A Matter of Course: Business Strategy

By Courtney Jolley
In Gettysburg

A Matter of Course offers a snapshot of a current University class.




John Everett, affiliate assistant professor of management and international business


Designed to integrate essential principles of strategic management explored throughout the MBA program, the class uses a wide range of tools to consider critical issues in business, government, and non-profit organizations, including in-class discussions and a day-long field study of the Battle of Gettysburg, often considered the turning point in the American Civil War. “The roots of business strategy lie in military strategy, and the parallels remain surprisingly strong,” says Everett. Everett, who developed the field study, is one of several faculty members who include it in their courses. Others, including Harsha Desai, Ph.D., incorporate the Gettysburg experience in the final modules of the Executive MBA and MBA Fellows programs.


Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel, The Killer Angels, a chronicle of the three-day battle.


“The epiphanies students come back with when they are able to visualize what the armies were facing and what impact the environment had upon the decisions that were made really make both history and strategy come alive for them. They recognize this as a real human experience, and they understand the issues surrounding communication, team dynamics, and other pressures affecting not just the leaders like Confederate General Robert E. Lee, but ‘middle managers’ like Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and rank-and-file soldiers as well,” says Everett.


“It’s easy to play armchair quarterback from your living room or the comfort of a classroom. Walking the hills and looking at the topography gives you a sense of the ‘x’ factors in the campaign—for the Confederacy, not recognizing the role geographic features would play proved fatal. If we draw the analogy to the business world, it’s not hard to see the same reality. Those who survey and understand the framework of the business environment survive and thrive. Those who ignore the forces at work—particularly those they cannot control—will fall victim to those forces. Know your environment, know your opponent, and know yourself,” says William Cole, MBA ’10, a tax audit manager in the office of the comptroller of Maryland.

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