Leadership the Key To Strategy Success?



Leaders in every organization know that it is important to have a business strategy; it brings a company to success, and it helps leaders decide what’s working, and what needs fixing. In his book ‘Strategy for Success in Asia’, Professor Kulwant Singh shares that “leaders who think strategically will be better able to identify and exploit opportunities, avoid widespread risks, and develop strategies that can enhance the probability of success for their firms.” Yet, not every organization with a business strategy succeeds. What gives? Here, he elaborates.


In our globally dynamic world where there are multiple external factors affecting the success of one’s organization, the multiple roles leaders play in an organization and the multiple paths that leaders can choose from to bring a firm to success, it is difficult to pinpoint to the exact factors that cause the success of an organization. The reality is that many factors determine success. Unfortunately, this may lead organizations to attribute success to a laundry list of factors that collectively, do not necessarily enhance success.

The danger in focusing on a laundry list is that by indicating that everything influences firm success to some extent, it suggests that nothing is of particular importance.

Such an organization may be seen as one that focuses on short-term opportunities or on correcting mistakes, which is unlikely to result in sustained success in complex and rapidly changing environments.



The first and most basic proposition is that senior leadership is responsible for the strategy and success of their organization. Effective leaders understand that they have two primary responsibilities – to develop and implement strategy.

Leaders must recognize that these responsibilities cannot be delegated. Having developed the strategy, leaders should also be heavily involved in implementation, to keep track of progress, problems, and contingencies. This allows leaders to intervene and put the implementation back on track or modify the strategy if need be.

Some leaders make the mistake of not allocating enough time to develop a strategy, preferring to deal with operational and routine matters that do not contribute to a firm’s long run success. They then let their middle or junior managers develop the strategy, or adopt the strategy that the firm has been taking all along. This results in leaders becoming detached from their strategy.


Development & Implementation – Two separate activities?

With changes in the environment, competitors and customers, the common thought is to adjust and adapt the implementation strategies to respond to these changes. As a result, firms may deviate from their intended strategy.

When the development of a strategy and its implementation are seen as two separate activities, firms run the risk of deviating from their intended strategy.

Firms may formulate different strategies, but not implement them. A strategy that is developed but not implemented is not a firm’s strategy. Similarly, an intended strategy that a firm deviates from in the process of implementation is not a firm’s strategy. The only strategy that a firm has is the strategy it implements.

The primary means for preventing this problem is thus for leaders to regard strategy formulation and implementation as a single process; and leaders need to be involved in this single process.

Any alternative way of thinking about strategy formulation and implementation carries the high risks of separation, lack of integration, and failure.


Customers. Competitors. Competencies.

Strategy is about setting goals, and outlining how a firm will use its competences to offer greater value to customers than competitors. A firm should establish its strategy on the basis of how it can use its competencies to satisfy its customers more effectively than competitors. When developing their strategy, leaders must consider the political, economic, social-cultural and technological characteristics of the environment in which they are operate.

It is important that strategy development efforts start by focusing on the value firms can create for customers. Customer satisfaction is the ultimate test of the effectiveness of the strategy. In short, if customers are not satisfied, firms will not succeed in the long run. The challenge is for firms to focus on satisfying current customers and their changing needs. At the same time, firms will recognize that not all customers should be served. Good strategies will indicate customer groups that should be targeted and those that should be avoided.

It is also important for strategy to recognize the threat of actual or potential competition. Competition draws customers away by offering alternatives. So while customers may determine firm success, competitors will determine firm profitability by determining market prices. An effective strategy dictates how a firm will avoid, eliminate or overcome competition.

To do so, a firm needs to have an understanding of its core competencies – a combination of resources, routines, skills and knowledge that allow firms to perform critical operations that create value for customers. Firms need to focus on these competencies to ensure that they remain valuable and provide the competitive advantage for the firm. While doing so, they would also need to evaluate competencies required in the future so that investments are made in time to drive future competencies, rendering them the competitive advantage in the long run.

Professor Kulwant Singh, Interim Dean, NUS Business School


“The first and most basic proposition is that senior leadership is responsible for the strategy and success of their organization.”

~ Prof Kulwant Singh, Interim Dean of NUS Business School


Back to the 80s



Was studying in the 80s any different from what it is today? Three alumni, Mr Sonny Yuen (BBA 1985), Ms Joey Gan (BBA 1986) and Mr Tan Mui Huat (BBA 1986) share their anecdotes of studying at the NUS Business School back then.


Back in the 80’s, lessons were made up of mostly lectures and tutorials. “The lecturers would talk, and we would listen,” recounted Ms Gan. Students learnt mostly through these lectures, reading up and through the occasional project work and field trip.

Similar to the statistics today, majority of undergraduates were females. This was good news to the males who were in the faculty. As Mr Tan recalled, “Guys would spend most of their time ‘watching’ out for the girls of their dream – and trying to make sure that they found seats in the lecture theatres close to these girls.”

It is no wonder that the faculty unintentionally played cupid to couples such as Mr Yuen, who found his wife whilst studying.

Cupid aside, for some, life could be easier. Many, such as Mr Yuen, had to juggle work, studies and social life to support themselves through education.

“I gave tuition in between lessons to supplement my income, and also worked part-time at the Guild House at Nassim Road.”

Ms Gan, too, had to take on three tuition assignments in between classes to support herself financially. “I needed time to work, so I picked a program that gave me the most flexibility.” Ms Gan graduated with a degree in Business Administration.

Upon graduation, many also found it difficult to get a job especially with the recession that hit Singapore in 1985. The fact that there were less internship opportunities made things harder.

“Unlike today where the support for students is tremendous, back in those days, we rarely had anyone to turn to for career guidance,” observed Mr Yuen. “If there was guidance, it would have been much better,” added Ms Gan.

Compared to the 80’s, today’s business student surely experiences a more exciting and dynamic learning environment, supported by ready bursaries and strong alumni.

Despite the differences in experience and in education, some things do not change – students past and present choose to eat at the respective Faculty canteens most populated by members of the opposite sex. “It’s for obvious reasons – food, of course!” mused Mr Yuen.


“Compared to the 80’s, today’s business student surely experiences a more exciting and dynamic learning environment, supported by ready bursaries and strong alumni.”



NUSBSA Bursary Fund of $250,000


A total of S$250,000 was raised by generous alumni to support needy students in NUS Business School.

Comprising 10 portions of S$25,000 each, the NUSBSA Bursary Fund includes two memorial bursaries, one in honor of the late Associate Professor Lim Guan Hua (BBA Hons 1985), who was an NUS finance professor and Honorary Secretary of NUSBSA Association, and the other, in memory of the late Mr Tay Kim Huat (MBA 1986), who was an MBA alumnus.

The fund-raising initiative was the work of Mr Yeo Keng Joon (MBA 1985) who approached various individuals to each donate S$25,000. With the government matching a dollar to every dollar raised, the total fund raised is able to support ten needy students yearly, perpetually.

Said Mr Yeo, “I believe that there are a lot of needy students, especially from the heartland who have a dire need for financial support. Currently, the number of bursaries in NUS is limited because they are distributed across all faculties. For us in the alumni, this is one way to give back something to our alma mater.”

To support Mr Yeo’s efforts in fund-raising, MBA-Alumni NUS also donated
S$5,000 for the Tay Kim Huat Memorial Bursary Fund.

The NUSBSA Bursary, targeted to be given out in August 2008, will benefit ten recipients in the first round. A selection process and criteria for selection is currently being worked out, with the NUS Business School acting as administrator for the bursary.

Alumni who are keen to participate in the selection and award process may contact GANO for further information.


“For us in the alumni, this is one way to give back something to our alma mater.”

~ Mr Yeo Keng Joon (MBA 1985) who spearheaded the fund-raising initiative


NUS MBA Alumni Homecoming 2007


24 November 2007

Time: 4pm (Seminar), 6.30pm (Dinner)

Venue: University Hall

Nostalgia was the order of the day for the 200 over guests who turned up for the NUS MBA Alumni “Back to School” Seminars cum Annual Dinner 2007 held at the University image2Hall.

Returning alumni not only came back to home ground – the event being held within the campus – but even had the opportunity to sign up for and sit through one of four different seminars catered for that day.

Of the four “Back to School” seminars, “Vietnam – the Next Engine of Growth”, which focused on the opportunities that Vietnam presented, proved to be the most popular. The other seminars dealt on topics such as risk management and achieving results through motivation.

Each seminar was helmed by a faculty member with alumni serving as industry commentators and facilitators.

Following the seminars, the alumni proceeded to the main event where they caught up with old friends and made new ones.

Professor Christopher Earley, then Dean of the NUS Business School, Mr Shankar Meembat (MBA 1996), President of the MBA Alumni, and Professor Kulwant Singh (BBA Hons 1982, MBA 1989), Interim Dean, NUS Business School, kept the alumni up-to-date with current changes in the NUS MBA Program, its achievements and a preview of the new NUS Business School building.

In the spirit of involving its alumni for its events, Mr Malcolm Koh (APEX-E 2007) served as emcee for the evening.

The Favorite Professor Award was a tie between Interim Dean of NUS Business School, Prof Singh, and Associate Professor Nitin Pangarkar, MBA Academic Director.




NUS Business School Southern China Alumni Network Visits Song Shanhu Industrial Park




10 NUS Business School alumni from Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Zhouhai drove to Song Shanhu Industrial Park in Dongguan on 15 December 2007 and was warmly welcomed by fellow alumnus, Mr Wu Weichu (MBA 2001), who is also Vice Director of the Park.

Upon his graduation, Mr Wu plunged into the planning and development of the Park and put into practice what he had learned at NUS Business School to make the Park as beautiful and eco-friendly as possible.

“I had the opportunity to learn very practical management tools during my study at NUS Business School. I find the knowledge acquired very useful with what I do,” he said.

The visiting alumni spent the day touring the Park with Mr Wu’s as guide.

Mr Zeng Yuanming (APEX Chinese MBA 2006) who was in total awe of the serene surroundings said, “We are very surprised that Dongguan has already put environmental issues on their agenda and preserved such a peaceful wonderland amidst modernization.”

Besides visiting the park, the alumni were also treated to a musical, ‘Jin Sha’ at the state-of-the-art Yulan Theatre. The alumni were thankful of Mr Wu’s warm hospitality, and look forward to more of such networking and recreation activities in the future.



“I had the opportunity to learn very practical management tools during my study at NUS Business School. I find the knowledge acquired very useful with what I do.”

~ Mr Wu Weichu (MBA 2001)

Eastern China Alumni Network Dinner in Shanghai


Date: 17 November 2007

Time: 7pm

Venue: JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai


image3The Eastern China Alumni Network (ECAN) Dinner in Shanghai was held on 17 November 2007, at JW Marriott Hotel, Shanghai. Organized by NUS Business School, the event saw more than 100 alumni from Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang take part in the evening’s program. Joining them were about 40 current UCLA-NUS EMBA students who were doing their segment in Shanghai.

A light-hearted affair, the buffet-styled dinner kicked off with an opening speech by Director of GANO, Mr Aw Beng Teck, who spoke about the diversity of the NUS alumni community and the importance of the alumni network. The NUS team from Singapore also included Director of Graduate Studies, Mr Lim Yue Wen; Academic Director of UCLA-NUS EMBA, Associate Professor Jochen Wirtz, and Academic Director of APEX-C MBA, Associate Professor Chen Renbao.

Of special mention at the dinner were alumni Mr Francis Yuen (BBA Hons 1981, MBA 1992), President, Trane Asia; Mr Wong Soon Hwa (BBA 1980), Vice President & General Manager, Asia & Japan, Hertz International, and Ms Janet Ang (BBA 1982), Vice President, Global Desktop Business Unit, Lenovo.

The dinner served as an excellent opportunity for candidates of the ECAN Executive Committee to introduce themselves and share their interests in serving the chapter. Voting was done on-line in December, resulting in an Executive Committee of nine elected and nine co-opted directors.

The dinner also allowed Mr Calvin Yan, Director of the NUS Business School Shanghai Office, to share on the latest developments of the school’s China alumni network, including the formation of the Eastern China Network, which joins the existing Northern and Southern China networks.

“This gathering is a really good event to link NUS and its alumni in Eastern China. I met many familiar faces, as well as made some new friends,” said Senior Manager of China Program, Smith School of Business, Mr Zheng Xu (MBA 1995).

“It was an honor to witness the launch of Eastern China Alumni network of NUS Business School. The school not only brought us knowledge in the past, but also helps us to build up an international community in China now.”

Another alumnus, Managing Director-Greater China, Microsoft Corporation, Mr Maurice Tan (BBA 1991) said, “I am very pleased to learn that we now have an Alumni Chapter in Shanghai. It was great to see old friends again as well as forge new friendship with fellow alumni from various industries. The diverse nationalities of alumni represented in the room speak of the expanding scope and attraction of the school to beyond Singapore and Asia.”

Ending the dinner on a high note, one lucky guest walked away with the top prize of a car rental, with the kind sponsorship of Hertz International (China) and arrangements made by Mr Wong.



“This gathering is a really good event to link NUS and its alumni in Eastern China. I met many familiar faces, as well as made some new friends.”

~ Mr Zheng Xu (MBA 1995)

Dean’s Evening in Jakarta


image1Date: 3 November 2007

Time: 3:30pm

Venue: Ceria (Poolside) Shangri-La Jakarta


The Dean’s Evening in Jakarta saw a gathering image2of more than 120 alumni, including those from Surabaya, Singapore (Mandarin and NUSBSA) and guests from Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH). It was held on 3 November 2007 at Shangri-la Jakarta, Indonesia.

The event, organized by GANO together with NUS Business School Mandarin Alumni Jakarta Chapter, also saw members from the English alumni chapter.

Gracing the event was former Dean of NUS Business School, Professor Christopher Earley, who flew to Jakarta specially to thank the alumni for their strong and continual support.

Alumna of the Executive Education program, Ms Nancy Widjaja, remarked, “It’s wonderful to have everyone gathered together and have a good time. I’m glad Dean Earley is here to join us too.”

An evening made possible by the strong support of the alumni present at the evening, Director of GANO, Mr Aw Beng Teck reiterated GANO’s support for such events.

“We are happy to enjoy the strong support from the alumni here in Jakarta and would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their support. My team and I are looking forward to many more opportunities to network with the local alumni and would be happy to render our assistance in helping build alumni communities here and beyond.”



Head Honchos Helm Eastern China Alumni Network Advisory Board


The Eastern China Alumni Network (ECAN) is honored to have on its Advisory Board, several alumni helming large corporations in China to beef up the NUS Business School network in the Chinese Mainland. Among these are:


Mr Chong Siong Hin (BBA 1981, MBA 1991)

International VP Asia, Jans Sen-Cilag Asia Pacific


Mr Ian Wong (BBA 1989)

Country Executive & Managing Director

Bank of America, China


Mr Wong Soon Hwa (BBA 1980)

Vice President & General Manager

Asia & Japan, Hertz International


Mr Francis Yuen (BBA 1981, MBA 1992)

President, Trane Asia


Ms Patricia Yim (BBA 1985)

Vice President, GSBM, IBM Asia Pacific


They will be instrumental in advising and supporting ECAN in developing the School’s relations with its alumni (and vice versa), and providing linkages between the School and industry.

The Advisory Board will leverage on its reach and influence to reconnect and engage the School’s alumni in Eastern China, contributing to the growth and development of the Eastern China Alumni Network and the School.

Equally outstanding alumni also serve on the Advisory Boards of the Northern China Alumni Network (NCAN) and Southern China Alumni Network (SCAN).

They are:


Mr Du Haibo (APEX-C 2003)

Chairman, Advisory Board, NCAN

Chairman, Labor Union, China National Aviation Fuel Holding Company


Mr Xu Xinyu (APEX-C 2006)

Concurrent President, NCAN Executive Committee

Director & President, Weichai Power Company Limited


Ms Janet Ang (BBA 1982)

Vice President, Global Desktop Business Unit, Lenovo


Ms Chang Zhiying (APEX-C 2002)

Chairman of the Board of Directors, Taida Hotels Management Company


Ms Jill Lee (BBA 1985)

Senior Executive Vice President & CFO, Siemens Limited, China


Mr Liu Zhong Qiu (APEX-C 2002)

Vice President, Petrochina International Company Limited



Mr Lam Kwong Yu (APEX-C 2003)

Chairman, Advisory Board, SCAN

Chairman, Starlite Holdings Limitedd


Mr Wang Dan (APEX-C 2003)

Concurrent President, SCAN Executive Committee

Director and General Manager, China New Era Group Corporation


Mr Chen Dan (APEX-C 2001)

General Manager, Guangdong Hengxing Group Company Limited


Mr Fang Hong Bo (APEX-C 2002)

President, Guangdong Midea Group Company Limited


Mr He Ying Wei (APEX-C 2006)

Vice President, Hainan Show Group


Mr Jiang Rong Xing (APEX-C 2005)

Director General, Price Control Administration of Fujian Province


Mr Wang Li Xin (APEX-C 2006)

Senior Vice President, ECS Technology (China) Company Limited


NUS MBA Mentorship Program


Started in 2007, the NUS MBA Alumni Mentorship Program is an initiative between MBA Alumni-NUS and the NUS MBA Club. The program, which currently sees 20 alumni mentoring 40 MBA students, serves many objectives.

“One of its aims is to provide current MBA students an opportunity to interact with the alumni, so that they can benefit from the experience and insights of those in the industry,” said Mr Srikanth Sridharan, the current President of MBA Club, who is responsible for driving the program.

Other aims include building a dynamic relationship between the student community and the alumni – one that will be mutually beneficial both professionally and personally.

“I’ve gained much from the program,” remarked Mr Vamsi Reddy, a full-time MBA student graduating this year. “My mentor, Mr Mitesh Patel (MBA 2003), gave me a lot of good advice on career planning and making difficult decisions. He is like a coach to me.”

For the mentors, the program gives them an opportunity to connect with the MBA program and the school. Mr Mitesh Patel, Honorary Secretary of MBA Alumni-NUS, also mentors another student, Ms Ritu Gera. To him, the program meant more than just a link between communities.

“The greatest satisfaction is in seeing those I mentor have a sense of new learning and gain clarity. I feel good being able to make a difference to their lives.”

The program attempts to pair mentor and mentee as closely as possible in terms of matching career paths, sufficient age and experience advantage, background, and even nationality.

“This is so that both will have the best experience,” added Mr Srikanth. “So far, I believe we were able to successfully match 80 percent of the participants based on the list of criteria.”

Upon matching, the mentor and mentee would determine the frequency of the meetings, and the channels of communication. For Mr Patel, he meets his mentees once a month and communicates with them via email regularly, much to the surprise of Mr Reddy.

“I was skeptical about the program at first. I didn’t think that the mentors would have time to interact with us. Now, I’m grateful that my mentor made time to meet me one-on one,”said Mr Reddy.

The program hopes to draw more students and alumni. “I think the program is very well organized. I would certainly recommend it,” said Mr Reddy.

Interested to be part of the NUS MBA Mentorship Program? Click here


“The greatest satisfaction is in seeing those I mentor have a sense of new learning and gain clarity. I feel good being able to make a difference to their lives.”

~ Mr Mitesh Patel (MBA 2003), MBA Alumnus and Mentor