Reading this article was as painful as getting teeth pulled. The article was a professor’s review of a class he instructed at the University of Chicago on strategic planning. The class was not conducted in a typical class format, but instead had students actively involved in groups that gathered data, analyzed, critiqued, and prepared strategic plans for area businesses who volunteered their records time and employees for such scrutiny.

Much of the article was focused on the first class session, which from the sounds of it was quite hectic. After reading the assigned text the class as a whole determined 8 steps of which their models would be based on. The first was to Interview a sample of managers from all levels to determine degree of participation in the planning process. The second was to work with the relevant managers to determine what data were available in the company files regarding customers, customer satisfaction, product line, market niche, costs ect.

The second steps also had parts A and B which were to determine which data was not available yet desired and determine secondary sources to obtain such data, and to establish as database and make it available for all group members. The third step dealt with the data on customer satisfaction and how responses, complaints, suggestions ect are managed. The fourth step was to track information flow in the company. What is collected, who it goes to and why.

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Step five, was to check database and determine which fields were most important for the company and to determine which areas to concentrate in in order to guarantee best outcome, and spread resources. The sixth step was to analyze the data and specify the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Step seven was to develop recommendations for the next year and the next three years regarding products, services, and markets as well as organization structures, and organizations processes.

The final step was actually determined during the second class section, but it was to prepare a complete business overview as a first step for the final report and to provide a guideline for later data analysis and development of alternatives. The remainder of the article summarized the class sessions of the following weeks and problems the groups encountered while conducting their research.

At every class session (the class was held once a week) each group presented their latest findings that were pertinent to the remainder of the class, and shared their problems, frustrations and suggestions. As the semester came to a close, groups organized their data, constructed a plan and designed a presentation they would present to faculty members and ultimately to the company they had been working with. The professor felt the class was a success, as did the students according to him, but he did admit that they felt the workload was overwhelming for a three-credit class.

The instructor feels that each student put in around twenty hours a week, although to me that seems like an underestimate when looking back on what data the students were required to obtain and the methods needed to do so. The summary of the class reminds me of an internship I participated in last summer, and I think it is wonderful these students had an opportunity to take part in such as activity. My only concerns are that the students were cut short on the experience due to obvious time constraints, and also because of the group setting.

While two heads are better than one, I have a feeling that the group tended to cater or specialize in each student’s forte, which in essence is the purpose of a group, but to me is a shortcoming in such an activity. By doing this, students are not fully exposed to all aspects of the business and such exposure is crucial for oftentimes will be a determining factor in that students choice of continued study or career.

While the article had many valid points and is in a sense a step by step manual of how to conduct a similar class, I feel such an article should remain in a teachers manual and perhaps can be lectured on in the future, highlighting the main points and ideas instead of having students read such stagnant material this professor obviously pulled from his class journal and typed up in a half assed attempt to meet some sort of publishing quota his respective university has in effect to uphold it image of scholarly professors.


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