Understanding the Strategic Process through an “out of this world” video!

I teach Introduction to Management (the first Management course students take) and Strategy (the last course of the Bachelor’s degree) to Emirati young men at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. My students come from all seven Emirates, with the largest concentration coming from the Northern part of the country. As with most young people outside of North America (I started delivering papers at 10, kind of typical in Canada), they don’t have a lot of formal work experience to draw on to help understand the sometimes abstract concepts I am trying to teach. That management is a process (broken down into sub-processes), is a new concept – but they are clever and we muddle through together and use examples from everyday life – cars, kandoras and my favorite – bottled water J

Last week though I was given a gift in the form of a 37 minute mini-documentary about Al Yah Satellite Communication Company or Yahsat and the launching of its first satellite from initial “vision” to launch. You can find more about the company here:

Before I explain how a youtube video could be termed a gift, here is a very short introduction of Yahsat. It was founded as a subsidiary of Mubadala (the capital investment vehicle of the Abu Dhabi government) in 2007 – with the express purpose of bringing Abu Dhabi and the UAE into the satellite age. It is the first company of its kind in the region and the Y1A (the first of two orbiting satellites launched in April 2011) is a hybrid unit which has both military and civilian objectives.

So, what does this have to do with management processes? Well, everything really. Let’s take the basic fundamental management process: Plan – Organise – Lead and Control (or feedback from the rest of the process to start the planning again). All of this is done to achieve a goal or mission or on a grander scale – a vision.

The video (you can watch it here: starts with interviews of senior UAE military officials being interviewed saying that the world has changed, their job has changed, they needed to have a satellite to fulfill their mission.

First interesting lesson – the mission of the UAE military has not changed in the past 40 years and according to my military students – will never change. But – the strategy and tactical tools needed to fulfill that mission have adjusted as the world and the UAE have changed. For example, technology, the increase of collaborative missions, and the ever present  threats from cyber enemies made a UAE owned and controlled satellite a must – not a luxury.

Second interesting lesson – Yahsat wanted a hybrid satellite, one that could also be used for commercial purposes in the current underserved markets of Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. It had never been done before according to the video, but through close supervision of the development process, strong leadership and a strong commitment to the mission of the project, they got it.

Third interesting lesson – We have studied Abu Dhabi Plan 2030 in class and we know that one of the main goals is to create a diversified (and sustainable) economy. Here we need to use our creative thinking skills in class after the video – now think of other Mubadala companies – hmmmm…. Would any of them have use for a satellite streaming content to over a billion people – many of the Arab and or Muslim? Hmmmm – what about twofour-54 – the Abu Dhabi based Arab media company (also a subsidiary of Mubadala) which is creating content in the region, for the region – with the goal for much of it to be developed by people just like my students.  A culturally, environmentally (little impact on the environment), socially (interesting and rewarding jobs) and economically (diversification away from oil and gas) sustainable company that will be able to use the satellite to reach new customers – kind of cool no?

So – that was the class (in blog form).  I have shown the video four times and at the end of the video the boys (excuse me young men) clap – and I clap – it is something for all Emiratis and residents of the country to feel proud of.  The video is an excellent teaching tool about so many things, but it just happens to work really well for management and strategy classes.

So thank you Yahsat for this documentary – I will continue to use it for a long time to come.

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