In its constant quest to offer and deliver industry-relevant training programs that will produce graduates meeting the needs of the corporate world, emlyon business school has taken the decision to launch its MSc in Strategy & Consulting. The brains behind this initiative, Professors Patrick Besson and Guillaume Carton, explain the strategy and objectives behind this move, the content from which students will benefit and the kind of graduate profiles that potential recruiters will be able to hire.
“There is a clear and present need for graduates entering the consulting industry who are capable not just of handling the tools of the trade but also devising strategy and knowing how to apply it. Gone are the days when theory and practice were separate entities. The industry is now crying out for strategists capable of thinking and acting in complex situations, hence our program overhaul”, begins Patrick Besson, Professor of Strategic Leadership. His involvement in this process encompasses not just his work at emlyon business school, as well as other esteemed academic institutions, but also his role in the 2008-12 think tank discussions with Syntec Conseil, the French federation specializing in consulting. The format of emlyon’s MSc program is a partial result of this, one which will see the school strive to position itself at the forefront of the strategic management market and provide a new industry-adapted training that responds not only to the needs of recruiters but also to a dearth in the area across business schools.
A bold program with bold ambitions
A carefully designed blend of practical and experiential learning will train students not only in the formulation of strategy but also its execution. Every theoretical class will be complemented by practical application of the concepts learned and the tools acquired, all within a strategic framework. As Guillaume Carton, Associate Professor of Strategy, underlines, one cannot go without the other: “understanding and developing a strategy forms the essential analytical part of the process. What our Master of Science seeks to achieve is to take students onto the next step by teaching them to strategize, by which I mean implementing strategy. Consultants may be called upon to devise and recommend an approach. We hope to produce graduates capable of rolling those same approaches out to the benefit of companies”. This overarching educational target forms part of a drive for the program to feature in the top 3 places in the Financial Times ranking in the next 3-4 years, which dovetails perfectly with emlyon’s overall aim of entering the top 15-rated business schools in Europe. Additional targets include growing the current cohort of 50 students to 120 over the same period, of whom 2/3 international students.
A learning process that responds to the times
Given the current crisis in content within business schools, the time is ripe to offer a program in keeping with industry developments that balance the practical with the strategic and then plunge students into real-life situations via the central Field Missions project, among various components. A consulting challenge and a crisis game exercise are among the more hands-on course elements that will enable students to test a breadth of knowledge that they will have acquired in areas such as Strategizing & Modelling, Industrial Diagnosis, Data as a Competitive Advantage, and Process Design & Complex Project Management. Consulting support will be provided on cracking consulting recruitment, industry-specific advice and professional coaching while the all-important international dimension will be ensured via a semester spent in Shanghai, teaching in geopolitics and a cohort that should become more diverse from one year to the next. For Guillaume, this is fully in line with one of the main pillars of the program: “it is high time training programs of this kind focused not so much on the tools as what we can do with them and why. If we want to produce practically-minded strategists our teaching approach has to be equally pro-active and not an arbitrary separation of theory and practice”.
Standing out from the crowd
Within the current business context and the lack of programs proposing a direct link between the acquisition of tools, the development of a strategy and its execution, Patrick Besson is very clear as to the priorities of the new-style MSc in Strategy & Consulting: “by overhauling our program to this extent we are moving with the times industry-wise by training students in a form of strategic analysis that will accompany operations. By devising and teaching an innovative theory of strategy and a forward-thinking practice of consulting, we will be inculcating theoretical knowledge where analysis will underpin the strategic design process. In so doing, we will stand out from the current academic crowd and in direct response to the needs of the industry. We cannot wait to get started”.