First Half of Semester
Tuesday and Thursday, 5:00 – 6:30
William A. Sherden
Graduate School of International Economics and Finance
Note: SBL stands for Pankaj Ghemawat, Strategy and the Business Landscape (Addison-Wesley,
Thurs. 8/30 Introduction and administration
Thurs. 9/6 The Strategy Development Process
Thurs. 9/13 Assessing Competitive Position, the Internal Perspective
Mon. 9/17 Assessing Competitive Position, the External Perspective
Thurs. 9/20 “Coke vs. Pepsi” (SBL, case 3)
Mon. 9/24 “Crown Cork & Seal” (SBL, case 4)
Mon. 10/1 Competitive Strategies and Business Designs
Thurs. 10/4 “Adolph Coors” (SBL, case 2)
Mon. 10/8 “Nucor” (SBL, case 10)
Thurs. 10/11 “Wal-Mart Stores” (SBL, case 5)
Mon. 10/15 “Intel Corporation” (SBL, case 1)
Thurs. 10/18 “Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon” (SBL, case 9)
Fri. 10/19 Pick up exam case in Sachar 210, 12:00-4:00pm
Mon. 10/22 Final exam (in class time)
Thurs. 10/25 Closing discussion
Required book (available in the bookstore)
Pankaj Ghemawat, Strategy and the Business Landscape (Addison-Wesley, 1999).
Three Harvard Business Review articles (available in the bookstore)
Other articles handed out in class
Recommended book (available in the bookstore)
Ronald J. Ebert and Ricky W. Griffin, Business Essentials, 3rd Edition (Englewood Cliffs,
NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999).
Course objectives The performance of any firm -- international or domestic --
depends critically on the design and implementation of its competitive strategy. This
strategy must take account of the industry environment facing the firm, the position and
likely strategies of the firm's rivals, and the firm's own capabilities and goals. This course
provides an intensive survey of the most important techniques and frameworks in the
field of business strategy. We will discuss ideas from the theoretical, empirical, and
normative research on the topic, and apply these ideas to managerial decisions using case
Course content This course deals with issues of general management, not with
technical economics or finance. Among the topics covered are the following:
• Analyzing industry structure and dynamics
• Analyzing competitors
• Designing functional, business-unit, and corporate
• Exploiting firm capabilities and resources
• Building and sustaining competitive advantage
Course requirements: The workload will be heavy. Required readings will consist of
Harvard Business School cases and selected articles and chapters, all of which will be
available in the course packet. Chapters from Ebert and Griffin, Business Essentials will
be recommended for students who lack background in business studies; this textbook will
be available in the bookstore. Students will be expected to read and analyze a case for
most classes and to participate actively in class discussions. Half the grade will be based
on contributions to class discussions. The other half will be based on a final exam, which
will consist of written analysis of a case.
Relationship to other courses: There are no prerequisites for this course, but it is
assumed that students have a background in microeconomics and have the ability to
analyze financial statements. The course is strongly recommended for all students
concentrating in International Business and is a core course for the MBA degree. IEF
246f (Alliance Strategy) is a fitting follow-up to this course, as it covers the use of
alliances in competitive strategy. This course also complements other international
business courses, such as IEF 230a (Managing International Business), IEF 237b
(Organizational Behavior), IEF 225b (Global Marketing Strategy), and IEF 236f
Teaching method: This is primarily a case-based course that depends on active
participation as a vehicle for learning and for showing mastery of the material. There are
four lecture classes, which will also require active participation.
Course Requirements and Administration
Materials: The course will use Harvard Business School case studies and selected
articles and chapters. This syllabus lists the key readings and cases for each class as well
as detailed study assignments. You should use these to guide your reading and
All of the required cases and a few readings are in the textbook Pankaj Ghemawat,
Strategy and the Business Landscape (Addison-Wesley, 1999). Most of the readings are
contained in a separate packet available for purchase at the bookstore. The bookstore
will also carry Ronald J. Ebert and Ricky W. Griffin, Business Essentials, 3rd Edition
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999), which is recommended reading for anyone
without a business education background.
The Case Method: Because this course is based on the case method of learning, class
participation by all students is critical. This method of learning is based on three
premises. First, we can all learn a great deal from each other's points of view and
experience. Second, we often learn more by questioning each other and debating issues
than by listening passively or by reading alone. Third, there is no "one best way" to
manage complex business problems; rather, we must search for alternatives and weigh
In order for this method to work, we must all be prepared to go beyond case facts in the
discussion. In other words, we must assume that everyone has prepared the case and
readings thoroughly--there is simply no time to explain or reiterate case facts. Our
discussions ought to be analytical, not descriptive. This does not mean that we will ignore
the facts; to the contrary, students should strive to back up their arguments with the facts
of the case.
In sum, I will expect three P's from students in every class:
• Presence--attendance is required.
• Preparation--readings and assignments are to be
done on time.
• Participation--share your views and questions in
If you cannot make it to class or are unprepared for the discussion on any day, please let
me know before that particular class.
Grading Students will be graded on a combination of the following:
• Team presentations and individual contributions
to class discussions (50%). I will keep a record of
class performance for each team and student and
determine a grade based on the frequency and
quality of in-class comments.
• A written final exam (50%). This will consist of
analysis of a case. You will pick up the case at
Sachar 210 on Monday October 22, between 12
noon and 4pm. (If for any reason you can't do this,
be sure to talk to me ahead of time!) The exam itself
will take place during normal class hours on
Tuesday, October 23. You will then be asked one
or more questions about the issues in the case,
which should be answered in writing during the 75-
minute exam period. This will be an open-book
exam. (Note that there is one more class session
after the exam -- on October 25th.)
Appointments: I will be available for individual student meetings after each class. If
you need to speak to me, call me at (617) 421 – 0299. If you do not reach me, please
leave me a voice mail message indicating a time and number to call you back.
If you have a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and wish to
have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me
immediately at the start of the course.
The Strategy Development Process
• SBL pp. 1-18.
• Michael Porter, “What Is Strategy.”
• William Sherden, Market Ownership, pp. 37 –40.
• Peter Drucker, Management, Chapter 7.
• Theodore Levitt, The Marketing Imagination, Chapter 8.
BE, 1-10 and 290-306.
1. Be prepared to discuss the meaning of “competitive strategy,” as suggested by the
Assessing Competitive Position, the Internal Perspective
• Michael Porter, Competitive Advantage, Chapter 2.
• Prahalad & Hamel, “The Core Competence of the Corporation.”
• James Womack, The Machine that Changed the World, Chapter 3 and pp. 93-98.
1. Analyze and critique each tool/concept. Can you identify limitations and/or missing
Assessing Competitive Position, the External Perspective
• SBL pp. 19 –42.
• Adrian Slywotzky, Profit Patterns, pp. 327-333 and 375-381.
• Adrian Slywotzky, Value Migration, Chapter 4.
• Michael Porter, Competitive Strategy, pp. 152-155.
• Michael Porter, Competitive Advantage, pp. 1- 11.
1. Analyze and critique each tool/concept. Can you identify limitations and/or missing
2. Critique Porter’s “strategy space.”
“Cola Wars Continued: Coke vs. Pepsi in the 1990s”
• SBL, case 3.
1. Why is the soft drink industry so profitable?
2. Why do concentrate producers want to integrate vertically into bottling?
3. How has the rivalry between Coke and Pepsi affected the industry's profitability?
“Crown Cork & Seal in 1989”
• SBL, Case 4.
1. What were the most important competitive challenges facing the companies
competing in Crown's industry in the decades up to 1989?
2. Why did Crown perform so well during Connelly's tenure (1957-1989)?
3. What should Avery do now to respond to emerging threats and opportunities in
the industry, and why? Please begin by analyzing the advantages and
disadvantages of more than one option facing Avery, and then choose among
these options, giving reasons for your preference.
Competitive Strategies and Business Designs
• SBL pp. 49-60, exhibit on pp. 129.
• Michael Porter, Competitive Advantage, pp. 11-30.
• Adrian Slywotzky, Profit Patterns, Chapter 11.
• Adrian Slywotzky, Value Migration, Chapter 2 and 14.
• William Sherden, Market Ownership, Chapter 3.
1. Compare and contrast the strategies in the Porter’s “What Is Strategy?
2. Be prepared to critique the various business designs in Porter’s article.
“Adolph Coors in the Brewing Industry”
• SBL Case 2.
1. Coors was successful throughout the mid-1970s. What was its strategy
2. How did Coors's operating performance change relative to its competitors
between 1977 and 1985? Why?
3. What, if anything, might Coors have done differently to avoid its decline?
“Nucor at a Crossroads”
SBL, Case 10.
1. Why has Nucor performed so well in the past?
2. How attractive do the economics of thin-slab casting look?
3. Is thin-slab casting likely to afford Nucor a sustainable competitive advantage in flat-
4. How should Nucor think about the uncertainties surrounding thin-slab casting? What
should it do?
“Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.”
• SBL, Case 5.
1. What are Wal-Mart’s sources of competitive advantage in discount retailing?
How did Wal-Mart create these advantages?
2. How sustainable is Wal-Mart’s position in discount retailing? What risks does the
3. How effective is Wal-Mart’s diversification into the food industry likely to be?
“Intel Corporation: 1968-1997”
• SBL, Case 1.
1. What was Intel’s strategy in DRAMs? What accounts for Intel’s dramatic decline in
market share in the DRAM market between 1974-1984? To what extent was Intel’s
failure a result of its strategy?
2. What strategy did Intel use to gain a competitive advantage in microprocessors?
What threats has Intel faced in sustaining its competitive advantage in
microprocessors and what strategies has it used to deal with each? Why has Intel
been able to sustain its advantage in microprocessors, but not in DRAMs?
3. Assess the future prospects of Intel. What is the biggest threat it faces? Whom
should it be most worried about? Put yourself in the position of Intel senior
management and craft a strategy to deal with these threats.
“Leadership Online: Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon.com”
• SBL, Case 9.
• Michael Porter, Strategy and the Internet.
1. Compare traditional book selling with Internet book selling. If you can, pay a visit
to the state-of-the-art Barnes & Noble outlet on Route 3 near the Burlington Mall,
and also visit both www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.
2. Will traditional concepts of business analysis (e.g. barriers to entry, economies of
scale, resources) apply in the world of Internet commerce? If yes, show how they
apply to Amazon.com. If no, show why they don't apply.
3. Who will be the online leader in books? Why?
4. Define the distinguishing features and the implications for strategy of the popular
notion of "Internet Time."
Pick Up Exam Case
• Pick up exam case in Sachar 210, between 12 noon and 4:00 PM. If for any
reason you cannot come during this time, talk to me beforehand. You will
need this case in order to do take the exam the following day. The exam itself
is open-book; be sure to bring the case itself to the exam.
Final exam (in normal class time)
• Review all readings, cases, and class notes.
1. Imagine that you were hired as a consultant to give an executive education
seminar at a large, diversified U.S.-based firm to train new staff in the company’s
Strategic Planning Department. What key lessons will you teach them? (Note
that they do not have the patience or the inclination to sit through any lectures
about "academic" frameworks and theories. You need to interpret and synthesize
these concepts for them and present them with practical conclusions, not "the
literature." They also value real-world examples to illustrate your lessons.
Note: Even though this class is after the final exam, you are required to attend. This is
our concluding class discussion.
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International Strategy and Management
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This syllabus was last updated on: August 1, 2001by William A. Sherden.