handy.

  • Individualist Countries: The focus of people is to do what needs to be done to succeed (the “technically best solution”).
  • Collectivist Countries: The main focus here is to maintain group harmony and avoid conflict (the “socially best solution”)


None of the existing theories of motivation consistently provide applicable and reliably effective answers for how to motivate people at work, but they do provide an excellent set of guiding questions 🙂

Complexity of motivation is complicated by multicultural environment.

Managing Multicultural Teams



As usually, there are a couple of books to enjoy… I will get to them 🙂


Global Leadership Practices: A Cross-Cultural Management Perspective .

. brain-and-culture

Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change

Coursera – Managing the Company of the Future

university-of-LondonVery interesting course – the course about the future of management, that considers current trends and possibilities that the “future” may not be so dramatically different from the present in five years…  though many business leaders would like it to be different.  Very realistic course – what makes it particularly useful.

The class classifies “means” and “ends” of management into traditional and new approaches.


Emergence – self-directing organization.

Linear alignment – objective of “making money” for shareholders.

Obliquity – objective of higher level, such as benefiting society in a fundamental way.

Interesting observation from the class: management innovation can come from the inception of the company at the start-up, from the company’s leadership, and from within of the organization.  The third approach is the most challenging.  Middle management attempting the change, is recommended to:

  • align with existing strategic priority of the organization
  • put the management innovation they are trying to implement in the language of business ($)
  • experiment, learn, adapt
  • build partners, build capabilities
  • stay under the radar as long as possible 🙂
  • and don’t expect to be appreciated…

Management innovation is a frustrating game





Interesting to note, an average company believes that it would like to be closer to the right in the next 5 years, but it does not believe it will actually achieve the needed shift.

The role of the manager is changing from the industrial era, to the “knowledge era” to the “post knowledge era.”  As the information is available, the manager becomes the enabler of employees to achieve their objectives – the role transforms into understanding of the employees’ needs and providing needed resources.




Instead of concentrating on the task, the manager of the future needs to concentrate on the potential of the employees (what can be achieved by understanding of their needs).




Coursera – Surviving Disruptive Technologies

university-of-MarilandQuite interesting course with many useful examples to illustrate main concepts.  The main point of the course is increasing pace of technological change and the need to adapt to the change to… survive.  Every organization will experience change in technologies; some will survive and some will perish.  The class gives a guide on typical process of evaluation of disruptive technologies and options of adaptation.


Interesting: profitable organizations with a strong brand have a “disadvantage” of their own profitability.  When the disruptive technology appears, it is difficult to make changes as the success of the company is rather obvious.  As it is more difficult for public companies to make changes (as the expectation for steady growth can create unnecessary pressure), the instructor mentioned Michael Dell’s attempt to make his company private to implement necessary changes.

Another interesting point:  successful companies are able to focus on their core strengths very well, their organization designed to be efficient and productive.  This particular approach hurts chances for their transformation – the success breeds rigidity necessary for focusing on profitability, in expense of flexibility vital for the future survival of the company.


Organizational structure also needs to change, even if it has been difficult to do for centuries 🙂


Survival guide:

  • Denying a disruption will affect you is dangerous
  • An innovation may not be impressive (at first)
  • Imagine the Worst Possible Scenario
  • Develop the strategy to survive the Worst Possible Scenario
  • Be bold
  • Change the organization (even if it has been hard topic for over 500 years 😉 )

Coursera – International Organizations Management

UniversityQuite interesting class, even if I thought initially that the class will cover management issues in corporations operating across the world, rather than international organizations themselves.  The class gives an excellent overview of the international dynamic and concept of international organizations.  The class also discusses in-depth PPP – Public-Private Partnerships, which are projected to grow.

A few interesting points:

WTO system under which all members need to agree on a particular measure is no longer functioning.  To better reflect reality of the international supply chain, regional trade agreements, mega-regional trade agreements and Plurilateral agreements are growing in number.


The chart above shows rise in regional agreements.

China surpassed US by internet population, but below in penetration (half of US rate).  Quite interesting chart of internet total use and penetration rate is below.


Will China become a new dominant player in the world based on its economic success?  Maybe not…

That it is more likely that China will continue its rise through competitive cooperation, and will become the center of the global network.

As “data” is becoming more and more important for businesses and countries, it can become an asset that could (or could not?) be controlled.

Will we see “data nationalism” with the requirement of certain or all data assets to be stored locally?  It will lead to fragmentation of the internet.


The class explains the concept and recent growth of PPPs – Public-Private Partnerships.




Interesting to see “attracting talented employees” as a business interest in PPPs.  From another side, it is an expected development as younger generations becoming disillusioned in the career experience of their predecessors.