The View from the Top

Strategic management is about running the entire organization. It’s the view from the top. While some Bethel MBA students are entrepreneurs and already understand the complexity of strategy, this represents a change of perspective for many others. They typically bring a diversity of technical skills and middle-management experience into the course, but haven’t yet faced the challenges associated with directing an enterprise. My job is to shift their focus from what’s best for their departments to what’s best for the organization.

The course I teach is built on an analytical, systematic approach to strategic decision-making. Beyond teaching the overall model, I want to develop strategic thinkers with a heightened sense of awareness. Top managers must do more than write strategic plans; they need to make quick, effective decisions amidst the day-to-day chaos that surrounds them. Managers at all levels of the organization must deal with uncertainty and conflicting sources of information, but this is especially problematic for executives.

I often say that the correct answer to many complex strategic questions is “it depends.” If the answers were always obvious and clear, then managers would simply learn the formulas, and few businesses would fail. But this doesn’t mean that any answer will do. Some strategies work out better than others and it’s not always easy to tell why. Effective strategic managers learn how to frame problems, obtain and process the information they need, and make difficult judgment calls. They understand that the buck stops with them.


Dr. John Parnell teaches Strategy and Managerial Decision-Making and is the author of Strategic Management: Theory and Practice (Sage Publications). He enjoys working with students from different backgrounds and helping them understand the big picture.