INDIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
MBA DEGREE PROGRAM
MBA 690 Culminating Experience:
Managing Dynamic Corporate Strategy, 2 credit hours
COURSE SYLLABUS – FALL 2002
Aruna Chandra, Ph.D.
Office Location: School of Business, 603
Telephone Number: 812 237 2105
Fax number: 812 237 8133
Office hours: TBA
This is the capstone course in the MBA program. Using a corporate strategic
management model, students will act as top managers and use the concepts and tools they
have developed in their core MBA courses to analyze situations (opportunities and
problems) from a cross-functional or integrative perspective, make decisions that enhance
the competitiveness of the entire firm, and manage the implementation process to achieve
the desired strategy. All three stages will be done in the context of existing
This course is to be taken only after the completion of the fundamental tool courses
(MBA 610, MBA 611, MBA 612 and MBA 613) and the integrative seminars (MBA
621, MBA 622, MBA 623, and MBA 624).
David, Fred, R. Strategic Management Cases (2001). Prentice Hall: New Jersey. 8th
Additional readings will be distributed in class. Strategy related readings from the
Financial Times, The London Economist and The Wall Street Journal will be included.
Course Educational Objectives
At he completion of the course, students should be able to:
1. Recognize appropriate and inappropriate fit among and across corporate
resources in the multi-business corporation.
2. Develop and apply appropriate models and tools to exploit opportunities
and solve problems in ways that lead a firm toward competitive,
comparative, or value chain advantages.
3. Develop an understanding and sensitivity to the unique ethical issues that
arise in the conduct of forming and implementing strategy.
4. Analyze a firm’s strategic choices in the context of its industry and the
5. Practice at integrating cross-functional concepts to the solution of complex
strategic management problems.
6. Recognize likely competitive responses to strategic decisions.
7. Identify problems and opportunities associated with mergers and
8. Analyze globalization strategies.
9. Examine concepts and skills necessary for successful strategy
Current Business Strategy Paper 20%
Group project 20%
Group Case Analysis 20 x 2 40%
Current Event analysis 10%
Class participation 10%
Grades will be assigned on the following scale
Letter grade Scale
A 92% - 100%
B+ 89% - 91.9%
B 82% - 88.9%
C+ 79% - 81.9%
C 72% - 78.9%
D+ 69% - 71.9%
D 60% - 68.9%
Current Business Strategy paper: The objective of this assignment is to assess your
ability to apply theoretical concepts from the strategic management area to the analysis of
a firm’s strategy and strategic choices over a period of time. To start with, you need to
scan the business press such as The Economist, Financial Times, The Wall Street
Journal, Business Week to find a full-length article about a company as a basis for your
paper. You need not limit yourself to one article or one source in your information
search. For instance, once you have located an appropriate article you may want to go to
web sources such as yahoofinance.com, quicken.com or the Annual Report on the
company’s web site to gather additional information on the selected firm. Use an
appropriate strategic management model / concept(s) to analyze the company situation
you have chosen, setting out the key strategic issues and recommend the strategic actions
which you think are needed. Make sure you develop a strong rationale to justify the
selected course of action.
The paper should roughly be divided into three parts:
1. Key Strategic Issues / Choices made by the firm
2. Analysis using key strategic management concepts
Current Event Analysis: Select a brief current event related to an area of strategy from
the business press. Bring a one paragraph written summary / analysis to class. Present to
class on assigned dates. Turn in typed summary / commentary.
Group Case Analysis: Follow the guidelines provided in the text and class for the case
analysis. Additional guidelines for this project are provided at the end of the syllabus.
Group project: Please see attached guidelines under the sub-title Group Project.
Tentative Class Schedule
Week 1 8/27 Introduction to course, instructor, requirements.
Strategy video from the Stanford Executive series
Week 2 9/3 Case: Amazon.com
Read How to Analyze a Business Policy Case
Current Event presentation
Discussion of Porter’s 5 forces model
Week 3 9/10 Case: E-Trade and E-bay
HBR articles: Joan Magretta, “Why Business Models Matter”,
HBR, May 2002.
Week 4 9/17 Case: Wal Mart and Target
Kirsten Sandberg, “Is It Time to Trade in Your Business Model?”,
HBR, January 2002.
Week 5 9/24 Case: Carnival and Southwest Airlines
Stanford Video: Gary Hamel’s Creating the Future
Writing exercise based on video shown in class
Week 6 10/1 Start work on Group Projects
Week 7 10/8 Case: Avon and Revlon
Stanford Video: Understanding Financial Statements
Week 8 10/15 Case: Dell and Apple Computer
Week 9 10/22 Case: Nike and Reebok
Week 10 10/29 Case: Boeing and Lockheed Martin
Week 11 11/5 Case: Heinz and Hershey Foods
Current Strategy paper due
Week 12 11/12 Work on Group Projects
Week 13 11/19 Video: Visionary Companies
Discussion of FT articles
Week 14 11/26 Group case presentations in class
Week 15 12/3 Group Case presentations in class
Preparation & Attendance: Role will be taken in class. Attendance at class sessions is
essential to your success in this course. Most of the material will be presented through
student presentations, case studies and small group exercises. It is very important that
you come to class prepared to discuss that day’s readings. Semester projects will be
required to reflect the material from the entire course process, not just the “book”.
Students are responsible for obtaining class notes from their peers for any missed
Academic Misconduct: All University, School of Business and departmental policies on
academic dishonesty will be strictly enforced.
Detailed guidelines for key assignments
Current Business Strategy Paper
Purpose: To find a recent article related to a company that has substantially changed
its competitive strategy and analyze and understand the factors that precipitated the
shift in strategy.
1. Identify a company for your analysis by scanning and locating an article in the
current business press (Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist,
Fortune, Forbes etc.).
2. Once you have selected the company gather recent company press releases from
sites such as hoovers.com, quicken.com, yahoofinance.com.
3. Enter the web site of the selected company. Click on “Corporate Information” and
then click on “Corporate Timeline”. Study the events in the timeline along with
the information you have obtained from your recent article on the company and
outline the way it’s strategy has developed over time.
In your analysis and conclusions spell out, What strategy changes did the company
make and what is your evaluation of these changes? Do you think the company has
created a basis for sustainable competitive advantage in light of the changes taking
place in its industry sector and the larger environment?
A 3 page typed, double-spaced paper organized along the lines of Introduction,
Summary of the main idea(s), Analysis and Recommendations.
The paper should have a title and the sources used should be properly referenced. The
cover page should include the paper title, sources used for the paper, name of author
and course title and number.
CASE ANALYSIS: A GENERAL GUIDE
Anyone attacking a case for the first time approaches the task ahead with a sense of
dread. The most common reaction after the initial reading is, “What is the problem?” It
definitely takes at least two, if not three readings before one can grasp the true nature of
the exercise. It may be that you may not develop a strong sense of ownership to take
command of the situation before the third reading. Students who merely “describe or
propose” what should be done by the management group have not developed the
confidence to “boldly take command” and to shape the situation. The successful team
leads the case’s management team through an analysis that results in a successful
resolution of the issues by way of a comprehensive action strategy. Sorting through the
intricacies of a case and updating it to make it current is hard work! However, it is nearly
impossible to miss the strong insights that are arrived at through diligent analysis and
reflection. The converse is also true.
ISSUES: What external issues are facing the management team? What internal questions
must be addressed? What competencies must be developed? What resources, tangible
and intangible, does the firm possess that are valuable, rare and inimitable? What market
concerns must be dealt with?
SUCCESS CRITERIA: What management expectancies must be developed? What
firm and personnel strengths and weaknesses must be overcome? What market
opportunities must be exploited? What infrastructure must be developed? What must be
STRATEGY: A succinct yet comprehensive, bold yet elegant, statement of purpose that
captures the new direction that, you, and the management team have developed as the
focus of the company’s new direction….it captures the essence of the firm’s plan for
ACTION PLAN: WHAT you plan to do, in the future, to bring strategic victory to the
subject company. An action plan is a series of sub-strategies that direct the resources of
the company (competencies, personnel, markets, products etc.) in a coordinated fashion
to achieve the planned result.
IMPLEMENTATION: HOW you plan to accomplish that which you have set out to
do? The series of events that detail how each ACTION will evolve from a “wish” to a
“reality”. By definition each action will be supported by two to five
Therefore: A completed set of IMPLEMENTATION tasks results in a fulfilled
ACTION agenda item. A completed set of ACTIONS will undoubtedly result in a
successful STRATEGY. A well-executed strategy will lead to a successful company.
DEFENSE: At this point the entire plan has been laid out for all to see. The job is done,
right? Wrong! Now you have to convince others that your plan will work. Why will it
work? Why is your plan the one that offers the highest potential for success? Why should
your strategy be chosen over all the other alternatives? It is essential that you invest the
time to defend your analysis.
Group Case Analysis Outline Guidelines:
1. Company Description / Key strategy: what is the company’s primary business,
describe structure, leadership, core competency and source of competitive
2. Key Issues facing company currently (identify at least 2-3 issues of strategic
relevance). Events in the external environment and their impact on the firm. A
SWOT analysis could be useful in situating the firm in the industry and external
3. Industry perspective / Key competitors –Porter’s five forces is a useful tool to
analyze industry structure and competitor rivalry.
4. Internal analysis –Financial analysis –key ratios in comparison to key competitors
and industry averages. Stock price –3-5 yr scenario. Implications?
5. Current news of strategic relevance.
6. Recommendations and strategy comparison of the two companies. What should
the firms do to maintain / sustain competitive advantage?
Final Output: A 7-8 page, typed, double-spaced paper that includes the key components
Purpose: The purpose of this project is the application of strategic management
concepts, tools and techniques to the analysis of real world company performance.
Project: To understand and analyze the performance of pairs of companies doing
business in the same broad segment of industry, where one is the leader and the other the
follower in terms of business results. Your task is to demonstrate how the more
successful firm by virtue of superior strategy deployment is able to achieve far better
results than its competitor in the same space. In this context, analyze the key sources of
competitive advantage and its durability for the firms in question.
Approach: First choose a pair of companies from the list below. Go to the company
web site and Annual Reports to learn about the companies’ fundamental business, its
performance and strategy. You will find this information in the Annual Reports and
associated SEC filings and recruiting literature online. In addition, you can access recent
business articles on the web reporting on company performance and claimed sources of
core competency and comparative advantage. The following web sites should be helpful:
1. Executive summary—should capture succinctly and precisely the essence of
the paper. It is placed first, but best written last since it is possible to
capsulize ideas effectively and concisely only after the plan has been thought
through and written.
2. Company Profile / Business Description – describe the selected firms, their
mission, their product/service. Compare the two firms in terms of their core
competencies and sources of competitive advantage. (SWOT analysis may be
a useful tool).
3. Strategic Issues Identification – identify one or two key strategic issues the
company faces. What are the key factors for competitive success in this
industry? Analyze these issues and use them as a basis for your
4. Industry Analysis—analyze the industry. What would you conclude about the
attractiveness / trends in the industry over the next three to five years?
(Porter’s 5 forces model is a useful tool for industry analysis.) What are the
industry’s dominant economic characteristics? Identify trends in industry
restructuring, tendency to diversify backward / forward, integrate, and reasons
for the same. What is the nature of innovation in the industry? What are the
current and future trends in the industry in terms of limits on growth in the
industry, domestic and international competition, regulation, i.e. catalysts for
change in the industry. This section should include a brief analysis of the key
competitors in the industry and their strategies (use Strategic Group analysis,
5. Recommendations—focus on the strengths as well as the problem areas when
making recommendations. Draw upon your analysis of the firm’s current
strategy / strategic choices when making recommendations on future
strategies the company should pursue to attain or sustain above average
growth and profitability. How best can the firm capitalize on its strengths and
shore up its weak areas to increase its competitive advantage? List your
recommendations and indicate how best the firm can operationalize your
suggestions for improvement.
1. Each group will present their group project in class on the assigned dates.
2. A clearly written report, typed, not exceeding 8 – 10 pages should be turned in on
the day of the presentation. Include a complete list of references of all the
published information, web sites that were sources of information.
3. In your presentation, do not repeat all the information in the report, but plan your
presentation around the key points you wish to convey to the audience.
List of company pairs:
1. Maytag and Whirlpool
2. Ford and GM
3. FedEx and UPS
4. Coke and Pepsi
5. Procter & Gamble and Unilever
6. Colgate and Clorox
7. Amgen and Biogen
8. Toyota and Honda
9. Cadbury and Nestle Foods
10. Delta and American Airlines
11. Whole Foods and Wild Oats
12. Eli Lilly and Bristol Myers
13. Barnes and Noble.com and Amazon.com
14. Kellogg’s and General Mills