David Kryscynski (Dr. K) has provided an excellent series of online videos to supplement your course or to help move portions of it online. These are very well produced and may allow you to spend class time on more experiential activities found elsewhere on this site. Below is the video on Porter’s generic strategies but I have provided links to all of the available videos below and listed others that you can gain access to through Wiley. Dr. K’s newest collection can be found on his free web page at LearnStrategy.org.
Every wonder why hospital receiving blanket always look the same (pink & blue stripes)? Medline’s “Kuddle-up” line has a near complete market share of the hospital receiving blanket business. The company started in 1910 making butcher’s aprons for the Chicago meatpacking industry. They entered the receiving blanket business in 1950’s and now sell more than 1.5M blankets/year. A recent article in Quartz notes: “The Kuddle-Up blanket was entwined with the institutionalization of childbirth. Just as we began to standardize the process of birth, we began to standardize the post-partum experience, too, such that the newborn photo in the Kuddle-Up blanket is, at this point, an instant signifier. Thousands of new parents, and even grandparents, were themselves swaddled in such a blanket when they were born; that same pattern spans generations.” In a strategy course, one might ask how could a company gain and sustain such an advantage virtually unchallenged for over 60 years? Was there a substantial cost advantage? If so, what are the limits to scale advantages? Why isn’t there a stronger market for a differentiated product? That certainly is the case in related baby care product markets. Will this post make potential entrants aware and help to erode the advantage?
Few things are more dramatic than a good hostile takeover attempt. Dollar General has been trying all summer to break up the planned nuptials between Family Dollar and Dollar Tree. They have offered $600 million more for Family Dollar than the preferred suitor. Two things may be preventing Family Dollar from switching partners: 1) concerns that a Dollar General deal would be thwarted by anti-trust regulators, and 2) the Family Dollar CEO would lose his job if Dollar General takes over. Of course, they say the second issue is not on their minds. This makes a great “ripped from the headlines” case (here is a small packet of news articles). There are many directions that the discussion can go which, I think, makes for a nice introductory case to frame the rest of the semester. Here are a few:
What is an industry? The anti-trust argument assumes that the industry is defined as small discount stores (in other words, Wal-Mart is not really a player).
Corporate governance: How much should it matter what the Family Dollar CEO’s preferences are?
Cost advantages: Do any of the players have a cost advantage? At what point do the advantages of scale diminish?
Industry structure: What, if anything, makes this an attractive industry?
Competitive dynamics: What will be the next competitive move? What has driven the past moves?
M&A Synergies: The news packet includes an estimate of the synergies and suggests that Dollar General could create more value. Do you buy this analysis?
The Strategic Management Society always has excellent teaching sessions incorporated in their conferences. Here are some sessions to check out at the Madrid conference September 20-23, 2014:
Sat, 9/20 @ 13-16:00. Competitive Strategy Interest Group Teaching Workshop. Building on last year’s workshop on innovation & education, the 2014 theme is “The Impact of New Technologies on Teaching and Higher Education.” The education industry is abuzz with talk of MOOCs, distance learning, computer-based instruction, and other innovations. How are these best incorporated into the curriculum? (Co-sponsored by the Teaching Community).
Sun 9/21 @ 9:15-10:45. Researchers Hooked on Teaching / Teachers Hooked on Research. Most academics polarize teaching and research into separate worlds. Building on last year’s very popular session we bring together world-class scholars who have successfully bridged this apparent divide. This engaging session will showcase their experiences in “translating” their research into teachable moments and their teachable moments into research.
Mon 9/22 @ 14:45 – 16:00. Teaching Strategy Philosophically. Ethics applies different theories to address Socrates’s question of how we should act. The application of philosophical principles in teaching strategy has multiple advantages including a better appreciation of underlying values and motivation, and increasing tolerance of ambiguity. Join us in this highly interactive session in how great scholars teach strategy philosophically.
This Onion video illustrates some … um … interesting strategies one might apply in job interviews. While the strategies portrayed are entertaining, there is a key point hidden behind the humor: Analyzing a company’s strategy might help students ask questions that set them apart from other job candidates. Here is a 6-step “listicle” by Google’s HR executive on how to prepare for an interview. Getting a job could be turned into a class exercise that helps students see how the strategy content might be useful right away (as opposed to waiting until they are CEOs). For any case, consider a range of recruiter questions that convey a deeper understanding of a company’s strategy. For example, a good question for Apple might reveal an understanding of the nature and extent of their competitive advantage as well as strategic challenges: “How does Apple’s culture of creative product design extend to less creative jobs like sales and service?” or “How does Apple create a sense of urgency among employees to respond to rivals like Samsung?” Many of the key strategy frameworks can be applied to generate such probing questions:
5 forces/Industry analysis might help you understand the market position & efforts to increase buyer switching costs. This might include marketing or operations efforts to get closer to customers (customer intimacy). Probing questions along these lines convey that you understand strategic issues in the industry.
VRINE/Internal analysis might help identify key resources to leverage (e.g., Apple example above). If culture is a critical resource, one might ask questions about how they develop and maintain it.
STAR framework might help to identify levers to develop and maintain a valuable culture or, for example, coordination across units (e.g., MicroTech negotiation). Thus, one could probe into hiring, reward systems, structure, and processes to understand how they achieve these capabilities.
“Four C” framework might be useful if alliances are a key component of the firm’s strategy (outsourcing, R&D, etc.). How do they find partners with congruent goals? How do they managing the changing relationship over time? End game?
Samsung’s profits are down by a whopping 25% and they put the blame firmly on Chinese competitors entering with cheaper smartphones (see this NYT article). Companies like Xiaomi and Huawei have increased market share in China over the last year as they sell good products at break-even prices. Now, they have turned their sights on western markets that eat into Samsung’s bread and butter. Pressure on Samsung to respond with lower prices? Perhaps but Apple continues to compete effectively at the high end. It’s proprietary operating system keeps rivals from fully imitating many of the most important product attributes. For now, Samsung is signalling that it will accelerate efforts to differentiate their products — an innovation war more than a price war. The real winner may be Google which gains as Android dominates growth in this market. As you can see, this “live” case allows one to explore the complexities of how different strategies play out in the market. It also pushes us to explore how a sequence of strategies might unfold leading to a longer term competitive advantage. This case might go nicely with the HBS case on Samsung’s dual (cost/differentiation) advantage in memory chips and the threat of Chinese rivals. Of course, in the race for new features, one wonders what they will think of next…
Daimler and Renault-Nissan have entered into a new alliance to open a new joint plant in Mexico. As the video below indicates, they intend to achieve economies of scale that neither partner could accomplish on their own while maximizing differentiation between the two brands. What are the tradeoffs in trying to achieve these competing goals? How will consumers perceive the arrangement? This could spur some nice discussion on alliance management — an opportunity, perhaps to apply the “Four C” alliance framework or the Resource Pathways framework to assess the opportunities and risks. If you are looking for a complementary exercise, this case would go nicely with the Global Alliance Game.
This quick Zack King video shows what happens to profit in the healthcare industry when patients are healthy. You might talk about healthcare policy and strategy when good strategies reduce profit. Here, an important distinction might be made between industry and firm level profit. This might also trigger some interesting discussions of ethics. Here are more Zack King videos.
These two quick Zack King videos might be a nice introduction to competitive advantage. It is sort of in the spirit of Dick Rumelt’s Silver Doodle example. Would a firm have a competitive advantage if it could copy and paste money? If it owned a money tree? Consider the opportunity cost and watch heads spin… Here are more Zack King videos.
This funny video depicts the movement from poorly trained and low paid local workers to outsourced workers overseas and finally to flawed voice recognition software. The result is equally frustrating for the customer. Ultimately, this touches on a variety of subjects including human capital, global strategy, outsourcing, and technology strategy. One important caution is that the video reinforces stereotypes. This too should probably be a part of the conversation.
Of course, we explore customer loyalty as a key element of differentiation. How far does loyalty go? This ONN story about Southwest airlines pushes that envelope by asking what customers will do for employees (like lying to the CEO’s wife about where he is). Of course, it’s a bit silly but there’s something useful in there too 😉
Going after the market niche of people who don’t want the glamour of a new car, this ONN feature describes Ford’s decision to reintroduce the 1993 Taurus (including a new Superbowl ad). This is simple & silly but it does get at the notion of a cost-based strategy…
When GE acquired NBC, there was much doubt that they could create value with the highly unrelated acquisition. This very funny video of Letterman delivering a fruit basket to GE headquarters illustrates the cultural differences (see especially the GE handshake ;-). However, business segment data reveal that NBC’s operating margin was doubled and revenue was up 60% after GE’s ownership. Did they actually make money? Maybe. It took them 10 years to accomplish this (and everything tanked the 1st 5 years) — a time factor that may reduce the value created by as much as $3 billion depending on their initial assumptions. This can be used to demonstrate hard numbers behind the acquisition integration process (spreadsheet available on request).
Norman Sheehan has developed an award winning exercise to teach value chain analysis (see the JME paper). Here are excepts from the abstract: Despite its ubiquity, many students struggle to understand and apply value chain concepts. JetFighter uses a complex manufacturing process (intricate paper planes) to enhance students’ value chain competencies. Teams are use value chain concepts to develop innovative strategies to fulfill customer requirements and outperform rivals. The exercise involves two production periods with a brief value chain lecture occurring after the first period. Given that teams typically lose money in the first round, their motivation to learn is enhanced as they are immediately provided an opportunity to apply this knowledge in the second period. Here are materials for the exercise:
BusinessWeek offers a nice analysis of Starbucks’ decision to lower prices on its premium coffee. Rita McGrath describes the “hourglass economy” as thick markets for low cost and highly differentiated products. Accordingly, Starbucks is keeping prices high for premium drinks in its stores but dropping the price of coffee by 10% to draw in more price conscious consumers. This strategy leverages Starbucks’ lean supply chain operations that give it a very low cost structure despite offering premium products. Ultimately, this puts higher cost rivals at a disadvantage because Starbucks can offer a better value proposition.
You could easily fill an hour by just playing the videos below, saying “discuss,” and then stepping out of the way. I use the videos (all 3) along with the available case study — Ivey case W12674, which already has its own teaching note. As preparation for the Groupon discussion, you could also ask students to explore the web site where Groupon makes its sales pitch to merchants, at https://www.grouponworks.com/. Here are the videos:
In this interview (9:44), Deputy CEO, Michael Cawley, explains Ryanair’s relentless pursuit of cost reduction and the resulting value created. High demand elasticity contributes to their advantage since the increase in total demand arising from lower prices gives them added volume on routes that might not be profitable for other carriers. The interview is conducted by Juan Jose Guemes from IE Business School. Of course, there are several nice cases written about the company that go well with this.
Many students assume that low wages are a necessary component of a low cost strategy. However, the many of our best examples of cost advantages pay their employers higher wages. In groceries, Aldi comes to mind – they chased Wal-Mart out of Germany because Wal-Mart couldn’t match their prices. Wayne Cascio writes about Costco’s advantage over Sam’s Club. Samsung is another very nice case of this as their low cost advantage is linked to higher productivity obtained from high wage workers. This insulates them for a time from the threat of Chinese competition which relies initially on low wage workers. The only way for them to catch up was to invest in human capital (see the Samsung Electronics case).