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The Strategic Management Specialisation

There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organisation, and then there are people who are very analytic or focused on strategy. Those two types don't usually tend to be in the same person. I would put myself much more in the latter camp.
Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder of Facebook

What is strategic management?

Strategic management, or simply strategy, deals with those subjects that are of primary concern to senior management such as charting the future directions of the firm, making strategic decisions that have long-term impact and affect the firm as a whole, creating the appropriate infrastructure to implement these decisions and managing stakeholder relationships. It addresses the resources, capabilities, and strategic positioning of the firm to create and sustain competitive advantage and maximise long-term performance of the firm. Strategy informs us how top managers face the challenges and help their firms survive and succeed in today's increasingly complex, interconnected, uncertain and rapidly evolving environments in the wake of globalisation and the information revolution. Strategy is an inter-disciplinary field of research that brings together theories from strategic management, economics, organisation theory, psychology and sociology.

Why the Strategic Management specialisation?

The Strategic Management specialisation of the MPhil in Strategy, Marketing & Operations, as an integral part of the Strategic Management PhD pathway, lays a strong foundation for the pursuit of that pathway. Several features make the Strategic Management specialisation unique:

  • Rigorous academic training: We work with you to develop an integrated and coherent programme of study that includes intensive seminars and workshops. The SMO Strategic Management specialisation will train you in the latest quantitative research methods and emerging thinking in strategy. 
  • Close research collaborations: The core feature of the programme is the close collaboration between our faculty and our research students. You will work with faculty on joint research projects for presentation at top international conferences and for publication in leading academic journals. 
  • Highly selective and global: The programme is highly selective. You will interact closely with outstanding fellow research students representing a wide variety of professional experiences, nationalities and ethnicities.
  • Connections with renowned scholars and schools around the world: Through our active research seminars and renowned visiting scholar programmes, you can interact closely and collaborate with leading strategy scholars from around the world.
  • State-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure: You will have access to comprehensive research databases, latest software and computer equipment and a fully equipped behavioural lab.

Learn more about our supervising faculty's research interests

Yasemin Kor Professor Yasemin Kor is the Beckwith Professor of Management Studies. She studies (1) Managerial competencies and executive human and social capital, (2) Board of directors, board capital and corporate governance effectiveness, and (3) Firm strategic renewal, competency development, firm renewal and innovation. She enjoys doing research both on large corporations and entrepreneurial firms. She has done industry-based research on firms in medical devices industry, biotechnology industry, professional services (law firms), food and beverage industry (conventional and organic food producers), transportation industry, and on social ventures.
Sucheta Nadkarni Sucheta Nadkarni is the Sinyi Professor and Head of the Strategy & International Business group. Her research interests lie in two broad areas: (1) Strategic leadership: she explores the "people side of strategy" by seeking to answer questions such as how do CEOs and top management teams shape key strategic behaviours such as innovation, corporate entrepreneurship and strategic flexibility? Which industry and organisational factors determine the types of executive profiles needed to gain competitive superiority through innovation, flexibility and adaptation to environments? (2) Competitive dynamics: She investigates questions such as: how do firms outperform rivals? What are the sources of competitive advantage? What role does language play in intensifying competitive wars?

The modules

By default, a student on the Strategic Management specialisation of the MPhil in Strategy, Marketing & Operations writes a dissertation, and takes six modules including:

Econometrics I

This course introduces you to the variety of quantitative research methods available for applied research in management and economics, providing you with sufficient background to choose techniques and methods suited to different data-sources and models. The focus is on the way techniques relate to theory, and on the insights that can be drawn from their application. We are concerned with the interpretation and appraisal of results, and emphasise applied work.

Topics covered include:

  • The paradigm: underlying "structure" and "true" models of phenomena
  • Probability distributions
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Estimators and their properties
  • Testing hypothesis
  • Confidence intervals
  • Simple and multiple regression
  • Properties of regression coefficients
  • Transformation of variables
  • Linearity, nonlinearity and categorical variables
  • Simultaneous equations
  • Time series models
  • Stationary and nonstationary processes
  • Estimation

Econometrics II

Given the extensive availability and use of individual-level data sources for applied quantitative analysis, it has become increasingly important to understand the techniques available in applied research, their relation to theory, and what insights can be drawn from the estimation of models.

Many of these methods move beyond the standard tools of econometric analysis, in order to exploit the richness or structure of large sources of either cross-section or longitudinal data, or to compensate for some partial observability of data, or to build complexities in decision-making into an empirical study.

This course provides you with sufficient background to choose techniques suited both to the data-source and the model. There is an emphasis on the interpretation and critical appraisal of estimates, as well as on applied work, exploiting the availability of computer techniques for solutions.

Topics covered include:

  • Binary choice
  • Multiple choice and ordered response models
  • Limited dependent variable techniques
  • Duration and survival models
  • Panel data estimation methods
  • Nonparametric and semiparametric regression methods
  • Count data models

You must have taken the Econometrics I course if you wish to take this course.

Organisations & Strategic Innovation

This course covers key theories in the field of strategy, innovation and organisations. We discuss the foundational theories, central debates and key readings that help us understand organisations and their strategies to survive and innovate through both technological and managerial innovations. Discussions include why managers adopt particular courses of action, how innovation is fostered, how are new markets created and how is strategy formulated. The field of innovation, strategy and organisations is inherently interdisciplinary, and so is this course. Accordingly, we not only discuss the underpinnings of research in innovation, strategy and organisations but also a host of related questions that have since become significant to understanding this body of research. The course is based around intensive seminar-based sessions. The format is group debates around contrasting perspectives related to the readings. The course enables you to critically interpret, analyse and problematise scholarly material and develop an understanding of how to make theoretical contributions in the field.

Organisational Research Methods

This course helps you understand a variety of quantitative research methods, as well as their embeddedness within various research designs. Upon completion of the course, you'll have a good understanding of various quantitative methods commonly used in management research, and will have applied this knowledge to your own research project. Specifically, the course covers the following content areas: 

  • Research design
  • Experimental & quasi-experimental design
  • Survey design & analysis
  • Mediation & moderation
  • Multilevel analysis
  • Social network analysis
  • Meta-analysis

The objectives of this course are to increase your understanding of organisational research method and your sensitivity to the practical problems in conducting organisational research, as well as to apply organisational research methods to your own research projects and interests.

one of the following two courses, depending on year:

Seminar in Strategy Content (2017/18)

This course provides a foundational survey of the key theories and empirical works that shape research on the content of strategic management - the relationship between the different strategies and resource and capability bundles firms develop, strategic positions they create, and their financial performance and competitive advantage. Building on strategic management, economics-based, and organisational theories, this course covers substantive research on the antecedents and consequences of competitive and corporate strategies undertaken by firms in connection with the changes and disruptions in the environment. The course involves active student participation in group discussions and critiques of the seminal classic contributions as well as latest research in various topics on the content of strategic management. It also involves you developing your own research ideas and proposals that build on some of the topics and theories covered.

Seminar in Strategy Process (2018/19)

This course provides a foundational survey of the key theories and empirical works that shape research on the process of strategic management - how strategic decisions are made and implemented. Building on behavioural and psychological theories, this course covers substantive research on the strategic processes such as strategic decision-making and implementation at the individual executives, groups (e.g. top management teams, middle managers) and the organisation as a whole (e.g. culture, corporate governance). The course involves active student participation in collective discussions and critiques of the seminal classic contributions as well as latest research in various topics on the content of strategic management. It also involves you developing your own research ideas and proposals that build on some of the topics and theories covered.

plus one of the following two courses:

Organisational Behaviour

This research seminar helps you understand a variety of cutting-edge themes and topics in organisational behaviour (OB). The overarching question we address is how these aspects relate to individual, group and organisational effectiveness. Specifically, the course covers the following content areas: 

  • Making a theoretical contribution to OB
  • Personality and values
  • Emotion and moods
  • Motivation
  • Interpersonal networks
  • Work groups and teams
  • Leadership
  • Organisational culture and climate

The objectives of this course are to familiarise you with classic and current articles that have shaped the field of organisational behaviour, and to prepare you to develop and conduct organisational behaviour research yourself.

Organisation Theory

This course focuses on the foundational theories, central debates and key texts that help us conceptualise organisational dynamics. It provides you with advanced reading, writing and interpretation skills relating to, for example, organisational identity, organisational control and theories of entrepreneurship. It is based around intensive seminar-based sessions in which key articles are closely read and discussed. Having completed the course, you will be equipped to interpret and problematise scholarly material relating to the organisation of innovation in a creative and critical manner.

You are expected to determine your coursework plan at the start of the academic year, upon consultation with the programme director and the Strategic Management specialisation faculty. In particular, your coursework modules can deviate from the above lists and can be selected from other research courses offered by CJBS or other University of Cambridge departments, upon approval by the programme director.

Closing dates

Deadline for applications: 29 Jun 2017
However we recommend you apply before December.

Cambridge Trusts funding deadlines are 12 October for US applicants, 7 December for applicants from all other countries.

Cambridge MPhil in Strategy, Marketing & Operations alumnus Charles Ebert explains what drew him to the programme.

Watch the video

Scholarships

There are a number of scholarships available to MPhil in SMO students, ranging from University of Cambridge and College scholarships to corporate research funding.

Find out more about scholarships