Corporate Strategy (Fall Semester 2023)

General Information

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ECTS 6 (= 4 SWS) 
Lecturer Prof. Dr. Artur Baldauf
Assistant Joëlle HoferSimon Nobs
Contact Joëlle.Hofer@unibe.ch, Simon.Nobs@unibe.ch
Location Room 001, Engehaldenstrasse 8
Target Group M.Sc.in Business Administration students (basic course, Basisveranstaltung)
Teaching Format The classes are held in-person with no possibility to follow the course online.
KSL

Credits acknowledged

For students specializing in management: In core subject (Kernbereich)
For students of other specialties: In elective subjects (Wahlbereich)

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, advise, or compete with, a multi-business 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 multi-business corporations. More recently, capital market pressures forced corporations to reassess their portfolio of businesses, level of overhead, and the way they coordinate and control their multi-business 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
  • discuss why certain corporate activities should be undertaken inside the corporation, rather than accessed through contracts, joint ventures or other institutional arrangements
  • explain how a corporation should be structured and managed to realize the benefits of its multimarket activity
  • analyze the corporate strategy and corporate level decisions of a company through a given case study and discuss it in front of class

Teaching Approach and Performance Evaluation

The course is planned to be held physically. However, due to the evolving pandemic situation, the teaching approach might be shifted to virtual on short notice.

This course uses a flipped class-room learning approach, building on individual preparation, classic lectures and in-class application.

Concretely this means:

  • Preparation before class: Reading the relevant chapter and the additional literature according to the reading list to gain an understanding of the topic and the underlying theory. Reviewing the relevant case material and reflecting on the case questions.
  • Engagement during class: Discussing the most pertinent aspects of the theory and apply it to practical examples together.
  • Extending after class: Participating in a group assignment to apply the theory to a real life company example Reflecting individually on theory and practice.

Individual Performance (60%)

  • Case preparation (10%)
  • Final Written Exam (50%)

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

The exam duration and form will be communicated in class at a later date.

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

Team Performance (40%)

Analysis of the corporate strategy of a Swiss corporation

  • Write-ups applying the relevant chapters to the chosen corporation (20%).
  • Final presentation & discussion evaluating the corporate strategy of the chosen corporation as a whole (20%).

Every student attending the Corporate Strategy lecture must be part of a team to do the case analysis (write-ups and final presentation). Therefore, Students need to assign themselves to teams via ILIAS by Friday, October 6th, 12.00 (noon). Teams are composed of 4 students. Each team needs to choose a Swiss corporation upon which they will base their team work. Finally, each team needs to indicate their preferred final presentation date (December 7th or December 14th).

For the final presentation it is not compulsory that each team member participates in the presentation. However, attendance in class during the presentation sessions is required.

The goal of the write-ups and the final presentation is for teams to evaluate the corporate strategy of a Swiss corporation using the theory as a base. While the write-up has the purpose to continuously apply the theory of a specific chapter to the chosen corporation, the purpose of the final presentation is to evaluate the corporate strategy as a whole.

Guidance on the structure and content of the write-ups and the final presentation is provided in class and on ILIAS.

Each performance 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.

Formalities

Registration

Due to a team learning approach, students are required to register over KSL. Registrations will be accepted from the 1st of June until the 30th of September. 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 30th. If students cancel their registration later than September 30th, they will receive a grade 1 from this course.

There is mandatory attendance for selected classes of this course. Please refer to the course schedule at the end of this syllabus for a detailed overview. 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.

Preconditions

The basic course “Strategische Unternehmensführung” (Strategic Management) or an equivalent bachelor level course held at another university must have been completed.

Furthermore, one must be a master student at the University of Bern and ideally in the second or third semester of the master studies.

Language

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. 

Course Material & Readings

Collis, David & Montgomery, Cynthia. 2005. Corporate Strategy: A Resource Based Approach, 2nd edition, Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
This book is out of stock! You can find copies at Wiwi-Bib at Schanzeneckstrasse 1. 

For selected chapters you may use the following alternative textbook: Puranam, P., & Vanneste, B. (2016). Corporate strategy: Tools for analysis and decision-making. Cambridge University Press.

To be able to apply your corporate strategy framework/knowledge to current phenomena in real practice, we highly recommend that you expose yourself to qualitative print material such as: Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), Finanz und Wirtschaft, Bilanz, The Economist or the Financia Times.

Please also note that a complete list of required readings will be provided on ILIAS. There we will provide additional references relating to specific topics covered in this class.

Tentative Course Overview

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 Date Time, Place  Topic 
Session 1

October 5th

08:15 -10.00
Engehalde 8, room 001


                                                                    
Attendance for all students required 

Course Overview
An introduction to Corporate Strategy

Introduction to team assignments

Task 1
October 6th
until 11:00 Allocate to teams, choose Swiss Corporation for Team Assignment and indicate preferred final Presentation date (ILIAS)
Prep 1
October 11th
until 12:00 Preparation Disney Case “Resources” (ILIAS)
Session 2
October 12th
08:15 - 11:00 
Engehalde 8, room 001
Resources and Rents 
Write-up 1
October 18th
until 12:00 Hand-in Write-up 1 (ILIAS)
Prep 2
October 18th
until 12.00 Preparation Disney Case “Scale and Scope” (ILIAS)
Session 3
October 19th 
08:15 - 11:00 

Engehalde 8, room 001

Scale and Scope within an Industry

Discussion Write up 1

Prep 3
October 25th
until 12:00 Preparation Disney Case “Diversified Expansion” (ILIAS)
Session 4
October 26th
08:15 - 11:00

Engehalde 8, room 001

Diversified Expansion
Write-up 2
November 1st
until 12:00 Hand-in Write-up 2 (ILIAS)
Prep 4
November 1st
until 12:00 Preparation Disney Case “Organizational Limits” (ILIAS)
Session 5
November 2nd
08:15 - 11:00

Engehalde 8, room 001

Organizational Limits to Firm Scope

Discussion of Write up 2

Prep 5
November 8th
until 12:00 Preparation Disney Case “Multibusiness Corporation” (ILIAS)
Session 6
November 9th
08:15 - 11:00
Engehalde 8, room 001
Managing the Multi-business Corporation

Guest Speaker: Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter, President of the Board, Bernese Cantonal Bank 

Attendance for all students required

Write-up 3
November 15th
until 12:00 Hand-in Write-up 3 (ILIAS)
Prep 6
November 15th
until 12:00 Preparation Disney Case “Corporate Advantage” (ILIAS)
Session 7
November 16th
08:15 - 11:00
Engehalde 8, room 001
Creating Corporate Advantage

Discussion of Write-up 3

Session 8
November 23rd
08:15 - 11:00
Engehalde 8, room 001
Corporate Governance 
Write-up 4
November 29th
until 12:00 Hand-in Write-up 4 (ILIAS)
Prep 7
November 29th
until 12:00 Preparation Disney Case “Corporate Governance and Transformation” (ILIAS)
Session 9
November 30th
08:15 - 11:00
Engehalde 8, room 001
Corporate Governance

Transforming the Corporation

Discussion of Write-up 4

Session 10
December 7th
08:15 - 12:00 Case Presentation Session 1 (Team Projects)
Session 11
December 14th
08:15 - 12:00 Case Presentation Session 2 (Team Projects)
December 19th 18:15 - 20:15 Exam (1st opportunity)
February 13th, 2024 12.00 - 14:00 Exam (2nd opportunity)