Portland State University
BA 495 – Business Strategy and Policy
Section 06, Winter 2003
Friday (1:00 – 4:50 PM) Room SBA 170
Instructor: Stephen Schultz
Telephone: 503.245.0941 (home) 503.329.6456 (cell)
Office Hours: By appointment
I. Course Objectives
Business Strategy and Policy deals with the organization, management, and strategic positioning of
the firm so as to gain long-term competitive advantage. In this course, you will develop your skills at:
• understanding how firms gain and sustain competitive advantage
• analyzing strategic business situations and formulating strategy
• using tools and concepts developed in functional area courses
• implementing strategy and organizing the firm for strategic success
To accomplish these objectives, this course introduces and employs various analytical frameworks
that help us to identify the sources of competitive advantage from both an industry and firm
perspective. By focusing on what makes some competitive strategies strong and viable, while others
remain weak and vulnerable, you shall develop the ability to consider the impact of change and other
important environmental forces on the opportunities for establishing and sustaining competitive
II. Course Policies
You are required to:
• Attend class and contribute constructively to class discussions.
• Submit assignments on time. No make-ups will be allowed for written assignments.
• Maintain high standards of academic honesty.
III. The Relationship of Business Strategy to Other Business Administration Courses
Up until this time, most of your business education has emphasized a specialized, functional
perspective of business situations. In accounting, you have concentrated on how to identify and
produce the information necessary to effectively manage and guide organizations. In finance, you
have been concerned with understanding how capital markets work and, in turn, affect the financing
of a company’s on-going operations. In marketing, the focus has been on how to analyze, shape, and
address the needs of consumers as well as how to manage a company’s marketing efforts. In
operations management, you have learned about how to organize the production activities of a firm
so it is able to produce quality goods and services at an attractive price. Finally, courses on the
management of human resources have been concerned with the effective development and
management of a company’s human assets. All of these functional disciplines play a critical role in
the success of any company, but how do they fit together?
In this course, we integrate these perspectives together by taking a different perspective, that of the
general manager. General managers are responsible for setting the goals, objectives, and strategies of
the organizations they lead as well as the implementation and execution of such plans. To do this, the
general manager must be capable of understanding and utilizing the knowledge from each of the
organization’s functional areas to develop a cohesive and effective competitive strategy. In addition,
the general manager must be able to analyze competitive situations within industries in order to
understand the sources of the firm's competitive advantage.
IV. Techniques for Learning Strategic Management
To accomplish these objectives, we use a variety of learning techniques: lectures, outside assignments,
readings, written reports, presentations, and, most importantly, class discussion of case studies.
Strategic thinking and analysis is best learned through practice. The cases we will study are about real-
world business situations; they are an opportunity to apply the concepts we discuss in class as well as
further develop our ability to think about business strategy. We will cover four cases in this course—
you will be expected to perform analysis on all four, but can choose to submit only three cases.
How much you get out of a case depends on your preparation and active participation. Each of us must
be fully prepared for each class, a. All of us are expected to effectively participate in each case
discussion - comment, question, and analyze. Class participation provides us with an opportunity to
develop our communication skills - in presenting a point of view and in listening. In many ways, these
skills are as valuable as the "analytical frameworks" to be discussed during the course.
Discussing cases and preparing analyses in small groups outside of class helps to deepen your
knowledge about strategy. Thus, group work will be essential for weekly case preparation as well as
the group assignments. Developing effective group skills is a critical part of the learning process. It is a
good idea to have students with different areas of expertise in the group, to facilitate the exchange of a
variety of managerial viewpoints and help guard against "groupthink". You are free to fully analyze
each case as a group, but are required to write the analysis up individually.
In addition, you will be assigned to a group consisting of 4-5 students to choose, research & analyze a
company. You will be asked to capture your full analysis in written form as well as present your
findings to the class.
V. Course Requirements and Grading
Your course grade is a function of the following requirements:
Assignment Points Weight
A. Individual Contribution
Attendance and participation (8 classes) 80 16%
Current events 40 8%
Individual written case analyses (3 cases, 50 pts. each) 150 30%
B. Group Work
Company profile 60 12%
Presentation 60 12%
C. Final Exam
Case Analysis 100 20%
Bonus for attending every class on time for full period 10 2%
Total points possible 500 100%
A. Individual Contribution – 270 points (54% of total grade)
As stated above, active problem solving in group situations is critical to learning how to think
strategically, and the most important group interaction occurs during our discussions in class. In this
course, we learn from each other. Thus, we are each responsible for making contributions to the
class’s effort to analyze a case and gain a critical perspective on the issues confronting the company
To encourage you to attend class, 18% of your overall grade is based on your ability to simply show
up in class on-time and participate in class discussions. Don’t confuse attendance with participation!
How is your participation evaluated? I will be evaluating your participation for all ten class
meetings. After each class session, I will make one of the following assessments regarding your
“+” (10 pts) means you asked questions and provided insightful analysis that added significant value
to the class discussion.
“ ”(8 pts) means you were prepared for class as evidenced by your ability to fill in facts and argue
for a course of action.
“-“ (3 pts) means that you never said anything or were obviously not prepared when called upon.
“a” (0 pts) means that you were absent without providing me with an excuse. This is the worst case
“ex” (up to 8 pts) means excused absence. You will be required to notify me prior to the class session
to avoid being considered “a” (see above). We will work together to determine how to catch up with
In short, I look for the consistent ability to articulate complex ideas and opinions while conducting
oneself in a civil manner. Note: we all have the responsibility to create an environment where each
member of the class feels comfortable offering his or her opinion. Thus, knowing how to listen is
also important. I periodically (approximately every two to three weeks) will be available to tell you
how I think you are doing in this regard and let you know what you might do to improve your
efforts. Should you have any questions or comments about how things are going in class, email is the
best way to consistently reach me regarding grading and attendance.
Each student will be responsible for bringing to class a current business situation that he/she has
captured from recent business news. My expectation is that you go beyond simply quoting a single
article. Instead, I would like you to use a variety of sources to determine the business strategies and
policies of the companies involved to determine how this event occurred. It would also be helpful to
evaluate and discuss how this event could have been avoided or better managed, if applicable. You
will be expected to elicit comments and generate discussion on your chosen topic. Successful class
leadership and careful preparation can lead to 40 points. Average preparation and limited class
interactions will result in 10-30 points. I will pass around a sign up sheet so that you can choose which
date you wish to present.
During the semester you will write three analyses of a short length (maximum of four double-spaced
pages plus exhibits/charts). You may choose which three of the four cases assigned in class that you
will write up for a grade. Each is worth 50 points. Specific information for these assignments will be
provided during the term. You may work in groups for the purpose of business case analysis, but I
expect each member to complete his/her own paper. All write-ups must be submitted at the
beginning of the class period.
B. Group Work – 120 points (24% of total grade)
I encourage you to meet outside of class to exchange ideas presented during class and those found in
your text. You will also find that analyzing business cases in a group enables you to gain a deeper
understanding of the business situation. In addition, I will assign groups of four or five individuals
for the company profile assignment briefly described below.
Select a company that has been publicly traded for at least three years. You will focus on this compa-
ny for both a written assignment and a presentation. Your group will be asked to choose a company
to focus on toward the beginning of the course. Detailed information regarding this assignment will
be distributed at that time.
Your group will also be asked to give a short presentation of your findings. The length of the
presentation should be no more than 20 minutes. Each group must generate discussion questions for
the class. A copy of your presentation slides should be given to me prior to the presentation in
C. Final Exam – 100 points (20% of total grade)
This class will meet for a final exam involving a written case analysis. You can prepare for this exam
by increasing your familiarity with the analysis tools presented in class. You will be allowed to use
your class notes and the text during this exam.
D. Final Grading Scale
Course Points Final Grade Course Points Final Grade
450-485 A 486 + A+
400-435 B 436-449 B+
350-385 C 386-399 C+
Less than 299 F
Policy on “Free-Riding”
A significant portion of the workload in this course involves group assignments. In order for you to
benefit from these assignments you need to be actively involved in their completion. Failure to
actively participate in the completion of these assignments cheats both you and your other team
members. Thus, there is little tolerance for free-riding off of the efforts of others in this course.
However, it is primarily your responsibility to eliminate free riding. If you feel that there is a problem
in your group, you should first try and solve the problem within the group. However, if the problem
cannot be resolved in this manner then please discuss the matter with me. I want, and need, to be
made aware of such problems in a timely manner, if they exist, so that corrective action can be taken.
VI. Bibliography of Text and Cases
Textbook: Hunger, J. David and Wheelen, Thomas L., Essentials of Strategic Management, 3rd
Readings: Readings and cases are in the course packet (available at CLEAN COPY). Additional
handouts may be distributed in class.
Porter, Michael (1996). “What is Strategy?” Harvard Business Review, (November-
December): 61-78. This article is in your course packet.
Cases: (you can choose 3 of 4 cases for write-up and submission, but you are required to read all 4 cases)
Wal-mart Stores, Inc. Retail Industry Write-up due: 31-Jan
RCA Records Entertainment Industry Write-up due: 7-Feb
American Airlines: Value Pricing Transportation Industry Write-up due: 21-Feb
Airborne Express Logistics/Overnight Delivery Write-up due: 7-Mar
VII. Guest Speakers
As the Class Schedule indicates, we will have at least two guest speakers attending our class
to provide real-world perspective on business strategy. I have asked each speaker to prepare
20 minutes of formal presentation to be followed by questions from the class. It is important
that we show our guests respect and appreciation. I also suggest that students try to
incorporate class learnings into the discussions lead by our guest speakers.
VIII. Class Schedule
Class Class Topics &
No. Date Agenda Reading Assignment Case Analysis
Course Overview What is Strategy? Porter. (course packet)
1 Intro to Strategy
Current Events Sign-up
Current Events Chapter 1 – Basics of Strategic Management Assign Case #1
2 17-Jan Chapter 2 – Corporate Governance Wal-mart Stores, Inc.
24Jan Holiday – MLK Day Observed
Current Events Chapter 3 – Environmental Scanning Assign Case #2
3 31-Jan Case Analysis Due Porter’s Five Forces (handout) RCA Records
Current Events Chapter 4 – Internal Scanning
4 7-Feb Case Analysis Due Value Chain Analysis (handout)
Current Events Chapter 5 - Assign Case #3
5 14-Feb Choose Company Strategic Coherence (handout) American Airlines
Current Events Chapter 6 & 7 – Strategy Formulation
6 21-Feb Case Analysis Due
Guest Speaker: TBD
Current Events Chapter 8 & 9 – Strategy Implementation Assign Case #4
7 28-Feb Guest Speaker: TBD Airborne Express
Current Events Chapter 10 – Evaluation and Control
8 7-Mar Case Analysis Due
Current Events Strategic Flexibility (handout)
9 14-Mar Presentations
Final Exam Final Case - TBD
10 TBD Final Exam – TBD