Setting a strategic direction for a business school, initiating a culture change, and overcoming a massive financial deficit were challenges faced by the incoming dean of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, Alison Davis-Blake. Of the four strategic pillars adopted—analytical rigor, action learning, boundarylessness, and a focus on the positive—the positive pillar was both the most controversial and the most differentiating. After experiencing dramatic success over a five-year period, Davis-Blake stepped down and a new dean was appointed, Scott DeRue. He had to determine whether to keep the positive pillar or abandon it.
Emphasizing the Positive: Forming a Strategic Identity for the Ross School of Business
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After reading and discussing the material, students should:
- Describe the benefits and challenges of developing a strategic identity, especially relative to a focus on the positive.
- Explain the advantages and disadvantages of bottom-up (emergent) and top-down change processes.
- Brainstorm how to overcome resistance to change.
- Develop strategies for maintaining momentum and commitment to organizational change.
- Make a case for the compatibility or the incompatibility of the positive pillar with the profit motive for business as espoused by Milton Friedman.