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This is just a quick note to give some “tips” on the week 1 “Strategic Plan Thinking Part 1: Mission, Vision, Values & Strategy” paper. The 1st learning objective (organization overview/background) should be the briefest, reserving the majority of the paper for an assessment of the organization’s mission & vision statements, and an assessment of the organization’s motivation, innovation & people strategies.  Note these individual papers are your primary way to demonstrate both your learnings from our text and other course materials, and your ability to *apply* them. Do work to avoid simply defining these concepts, and in particular work to avoid using lengthy direct quotes from our text & course materials.  The key is not to regurgitate what *they* say, but rather to *apply your learnings* from them to *your own critical and strategic thinking* about your organization.

As discussed in the assignment description, if your organization does not present a mission and/or vision statement consider this as an opportunity to craft your own statement, building upon both your learnings from our text & Collins/Porras and your own understanding of your organization.  As I describe in my introduction to the Collins/Porras article on “Building Your Company’s Vision” (1996), I would encourage using this framework to combine the mission/vision statements using their approach.  I think you will find it very accessible and very powerful.  Note that in our class, YOU are the CEO of the organization you choose to study!

Note that the final learning objective in this paper is not one where you will find “the answer” in our text or even in the similarly titled Hitachi video.  Rather, use the text, in particular chapter 1, Collins/Porras and the Hitachi video to help inform your own critical and strategic thinking.  If one of the 3 mentioned strategies is missing, do use this as an opportunity to wear your new “CEO hat” to consider what you might propose for your organization.

Here are some general “construction” points that I think are important to consider in developing your paper:

  • Single sentence assertions are *not* convincing.  If a point is important enough to be made, then it needs to be fully discussed and supported by your critical thought and assessment.
  • Organization and writing are important.  Learning and demonstrating good writing skills will serve you well in both your academic and professional work.  Make sure that:
    • The paper is well and clearly organized.
    • Every paragraph makes a clear and important point, and that every sentence in that paragraph relates to and plays an important part in making, explaining or supporting that point.
    • Direct quotes are avoided unless absolutely necessary (e.g. presenting your organization’s stated mission/vision).  Outside sources should help inform your thinking and be cited to support your points, but they should not be used to make those points for you.
  • Good papers most often start with an outline.  Simply starting with a “blank screen” and writing a paper from start to finish rarely results in a good paper.  
  • Good papers are always well edited.  I don’t know anyone who can write a good paper in one sitting.  It is important to research, reflect, and outline before writing your first draft.  Wait!  Don’t turn that first draft in – reread and refine it!  
  • Grammar and spelling count!  Our education is to better prepare you for greater success in “the real world”, and while poor “construction” will cost you points in our course, it will cost you sales and/or promotions in your career.
  • Beware of the tendency to write like we speak.  The way we write/speak in our classroom discussions is usually not appropriate for an academic paper (or a professional report for that matter).  It is important to avoid colloquial language and casual style, as well as industry-specific acronyms.  
  • Make sure that the last step in your editing process is to read your paper out loud – slowly, and word for word.  A good paper will most often sound like a good oral presentation.  Make sure that your paper sounds like a presentation you would want to deliver in front of your boss and peers.  Trust me – this “tip” really works!  Besides, I’ll be using in my grading, so “beat me to it!”…

Do feel free to ask any questions about this assignment either here, in the discussion area for the week 1 paper or in the week 1 “general questions/thoughts” learning activity.  Time now to GO FOR IT!

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