Good business strategy is at the core of how most businesses grow and succeed. While that sounds simple, creating and implementing effective plans that get buy-in across an organization is no easy feat.
We gathered some insights from leadership and business consultant
Adam Grupp, a former product leader at Microsoft, and Kapil Sharma, an experienced C-level adviser to Fortune 500 companies who's now on the corporate strategy team at a large telecommunications service provider. Grupp and Sharma share their expertise with students as the founding instructors of the UWPCE Certificate in Business Strategy & Decision-Making.
Here, Grupp and Sharma discuss how this certificate program can help managers learn to build and implement successful plans across any industry — and become better leaders in the process.
WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT BUSINESS STRATEGY AND DECISION-MAKING?
Adam Grupp: I’ll admit that “strategy” is sometimes a bit of a buzzword. Let’s look past that. What we’re talking about is how managers and leaders build plans, make decisions and get a company or organization to go along with that plan.
In my experience, the best plans aren’t just well designed, they’re also well implemented — and that’s because they have buy-in across the organization.
Kapil Sharma: A well-crafted business strategy provides a roadmap for success. It guides decision-making, outlines long-term objectives and goals, and helps employees understand where the company is heading and what needs to be done. Without a clear strategy or execution plan, leaders struggle to navigate the competitive landscape. They may not allocate resources optimally, or they may fail to quickly adapt to changes and challenges in the market.
Good strategy also provides a basis to measure and evaluate the organization’s performance. By comparing actual results to strategic goals, an organization can identify areas for improvement and adjust as necessary.
WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU BRING TO THE PROGRAM?
Grupp: I worked for many years in product management and product strategy at Microsoft, and I’ve also been teaching the UWPCE Certificate in Software Product Management for more than a decade.
I started my professional career as a consultant, and a lot of the strategies we cover in this certificate are things I wish I’d known when I took my first manager job, because I can tell you — I definitely wasn't prepared for that position. This kind of education would have had a profound impact on how I viewed decision-making and made me more situationally attuned to things I might have otherwise overlooked.
Sharma: My professional career spans both management consulting and corporate roles. As a management consultant, I managed all aspects of a typical strategy project, leading the problem-solving process, recommending solutions, creating consensus, and counseling senior executives. In my corporate roles, I supported my company’s executive leaders on key strategic, operational, and corporate development priorities.
I enjoy teaching, and I’ve been an instructor and advisory board member for various UW programs since 2011. In this program, I get to share my strategy experience and help adult learners develop valuable skills for their careers and personal development. It's very gratifying to see them use their newfound strategy knowledge in real-life situations, enhancing their confidence and competence.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THIS CERTIFICATE PROGRAM?
Grupp: We’re looking to take some of what we already teach in the Certificate in Software Product Management and distill it into something more universal that reaches beyond the tech industry. Good strategies and decision-making are factors for managers in small businesses, large businesses, and everything in between.
The mindset I bring to this program is very much how we taught product management and product strategy at Microsoft. We began a project on a whiteboard, where everything is nice and clean. Then we moved the discussion into the real world, and from there, began to anticipate some of the pitfalls and traps that might occur. We wanted to make a plan that doesn’t just look good on a whiteboard, but actually succeeds in the real world.
Sharma: Adam and I launched this certificate program because we are passionate about democratizing the strategy development process. In the current business climate, it is crucial to involve a broader range of stakeholders, gather diverse perspectives, and promote inclusive decision-making. This fosters agility, innovation, and employee engagement, while enhancing transparency, trust, and organizational learning. It also leads to better risk management and ethical considerations, contributing to long-term success of organizations and individuals. WHAT TANGIBLE SKILLS WILL STUDENTS TAKE AWAY?
Grupp: We emphasize project-based learning. In this program, students will build a plan, implement and manage the plan, and then we challenge them to deal with serious disruptions to that plan. We create opportunities for people to shape the way they see problems. Students also take away some “walking/talking points” to show their employer or a prospective employer.
Sharma: We present students with scenarios of specific challenges, dilemmas or decisions, usually based on actual events or situations that organizations or individuals have faced. We carefully craft these scenarios to stimulate strategic thinking, analysis and problem-solving skills, and we place equal emphasis on both the intellectual and social sides of strategy.
Through this kind of experiential learning, students develop decision-making abilities, communication skills, and a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances involved in the real business world. It’s also a learning environment where students are active participants rather than passive recipients of information.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST EXCITING ABOUT TEACHING THIS CERTIFICATE?
Grupp: I’m excited by the prospect of taking what I already do and shaping it into something that can be valuable to an even broader cross-section of our students. I love seeing our students learn and grow to successfully fill leadership roles. That’s a great experience to be a part of.
Sharma: I’m excited by the UWPCE Certificate in Business Strategy & Decision-Making program because our students bring a wealth of life experience from diverse industries to the classroom. It creates a dynamic learning environment where both instructors and students can contribute, share insights, and learn from each other. WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BUSINESS STRATEGY?
Check out this conversation with recent alumni of the UW
Certificate in Business Strategy & Decision-Making, who share how they use strategic planning, frameworks and tools to solve real-world challenges in life and work.
Why Business Strategy is for Everyone
Recent alumni of the UW Certificate in Business Strategy & Decision-Making share how they use strategic planning, frameworks and tools to solve real-world challenges in life and work