July, 2010 | Mays Impacts - Part 2

Graduation day. I had rehearsed, but I was still a little nervous about carrying the top-heavy gonfalon in front of thousands of people. At the same time, I was full of confidence — out of all the graduates of Mays this year, I had been chosen for this task. I was humbled and honored. When I was notified of the selection, I could think of so many peers that would be more deserving. But, I would fulfill the responsibility with honor and class. As I was walking behind all of the stage party, representing Mays Business School, I thought to myself, “How did I get here?”

• • • • •

Move-in day, August of 2005. Hot is an understatement when used to describe College Station in August, but that didn’t stop thousands of young Aggies and parents from lugging mini-fridges and futons up three flights of stairs in the mid-day sun. I remember walking into my dorm, McInnis Hall, and the first words ever spoken in my room. “Looks just the same as when I lived here 35 years ago!” Thanks Dad. I chose my bed, finished unloading the car, and my parents were on their way. And so, the journey had begun.

“I certainly didn’t make it to graduation alone. None of us did.”

It took me about a semester to get acclimated to this new lifestyle, that of a college student. When the spring semester arrived, I was ready to get involved. This would be the most important decision I made in my college career. I joined The Big Event committee as a staff assistant, and I was admitted into One Army: Texas Aggie Men United.

Through One Army, my eyes were opened to the true responsibility of a leader: to serve. It didn’t take long to realize that being a leader meant making sacrifices and putting others’ needs first. One of my most vivid memories is of holding the service chair position. We created a new philanthropy event to benefit Still Creek Ranch. Coincidentally, this came at one of the busiest times in my academic career, PPA recruiting. Three days away from the event, so much was still up in the air. It was about 3:00 a.m. and I was in my room, reviewing the list of things still to be done, and I thought, “There’s no way; we are never going to make it…”

I was wrong. In the days that followed, I saw our organization work together like never before. The event was a huge success. When we delivered the check to Still Creek Ranch, we were reminded of the reason for our efforts. There are about 40 reasons—the children living at the facility. The men in One Army understand service and they helped me understand, too. Thanks guys. I’m proud to call you brothers.

• • • • •

It was senior year and I was in Accounting 407 (Auditing) with Dr. Mike Shaub. Even though I was far from one of his best students, he made an investment in my life that has changed me forever. For over a year, we have met for coffee about once a week. If you know Dr. Shaub, I need not explain his ability to impact people through his grace and wisdom, but for those that don’t know him, I will share a little of my experience. There were days that I overslept, there were days that I hardly slept and couldn’t organize my thoughts, but one thing was constant: Dr. Shaub greeted me with a smile and a welcoming handshake. We talked about so many things. Primarily, he helped me grow in my faith, not only by talking with me, but also by living every day by his faith in God. Dr. Shaub, you will never really know how much you have changed my life. Thank you, and I look forward to continuing our friendship for years to come.

I have so many experiences and stories, but these are a few that I cherish. Clearly, the most important lessons I learned in college were outside the classroom. Make no mistake, doing well in the classroom and learning how to learn is one reason we come to college. Another reason is to develop as people that embody the Aggie core values and leave here ready to live with integrity and represent our alma mater with dignity. Never forget that.

• • • • •

As I walked across the stage carrying the gonfalon, I thought about all of the people that had helped me along the way. I certainly didn’t make it to graduation alone. None of us did. I thought about the journey ahead: soon I would be leaving for New York City to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers in the audit practice. I was filled with joy, confidence, and excitement. My future was unknown. One thing I did know, I would miss Texas A&M, Mays Business School and all of the student organizations, but I would always carry with me the lessons that I have learned: Live a life of service and always invest in the lives of other people; serve God, love people, and the insignificant things in life, which is everything else, will remain as unimportant as they should.

Gig “em,
Taylor W. Bradshaw “09

A note about the Mays Business School gonfalon: The golden knot symbolizes unity and coordination of the disciplines of business administration. Surrounding the golden knot, a field of purple represents the rank of authority. The foundation of lozenges under the triangle illustrates the flow of order.

Categories: Perspectives

A football team with a phenomenal scoring offense can win plenty of games, even with a poor defense. Similarly, a company that has a great product but poor service may perform very well in certain markets, depending on the competition.

Michael Hitt

All firms possess some capabilities that represent strengths and others that represent weaknesses. However, the majority of research focuses only on building strengths, rather than understanding how strengths and weaknesses interact. New research on competitive advantage and capability sets from David Sirmon and Michael Hitt suggests that weaknesses may be leveraged instead of eradicated, as it’s not necessarily the firms with the lowest amount of weakness that will perform best—at least, in the short term.

Sirmon, assistant professor of management and W. Cater ’77 Faculty Research Fellow; Hitt, A&M Distinguished Professor and Joe B. Foster “56 Chair in Business Leadership; and colleagues investigated how durable competitive advantage is. Their findings suggest that as rivals improve areas of weakness, any one firm’s strengths become vulnerable, leading to modifications in strategic capabilities.

As expected, they found that in low strength/high weakness firms, performance suffered. In low strength/low weakness firms, performance was average. The surprising finding was that in firms characterized by high strength/low weakness, performance is high, but in high strength/high weakness firms, performance can be higher.

David Sirmon

The research indicates that if a high strength/high weakness firm is leveraging one area (such as product development) to boost another area (such as marketing), the strategy may be rewarded with stellar success—or failure. It’s a risky combination, but can lead to reward, if it yields a competitive advantage. Sirmon says that such firms’ outcomes are more volatile than firms with other strength/weakness sets.

“They can, for a time, achieve high performance but that is not always going to last. It depends on how they invest to maintain strengths and mitigate weaknesses,” he says.

The high strength/high weakness capability set is frequently seen in new or newly restructured businesses, where there aren’t enough resources to reduce weaknesses. If weaknesses can be isolated from strengths, this combination can work, but if these capabilities are interdependent, the weaknesses can pull down the strengths.

It all comes down to the competitive marketplace. Strength and weakness sets change significantly over time in competitive markets as firms adjust their strategies to compete. If a high strength/high weakness firm had been outperforming the competition in price, but not service, it presents an opportunity for another firm to offer both price and service, thus eliminating the first firm’s competitive advantage. In a shifting marketplace, it is challenging for a high strength/high weakness firm to sustain a competitive advantage.

“Human nature makes us often underestimate weaknesses and overestimate strengths,” says assistant professor of management David Sirmon.

Over time, high strength/high weakness firms will likely invest assets to bring their capabilities to parity, suggests Sirmon. However, if there is no direct competitor to threaten their marketplace advantage by attacking that weakness, firms have no incentive to address it. In some situations, then, it makes sense to ignore weaknesses, as it might be costly to improve.

Take away for managers: take a hard look at the company’s capability portfolio to create an effective strategy. “Human nature makes us often underestimate weaknesses and overestimate strengths,” says Sirmon. But, he warns, if you ignore weaknesses, you’re missing out on opportunity to improve the overall strategy and long-term performance of your business. “We see that weaknesses matter. They have a direct effect that can hurt the firm. They also interact with strengths to influence the firm’s performance.”

For more information

For further information, contact David Sirmon or Michael Hitt. “Capability strengths and weaknesses in dynamic markets: Investigating the bases of temporary competitive advantage” is forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal, written by David Sirmon, Michael Hitt, J-L Arregle and J.T. Campbell.

Categories: Research Notes

How many lives—and how much money—could be saved if all of a patient’s health care information, including test results, orders, medications, health histories, and insurance information, was stored in one record, easily accessible by health care professionals anywhere?

Arun Sen

This is the future President Obama envisions for health care in the United States, but it is dependent on the sharpest minds in management of information systems and IT. Through a $5.2 million grant from the federal government, Arun Sen, professor of information and operations management at Mays, and two A&M colleagues will develop one of four regional extension centers for health care IT for the state of Texas, creating a resource for doctors as patient health care records become digitized in compliance with goals set by the Obama administration for a paperless health care system.

Sen says that soon health care information will be available via an electronic pipeline that will move patient records from local to state to national levels. The National Health Information Network is already under development. Sen and A&M colleagues Robert Morrow of Rural and Community Health Institute (RCHI) and Amarnath Banerjee of Look College of Engineering at A&M are creating the system through which Texas health care providers will upload patient information to this national system. The team of researchers from A&M will be on the leading edge of designing an electronic health record (EHR) system to be used for the state.

These three researchers will also establish the CentrEast Regional Extension Center (centreastrec.org) for HealthCare IT and a health information exchange (HIE)—a hub for providers to coordinate with the national system.

“This is a very ambitious project,” Sen says.


On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). The HITECH Act includes provisions to promote “meaningful use” of health information technology to improve the quality and value of American healthcare.

The objective of the HITECH Act is to implement a nationwide health information technology (health IT) infrastructure that allows for the use and exchange of electronic health information in electronic format. In 2015, providers are expected to have adopted and be actively utilizing an EHR in compliance with the “meaningful use” definition or they will be subject to financial penalties under Medicare (per Sections 4101(b) and 4102(b) of ARRA).

Streamlining patient records by digitizing and sharing them is still optional for health care providers. However, by 2015, providers must participate in the national network, or risk nonpayment or partial payment from Medicare and Medicaid. Providers seeking to use EHRs face a variety of challenges, such as assessing needs, selecting and negotiating with a system vendor or reseller, implementing project management, and instituting workflow changes to improve clinical performance and ultimately, outcomes. Past experience has shown that local technical assistance can result in effective implementation of EHRs.

There will be 60 such centers in the U.S. Sen’s work will involve researching how patient information is currently handled and developing a more efficient process as providers modernize their record systems. The center will also connect providers with vendors who specialize in digitizing records, and will serve as a data repository for all area providers.

The federal funding for the center will last for four years, with the bulk of the money provided in the first two years. By years three and four, Sen says the center should be a self-sufficient business, as doctors will pay for the services and resources provided. Sen predicts there will be a large demand from area providers as the center advances healthcare in the region. The ultimate measure of a the center’s effectiveness will be whether it has assisted providers in becoming meaningful users of certified EHR technology.

Categories: Faculty, Texas A&M