Corporate Strategy (Fall Semester 2017)

ECTS 6 (= 4 SWS) 
Coach Prof. Artur Baldauf, Dr. Simone Schweigler
Assistant Noora Marttila , Jessica Villiger
Contact ,
Location Room 001, Engehaldenstrasse 8

Credits acknowledged

Students specializing in management In core subject (Kernbereich)
Others In elective subjects (Wahlbereich)

Target Group

MBA students (basic course, Basisveranstaltung) / lic.rer.pol. students (optional course) 


The course will be held in English, and students are expected to give their presentations in English. Questions in the written exam will be in English. Answers can be in either English or German. 


Due to a team learning approach, students are required to register over KSL. Registrations will be accepted from August 29 until Sep 22 in KSL. We are unfortunately not able to cancel or add registrations after the registration period has ended.

Students will be split into groups and thus we cannot accept any cancellations of the registration later than September 26th If students cancel their registration later than September 26th they will receive a grade 1 from this course.

There is compulsory attendance for selected classes of this course. Please refer to the course schedule for detailed information. Absence must not exceed two of such classes in order to receive an overall positive evaluation.

In case of illness or other reason for absenteeism in these sessions, please inform the teaching assistant in advance and be prepared to provide a written confirmation.


The basic course “Strategische Unternehmensführung” (Strategic Management) or an equivilant bachelor level course held at other universities must have been completed.

Course Description

Most industrial activity in developed countries is carried out by large corporations that compete in more than one market. Some well-known Swiss examples of companies include Nestlé, Novartis, UBS, Valora etc. Due to the dominant role these firms play in economic activity, it is likely that most students, regardless of their chosen career paths, will at some point either work for, advice, or compete with, a multibusiness corporation.

The nature of these large corporations has undergone enormous change in the past forty years, affecting both their scope and their structure. The merger and acquisition booms of the sixties and eighties extended the scope of existing multibusiness corporations. More recently, capital market pressures forced every corporation to reassess its portfolio of businesses, level of overhead, and the way it coordinates and controls its multibusiness activities. New forms of corporate organization, such as the LBO partnerships of the eighties, provoked a debate about the efficacy of corporate hierarchies. In addition, new institutional arrangements, such as joint ventures, alliances and franchising have come to prominence.

Key Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students are able to:

  • explain how a corporation creates economic value through its multimarket activity
  • explain how a corporation should be structured and managed to realize the benefits of its multimarket activity
  • discuss why certain corporate activities should be undertaken inside the corporation, rather than accessed through contracts, joint ventures or other institutional arrangements
  • analyze the corporate strategy and corporate level decisions of a company through a given case study and discuss it in front of class
  • identify elements of the corporate strategy triangle on the basis of an example of a Swiss company and present their findings in front of class

Teaching Approach and Performance Evaluation

Individual Performance

 Final Written Exam 70%

Team Performance

A) Practical Example (handout and presentation) 10%

B) Case Study (case analysis and discussion) 20%

Each component (exam, practical example, and case study) has to be graded positively (i.e., with the grade “4” or higher) in order to get an overall positive evaluation.


Individual Performance

There are two opportunities for taking the Corporate Strategy exam (see dates and registration period from the course schedule below).

Exam duration is 90 minutes and will consist of open and multiple choice questions. You need at least 50 % of the points to pass the exam.

In the theory part, you will be confronted with questions referring to concepts covered in the lectures and in the text book. In the multiple choice part, you will be confronted with questions that cover theoretical concepts you have learned in the lecture as well as practical questions. If you answer a multiple choice question incorrectly, your overall score will be diminished by the number of points assigned to this question. If you decide not to answer a multiple choice question, you will receive zero points for this question.

In the case study part of the exam, you will be confronted with a company case in which you should transfer the knowledge you have gained in the lecture, the text book, the guest lectures, the case studies, and the team work presented.

Should you decide not to take the exam this semester, you may keep your case study and team grade for the next semester. In this case, contact the course assistant.


Team Performance

Every student attending the Corporate Strategy lecture has to be part of a team presenting A) practical example and B) a case study. Depending on the size of the class, teams are composed of 4-6 students. Students need to allocate to groups by themselves and have to sign in to their preferred team, topic and cases study session on ILIAS by 26th of September 11:00 a.m.. The final team formation will be announced at the lecture on 28th of September.  

While we encourage all members of a group to participate in the work of both the team presentation as well as the case study, you are free to decide who will work and/or present the team project and case study. It is not obligatory that the whole group or each team member respectively is presenting (but attendance in class is required from everyone during presentation time).


  1. Practical Example

The course is structured along seven (7) topics (see course schedule). Each topic is followed by a short practical example, which summarizes the key content of the topic discussed the previous week.

In teams, students will describe and analyze an article about a corporation, which will be given to them two (2) weeks prior to the presentation day (article will be uploaded on ILIAS every Thursday after class). Each article refers to a specific chapter of the Corporate Strategy course. The objective of the passignment is to enable students to resume the content covered in class before. Further, students should demonstrate their ability to support their arguments through the application of a specific framework (students have to use frameworks of the respective chapter to which the team is assigned to).

The same article will be distributed to two or three teams. Each team will prepare a handout (max. 2 pages) and a power-point presentation (max. 7 slides), which have to be uploaded on the Tuesday prior to the class until 11.59 p.m. on ILIAS. The team providing the most profound answer will be chosen to present on Thursday. Teams will be informed on the preceding Wednesday afternoon whether they are invited to present or not. Only the handout and power point slides submitted on Tuesday are going to be evaluated. The presentation in front of class will not be evaluated.

The presentation should summarize the topic of the previous lecture shortly, describe the content of the article in few sentences, and identify and highlight the elements of the article that reflect the topic of the previous lecture. The handout should explain the content of the presentation in full sentences. Students will be allowed to present 12 minutes, following a discussion of 10 minutes.


   B) Case Study

The goal of the case study is to analyze a corporate strategy and corporate level decisions of companies through given case examples.

The students will assign themselves to one of the four sessions (duration 2 x 45 minutes). In each session, two cases will be discussed in a round table. Students are expected to prepare for their session by reading the cases and taking part in discussion is required. Furthermore, each team answers the same questions regarding one of the cases. Students will answer these questions by applying the frameworks learned during this course and present their solutions in the session. The presentation should include 4-8 slides (10 minutes). Note: There is a 20-minute discussion after two first presentations (Disney) and at the end of the session (after Danaher). Students are expected to prepare questions for other teams and be ready to argument for their own analysis of the value creation and strategic plan. The deadline to submit the presentation is on Nov 30, 6 p.m.

The grade will be based on the case analysis but also on the activity in the discussion (evaluation criteria will be available on ILIAS).

Detailed information regarding the case study and team project will be provided on September 21 at the “Introduction to team assignments”.

Course Material

Further course materials will be available on ILIAS during the semester. 


Required reading

Please open the complete list of readings from here:

Recommended reading

To be able to transfer your theoretical strategy knowledge to current phenomena in real practice, we highly recommend that you expose yourself to qualitative print material such as: Neue Zürcher Zeichtung (NZZ), Finanz und Wirtschaft, Economist, Bilanz

  • Collis, David & Montgomery, Cynthia. 2005. Corporate Strategy: A Resource Based Approach, 2nd edition, Irwin/McGraw-Hill. This book is out of stock! Therefore, we provide this book in a binder at Ms. Rüfenacht’s office (122) for you to copy.


Additional reading

  • Besanko, David & Dranove, David & Shanley, Mark & Schaefer, Scott. 2009. Economics of Strategy, 5th edition, John Wiley & Sons.

  • Hitt, Michel A. & Ireland, R. Duane & Hoskisson, Robert E. 2006. Strategic Management Concepts, 7th edition, Cengage Learning

Date Time                Topic  Room 
Sep 21
8.00-11.00 a.m.                                                                                 
Attendance for all students required 

Course Overview & An introduction to Corporate Strategy

Introduction to case study sessions and team project

001, Engehalde 8            
Sep 26
11.00 a.m. DUE Allocate to teams (ILIAS)  
Sep 28 8.00-11.00 a.m.      

Teams will be informed about team formation

Resources and Rents I
001, Engehalde 8             
Oct 05 8.00-11.00 a.m.       Resources and Rents II
001, Engehalde 8
Oct 12 8.00-11.00 a.m.      Resouces and Rents Recap (Student presentation 1)

Scale and Scope within an Industry
001, Engehalde 8
Oct 19 8.00-11.00 a.m.      Scale and Scope Recap (Student presentation 2)

Diversified Expansion
001, Engehlade 8
Oct 26 8.00-11.00 a.m.      Diversified Expansion Recap (Student presentation 3)

Organizational Limits to Firm Scope
001, Engehalde 8
Nov 02 8.00-12.00 a.m.       Attendance for all students required

Organizational Limits to Firm Scope Recap (Student presentation 4)

Guest speaker: Pia Tischauser, Boston Consulting Group

Managing the Multi-Business Corporation

001, Engehalde 8
Nov 09
8.00-11.00 a.m.     
Managing the Multibusiness Corporation Recap (Student presentation 5)                                                                       

Corporate Governance                                                                                                

001, Engehalde 8
Nov 16
8.00-11.00 a.m.     
Corporate Governance Recap (student presentation 6)

Creating Corporate Advantage
001, Engehalde 8
Nov 23
8.00-12.00 a.m.
Attendance for all students required

Creating Corporate Advantage Recap (Student presentation 7)

Guest speaker: Dr. Suzanne Thoma, CEO, BKW
001, Engehalde 8
Nov 30 8.00-10.00 a.m.     
Questions&Answers Exam
001, Engehalde 8
Dec 07
8.00-10.30 a.m.

10.30-12.00 a.m.
Case study session 1**

Case study session 2**

001, Engehalde 8
Dec 14
8.00-10.30 a.m.

10.00-12.00 a.m.
Case study session 3**

Case study session 4**

001, Engehalde 8
Dec 19
18.15-19.45 p.m. Exam (1st opportunity) Registration by 01.Dec via KSL Main Building, Room 210
Feb 15
16.30-18.00 p.m.
Exam (2nd opportunity) Registration 16.Jan - 10. Feb via KSL Main Building, Room 110
    **Attendance required only for the students assigned for this session