Case Discussion Questions
Discussion Questions for Case 1–Artistic Impressions, Inc.: Developing an Entrepreneurial Growth Strategy
Define and identify some common characteristics of entrepreneurs. How can this definition and these characteristics be applied to Bart Breighner, the founder of Artistic Impressions?
Review the marketing concept and show how it is used in the strategy of Artistic Impressions.
Discuss Artistic Impressions as a multilevel marketing organization. How does this type of organization differ from more traditional retail organizations?
Identify and discuss the nature of the strategic planning process. Describe the extent to which Artistic Impressions management has successfully carried out those steps that comprise the process.
Discussion Questions for Case 2–Brithinee Electric Revisited: "…Raising the Standards"
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Brithinee Electric? Where does it have a competitive advantage?
What are the pros and cons of expanding Brithinee’s existing electrical motors, sales, and control panels departments? Should it continue to focus on all three areas, or should it concentrate on one or two of the areas?
What are some of the threats and opportunities facing Brithinee Electric? What is the proper effort required to influence regulatory processes? How has Wally Brithinee been able to affect these threats and opportunities through working with federal and state bureaucracies and trade organizations?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to Brithinee Electric of obtaining various certifications? Should Brithinee go for ISO 9000 certification?
How does Brithinee use a quality perspective in its motor repair area and to design and build its control panels?
What suggestions do you have for improving Brithinee’s marketing and advertising? How does Brithinee’s relationship with Square D fit into the concept of relationship marketing and their value chain?
Examine the organizational change brought on by the use of a psychologist.
Is it too early for Don and Wally to be thinking about their exit strategy? What are their options?
Discussion Questions for Case 3–Wizards of the Coast
How was Wizards of the Coast able to "re-create" the adventure game market?
How important was the early international expansion of Wizards? What strategy did the firm pursue? What are the opportunities and threats in international growth in the future?
What were the sources of capital for Wizards of the Coast? What implications does this have for the future strategy of the company?
What were some of the challenges Wizards experienced as a result of its tremendous growth?
What would you do given the situation in mid-1997 described in the case? If you chose to end the game, how would you go about it? What path would you pursue? Why?
What would you do given the situation in mid-1997 described in the case? If you chose to end the game, how would you go about it? What path would you pursue? Why?
Discussion Questions for Case 4–American Council for International Studies (ACIS): Striving to Stay Small
Define the industry structure with the help of Porter’s Five Forces model.
What do you see as ACIS’s external opportunities and threats?
What do you see as ACIS’s internal strengths and weaknesses?
What is the basis of ACIS’s competitive advantage?
What recommendations do you have for Michael Eizenberg and ACIS’s top management team?
Discussion Questions for Case 5–Replacements, Ltd.
Bob Page begins the case by declaring that Replacements does not have a strategy. Do you agree or disagree? Does Replacement have a strategy? And if so, what has it been?
Describe the business in which Replacements competes. What are the defining characteristics of the replacements industry? What is the competitive structure of the industry? (Use Porter’s Five Forces model.) Identify barriers to entry, exit barriers, and mobility barriers.
How successful has the company been to date? Support with data. What factors account for Replacements’ success?
What are Replacements’ resource strengths and weaknesses? What competencies and capabilities does the company have that its rivals do not have? What new market opportunities does the company have? What threats do you see to the company’s well being?
Recommend specific strategies for Replacements for the next 5 years. What strategic options would you consider and what options would you recommend?
Discussion Questions for Case 6–The Scaffold Plank Incident
What are the relevant facts in this case?
What are the ethical issues?
Who are the primary stakeholders?
What are the possible alternatives?
What are the ethics of the alternatives?
What are the practical constraints?
What actions should be taken?
Discussion Questions for Case 7–Royal Dutch Shell and the Execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa
What are the goals of a corporation, i.e., does it have a ‘social responsibility’ or should it be seen as an economic entity that has responsibility towards its owner to maximize shareholder wealth?
What are the ethical issues?
Who are the primary stakeholders?
Shell did not undertake any action to respond to the criticisms received. In retrospect, what could Shell have done better?
Discussion Questions for Case 8–America Online and the Internet (A)
There is a rapidly emerging market for Internet access. Currently, this market is being served by two main types of providers: Internet service providers and proprietary on-line services, such as AOL. What form do you think the competitive structure of the Internet access market is going to take by the year 2000?
What was AOL’s competitive strategy as of October 1996? In the long run, will this strategy enable AOL to earn economic profits?
What competitive strategy do you recommend for AOL so that it can build and maintain a competitive advantage into the next century?
Discussion Questions for Case 9–America Online (B)
Following AOL’s decision to move to a flat rate pricing scheme, demand for AOL’s service ballooned. What does this tell you about AOL’s service, and demand for its product?
What business model did AOL move to under Pittman? What were the strategic implications of this model for AOL’s strategy?
What must AOL do to grow the subscriber base?
What are the threats facing AOL?
How important is the studio system to AOL?
Does it make sense for AOL to pursue a multi-brand strategy? Why?
What is the strategic value to AOL of the acquisition of Netscape and its alliance with Sun?
How does AOL’s quest for bandwidth and the "AOL anywhere" thrust fit into the company’s strategy?
Discussion Questions for Case 10–Amazon.com: Expanding Beyond Books
What is the story behind Amazon.com?
What does the book industry look like?
How does Amazon.com compete on the Web?
Compare Amazon.com with a traditional bookstore.
Do a SWOT analysis for Amazon.com.
What are the elements of Amazon.com’s strategy?
What should Jeff Bezos do in light of intensifying competition on the Web?
Discussion Questions for Case 11–RealNetworks
How would you describe the market for audio and video streaming solutions? Who is interested in this technology? Why?
How would you describe the competition for audio and video streaming? What are some of the key success factors? How might these factors change as technology progresses?
How would you describe the competitive approach used by RealNetworks to compete in this industry, i.e., what is RealNetworks’ competitive advantage? How sustainable is it?
How would you characterize the different uncertainties RealNetworks faces at the end of the case? What recommendations would you give Robert Glaser?
What are some of the lessons learned?
Discussion Questions for Case 12–Microsoft’s Windows CE: Digital Devices and the Next Computing Paradigm
Why is the emergence of digital devices happening now? To what extent can the rise of digital devices be viewed as a response to unmet customer needs, evolutionary changes in the personal computer industry and perceived limitations in the nature of the personal computer?
Does the rise of digital devices represent a potential paradigm shift in the nature of computing? What are the implications of such a paradigm shift for Microsoft?
Will standards be important in the digital device arena? Why?
What is Microsoft’s strategy for establishing the Windows CE as the de facto operating system standard for digital devices? How successful do you think this may be?
What is the business model that Microsoft should use to profit from the spread of Windows CE?
If digital devices "grow up" to replace the PC, or at least segments of the PC market such as notebooks, what are the implications for Microsoft’s core Windows franchise?
Discussion Questions for Case 13–Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Analyze Sun’s competitive environment. Use Porter’s Five Forces model.
What do you see as Sun’s external opportunities and threats?
What do you see as Sun’s internal strengths and weaknesses?
What are Sun’s distinctive competencies?
What recommendations do you have for Scott McNealy?
Discussion Questions for Case 14–ATL: Strategic Positioning
What trends are occurring in the medical imaging and ultrasound markets? How are these trends likely to impact ATL in the future?
What strategic challenges does ATL’s top management team confront in mid-1998?
What is ATL’s core competency? Does it give ATL a competitive advantage? What should ATL do to maintain and build this competency?
What strategies should ATL’s top management team consider as it is meeting in mid-1998? How should the top management team go about implementing its chosen strategy?
Discussion Questions for Case 15–Cooper Tire & Rubber Company
How is the tire industry structured? Analyze the industry structure applying Porter’s Five Forces model.
What are the key success factors in the tire business?
Describe the business of Cooper.
What type of competitive strategy has Cooper followed?
What has allowed Cooper to implement its strategy with such effectiveness?
How well has Cooper performed over the past five years?
What are Cooper’s strategic objectives? How well is Cooper achieving these objectives?
To what would you attribute the success of Cooper?
What are Cooper’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Should Cooper continue with the present strategy or make some changes? What new moves would you recommend?
Discussion Questions for Case 16—The Home Video Game Industry: From Pong to Dreamcast
What explains the rapid growth of Atari? What caused the 1982-85 collapse?
How did Nintendo successfully recreate the home video game business following the Atari-era boom and bust?
How was Nintendo able to capture value from the home video game business?
How was Sega able to gain market share from Nintendo?
Evaluate the competitive strategy of 3DO. Why did 3DO fail?
Why did the Sony PlayStation succeed, while 3DO failed?
In June 1996, Nintendo launched its 64 bit machine. What strategy must Nintendo pursue to increase the probability of a successful launch?
What general principles about strategy can be gleaned from the history of the video game industry?
Discussion Questions for Case 17—Carnival Corporation, 1998
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Carnival Lines?
What are the opportunities and threats facing Carnival Lines?
What if cruise competitors have contracted for ships that will eventually lead to industry over capacity? Given over capacity arises, what will be the effect on Carnival’s profits?
What trends are emerging in the cruise industry and how can Carnival take advantage of them?
How would you evaluate Carnival’s strategic management? What recommendations do you have?
Discussion Questions for Case 18—Circus Circus Enterprises, Inc., 1998
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Circus?
What are the opportunities and threats facing Circus?
Describe Circus’s current market position and growth strategy. What challenges do you see for Circus’s management as competition increases?
Is Circus experiencing a competitive advantage? If so, what is it? Moreover, is it sustainable?
Discussion Questions for Case 19—The Evolution of the Air Express Industry
How true is it to say that "Federal Express pulled off one of the greatest marketing scams in the industry by making people believe that they absolutely, positively had to have something right away"? (This comment by an industry observer was made with reference to Federal Express’s creation of the industry.)
Why, despite rapid growth, was the air express industry characterized by low returns during much of the 1980s?
Why did competitive intensity moderate and prices rise during 1988–1989?
What do you think will happen in the industry if the U.S. economy enters a deep recession?
What form do you think the competitive structure of the global air express industry will take during the next decade?
To what degree do first-mover advantages form the basis of Federal Express’s competitive position in the air express industry? Given this, how vulnerable is Federal Express to renewed price competition?
How vulnerable is UPS to intense price competition?
Discussion Questions for Case 20—Airborne Express
According to Porter’s framework, what generic strategy is Airborne Express pursuing? Is this a sound strategy in the context of the air express industry?
What are the strengths of Airborne Express? Does it have a distinctive competency? If so, where does it lie? Is this competency imitable?
What are Airborne Express’s weaknesses?
Is Airborne’s strategy of using strategic alliances to expand overseas wise? What are the pros and cons of this strategy?
Is Airborne’s strategy of trying to diversify its product offering to include logistics services for clients wise?
Discussion Questions for Case 21—Wal-Mart Stores: Strategies for Continued Market Dominance
Identify and evaluate the strategies that Wal-Mart pursued to maintain its cost-leadership position.
Evaluate Wal-Mart’s competitive environment.
Discuss the importance of changes in the external environment to an organization like Wal-Mart.
What conclusions can be drawn from a review of Wal-Mart’s financial performance over the decade of the 1980s? From this review, what can you conclude about the financial future of the firm?
Speculate on how much impact the "absence" of Sam Walton had on the forward momentum of the organization. What steps have been or should be taken by management to continue Sam Walton’s formula for success?
What should the new CEO David Glass be focusing on?
What recommendations do you have for CEO David Glass?
Discussion Questions for Case 22—Kmart Corporation: A Corporate Strategy Dilemma
Evaluate the strategies that Kmart has introduced as part of its renewal program of the 1990s. How much impact did these strategies have in the competitive environment as the firm sought to maintain its position and grow in the future?
How much importance is placed on the planning function at Kmart? What are some constraints that are likely to decrease its effect on the development of the organization?
Why do you think strategic planning is important to an organization like Kmart?
How does strategic planning fit into the management process at Kmart?
Discuss the importance of changes in the external environment. How much impact do they have on strategic plans in retail firms like Kmart?
What conclusions can be drawn from a review of Kmart’s financial performance in the period 1988-1995?
What new directions are needed to position Kmart to meet its future challenges?
Discussion Questions for Case 23—The Cat Recovers: Caterpillar, Inc., in the Late 1990s
How well did Caterpillar respond to the strategic threat posed by Komatsu as of the early to mid-1980s? How successful were the strategic changes implemented?
Is there a unique or "secret" methodology embedded here? In short, what themes were lying behind all of the moves and changes?
Consider the concept of a learning organization. As of 1984, how good were Cat and Komatsu at learning from other organizations? How did their relative positions appear to change, if at all, over the next 10 to 15 years?
How has Caterpillar’s competitive environment changed over the past 10 to 15 years? How is it likely to look in the future?
What implications will the above mentioned changes have for Caterpillar? How can Cat build a sustainable competitive advantage?
Discussion Questions for Case 24—Komatsu Ltd.: Project G’s Globalization
How did Komatsu accomplish its goal to emerge as a real competitive threat to world leader Caterpillar, given Komatsu’s humble beginnings? What role did CEO Kawai play in Komatsu’s ascendance?
Kawai led Komatsu through a 20-year period of success. Things changed drastically in the 1980s. Komatsu’s performance plunged. Why? What role did Kawai’s successor Nogawa play?
How did Tanaka respond to Komatsu’s ‘crisis’?
Tetsuya Katada has initiated further drastic changes with respect to Komatsu’s strategy. What areas has he been focusing on? Why? What problems with respect to strategy implementation has he encountered? How effectively has Katada positioned Komatsu to compete in the future?
Discussion Questions for Case 25—Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Global Fast-Food Industry
Why did PepsiCo spin off its KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell businesses into a separate corporation (Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc.) in 1997?
What value was actually transferred from PepsiCo to KFC? What synergies existed between KFC and PepsiCo?
What negative effects did PepsiCo have on KFC?
What are the driving forces in the fast-food industry?
Using Porter’s Five Forces model, assess the strength of each force within the fast-food industry. Drawing upon your analysis, do you think that the fast-food industry is an attractive industry?
Complete a SWOT analysis for KFC.
What are the major strategic issues for KFC in Mexico?
What are KFC’s major strategic alternatives internationally?
Discussion Questions for Case 26—Outback Goes International
Evaluate the various aspects of Outback’s strategy. Why has the company been so successful? Conduct a SWOT analysis.
Are Outback’s various strategy components sustainable in the domestic market? Are they transferable to the international markets? Why? Why not?
What markets should the company enter? In what order? Why? What modifications in strategy will be required for these markets?
Is expansion into international markets appropriate for Outback at this time?
Discussion Questions for Case 27—Nucor
What is the nature of the competitive environments in which Nucor operates? What are the competitive implications?
What factors have helped Nucor achieve a low-cost position?
How does Nucor’s organizational structure help the company achieve a low-cost position?
How do Nucor’s incentive systems help the company achieve a low-cost position?
How does Nucor’s management style help the company achieve a low-cost position?
What are the potential disadvantages of Nucor’s administrative structure?
How might continuing growth and diversification jeopardize Nucor’s cost-conscious culture?
Discussion Questions for Case 28—Ups and Downs at Kodak
How did Kodak’s corporate strategy change over time? How did its strengths and weaknesses change as its strategy changed over time?
Analyze the opportunities and threats in the environment that confronted Kodak during this period.
How did Kodak change its strategy to respond to the opportunities and threats in the photographic imaging market?
What other changes in corporate strategy did Kodak make to add value to its portfolio?
How did these changes in strategy affect Kodak’s performance?
How did Kodak change its structure and control systems to respond to these environmental threats and to correct its weaknesses?
What do you think of Kodak’s future prospects? Would you buy shares in this firm? Why or why not?
Discussion Questions for Case 29—Hanson Plc (A): The Acquisition Machine
What kinds of companies does Hanson acquire?
Does Hanson add value to the companies it acquires, or is it just another asset stripper?
Why is Hanson so successful with its acquisitions?
How does Hanson control its divisions? What are the consequences of these controls?
Is Hanson right to de-emphasize synergies between operating companies?
How dependent is Hanson’s continuing success as an acquisition machine on the Hanson/White team?
Is breaking up Hanson and returning the gains to shareholders the logical thing to do once Hanson and White retire?
Discussion Questions for Case 30—Hanson Plc (B): Breaking It Up
In the early 1990s Hanson pulled back from its previously successful strategy of acquiring and restructuring poorly run companies. Why?
Evaluate Hanson’s acquisition of Quantum in 1993 and of the Eastern Group in 1995. Do these acquisitions fit the pattern of Hanson’s acquisitions during the 1980s (see the [A] case)? Where is the value going to come from?
Evaluate the decision to split up Hanson into four separate businesses. Does this decision make sense?
Discussion Questions for Case 31—First Greyhound, Then Greyhound Dial, Then Dial, Now What?
What were the critical incidents in Greyhound’s growth and development over time?
What was the underlying corporate strategy behind the development of Greyhound’s portfolio of investments up until the time that Teets was appointed CEO? Was Trautman correct to pursue this strategy? What were its advantages and pitfalls?
What environmental factors affected Greyhound’s businesses? Could anything have been done to control for environmental factors? In what ways did they distort the picture of Greyhound’s performance?
What did Teets do to change Greyhound’s corporate strategy and financial position in the 1980s? Analyze the rationale behind this strategy. Was it working?
How has Teets’s strategy worked in the 1990s?
Do you think that Dial should be split into two companies or that its assets should be divested?
Discussion Questions for Case 32—Enron International In India
Why do you think that Enron was willing to shoulder the risk of making such a significant investment in India? What long run benefits did the company foresee? Do you think that these benefits compensated for the risks involved?
Do you think that Enron was correct to build a risk premium into its original pricing of the Dabhol project? Should the company have foreseen that this might have been perceived as cost padding?
What lessons about the requirements for successful investments in India can other foreign companies draw from Enron’s experience with the Dabhol project?
Is the former U.S. Ambassador William Clark right when he claims that in the end, the Dabhol incident sends the right kind of signals about foreign investment in India? What kind of signals do you think it sends about investment in India?
Discussion Questions for Case 33—Nestlé: Global Strategy
Does it make sense for Nestlé to focus its growth on emerging markets? Why?
What is the company’s strategy with regard to business development in emerging markets? Does this strategy make sense?
From an organizational perspective, what is required for this strategy to work effectively?
How would you describe Nestlé’s strategic posture at the corporate level; is it pursuing an international, global, a multidomestic, or transnational strategy?
Does this overall strategic posture make sense given the markets and countries that Nestlé participates in? Why?
Is Nestlé’s management structure and philosophy aligned with its overall strategic posture?
Discussion Questions for Case 34—Pharmacia & Upjohn
What is Upjohn’s business-level strategy in its worldwide human health care businesses? What are the functional strengths that have contributed historically to this strategy?
How did Upjohn’s corporate-level strategy reinforce its business-level strategy? Chart the stages in the development of its corporate-level strategy, together with the advantages and pitfalls of these changes.
What means did Upjohn use for its diversification and global strategy?
What are the threats and opportunities in Upjohn’s environment? How have the major drug companies, including Upjohn, changed their strategies in response to the environment? Use Porter’s model to guide your analysis.
How did Upjohn’s strategy change in the early 1990s as its environment changed?
Why did Upjohn seek a merger with Pharmacia, and what kinds of gains did both companies hope to realize by merging? Have these gains been achieved?
Discussion Questions for Case 35—Monsanto: Building a Life Sciences Company
How would you describe the competitive economics of Monsanto’s business in the 1970s? What does this description suggest about the outlook for the company at that time?
Trace the evolution of technology strategy at Monsanto. Think through the advantages, disadvantages and risks associated with the various approaches that were used to build world class skills in life science research at Monsanto.
What decision process did Monsanto go through when considering whether to build a life sciences business?
One could argue that scientific talent was the most critical resource that Monsanto needed to access in order to develop its life sciences business. What did Monsanto have on its side in the competition for scarce talent? What factors were working against the company? How did it overcome some of these factors?
What was the logic for the Searle acquisition? How did the acquisition add value to Monsanto’s life science program?
What was Needleman’s strategy for drug development at Searle? Does this strategy make sense for a company like Monsanto? Why or why not?
What is the value proposition to farmers of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready and Bt seeds? Does Monsanto’s pricing strategy make sense given this value proposition? What special problems does Monsanto face in trying to sell to farmers?
Outline Monsanto’s business model for Roundup Ready seeds and its Roundup products. What is the basic strategy here and how might it lead to economic profits?
Why has Monsanto been vertically integrating forward into the seed corn industry? What is the strategic rationale for such a move?
Evaluate Monsanto’s launch strategy for its Cox-2 inhibitor. Does the strategy make sense? Why?
Comment on the opposition of groups such as EU consumers and Rifkin’s organization to Monsanto’s genetically engineered products. Are these groups latter day Luddites, or do they have a point? How should Monsanto deal with the opposition from such groups?
Discussion Questions for Case 36—Tyco International
How did Tyco become what it is today? How did its acquisitions strategy change over time?
Does Tyco add shareholder value or dissipate shareholder value in pursuing its growth strategy through acquisitions?
How does Tyco control its divisions? What alternative control systems do you think might be applicable?
What are your recommendations for Kozlowski?
Discussion Questions for Case 37—Philips Versus Matsushita: Preparing for a New Round
How did Philips accomplish world leadership in the global consumer electronics industry up until the 1980s?
What environmental changes did Philips face during the 1960s and 1970s? What were the implications of these changes?
Why did Philips have low profits during the 1970s? Why did this situation persist during the 1980s?
How was Matsushita able to ascend to world leadership and thus overtake Philips? What is the source of Matsushita’s competitive advantage?
What must Philips do to survive?
Matsushita’s core competencies might turn into core rigidities in the newly encountered environment. What must Matsushita do to remain competitive?
Discussion Questions for Case 38—ABB in China: 1998
Why is ABB restructuring again, so soon after its last restructuring? Does the firm need to restructure? What is Göran Lindahl’s organizational intent? How will the expatriates in China react to the restructuring?
What effect does the Chinese culture have on the manner that companies conduct business in China?
How well has ABB dealt with the contradictions between the Chinese culture and its own corporate culture? That is, does ABB’s administrative heritage ‘fit’ the particular challenges of doing business in China?
Is the profit center structure the best fit for China?
What challenges does China present to ABB’s current expatriate policies?
Will ABB’s restructuring efforts resolve some of the problems it is experiencing in China? How does the ABB Chinese structure fit into the ABB matrix structure?
How does ABB’s experience in China compare with the experiences of Motorola, P&G and Nestlé?
Discussion Questions for Case 39—Sandvik AB (A) & (B)
What is Sandvik: a portfolio of unrelated business units or a group of related businesses with strong synergies? Is the whole more than the sum of the parts?
How effective has Clas Åke Hedström been up to now in his pursuit of synergies among the six Sandvik Businesses?
Should Hedström push ahead with his plan to gain greater synergies among the businesses? And if yes, how should he proceed?
Discussion Questions for Case 40—PBS (A): The Joint Venture Decision & PBS (B): The ABB PBS Joint Venture in Operation
How can PBS become competitive in world markets?
Can PBS continue to operate as an independent company or does PBS need some sort of foreign company relationship, and if so, what relationship would be best?
Should the joint venture with ABB be formed?
How can PBS become competitive in world markets?
What actions are necessary for ABB PBS top management to undertake to secure the long term success of the company?
Discussion Questions for Case 41—The Boeing Company: The Merger with McDonnell Douglas
What is the essence of competition in the commercial aircraft industry? How does the economics of aircraft manufacturing affect competition?
What impact will the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas merger have on the structure of the commercial aircraft industry? Distinguish short-run and long-run effects.
Why did Boeing acquire McDonnell Douglas? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this move?
Historically, the 737 and 747 were Boeing’s most successful models, but in the 1990s, both models were responsible (in part) for Boeing’s financial troubles. What did Boeing do to address this issue?
Following Boeing’s takeover of McDonnell Douglas, Airbus Industries has achieved a 33 percent world market share in commercial aircraft deliveries and a 50 percent world market share in commercial aircraft orders. How should the ‘new’ Boeing respond to Airbus?
Following the merger with McDonnell Douglas, where is Boeing still vulnerable?