15.963 | Spring 2008 | Graduate

Advanced Strategy


The Two Pagers

There are three “two pagers.”

For Ses #5, please answer the following questions:

  • What evidence do you have that your chosen company has been outstandingly successful?
  • What lies at the root of their competitive advantage? Has it changed over time?
  • Who is their most important rival? Why has their rival been unable to duplicate their success?

For Ses #8, please answer the following question:

  • What are the organizational competencies of your firm?

For Ses #11, please answer the following questions:

  • Does your chosen firm show any signs of having built “relational contracts” within the firm or with key suppliers/partners/buyers? If so, what do they look like? How were they built? Why are they important?
  • Does your chosen firm show any signs of being able to deal with the “worse before better” problem? If so, why is it important and how do they appear to deal with it?

In all three cases, you have only two to three pages to explore these questions, so your answers will be necessarily brief. Nevertheless, please make them as thoughtful as you can!

Instructor Comments

Reflections on Relational Contracts (PDF)

The Final Paper

The final paper is due in class in Ses #24. A brief slide deck — no more than 6-7 slides — outlining your core conclusions is due in class in Ses #23.

The final paper should draw on the “two pagers” you have written in the first half of the class to analyze the strategic position of your chosen firm. You should imagine that you have been asked by the CEO and his/her senior team to brief them as to the strategic and competitive threats that the firm faces and the actions that you recommend they should take to combat them and to position the firm for future success.

A wide variety of formats are appropriate for this paper, but if I were you I’d focus on the following questions:

  • What are the roots of the firm’s competitive advantage? Why has it been as successful as it has been? What are the key factors that sustain that advantage today?
  • What are the important forces for change in the firm’s strategic and competitive environment? What are the major opportunities? The major threats?
  • Who are the firm’s most important competitors? Are new competitors likely to emerge? Who are they likely to be?
  • Are there other major players in the environment — complementors, channels, suppliers — whose role may change or shift?
  • What would you recommend that the firm do to maintain and/or improve its position? (Be as specific as you can here — the equivalent of “buy low and sell high” or “watch key competitors and take action as appropriate” are not useful.) If you were running “your” firm, what would you do? It’s fine to make contingent recommendations — if x happens then do y — but please be specific as to the nature of both “x” and “y”.

Your paper should be no more than about twenty pages in length, plus exhibits and figures. I would be delighted to review early drafts, and will be positively ecstatic if you can get me the finished paper by one day after Ses #22 — any such “early bird” papers will be graded with particular interest and appreciation, and will be back in your hands by Ses #23.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments