Johan Schlasberg 

From LUSEM to Lund Business School

LUSEM Lund university school of economics and management in 2021 initiated work for a new strategy for 2022-2025. Mats Benner, dean at LUSEM, has invited everybody within LUSEM to submit contributions to this process.
My analysis is called 'Lund Business School'. It is a vision and a 10 year strategy.

Summary

  1. LUSEM cannot have a 'strategy' for three years without this being part of a long-term strategy. Large or slow-changing organizations probably need a 10 year perspective. Rename LUSEM to 'Lund Business School'.
  2. The external evaluation RQ20 of research ↓ at Lund university notes that LUSEM lacks "a sense of urgency". Ominous and difficult to change.
  3. Pressure from the business community is needed to change LUSEM. And support from several constituents for a sustainable long-term transformation. About business and research ↓
  4. Reduce the number of institutions within LUSEM from six to two.
    Fewer research areas will sharpen the profile. 'Business law' can be transferred to the 'Faculty of Law', 'Economic history' to 'the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology' of which the subject of 'History' is a part. The departments of 'Informatics' and 'Statistics' should be discontinued and become 'Supporting units' for Digital learning and Quantitative learning. 'Storytelling and visualization' becomes a third supporting unit.
  5. Reduce dependence on accreditations. Make internal quality work more transparent. Strategy comes before communication.
  6. Change the delegation system for research within LUSEM. Should almost all research questions really be delegated to the departments? Seek a new balance.
  7. Reorganize the doctoral program in business administration with the goal that 50% of doctoral students will work in business and organizations.
  8. Boost LUSEM's digital litteracy. The ways of producing and not least communicating research can and need to be developed. Webification is a megatrend.
  9. Make large investments in a Green Business Institute ↓. Rename it from the present 'Institute for Sustainability impact'.
  10. 'Slow, at speed' would probably be a good mindset and a new attitude at LUSEM. That research is slow and that the university world changes slowly has many advantages, but times have changed. Be bolder.

The strategy work did not start well when Mats Benner in early February 2021 informed that LUSEM would start three new institutes. The areas are popular and topic - 'Public Affairs', 'Innovation Management' and 'Sustainability Impact'. They have almost no resources and if you wanted to know more you were asked to contact him.

Any new 'institutes' should have been included in a long-term strategic plan if these - or other - institutes had then become part of the long-term strategy and had been related to the 'institutions' activities. Today, this is obscure to all outsiders and probably the majority of 'insiders'. It did not become more clear when Mats Benner, in a newsletter on 21.04.07 to everyone in LUSEM about these institutes wrote "They may proliferate, may change, or be terminated.".

Mats Benner writes September 14, in his newsletter, "Dean's corner", to all staff ...

"We live in a world of profiles and priorities to make an impact, and universities are not exempted from this. We can no longer reside in the comfort of doing 'everything, equally well'. We need to describe what we do particularly well, and how we do it.

In the last research bill of the Swedish government, the issue came to the fore with the introduction of so called profile areas, where Swedish universities are expected to formulate areas where they are particularly strong, in research but also with adjacent excellence in education and outreach. Thus triggers the question: How should Lund University profile itself? And what does LUSEM do in this? The work on formulating profile areas begun already in the spring but is now taking another step, under the auspices of the university leadership but with all faculties engaged. For this we as LUSEM faculty and staff need to sharpen our understanding – who are we? Where do we excel? And with whom do we excel, as profile areas are expected to span faculty borders?

These and other issues are on the table as we speak, and we as faculty leadership welcome any inputs into the process. Another opportunity will arise in about a month’s time when all faculty and staff are welcome to a seminar on the future strategy of our school – an opportunity to discuss where we should be heading, with whom and in which way. Exciting times!"

I have taken this as an invitation to produce an analysis from the outside - even though I am a doctoral student at LUSEM (Bus. Admin.) - according to the research methodCase Impact Studies.

Time perspectives and strategies

What is possible to influence with a strategic perspective of three years (2022-2025)?

In a pressrelease 2021 Volvo Cars writes pressmeddelande that they plan to become a fully electric car brand by 2030. With this goal as a basis, they can then reshape their processes from competence development, supply chains and sales concepts and more. IKEA says that "by 2030, everything we sell will be recycled and renewable material" - Ikea.se/hållbart. TetraPak is another example of a large company with a strategy in a ten-year perspective.

Changing a university or a business school takes a long time, which has several positive aspects, but that is precisely why goals are needed that have a significantly longer perspective than three years. Parallel perspectives and strategies are needed. What are the LUSEM School of Economics long-term goals? Do they have a bolder vision than a little more of most things? And smaller investments in something current in the time to please as many as possible and annoy as few as possible. What are the strategic choices?

LUSEM need av ten-year vision and strategy

The RQ20 evaluation of research at Lund university

In 2020, a large external evaluation, called RQ20, of research at Lund University was presented.

It is not possible to formulate a strategy for LUSEM without having studied RQ20!

Mats Benner was one of the project leaders for RQ20 and thus has a better overview and knowledge of international higher education than many others. I have written a post in BiBB Academy about the section that deals with LUSEM School of Economics. The evaluators say ...

"... There appears to be no sense of urgency at LUSEM..."

We observed with some surprise that, in a world that is changing fast, there appears to be no sense of urgency at LUSEM. (RQ20 p. 692, my emphasis)

For Volvo Cars, IKEA, and a very large number of companies, it is an existential issue to change to new times in a 'well-balanced and wise way'. Time and skills - you need to 'change' employees - are among the biggest challenges to cope with this. But for a university organization like LUSEM, there is no real existential threat. There are regularly new budget resources from the state and they get a somewhat variable but, a reasonably plannable share of other research funds. Human resources can only change at a (too) slow pace. The driving forces of change are unclear and must be clarified to strengthen the strategy discussion.

It is valuable that universities and colleges are "Slow",
but they must be 'Slow, at speed'.

How to make a strategy analysis for LUSEM?

For increased credibility, it would be good if LUSEM's management reported HOW they have done their strategy analysis. What are the challenges for which you want a strategy? To involve the employees within LUSEM, to some extent, they have had two 'internal public' webinars. The first was made by a person who calls herself a "qualitative researcher" and is employed at the Department of Business Administration. It is good to listen to what employees think, but it is only one part of strategy work. Her report also included a traditional SWOT analysis. However, these have limited value as they must be done in relation to which strategy one (i.e. LUSEM) chooses.

The second webinar was a lecture on basic brand building by brand consultant Mats Urde. It was mostly about general aspects and had the Nobel Foundation as a case and will not be very helpful in LUSEMs strategy work. In answer to a question from the audience and repeated by the webinar's chairman, the professor of marketing Ulf Johansson, about what the difficult questions are for LUSEM, Urde answered: that the difficult question is to have the courage to look ourselves in the mirror and ask 'who are we, what do we stand for 'and what is our 'brand promise'. Now that answered and solved the issue. Another answer could have been: does LUSEM (its leaders) have the courage, strength, and perseverance to formulate and implement a bolder strategy than more of the same.

Who does LUSEMs management and board want to learn something from? Which universities, organizations, companies, and theories? A description of the world around us is also needed. The education sector is in a "disruptive" period. It is not unlikely that established universities and business schools will become less important in the future both in terms of education and research. And that students' relationships with education providers will change. An example of the latter could be a Mini-MBA från London School of Economics, another that Google has trained over 200,000 in digital skills.

Subtractive changes are important in strategic analysis

A research study - 'People systematically overlook subtractive changes' Adams G. S. et al. in the journal Nature 2021, Vol. 592 s. 258-261 - says

Here we show that people systematically default to searching for additive transformations, and consequently overlook subtractive transformations. (Ibid. p. 258)

It is thus typical that the management of LUSEM chose to start early with three new institutes and some new internal structural additions and that nothing was said about what could be eliminated or reduced. On the other hand, my analysis sees subtractive changes as a strategic necessity to sharpen the profile.
If you do not have access to the article, I can send it to you upon request

The silent boundaries of business models

In my dissertation, I have written about what I call the silent boundaries of business models. It is about which issues may be of decisive importance but which, for situational reasons, are seldom or not at all discussed.

Examples of this for LUSEM are which institutions will be part of LUSEM in the long term and the significance of accreditations (my analysis in BiBB Academy) and the importance of rankings. When the former dean of LUSEWM, Fredrik Andersson, sent emails to all employees, these were predominantly about accreditations. Now it's much better and more varied.

How important are accreditations?
what would happen if LUSEM lost an accreditation

Assume that a long-term strategy leads to a reduction in the number of departments, by some joining a larger one - 'Informatics' becomes part of 'Business Administration' - or that some are transferred to another faculty. For example, 'Business Law' to Faculty of Law and 'Economic History' to the Department of History.

Have the accreditations - which are part of the LUSEM School of Economics marketing - created a lock-in? And is it of such a nature that one does not dare to change the institutional structure for the risk of losing one or more accreditations?

My conclusion is that, from a strategic perspective, LUSEM must become less dependent on accreditations. It is also unclear to most people what these stand for. The internal quality work cannot possibly be guided by or even less so dependent on the accreditation organizations' evaluations.

From the LUSEM/EHL brands to 'Lund Business Shool'

In what sense is the LUSEM School of Economics an organization that can have its 'own' profile and becomes a stronger brand? Is not Lund University the dominant brand? What factors and tools does LUSEMs management have at its disposal? It would be great if these were clarified.

6 islands LUSEM is not an independent legal entity. It is part (a faculty) within Lund University with six departments: Business administration (by far the largest), economic, Economic history, and the relatively small Business law, Informatics, and Statistics.

Lund Business School - LUSEM at Lund university
Lund Business School - LUSEM at Lund university,
one of several buildingsPhoto. Johan Schlasberg

The brand, actually the brands, LUSEM and EHL (the Swedish acronym) are in a difficult middle ground where Lund University is by far the strongest brand. The fact that LUSEM is an essentially non-integrated pastorate does not make it any easier. For a time, IBM was an acronym for International Business Machines. Many years ago, the name IBM ceased to be an acronym and today IBM is equal to IBM. LUSEM / EHL should contemplate a similar decision. Choose either or create a new one.

At the webinar, see above, Urde stated, in response to a direct question, that it would be completely wrong to focus LUSEM on only focusing on Business Administration and Economics. He declared that it is precisely "the diversity that makes LUSEM unique". And in less than a second he condescendingly dismissed all thoughts of fewer institutions than today. Thus we are living in the best of all worlds:)

Can unintegrated diversity really be uniquely positive?

Urde is wrong and what may be right needs to be analyzed and discussed. In French there is the expression "il faut réculer pour mieux sauter" - you have to take a step back to get further (jump better). If you have a strong long-term strategy, it is not a major issue if you "lose" in an intermediate period.

Nordmills flour mill in Malmö. Photo Johan Schlasberg
SilosPhoto. Johan Schlasberg

If LUSEM had been a reasonably well-integrated organization, the diversity of institutions could have been a true asset and profile-creating. But LUSEM is not close to that situation. And lacks the tools to get there.

My knowledge and experience of integration and conversations within an institution are limited to the Department of Business Administration. My and many people's view is that conversations across "silo boundaries" are quite few, which should be seen as a strategic problem. LUSEM has a "double silo problem". Partly because the departments have little collaboration and partly because within an department - I only know about Business Administration - there is remarkably low collaboration and mutual overview.

Integration is basically a positive word, and is a good activity, but you must have an analysis that says what is to be integrated, how and by whom. Working with integration between the departments within LUSEM will, like the university's outreach mission, have very little value in a researcher's career. Sad, but true.

Strategy and more focus

The RQ20 evaluation raises doubts about the department of 'Informatics' research investment in e-Health. As LUSEM and not least the Department of Business Administration have a relatively low level of digital competence, it would be significantly better for 'Informatics' to cease and to become an integral part of business administration.

The digital competence within the department of business administration is worryingly low and must be strengthened. It is probably also the case that one does not even realize how serious this problem is.

Supporting units at Lund Business School (LBS)

Lund Business School will have three units whose main purpose is to support the overall profile, including undergraduate education, postgraduate education, and senior researchers' projects. These units conduct no or only limited own research but are expected to have good insight into the areas' international development and applications.

  1. Digital learning
    Machines, factories, and much more are designed with digital tools. But they are often marketed in various web-based formats. Webification, like AI, is a megatrend that increasingly offers new opportunities for both production and communication of research. A PDF is digital, but it is not a web technology.
  2. Quantitative learning
    The strategy is that a transformation of the departments of Statistics and Informatics does significantly more for LUSEM / Lund Business School (LBS) as support units to the prioritixed areas than as institutions with their own agendas. This unit also includes increased competence in mathematics. The unbit can also become the hub within LBS for the development of AI applications and "big data". As a member of Lund University's AI network, I have been able to see that very little is being done in this area within LUSEM. However, there is some development within the Department of Economics. LBS must invest heavily here.
  3. Storytelling and visualization
    Research that wants to reach a world where the competition for readers' time and attention is fierce must strengthen its narrative. No research is 'format neutral'. Professor Bengt Kristensson Uggla writes in his brilliant book 'The Battle for Reality' (2002, 2012)

    ... All this indicates that science will face new conditions in the future. When science to an increasingly lesser extent can deliver incontrovertible evidence, we find ourselves in a situation where science needs a scientific rhetoric to instead develop its ability to convince. (Ibid. P. 212)

What is an Institute - at LUSEM?

Why does LUSEM choose to call something an 'Institute' and what does this mean in reality in the short and long term? There are many world-famous institutes for example Insitut Pasteur,   Karolinska institutet (KI) och Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The institutes within LUSEM are of a completely different kind. Firstly, today they are probably mostly an external marketing designation and secondly, a kind of title reward for one or a few researchers. Is there a common design for the concept 'Institute' and which is this? What decision-making power do these institutes have in relation to the established institutional structure? Is it about supporting interdisciplinary efforts?

It can be added that there are a number of what is called the 'Center for X or Y' within the subject Business Administration as well as within LUSEM and many other faculties. More and more work is needed to understand how universities are organized and how they are governed.

Green Business Institute

It was initially mentioned that LUSEM has started three new institutes. According to my analysis, what is today the one called 'Sustainability Impact' is by far the most important. However, this should be renamed 'The Green Business Insitute' (GBI). The reason for this is that the truly enormous transformation of companies and society that both the global and the local environmental problems entail - and require - has two sides, one with great opportunities for new companies and business models and one that is more critical of what is de facto done and what works and has an impact.

Many universities and 'Business Schools' want to make a name for themselves in this field and it thus requires both large and smart investments within Lund Business School to succeed.

About some other areas att the department of Business Adminstration

'Research policy' should primarily be moved outside Business Administration and also LUSEM.
The subject today lies within the s 'Business administration' but does not belong there at all - it is a historical coincidence that this is the case. The subject can, as a suggestion, be moved with 'Economic History' to the Department of History.

Business Intelligence and Culture

The part of Research Policy that is based on the late Stevan Dedijer's pioneering work in 'Business intelligence' must remain and be developed significantly, which requires additional skills and new design. Increased competence within BI strengthens Lund Business School's profile. See also an 'editorial about BI', (Pdf) by Klaus Solberg Søilen in the Journal of Intelligence Studies in Business (2021 no. 2). The subject needs its own professorship as soon as possible.

Economists need to become more broadly educated. It is important to know the history of one's subject, not least because one then, perhaps, becomes a little more open to that today 'truths' in many cases are temporary and will soon be replaced by other insights. But culture and education in a broader sense should also have a clear place in an economics education.

A radical reorientation of 'Informatics' could already within a few years significantly strengthen LUSEM's digital competence and profile. Broad in-house training is needed. The field 'Research policy', which today is a subgroup at the department of Business Administration, does not belong there at all - it is a historical coincidence - and it should be moved outside LUSEM, maybe to 'Economic history'. The subject 'Business intelligence' based on the late Stevan Dedijer's pioneering work should remain, but then new competence must be added.

Critical Management Studies (CMS)

RQ20 says that USEM is world-famous for its research in Critical Management Studies (CMS) but notes that the regrowth of researchers in the field is not great.

CMS, which has had a successful research episode, is coming to an end. That research is intradisciplinary in nature and method-oriented. The expected future marginal benefit of research in this field is low. The fact that CMS has a high status within LUSEM does not mean that this should be a long-term goal.

The CMS area's most famous researcher - at LUSEM - Mats Alvesson has in several presentations said that Academia [is]: a hothouse of functional stupidity, a topic he has written a lot about.

Strategy and business models

LUSEM must become better and stronger in the area of strategy. There was a heyday in business administration when Eric Rhenman and Richard Normann were active at the Department of Business Administration many years ago. Strengthening education and research in strategy is important. New recruitments are required.

dmin.''

The department is also not strong in the field of innovations and probably lacks the prerequisites to become so. Hence my proposal to close down the Institute for 'Innovation Management'. The proposal is colored by my own many years of effort - which has not been very successful - to increase interest at 'Bus. Admin.' for the digital and webification opportunities for production and communication of research and education. As in many American elite universities, it is necessary to have some in the teaching staff with solid own experiences of innovation work and entrepreneurship. This is missing and undervalued. One should be aware that business economics is in many respects more of a practical area than a theoretical one. Which business theories helped create Apple, Spotify, TetraPak and Axis or prevented Nokia and Ericsson Mobile Phones from crashing into a wall at high speed?

The PhD program in business administration needs to be radically redesigned.

A goal should be clearly stated that a maximum of 50% of those who start their PhD-studies 'should' be interested in a career in Academia. Courses and resources must be adapted to this goal. This refocusing would enrich research as well as co-operation with the business community and organizations. // I have several times heard leading figures in the business world say that a PhD in business administration has a more negative value than a positive one. This is, for many reasons, not good. // Bureaucracy and lead times in the various phases of the PhD-studies must be reduced.

Who decides the strategy for LUSEM?

Decision-making in the world of higher education takes place in a very different way than in a larger listed company, much more so than is believed in the business world. The new strategic plan for LUSEM should be presented to the Faculty board before the end of 2021. This is a committee dominated by representatives of the School of Economics' six departments. The chairman is external, lacks postgraduate education and is the CEO of a small company in the furniture industry. This gives LUSEM's dean increased decision-making power. LUSEM also has a Advisory board with representatives from businesses and public organizations. LUSEM also has an International Advisory Board and an Alumni Advisory Board and a Senior Management Council.

It is very difficult for most people and almost impossible for an external analyst or an external stakeholder to understand how visions and strategic plans are formulated in this group of committees and advisers. It can be assumed that there is a certain pressure to reach consensus, which has advantages, but this also makes certain types of changes more difficult.

The Business community and management research

Is the (local) Business community interested in the research produced at the LUSEM School of Economics? Do 'managers' read research from LUSEM, other universities or perhaps only indirectly via sites such as Harvard Business Review, FT, and others?

My view is that the business community - which is a very heterogeneous group - is primarily interested in basic education and contacts with smart students. 'They' don't know very much about the research at LUSEM but have a picture, albeit diffuse, that LUSEM has several good researchers. Having some contact with universities is generally seen as sympathetic.

For a manager it does not really matter much if interesting research results originate from Lund or Stockholm University, or from Harvard Business School or Google Research. The challenge is to find interesting analyzes and translate these into their businesses.

If the LUSEM School of Economics desires to add more value than today to the Business world, transparent and clearer goals and more relevance are required, and that these become known in larger circles.

Implementation of the Lund Business School vision and strategy

Several of the proposals in this analysis of LUSEM's long-term strategy obviously require deliberations with other faculties and top management within Lund University. Companies are quite often faced with challenges where you need to accelerate and brake at the same time. Related examples may be Ericsson and Volvo Cars, which need a different kind of engineering expertise than the one that previously contributed to great success. This requires transformation that include reasonable conditions for those who need to be retrained or leave the company.

Another structure of LUSEM - Lund Business School - provides new opportunities for collaboration with other departments, and universities in Sweden and the world. And with businesses, organizations and the general public.

Many teachers, researchers, and representatives of several institutions will protest loudly if any part of my analysis or vision were to be realized. Or if they even start being discussed. But one of the advantages of external consultants is precisely that they can put forward new and partly uncomfortable analyzes and proposals. Usually, and hopefully some ideas trickle down in due time.


Comments:

Your comments are invited. Send to johan.schlasberg@fek.lu.se . Or +46 70 576 20 15. Nothing will be published without your permission.

Topic

This analysis, which is updated from time to time, is also available in Swedish - Strategi för Ekonomihögskolan i Lund. Intro to this analysis, and links will in Q1 2022 be sent to quite a few stakeholders within and outside the LUSEM School of Economics.

Published: December 31, 2021   Updated: January 15, 2022