From the MNC Conference Room to the Classroom – and Back Again


FSG has just published a report, Resilient Targets, Aligned Budgets, expanding on our resources supporting our clients on the strategic planning process.  This new report (which I will cover in more depth in a separate post next week) includes contributions from not only FSG researchers from around the world, but also a group of nine international relations graduate students from Johns Hopkins SAIS.   We have had great participation in this FSG-taught practicum course.

First, the practicum students were given background instruction on corporate strategy and the particular challenges of engaging in strategy from the position most of our clients hold: a regional general manager at a large MNC charged with high performance expectations in emerging markets, but with far fewer resources at their disposal – and less predictable markets – than are usually enjoyed by strategists in the corporate center.

Next we taught FSG’s management best practices research methodology:

  1. Determining the true nature of the challenges our clients are facing and their root causes
  2. Establishing a contextual understanding of how companies generally try to address the challenge and why that common approach is falling short
  3. Searching for better practices through an interview-based research process that sorts practices companies are actually using into three types: average, resource-intensive, and elegant.

The practicum participants were Rebecca Freeman, Robyn Garfield, Nicholas Luter, Mike Nguyen, Ian Renner, Devon Swezey, Emily Tang, Sam “Ben” Walker, and Jing Jing Zhou.  They were taught by myself, and FSG research leaders Chris Moore, Ryan Brier, and Lauren Goodwin.

For their projects, the students applied the methodology above in teams of three to tackle three recurring client challenges: how to efficiently and effectively set targets, how to secure resources for the “big bets” necessary to contend with increasingly fierce local competition, and how to navigate conflicting signals when adjusting a plan mid-year.  To help answer these questions, several FSG clients generously offered their time in interviews to the students, and one FSG client served as a mentor to each team (special thanks to Jay Cummins at Nomacorc, Mark Van Genderen at Harley Davidson, and Tomas Hakala at Wartsila).  The practicum culminated with lessons in the form of case studies, presented by the student teams to a panel of judges, including their mentors.

This is the second year that FSG has partnered with Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) to offer a graduate-level practicum, Management Challenges in Emerging Markets.  To read our inaugural press release, click here.  The practicum would not have been possible without support from Roger Leeds, SAIS professor of International Economics and Director of the Center for International Business and Public Policy.  The course has offered SAIS students great exposure to the real-world management challenges faced by senior executives in emerging markets.  Furthermore, it has allowed FSG clients to contribute to the students’ learning experience, and it has allowed the students to contribute in return to capturing case studies of interest to MNC executives.

To read the full report, FSG clients can visit the client portal. Not a client? Contact us to learn more about our network of experts and events.

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