Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week 8 rundown

Activity 3/27 4/034/104/174/245/01 5/085/15
Intl Biz Strat 8.410.711.910.819.313.15.49.6
Mktg Strat 4.813.912.812.717.36.810.314.3
HR Mgmt 11.86.613.710.87.112.213.48.4
* Note that 3 hours each week is spent in class

Welcome back for the latest in my 10-part series! There are only 2 more rundowns left at this point, and they are bound to be eventful; especially the tenth one given how packed that page is on my Wall of Assignments.

This week I had a chance to get together with several classmates, including some KWESTmates I hadn't seen in a long time, for lunch/dinner. It was a very nice addition to the regular routine. And of course there was also the Greater China Business Conference, another Nota Bene event, and plenty of sleep. All in all, it was a great week.

International Business Strategy
The hours crept up as I spent more time reading the optional readings, which tend to come from either consulting firms or the Economist and are pretty interesting, and reviewing my notes. This week we discussed a case on Zara that had a much different angle than the Zara case we read in Marketing Channel Strategies and covered the three common strategies for international competition:
  1. Price leadership strategy - The professor was very bearish on the price leadership strategy, citing how hard it will be to be the cheapest option in every market, but that is no big surprise; in general, competing on price alone is frowned upon.
  2. Differentiation strategy - We talked about the challenge of balancing the scale/variety tradeoff that is common with a differentiation strategy and how to relax it a bit by using modifiable brand/product platforms. One example of doing this is Corona, a beer from Mexico that is positioned differently in different markets.
  3. Transaction strategy. Here, you can try to either become a market maker, like Cemex or Li & Fung, or an intermediary. The basic premise is to be a middleman.
The final project in the class continues to go swimmingly. We have the first draft of our paper done with two weeks to spare. It will go through some iterations before being repackaged into a presentation.

Marketing Strategy
We talked about defensive strategies in class, covering how to identify incoming threats, decide if you should react, and then execute the defense. The defensive stuff is really about killing the competitor's product swiftly and mercilessly. We covered some real examples of brands defending their turf, with one from Hamburger Helper being particularly memorable. When a competitor launched a similar product, HH quickly put out something very similar with almost identical packaging and a lower price point to confuse consumers that were going back to buy the competitor's product again. The defense worked, and shortly thereafter, HH changed the packaging of the new product to be in line with their other products.

The MarkStrat simulation is winding down fortunately. We put in our decisions for the last round, and tomorrow we'll find out how we end up doing overall.

The course formerly known as Human Resources Management
This class now shows up as Personnel Strategy in the course catalog. The professor mentioned that they were trying to give it a more accurate name (it seems lots of students are caught off guard by the microeconomics foundation), so maybe that is what they decided on.

We covered a few concepts in class this week, but the one I found most interesting was Career Concerns. This refers to the incentives that the market gives employees in the way of higher lifetime wages for higher effort. The general idea is that as an employee you have an incentive to work harder so the market can better gauge your ability and reward you for it. Unfortunately, there are several downsides to it. First, it can lead you to put in more effort than what you really should because the marginal benefit of doing so isn't tied to the actual productivity of that effort. Second, it can distort employee's actions, causing them to act in ways that preserve how the market perceives their ability at the expense of the firm, like avoiding a high-risk, high-payoff project.

I'm excited about class this week. We have a guest speaker coming who leads the Women's Initiative at Deloitte to discuss a case on Deloitte's problem retaining female employees back in the early 1990s. It should be interesting.

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