Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to become a world class university - A Deja Vu

Typology for a world class university

A world class university needs to focus on both publication and industrial link.
Publication in good journal will ensure the status of the university that can produce world class knowledge
Industrial link will ensure industrial relevant of university’s research.

Publication in world class journal can be divided into five different level.

Level 1          other publications*                     One star rating
Level 2          non-CIJ**                                 Two star rating
Level 3          CIJ***                                      Three star rating
Level 4          ISI Thompson                            Four star rating
Level 5          Top journal                                Five star rating

*other publication: chapters in books, conference papers, proceedings, etc.
**non-CIJ: non-citation index journal or non-peer-reviewed journal
***CIJ – Citation Index Journal or peer-reviewed journal

Industrial-link is to ensure university research is relevant to the industrial practices. If the research is not industrially relevant, then the university will is producing knowledge which is useless. This knowledge is only good for circulation within the close-loop academic world. And no one from the industries will read or even understand the output of the university research.

Apart from industrial relevant, world class university should produce knowledge that can increase the competitiveness of the industries. It should produce knowledge that can increase the competitiveness of the industries and businesses by enhancing their management capability in producing value-added products and services in today’s global market.

Industrialists and companies who work closely with a world class university should benefit through enlarging their networking capability, interacting with academic and research communities from local and overseas, keeping track with the latest development in new management philosophy and technology, knowing the latest development in management research enhancing knowledge in system, human and workplace interfaces, through a range of activities organised.

The level of Industrial link in world class university can also be divided into five:

Level 1           forum*                            One star
Level 2           knowledge transfer**      Two star
Level 3           collaboration ***            Three star
Level 4           joint research                  Four star
Level 5           knowledge dissemination Five star

*forum includes all activities to make friends and having conversations together with the people from the industries, such as lunch, dinner, social interaction, formal or informal meeting, press conferences, signing MoU without useful outputs, presentation, site visits, talk, seminar, etc.

**knowledge transfer can happen at two level:

-at level 2,
knowledge transfer (from industries to universities)
The knowledge is transferred from industries to the universities. This is a relatively lower level of activities because the universities’ research is currently has not reached the standard used in the industries, and thus they need to learn from the industries. This is usually happen when the researchers are young or inexperience. Or sometimes even though they are experienced researchers but their research is fundamental or basic, and they have not investigated the practicality of their research output. At this level, the university may send their faculty members or students to be attached to the industries to learn something from them, such as internship. The university will gain some benefits through these activities but not the industries.

-at level 5(the highest level),
knowledge dissemination (from universities to industries)
, the knowledge is transferred from universities to the industries (this is at the highest level in the list because the universities’ research have reached the highest standard, and thus the industries need to learn from them. This is usually happen when the researchers are very experience. Their research produces more advanced knowledge than the industries currently having. The knowledge produced can be used by the industries to improve the performance or profit. At this level, the university will normally disseminate their research output to the industries. In other words, the knowledge produced by the university is helpful/useful to the industries, or community in general. In this sense, the university is sitting at the forefront of the industries. They are leading the industries and driving industrialists to the future.

***collaboration or joint research between the industries and the universities are encouraged.
Level 3 collaboration (industries help universities) Three star

Level 4 joint research (universities help industries) Four star
At this stage, the university and the industries must initiate some joint research projects. Both parties are working together towards the achievement of the research objectives. This is the current trend. The same concept of knowledge transfer can be applied here. If the industries help the universities, that mean the industries’ standard is higher, and vice versa.

A typology for world class university

Combining the level of publication and the level of industrial link, a typology can be built for world class university (see fig. 1).
Fig. 1 Typology for world-class university

As refer to fig. 1, the x-axis represents the level of publication, and y-axis represents the level of industrial link. The different focus reflects a different characteristic of a university. For example, some universities may fall under the coordinate (1, 1) in the typology, and some may fall in the (5, 5). The different coordinate reflect a different player (see fig. 2 for detail)

 Fig. 2 Different players in the typology

(1,1) local players (local king / domestic king)
(1,5) research dominant players
(5,1) practice dominant players
(3,3) middleman players
(5,5) world class players

Different players within the typology could have different behavior. These behaviors can be described using different objects or living creatures such as below (see fig 3):

(1,1) Monkey
(1,5) Frog
(5,1) Bear
(3,3) Puma
(5,5) Lion

Fig. 3 Behavior of different creatures within the typology

Each creature reflects a different behavior of its own.

MONKEY – they are neither good nor strong in both aspects. They just like to act. They are very ‘action’. In other words, they are not good in both aspects, but they are good in pretending to be good.

FROG – their body are small, but their voices are loud. In other words, they can talk very well, but they cannot do whatever they have said they want to do. Their slogan in life is “Talk only, no action”.

BEAR – their body are big, and thus they are strong and can do a lot of things. However, they have no brain!

PUMA – they are the average achiever in both aspects. They need to put in more time and effort to improve both aspects.

LION – they are the real king of the jungle, they are good in both aspects.

World class universities like lions are the leading research institutions in the world. Their research and publication as well as industrial-link are usually more advance than others. If you are frogs, you may consider improving the industrial relevant of your research. If you are bears, you may consider improving your publications. If you are puma, you have the potential to improve yourself. If you are monkey, you can continue to pretend!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Linking university to the industry

Linking theory to practice

Strategic roadmapping is a graphical approach for strategic planning. It uses brainstorming and workshop methodology to help top-level management to generate strategic ideas, link strategy to action, and facilitate mutual understanding among managers. It is a simple, quick and efficient tool for market, product, technology, capability, and resource planning.

Train managers to use strategic roadmapping

There are a lot of terminologies used by different organizations and individuals for strategic roadmapping. Among the most common terms used are strategic roadmapping and technology roadmapping. Others include supply chain roadmapping, innovation roadmapping, business roadmapping, technology route mapping, etc.

Strategic roadmapping workshop

Organizations and individuals use different terms for roadmaps too. Among the most common names are strategic roadmap, business roadmap, technology roadmap, and innovation roadmap. Others include technology route map, science roadmap, program roadmap, market roadmap, industry roadmap, R&D roadmap, customer roadmap, product roadmap, service roadmap, production roadmap, enterprise roadmap, application roadmap, supply chain roadmap, process roadmap, design roadmap, engineering roadmap, policy roadmap, infrastructure roadmap, risk roadmap, and investment roadmap.


Workshops are usually organised to operationalise the strategic roadmapping process. Workshops generally resemble a brainstorming session. The main benefit that can be derived from workshops is the opportunities to generate collective creativity and mutual understanding.

The traditional approach to strategic planning is usually top-down. The resistance level of adopting the strategic roadmap is found to be relatively high among the middle and first level management. Such resistance will delay or prevent the effective implementation of the developed strategies. Approach to strategic planning should be bottom-up. The workshops enable the strategy development to be a bottom-up process. Apart from that, workshops encourage breakthrough and build ownership and accountability among participants. Nonetheless, strong collective wisdom and experiences from the participants are needed to run the workshops successfully. If the workshop is effectively organized, strategy will turn into action, and better business performance will follow.

In general, workshop can be organized into two different levels, namely macro and micro level.

Macro level workshop aims to generate national or industry level strategic roadmap. It can also be used to generate supply-chain level or corporate level roadmaps.

Roadmapping workshop at MIM

Macro level focuses more on the application of strategic roadmapping at the high-level of national, industry or corporate world. It encompasses a broader scope of management than its micro counterpart. It aims to explore and identify key national/industry/corporate issues. It is usually being used to develop national policy, industry directions, corporate or SBU strategies. It can accommodate up to 30 participants, originating from different background such as government, corporate, experts, or academics. The macro level strategic roadmapping workshop usually uses a three layers architecture, which consists of business/market, product/services, and capability/resource.

Based on past experiences, it is very easy for the workshop session to overrun. Thus, a workshop agenda should be developed and followed.

Micro level workshop aims to generate firm level strategic roadmap. It is also suitable for developing departmental or product level or even technology level roadmaps.

Micro level workshop is applied at the product or technology level of an individual firm. It is usually designed for a single product or technology. It usually accommodates between 5 and 15 participants, with representatives originating from different departments such as marketing, R&D, human resource, finance, production, and engineering. The duration of the workshop normally takes four working days. Micro level strategic roadmapping workshop usually uses the four-layer architecture, which comprises of market, product, technology/capability, and other resources.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Moving from defensive to offensive

Changing the rules of the game

In the coming election, the rules of the game need to be changed. There is a need to take a major aggressive attack position rather than the traditional defensive position. The major attack here really means ‘to attack’. It does not mean ‘to counter-attack’, neither is means ‘to indirectly attack’. Not to say ‘to ignore or indifferent’, ‘to do nothing’, or ‘to wait and see’.

Being too complacent

Traditionally, for long enough, the rival party has been in an offensive position to attack. While at this side, as usual, has been remained in the defensive position for long. Furthermore, it is not only believed in that there are always advantages to be in the defensive position, it also has an illusion of invulnerability. These are among the weaknesses (see for more illustration of weaknesses). These are the reasons why during the aggressive attack on 308, many seats were lost to the rival party. Before we go deeper to discuss on implementation, let’s look into the real meanings of defensive and offensive in order to recognize the different between them.

What is mean by defensive?

The definitions of defensive

Defensive has several meanings. It is especially being use in the military. In military, defensive means the use of defensive tactics that seek to neutralize the enemy offensive tactics. At the individual level, defensive means a specific action taken by individual soldiers to protect themselves with the use of protective materials such as armor, trenches, bunkers, blade weapons, or by using strategies to prevent the enemy from approaching them to initiate a close combat. At the unit level, defensive means operations of a unit of military forces from a largely defensive area that involve many strategic warfare and tactical movements. The form of defensive measure involves a large scale operation. At the organization level, defensive, at this high level of strategy, means military seeks to integrate all units and resources to defend in a coherent whole. In general, a defensive strategy means the strategy to prevent an aggressive attack, minimize the effect of an attack, and prevent from an enemy to conquer a territory.

Defensive position always has no advantage even in the ancient time

Traditionally, it was generally believed that defensive position always had an advantage over offensive party. It was generally believed defenders had the time and ability to make preparations to protect themselves from the enemy, for example to prepare trenches and fortifications, to lay obstacles such as land mines and tank traps. However, in a larger area, the attacker may have the advantage. They can choose the time and place of the battle. They may concentrate their entire force to attack a small area. Meanwhile the defender is forced to spread their forces over a larger defensive area.

Defensive position has no advantage at all in modern war

In the modern war, the advantages of a defensive position have been gradually reduced. This is because the increased mobility of the modern forces, better communication technology and increased destructiveness of weaponry.

What is mean by offensive?

Offensive on land, sea, and air

A strategic offensive move is an aggressive overall war planning and use of all forces as a whole, combining all resources available for achieving goals. It can be done on land, at sea, or in the air. However, the implementation of such a large scale strategic offensive move is always based on theoretical considerations because it is impractical, uneconomic and difficult to implement.

Land offensive

Regional offensive. A small or regional offensive move is a conduct of combat operations that seek to achieve only some of the objectives of the strategy being pursued in the theatre as a whole. Usually it is carried out by one or more divisions that are having about 10000 to 30000 troops.

Strategic offensive. A strategic offensive is often a big campaign that involves the use of over 100,000 troops. It is the largest military operations that often involved multi-front coordinated operations. The ultimate objective eventually is lead to a complete defeat of the opposition, or damage of a significant enemy forces, or occupation of strategically significant territory.

Theatre offensive. Offensives are mainly conduced as a means in a confrontation between opponents. They can be waged on land, at sea or in the air. A Theatre offensive can be a war and a dominant feature of a national security policy, or one of several components of a war if a country is involved in several Theatres. In general Theatre offensives require over 250,000 troops to be committed to combat operations, including combined planning for different arms and services of the armed forces, such as for example air defence troops integrated into the overall plan for ground operations.

Air offensive

An air offensive is an operation that can describe any number of different types of operations, usually restricted to specific types of aircraft. The offensive conducted with use of fighter aircraft are predominantly concerned with establishing air superiority in a given air space, or over a given territory. A bomber offensive is sometimes also known as the strategic bombing offensive. Use of ground attack aircraft in support of ground offensives can be said to be an air offensive.

Sea offensive

Sea offensives can have wide-ranging implications for national strategies, and require significant logistics commitment to destroy enemy military naval capabilities. It can also be used to interdict enemy shipping. Naval offensives can also be tactical in nature.

Trying new ways of doing things

In the political term, an offensive move is an aggressive action that uses multiple resources to gain voters’ acceptance. The main purpose is to gain support through reducing the support of the rival party. Other terms for offensive are 'attack' or 'invasion'.

The weakness of the rival party is exposed

The weakness of the rival party is now being exposed. Their weakness is they have never been attack from that position before. For decades, the rival party has been in the ‘attack’ position. They has not been in (or not used to) a position of defend. Currently, many issues have been raised, thus, it has created many opportunity for an attack. When they are not ready, the attack will be even more effective. Furthermore, the rival party this time has to defend on behalf of their counterparts.

Justification for an attack

From the past election, experiences told us that adopting the following strategies were not feasible. For example, ‘to do nothing’ is suicide, ‘to be conservative’ can reduce hurt but gain no mileage, ‘to be in defensive’ is useless, and ‘to counterattack’ has only half strength because voters already pre-conceived (has the initial perception) and it is very hard to change their initial mindset or perceptions. The wisest move would be to play a major offensive.


A need to re-structure and build a main ‘attack’ team.


In order to attack, ones need restructuring. Although many have discussed about restructuring and reengineering, such as the one that appeared in entitled “Total Transformation Process”. But, this time is different. This is because at this time there is a good opportunity to attack. Unfortunately, the current organizational structure is too rigid to attack. The current structure is not being design (neither is fit) for an attack. It was previously designed in such a way that it is more suitable for defend. The restructuring will have to totally transform the current structure into an attack position. Using the right structure is important for strategy to be effectively implemented. Strategy and structure has unique relationships. Changes in ones strategy often require changes in ones structure.

To attack ones need an attack structure

Changes in strategy from a defensive position to an offensive position require changes in the way an organization is structured. They are many reasons why this is required. First, structure largely dictates how objectives and strategies will be established. For example, objectives and strategies established under an attack organizational structure are couched in offensive terms. Objectives and strategies are stated largely in terms of defensive position in an organization whose structure is based on defensive groups. The structural formula for developing objectives and strategies can significantly impact all strategy implementation issues. Another major reason why changes in strategy often require changes in structure is that structure dictates how resources will be allocated.

Changes in strategy lead to changes in organizational structure. Structure should be designed to facilitate the strategic pursuit of an organization and, therefore, follow strategy. There is not just one optimal organizational design or structure for a given strategy or type of organization.

Old units are slow, rigid, inflexible, and non-aggressive

Currently, the whole structure (or the army units) is in the defensive position for decades. An analogy for the defensive structure can be best described as the building of the tunnel, the bunker, the walls, the sandbags, etc., which are for the purposes of defend. In political terms, these can be described as providing service, offering education programs, writing supporting letters, giving helps, cares, charity, etc. All these are built for the purpose of defend. They are immobile, rigid, not flexible, non-aggressive, slow and heavy. Both for their units and equipments are the same.

Old units is un-fit for taking an attack position

Based on the analogy above, this army unit is totally un-fit for taking an attack position. To attack, ones need missiles, you don’t have missile. To attack, ones need tanks, your vehicles are not tanks. Furthermore, to attack, ones need aircrafts, your aircrafts are the old and outdated. Not only are they slow, but inaccurate, and less destructive. To attack, ones need mechanized troops, your troops are slow, fat, and dull. To summarized, this army is not trained to carry out an attack. It is trained for defend. And they are also vulnerable for an attack.

Old units are unable to defend

As discussed earlier, defensive has no advantage over offensive strategy. To defend, you need to spread your resources over many aspects of political issues from education, to economics and social in order to improve them. However, the rival party who is taking an offensive position can actually concentrate their entire resources to attack one aspect of those issues that you are weak.

New units are fast, destructive, and effective

Changing the army ability has to change three things: the strategy, the structure, and the units of army. First of all is the strategy. The strategy is to take an offensive rather than a defensive position. For this strategy, taking the current opportunity to attack from a position that has never been done before will be a good move. The structure needs to be converted from the current defensive posture to an attack posture. New units need to be deployed. The new units has to be fast, high impact, has high publicity value. To attack, you need speed, high impact, wide coverage (range), and heavy bombardment (destruction). To attack, you need motorized infantry, artillery, mechanized troop, and tank. The success factor would be: mechanization, airpower, speed, impact (high destruction).

Deploying the right attack strategy is the key 善用攻的策略

The use of ground troops

Attack strategies require intensive efforts if your competitive position is to improve. One of the possible modes is to use ground troop to carry out territory penetration (组织战). The territory penetration strategy seeks to increase voters’ support through greater promotional efforts and campaign from door to door. It can also be done on a small group basis such as small gathering. Using the current advantages of a large network system and full human resources support, this strategy is feasible. However, this strategy can only be effective with increasing the capabilities of the ground troops. If the ground troops are not capable, well trained or effective then this strategy cannot be used as the objectives can hardly be achieved. Meanwhile, training the old units will be difficult and slow. Forming an entire new unit will be fast but required additional resources.

The use of media/virtual troops

The other possible mode of attack is to use media or virtual troops (文宣战). The recent virtual assault troops are the right move but activities should be very well coordinated and the strategy should be in congruence.

The use of survey

The use of public opinion survey is important (科学战). According to Sun Tzu’s Art of War, know the enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat. Survey has to be carried out more effectively by professional body. The results can be obtained on daily or periodically basis. Through survey, the support from the voters, the popularity of the party or candidates, and the possibility of winning over the next election can be analyzed quite accurately.

The use of coordinated strategy

Coordination is the key to success. The use of coordinated strategy is vital (统合战). All strategies need to be well coordinated. Changes to an attack direction do not occur automatically. It has to be directed by the party leadership. On the day-to-day operations, leadership, policies and guidelines are needed to make a strategy in congruence. Leadership provides the right direction, policy refers to specific guidelines, methods, procedures, rules, forms, and administrative practices established to support and encourage work toward stated goals. Policies let both party leadership and members know what is expected of them, thereby increasing the likelihood that strategies will be implemented successfully. Due to space limitation, detail strategies for coordination, ground troop, media troop, etc., will be discussed elsewhere.

Strengthen the logistics and support management 加强后勤与支援管理

Allocating resources

Support the change in strategy with additional resources. Resource allocation is a central management support activity that allows for strategy execution. In organizations resource allocation is often based on political or personal factors. Effective strategic planning enables resources to be allocated according to priorities. In general, the management can manipulate four types of resources that can be used to achieve desired objectives: financial resources, physical resources, human resources, and technological resources.

How to manage conflict

Changes in strategy, structure, and unit can cause conflict within the party. Competition for limited resources often leads to conflict. Conflict will happen when there is a disagreement between two or more parties on one or more issues. However, conflict is unavoidable, and is not always bad. There are many ways we can use to manage and resolve conflict.

For example, avoidance represents such actions as ignoring the problem in hopes that the conflict will resolve by itself or physically separating the conflicting individuals. Defusion is playing down differences between conflicting parties while accentuating similarities and common interests, compromising is neither a clear winner nor loser, resorting to majority rule, appealing to a higher authority, or redesigning present positions. Confrontation is exchanging members of conflicting parties so that each can gain an appreciation of the other’s point of view, and holding a meeting at which conflicting parties present their views and work through their differences.

How to deal with resistance to change

There may be very high resistance to change among the members or groups within the party. Resistance to change can be considered the single greatest threat to successful strategy implementation. It may take on such forms as sabotaging, absenteeism, filing unfounded grievances, and an unwillingness to cooperate. Resistance to change can emerge at any stage or level of the strategy-implementation process.

Adopting change strategy

Despite the possible high resistance to change, three different strategies can be used for implementing change: 1. Force change strategy – involves giving orders and enforcing those orders, 2. Educative change strategy – presents information to people, and 3. Rational or Self-interest change strategy – attempts to convince individuals that the change is to their personal advantage.

Creating a strategy supportive culture

More importantly, a strategy-supportive culture has to be created within the party. In general, less than 10 percent of strategies formulated are successfully implemented. Strategists should strive to preserve, emphasize, and build on aspects of an existing culture that support proposed new strategies.

选战: 如何从被动与防守转向主动与攻击

Successful strategy formulation does not guarantee successful strategy implementation. It is always more difficult to do something (strategy implementation) than to say you are going to do it (strategy formulation). Many issues central to strategy implementation include deriving the right attack strategy, organizing the right organization structure, and form new units. Then, supported by deploying the right strategies such as intensive territory penetration through the use of effective ground troops, virtual and media war, public opinion survey and well coordinated strategic plan. Meanwhile, providing leadership, devising policies, allocating resources, restructuring and reengineering, minimizing resistance to change, reducing conflict, and developing a strategy-supportive culture are among the necessary issues that should not be overlooked when adopting an attack strategy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Industrial DBA

Which DBA you prefer?

If you haven’t chosen a DBA program, congratulation! You still have a chance to make a right choice before too late. You may be someone who have been working in the industry for quite some time and have earned much useful and practical knowledge. Currently, you may be worried about whether or not you can further study up to the doctoral level when you choose to go back to the university to take a DBA. That’s right. The worry that you are currently having is not wrong. This is because most of the DBA program that are currently available will really put you into a nightmare. Not only your valuable industrial experiences are undermined, you will end up with learning something impractical and irrelevant to your businesses. Let me begin by telling you a true story about someone from the academic world.

“I studied mechanical engineering and started my career as a sales engineer for an industrial product. I took my MBA while I was assuming the role as a project leader. Upon completion of my MBA, I moved to a higher managerial position as a marketing manager to oversee the entire marketing, logistics, inventory control, and after sales services of a world leading brand of an industrial product. I applied the knowledge I gained from my MBA because it was very practical and relevant. I earned a higher reputation from the company because I performed well in my job with many new ideas and practical inputs. After that, I took a scholarship to study PhD in Cambridge University, Institute for Manufacturing, Centre for Strategy and Performance. Upon completion of my PhD, I returned home to serve a local university. Since then, I have attended many local academic conferences. Hey! I was very surprised. Where the field of management is heading to? Our academics seem to be writing conference papers for the purpose of achieving more publications, but unfortunately no one is addressing the practical issues that faced by the industries. They seem to address issues of methodology, research design, and analysis methods.”

That is true. It is not a surprise. Most researchers here seem to conduct pure research. Unlike the group of researchers in Cambridge, over there, they conduct applied research. Their researches are mainly conducted in the field. They study real world practices. They solve practical problems. They publish their research outputs in the practicing journals and also in the form of practical workbook (Mill, et al., 1996; Phaal, et al., 2001; Christodoulou, P., 2010). They conduct evening workshops to train managers and executives to use the managerial tools that they have developed from their research. Thus, the different between the pure researchers and the applied researchers is that they disseminate their research outputs to two groups of mutually exclusive audiences.

Very unfortunate, many academics that I met here are in favor of testing new or sophisticated statistical technique rather than investigating or solving current problems facing practitioners. Practical issues are ignored by our academics. They prefer to isolate themselves in the ivory tower to admire their own models, formulas, and equations which can never be understood by most managers.

One of the problems with our academic community is perhaps most of them having no industrial working experiences at all! They have never market a product, prepare a budget, conduct a sales presentation, lead a business project or manage any companies.

I guess the other problem is because our doctoral program put too much emphasis on methodology, particularly statistical technique such as multivariate methods. Our doctoral students have no idea that they are a lot of other research methodologies which are available, such as case study, action research, ethnography, and even experiments. These methods are equally valid, reliable and useful. More importantly, they are all very mature and widely accepted.

The researchers in Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing have been using case-based approach, action research and process approach quite a bit. The institute is regarded as one of the highly relevant research institute and it is also ranked as a 5 star research centre.

The case-based methods have been described in a quite detail way by many. However, there is another method which I would like to introduce to many local researchers is structured action research. Although I have talked quite a great deal about it before in a few of my previous articles (please see Yee, C.L. 2009a; Yee, C.L. 2009b; Yee, C.L. 2009c; Yee, C.L. 2009d; Yee, C.L. 2009e; Yee, C.L. 2009f), I would like to emphasize here that it is actually a methodology that can bridge the gap between academics and practitioners. By adopting this methodology, a researcher is actually goes all out to help firms to solve their problems. The researcher is acting like a consultant.

Some of our academics maybe worried that this work is not scientific. The answer is not. In fact, the PhD candidate will have to write their thesis according to the requirement of PhD. That is to say, they still have to write a proper research design and methodology (in this case is structured action research). They have to justify their choice of research method and discuss the research philosophy or theoretical foundation of the qualitative research design in quite detail. Many quantitative examiners may not agree with the qualitative paradigm. However, again, I would like to emphasize here that many of the quantitative researchers are bias. They use quantitative criteria to access a PhD candidate who adopted a qualitative study. Their work is not professional and fair (see Yee (2011) for more arguments and debates about the paradigm war between quantitative and qualitative researchers).

Doctoral students should seriously ensure that their research is industrially relevant. Thus, the use of structured action research method is especially useful for DBA program. This is because a DBA program is normally designed for business executives. For these business people, they won’t be able to understand those heavy methodologies which are mostly quantitative in nature. Honestly speaking, to them, these methods are not practical at all. However, structured action research will be different. They can apply their experiences from the industries through using action research to prove the relevancy, practicality, and generalizability of their experiences.

When I said ‘experiences’, it doesn’t mean that it is always existed in the form of tacit knowledge. In action research, experiences of one can be transformed into codified knowledge such as in the form of tools, techniques, step-by-step processes, practical guidelines, etc. You may be wondering whether these forms of knowledge are acceptable as a form of knowledge contribution in a doctoral research. The answer is yes. Many work that have been done in Cambridge’s Institute for manufacturing are of these forms. Please see my article for detail illustration and argument of those codified knowledge as an acceptable mode of knowledge (Yee, 2011). Then, a DBA candidate can conduct a research by applying this tool in the real business world to investigate and prove its feasibility, usability, and utility. The study can also be extended to other context in order to generalize the findings. Again, the generalization here I mean is not statistical generalization but is analytical generalization (see Yin, 1984 for the argument of case study method and generalization)

In this sense, the practicing community will be benefited from academic research and at the same time the current body of knowledge will be advanced with additional practical knowledge. Practitioners should be encouraged to enroll DBA programs that emphasize the use of practical approach such as structured action research and conduct applied research.

In fact, many of the successful practitioners when they are entering DBA or PhD programs, they found it very difficult to adapt themselves into the program. Most of them are having valuable corporate experiences which are a much needed resources, but their talents and experiences have been wasted.

Worst still, they have to force themselves to learn many sophisticated statistical methods and mathematical modeling techniques. When they return back to the industries later on after they have completed their study, they would not be able to use them or share their doctoral experiences and learning with their peers. This is mainly because no one there in the field will understand their formulas.

Vice versa, if these business executives are adopted the structure action research method, not only they can conduct a piece of good research in the academic world, but they can also help the practicing world. Upon completion of their DBA, they can use the knowledge and experiences they earned when they returned back to their work and share with their peers more easily. The whole training of the DBA program can actually upgrade or enhance their capability and skill to perform even better in the industries. This is due to the transfer of knowledge is made easy when it is in the form of codified knowledge. If more and more researches are done in this sense, they would not only improve practices in the industries but more new useful knowledge would be added to the current body of knowledge.

My objective to write this is not to undermine all research that is currently being produced. But I believe that the field of management would be made more relevant with more research that can help the industries. I also understood that many of the world leading journals in management are accepting only quantitative papers. However, I seriously doubt that whether these papers are read or even understood by practitioners. We should not just produce words for the consumption of only the academic community. Because if you do so, the academic community will leave in an isolated world and the words will be circulated within a closed-loop circle.

Many PhD students seem to develop/test models which are seldom used by the industries. We have been trying to mimic the hard sciences methodology, but forgetting that much of the hard sciences research are supported by experiments and we do not. Many researches in the field of management treat the development of mathematical models as an end by itself. But, hard sciences research treat mathematical models just the means to an end. The ultimate end is actually to be able to conduct an experiment in the real world to prove your theory which eventually led to the development of practical tools, machines, products or artifacts that are physically existed in the real world.

Finally, it is hoped that our DBA or even PhD program can actually look into this issue seriously. Making the field more relevant needs a lot of efforts from all of us. If we want to improve our world ranking to become a world class university, this is one of the important things that should not be neglected.

The problem with the over methodological focus of our doctoral program has its root. One of the academics (who has supervised many PhD students) I met recently told me that he can only supervise students that are using SPSS. He doesn’t know any other methods than SPSS. When I asked him why, he replied that this is because when he took his PhD locally, his supervisor only knows SPSS. Thus, that was the only method he learned from his supervisor and also the only method he can teach his students now. Having heard about this story, I told myself privately that next time your students will only supervise doctoral candidates that use SPSS because you teach them SPSS only. This kind of in-breeding process will continue from generation to generation in our academic community and it can never be corrected or improved if we never go beyond our comfort zone.

No wonder our research method classes are so biased towards the use of SPSS or quantitative methods. Most top business school has already, to some extent, divided the course into qualitative and quantitative modules. Research students at the graduate level have to take both of them. This is to ensure that they are exposed to both paradigm systems. But, unfortunately in our case, we may not ready yet for this changes. I rather think that, one day our research method course will be changed to SPSS course to reflect the actual situation.

If we let the problem of over emphasize on methodology to happen continuously, our academic community will be going farther and farther away from the practicing world. Our mission to become a world leading institution or top business school can hardly be achieved. Although more and more papers we add to the cited journals, these are actually representing more and more formulas and equations we produced. These kinds of knowledge that we added, will confuse more and more managers in the practicing world. At the end, we will never be able to transform ourselves into a world class university like Cambridge.

The points that I have made so far are not baseless. As a matter of fact, many articles that appeared in the recent Harvard Business Review encouraged CEO to consider applying research methods in their businesses (Anderson and Simester, 2011; Davenport, 2009). Many research methods can be used in a very practical sense. But our academics must dare enough to go beyond the traditional academic boundary to meet people from the industries and to find out what they want and what their problems are. In fact many articles from world leading journals recently encouraged researchers to try to bridge the gap between theory and practice (Brennan, 2008; Cummings, 2007; Gerardo and Bonardi, 2011; Miller and Tsang, 2010; Reed, 2009;). If we are still sleeping in the ivory tower, we will be left behind.

DBA candidates who want to pursue their research should try to think of a more practical approach such as structured action research. Not only this can help to improve the practicing world but also improve the advancement of knowledge.


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Dr Yee Choy Leong

Working Towards World Class University

A case of adopting qualitative or quantitative approach in research

Sunday, October 2, 2011










Fo Ye Miao: Kuan Yin at Serdang new village

Fo Ye Miao: Kuan Yin at Serdang new village
Hui Kui Comminuty Education Program