Strategic Management

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Course Information
International Business
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 


Additional student cost: 



To be effective, business leaders must understand the factors responsible for their firm’s past performance and be able to identify those changes (inside or outside the firm) that are most likely to help or hurt future performance.  This course addresses this reality head-on by examining the fundamental conditions that enable a firm to conceive, formulate, and sustain a superior strategic position.  In particular, we will focus on 1) the various environmental factors (including cultural factors) that impact the firm; 2) a firm’s internal source of competitive advantage; 3) the likely behavior of a company’s competitors (and how a company can influence its rivals); 4) the long-term sustainability of a firm’s competitive advantage; and 5) corporate strategy.  Students will learn strategic analysis tools, including models and frameworks to help them diagnose organizational issues and make recommendations to improve or sustain performance. The objective of the course is to equip students with real-world skills that can be applied in an organizational setting, and to provide them with an appreciation for the complexity of strategic decision-making in large firms.  On a more general level, the course aims to improve students’ critical thinking skills and ability to tackle tough organizational problems in a variety of settings.

Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to attend classes each day, including course-related excursions.

IES Abroad Milano allows a maximum of TWO excused absences per semester. Each further absence will automatically result in a penalty of two points off (2/100) on the final grade. SEVEN absences per course (including 2 excused absences) will result in a failing grade for that course. Furthermore, an absence on the date of scheduled tests, presentations or quizzes does not entitle you to recover/reschedule such tests. Failure to attend your midterm and/or final exam will result in an F grade on that paper/exam.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Define important terms and concepts associated with strategic management
  • Analyze and understand the key environmental variables that influence strategic decision-making
  • Analyze and understand the key internal factors that influence a firm’s strategic decision-making
  • Describe the primary sources of a firm’s competitive advantage and how to sustain it
  • Demonstrate understanding of key tools and frameworks that can lead to successful strategic management
  • Analyze a real-world case involving a company that is facing difficult strategic challenges, and provide recommendations—in written form and orally—for how the company should proceed
  • Assess general business issues with enhanced critical-thinking skills
Method of presentation: 

Lecture, class discussion, case study analysis, articles, individual and group exercises, videos.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Individual case memoranda - 10%
  • Class participation - 20%
  • Group case analysis and written memorandum - 20%
  • Midterm exam - 25%
  • Final exam - 25%

A significant amount of class time will involve discussion of case studies and current periodicals, as well as individual and group exercises that introduce and reinforce student understanding of key topics.  Therefore, students’ participation in class is essential and it will be assessed. Students are expected to have an active role in the class, participating in class discussions and fulfilling the required work for each session.  In order to successfully meet this requirement, students should be prepared to devote significant time outside of class for reading and critical thinking.  This course is fully integrated with Moodle, the IES online learning platform.  Students will be required to actively access and interact with resources on this site.

The mid-term exam will be taken in-class and may consist of questions in multiple choice, short answer or short essay format.  The group presentation will require small teams to work outside of class to analyse a real-world case that involves tough strategic issues.  The group will then present its analysis and recommendations to the class and answer questions. The group will also submit a strategic memorandum of approximately 3 pages that summarizes its work.  This memorandum can be created as a Wiki (group written project) in Moodle.  Students who are not assigned to deliver a group presentation on a given day will submit a 1-page memorandum summarizing how they would approach the primary strategic issue(s) presented in the case study.  The final exam will be a take-home exam that requires students to analyse a case and formulate a recommendation in written form. Students will be given additional information regarding the requirements of each assignment after the course has started. 

Session Content Assignments

Course Overview; Introduction to Strategy


The Concepts and Tools of Strategy

Cliff Edwards (2009). "Dell’s Extreme Makeover," Bloomberg BusinessWeek, October 15, 2009. Available:

Hambrick, Donald C. and James W. Fredrickson (2005). "Are You Sure You Have a Strategy?" Academy of Management Executive. 2005, Vol. 19, Number 4, pp. 51-62.

Hammond, John S. (2002). "Learning by the Case Method," Harvard Business School Note 9-376-241.


The Concepts and Tools of Strategy, contd.

"Competitive Advantage," The Economist, August 4, 2008. Available online:

Cohan, Peter (2011). "Memo to SEC: Groupon Has No Competitive Advantage, Stop Its IPO," Forbes, June 6, 2011. Available online:

Porter, Michael E. (2008) "The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy," Harvard Business Review, January 2008.


External Analysis

Case: Crown Cork & Seal in 1989. (HBS 9-793-035)


External Analysis, contd.

Vrontis, D. and Pavlov, P. (2008) "The external environment and its effect on strategic marketing planning: a case study for McDonald’s," Journal for International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Vol. 3, Nos. 3/4, pp. 289-302.

"Marketing & Competitive Intelligence FAQ: SWOT & PEST Analysis," AWARE Online (updated 2011). Available online:

Knight, Lawrence (2011). "What’s the Matter with Spain?" BBC News Online, December 7, 2011. Available online here:


Internal Analysis

Barney, Jay (1991). "Firm Resources & Sustained Competitive Advantage," Journal of Management, 1991, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 99-120.

Owyang, Jeremiah (2010). "When It Comes to Social Media, Many Marketers Jump the Gun," Forbes, May 17, 2010. Available here:


Internal Analysis, contd.

Case: Coral Divers Resort (Ivey 9B08M041)

Video: Coral Divers


Group Case Presentation: Coke and Pepsi

Case: Coke and Pepsi in 2010 (HBS 9-711-462)

Stanford, Duane (2010). "Africa: Coke’s Last Frontier?" Bloomberg Businessweek, October 28, 2010. Available online here:

Areddy, James T. and Mike Esterl (2011), "Coke Plans $4 Billion China Investment," Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2011.


Competitive Advantage and Cost Leadership

Ireland, R. Duane, Robert E. Hoskisson, and Michael A. Hitt (2011). "Understanding Business Strategy: Concepts Plus 3e, Southwestern-Cengage Learning: Dayton, pp. 97-104.

"What Makes Southwest Airlines Fly?" (2003) [email protected], April 23, 2003. Available online:

Parila Kavilanz (2011), "Wal-Mart’s ready to do battle," CNNMoney, April 11, 2011. Available online here:


Competitive Advantage and Differentiation

Ireland, R. Duane, Robert E. Hoskisson, and Michael A. Hitt (2011). "Understanding Business Strategy: Concepts Plus 3e. Southwestern-Cengage Learning: Dayton, pp. 104-117.

Grant, R.M. (2010). "Harley Davidson Inc., July 2009," in Contemporary Strategy Analysis (7e), Wiley: Chichester, pp. 636-653


Group Case Presentation: Apple

Case: Apple in 2010 (HBS 9-710-467)

"Inside Apple: Can it Thrive Without Steve?" (2012) Forbes, February 2, 2012. Available online:

Nuttall, Chris (2011). "Apple in race to keep ahead in 2012," Financial Times, December 29, 2011. Available online here:


Field Study to Bacardi Spain Headquarters


Midterm Exam


Industry Evolution and Strategic Change

"The last Kodak moment?" (2012). The Economist, January 14, 2012. Available online:

Nadler, David A. and Michael L. Tushman (1992). "Beyond the charismatic leader: leadership and organizational change," California Management Review 32 (2), pp. 77-97.


Technology, Innovation and Emerging Industries

Manjoo, Farjad (2011). "The Great Tech War of 2012," FastCompany, October 19, 2011. Available online here:

"Amazon: The Walmart of the web," (2011). The Economist, October 1, 2011. Available online here:


Competitive Advantage in Mature Industries

Grant, Robert (2010). "Case 14: New York Times," in Contemporary Strategy Analysis (7e),Wiley: Chichester, pp. 698-707.

"Borders Closing: Five Things Barnes & Noble Can Do to Survive" (2011).International Business Times, July 19, 2011. Available online here:

Wunker, Stephen (2011). "Barnes & Noble’s Smart Strategy," HBR Online, June 29, 2011. Available here:


Corporate Strategy and Vertical Integration

Piskorski, Mikolaj Jan (2007). Choosing Corporate and Global Scope," Harvard Business Review, January 26, 2007.

Gallaugher, John M (2008). "Zara Case: Fast Fashion from Savvy Systems," September 13, 2008. Available here:

Sull, Donald and Stefano Turconi (2008). "Fast Fashion Lessons." Business Strategy Review (Summer 2008), pp. 5-11.

"Spain’s Zara: Floating on Air," (2001), The Economist, May 17, 2001. Available here:


Corporate Strategy through Diversification

McGirt, Ellen (2011). "Fresh Copy: How Ursula Burns Reinvented Xerox," Fast Company, November 19, 2011. Available here:

Grant, Robert (2010). "Google Inc.: Running Amuck?" in Contemporate Strategy Analysis (7e), Wiley: Chichester, pp. 826-847.

"Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility," (2011). The Economist, August 15, 2011. Available online.


Group Case Presentation: Walt Disney

Case: The Walt Disney Company (HBS 9-701-035)


Global Strategy and the Multinational

"Spain No Longer Battling the Windmills," (2012) [email protected], January 3, 2012. Available online:

Salter, Chuck (2011). "Protect and Attack: Lenovo’s New Strategy," Fast Company, November 22, 2011. Available online here:

(Review "The external environment – McDonald’s")


Strategic Decision-Making, Implementation, and Managing the Multinational Organization

Bazerman, Max H. and Dolly Chugh (2006). "Decisions Without Blinders," Harvard Business Review January 2006.

Rasmus, Daniel W. (2011) "What HP Needs to Get Right About Strategy Execution," Fast Company, February 23, 2011. Available here:

Pre-Class Film Viewing: Thirteen Days (2000)


Strategy & Corporate Social Responsibility

Krehmeyer, Dean, Michael Lenox and Brian Moriarty (2010) "Sustainability Must be Central to Corporate Strategy Now," Forbes, June 6, 2010. Available online here:

Porter, Michael E. and Kramer, Mark (2006). "Strategy & Society," Harvard Business Review, December 2006.


Group Case Presentation: Starbucks

Case: Resuming Internationalization at Starbucks (Ivey 9B10M073)

Schultz, Howard (2011). Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul. Rodale: New York Rodale (2011) (selected excerpts).


Wrap Up and Final Review

Final Exam



Required readings: 

Case Studies:

  • Alkema, Rob, Mario Kloster and Christopher Williams (2010). Resuming Internationalization at Starbucks.  Richard Ivey School of Business.  Case 9B10M073.
  • Beamish Paul W. and Kent E. Neupert (2008).  Coral Divers Resort (Revised).  Richard Ivey School of Business.  Case 9B08M041 (Revised September 21, 2011).
  • Bradley, Stephen (2005).  Crown Cork & Seal in 1989.  HBS Case 9-793-035.  Revised July 25, 2005.
  • Rukstad, Michael G. and David Collis (2009).  The Walt Disney Company: The Entertainment King.  HBS Case 9-701-035.  Revised January 5, 2009.
  • Yoffie, David and Renee Kim (2011).  Apple in 2010.  HBS Business Case 9-710-467.  Updated March 21, 2011.
  • Yoffie, David and Renee Kim (2011).  Cola Wars Continue: Coke and Pepsi in 2010, HBS Case 9-711-462, revised May 26, 2011.

Other Required Reading