MGT 610: General Management Tools I:
Fundamental knowledge and skills
(2 hrs.)
Course Syllabus Fall 1997

.Instructor: George M. Puia, Ph.D. Office Room 617
Class Meetings

Monday, 5:20-7:30 p.m.

Room 205


Web HTTP://
Office Hours:

Monday 5:20-7:30;

Tuesday 1:00-2:00;

6:00 - 6:45

Thursday 3:15-4:00

or by appointment









(please do not call after 9:00 p.m.)


Prerequisites: Acceptance into the MBA program and completion of the prerequisite competencies.
Required Texts

Contemporary Strategy Analysis, 2nd Ed., Robert M. Grant, 1995. Blackwell Publishers.

ISBN 1-55786-513-2


Recommended Texts


Case Studies in Strategic Management, GM Puia, Ed., The Paper Chase, 667 Wabash, Terre Haute 812-324-8433.

Guide to Managerial Communication: Effective business writing and speaking, 4th Ed., Mary Munter, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-13-256447-5

Understanding & Using the Internet: 1997 Edition, Bruce McLaren, West Publishing Company

10 minute guide to PowerPoint for Windows 95, Wempen & Kraynak, Que.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th. Edition, APA.


Supplementary Materials  

You will receive a significant number of readings, summaries and handouts. You may wish to use a three ring binder or other method to keep your materials organized.



When discussing cases, we will always consider the financial statements. Bring a calculator to class.


Course Description

Management 610 is designed to provide the incoming MBA student a set of fundamental knowledge and skills for use in the balance of the MBA program and in their business careers. The focus of an MBA program is on general management; the set of skills needed to understand and operate an entire enterprise. Unlike functional managers who depend largely on a body of technical expertise, general managers must be facile in a broad range of business contexts and across the full range of technical business fields.

To be successful as an executive, general managers must be able to make and implement decision that lead the entire enterprise to a position of competitive advantage.

To accomplish this ambitious agenda, this course deals with the set of fundamental knowledge and tools needed by an incoming MBA student to complete their journey toward mastery of business management.

Specifically, this course will focus on four areas:

  1. Business Strategy
  2. Case study methodology
  3. Business Communication
  4. Research Tools - including the Internet

Strategic management is the body of knowledge, models and tools used by executives to lead their company to a competitive advantage. For this course, students will become familiar with those business strategy for single product companies. This framework will provide students with an understanding of what is required at the functional level (production operations, marketing, finance, and accounting) in order for a firm to achieve competitive advantage. Management 690 will extend the models and tools developed in MGT 610 to include globalization, dynamics and corporate diversification).

This course is often referred to as an integrative course. This is because we will be studying concepts and cases that focus on entire companies and their environments.



You will be begin to understand how the strategic management model can be applied to identify the relevant issues in the cases. The cases are presented from a general or senior management point of view, a perspective you are expected to keep throughout the semester.

Management 610 will also help you develop a specific set of tools and models for analyzing business situations. You will be expected to be able to correctly identify and apply an appropriate model for analyzing and solving problems. One of the tools you will learn is the case study method. The case method helps students develop their inductive reasoning skills. It also provides students with exposure to a broad range of business problems and contexts within which to test their newly developed knowledge and tools.

You will also develop a set of fundamental skills in communication, including: audience analysis, oral presentation skills, the use of visual aids in management communication and written communication. These skills will be vital to your on-going success in the MBA program and beyond.

Students will be expected to complete a major project in their first semester. As part of this experience, students will need to become familiar with the research process and with the information resources available in the ISU library system.

Finally, students will enhance their computing skills in two areas. First, students will be required to use Microsoft PowerPoint for in-class presentations. Second, students will routinely use the Internet to find information for class discussions, assignments and projects.

Course Objectives

To prepare students to conduct business in the dynamic international arena. Specifically, the course aims to help students:

1. Develop an understanding of the basic concepts of business strategy & policy and be able to apply those concepts to the management of a total enterprise in an international business environment.

2. Be able to model the political, economic, social , cultural and competitive forces that determine the "playing field" for a business involved in a particular industry.

3. Develop and apply appropriate models and tools to exploit opportunities and solve problems in ways that lead a firm toward sustainable competitive advantage.

4. Develop an understanding and sensitivity to the unique ethical issues that arise in the conduct of forming and implementing strategy.

5. Understand the relationship between total quality programs and initiatives and competitive advantage.

6. Develop and apply models and tools for assessing and firm allocating resources in ways that lead to competitive advantage.

7. Provide a "practice field" for integrating cross-functional concepts to the solution of actual management problems.

8. Sharpen your strategic thinking and critical thinking skills.

9. Be able to analyze business situations and audiences and develop a communication strategy for a particular communication context.



10. Be able to develop and implement oral presentations in a variety of contexts using a broad range of visual aids.

11. Use effective data displays and correct writing techniques in writing business reports.

  • Learn how to "continue learning" about strategic management.

13. Develop and implement an information search strategy using library and Internet resources.

14. Develop an appreciation of the value of diversity in understanding strategic issues and formulating strategy.


Sources of evaluation

Grades will be developed from 4 sources: a mid-term exam; a final exam; a semester team project; and preparation and participation in class meetings including in-class presentations & hand-ins.


Preparation &


Attendance at class sessions is essential to your success in this course. Much of the material will be presented through case studies and small group exercises. In addition to the class participation requirement in the grading scheme, lectures will routinely contain information that is not contained in the textbook and that will appear on the exams. Students are responsible for obtaining class notes from their peers for any missed lectures. Each student who maintains a high level of preparation improves the quality of the course for all students. Students who miss three class periods will have their grade dropped a minimum of one full letter grade, e.g., B to C.

Class presentations, hand-ins, preparation and participation greatly influence your grade. There are several elements to this component.



First, there will be hand-in assignments for several class sessions. The assignments are typically two or three typed pages. On occasion, they will be as simple as bringing an overhead to class with two to three discussion questions.



Second, class participation will be evaluated by your peers in regard to both quantity and quality. Please come to class prepared to offer your insight.

Finally, you will be asked to present a summary of your project to the class. This presentation will be evaluated as class participation (not as part of your project).

While the professor recognizes the legitimate demands placed on your career by your present employer, those demands need to stop at the classroom door. Therefore, you are not permitted to take cellular phone messages in class or to leave class to manage "urgent" business. You, and your peers, require your undivided attention each class period. There will be a brief break each evening for those who must maintain contact with their business.



The mid-term will be an in class exam. The exam will require you to integrate material from the text and lectures with information gained from your team project. The mid-term will be a closed-book essay exam. The questions will be similar to the end of chapter discussion questions. Students who study the discussion questions each week and then review their answers should be well prepared for the mid-term exam. The final exam will be comprehensive, covering the entire semesterís material.


Semester Project

Comprehensive case analysis: Students will work in teams to analyze one of three companies: Wal-Mart, Polaroid, or Columbia HCA. Students are to develop a strategic profile of the company. A detailed project guide will be distributed in class to assist you in developing your project.



Grading Assignment

% of Grade
  Mid-term exam

25 %
  Semester project

25 %
  Final Exam

25 %

In-class presentations,

preparation & participation

25 %

Grades will be assigned on the following scale

Letter Grade Scale

------------------ -------------

A 92% - 100%

B+ 90% - 91.9%

B 82% - 89.9%

C+ 80% - 81.9%

C 72% - 79.9%

D+ 69% - 71.9%

D 62% - 68.9%

F <62 %

Academic Misconduct All University, School of Business and departmental policies on academic honesty will be strictly enforced.

MGT 610
Tentative Assignment Schedule
Subject to change

Date Topic Assignments

Introduction to course, instructor, requirements. Ice Breaker,

Overview of strategic management - four tests of effective strategy, Review case study methodology



Complete student background form, assign project teams, Introduce concepts of firm performance



What is performance; the relationship of performance to strategy; measures of performance. Read Handguns at Wal-Mart case.

(as for all classes, bring a calculator to class). Team project assignments


Read Grant chapter 1, Review the Wal-Mart case, prepare a written response to case: Who are the stakeholders? What do they desire? How do their desires conflict?



The I/O model of competitiveness, Turning concepts into tools, workshop on measuring environmental and competitive change, Thai Silk case.




Read Grant Chapter 3, Read Munter Chapter 5. Prepare an outline answer on an overhead to questions 1-2, or 3-4, or 5-6 (assigned in class). Case: Thai Silk

Intra-industry Analysis: Segmentation, strategic groups and competitive appraisal. Business communication with Prof. Sandra Nelson.

Information search strategies-library research.


Read Grant Chapter 4, Read Munter Chapter 6.

Analyzing resources and capabilities

The resource based model of the firm. Situation and resource analysis. Value chains, Competitive strength assessment, Strategic issue management

Case: Outback Steakhouse (H)



Read Grant Chapter 5, read case. Library scavenger hunt on Outback Steakhouse: 1 recent article from a trade publication; 1 article from the business press; 1 article from the general press; 1 reference review from an industry study. Review Outbackís resources, as a team, update your resource list based on you new data.



Part II. Business Strategies

Competitive strategies (basis-direction-method); generic strategies;

Review for Exam:


Read Grant Chapter 6

Midterm Exam




Written Communication workshop

Exam Feedback



Read Munter chapters 2 and 3




Fall Break





Cost Advantage, experience curve, sources of cost advantage; process reengineering . Internet search strategies. Case: Columbia HCA


Read Chapter 7 in Grant, read the Columbia HCA case, prepare an answer of the discussion questions: What are the sources of Columbiaís cost advantage? Could a local hospital compete with Columbia through process reengineering?



Differentiation advantage; bases of differentiation; sustained advantage; Case: Polaroid and the family imaging market



Read Grant chapter 8 and case. Answer: Is Polaroidís new project consistent with their strategy? Defend your answer?



Competitive advantage and Industry evolution


Read Grant Chapter 9




Competitive advantage in mature industries

Case: Western Region Network Television



Read Grant Chapter 11.

Completely analyze the case.


Global Industries

International business information sources

Case study: Russ Wayne Equipment: Joint Venture in Russia



Read Grant Chapter 13, Read case, prepare answers to discussion set.

Written projects due. Prepare a 20-25 minute presentation to introduce the class to your assessment tools.



Final class session, project presentations, course evaluations, strategy making process

prep for final exam.


Skim Grant chapter 1



Final Exam



Learning from Case Studies

The case study method is one of the primary teaching methods used in business policy courses internationally. In some programs, most notably Harvard in this country and the University of Western Ontario and Cranfield (U.K.) abroad, it is the dominant method employed. The following material was synthesized from an number of valuable sources on case research to provide you with some additional background on learning from case studies. (References are available upon request).

A case study in a strategic management course is different than a case history. A case history presents an historical account of some event. Typically in a case history, the analyst can read about the outcomes of a case, and then evaluate those outcomes. The case studies used in this course have been written for a different purpose, to help you develop your strategic thinking. In these cases, there are unresolved problems. Students are asked to 'play the role' of the top management team and make decisions based on the information that is available.

The cases you will be studying have been proven in the classroom. Most of them have undergone a rigorous examination and validation by anonymous reviewers prior to publication. (The most influential of these review bodies is NACRA: the North American Case Research Association). The cases you will study are "field" cases. That is, much of the information contained in the cases was developed from field interviews with the actual participants, not from reading press reports (information which has already been filtered by the journalist). Through the case study method, you will be exposed to the thoughts, ideas, strategies, visions and conflicts of actual managers attempting to solve very real problems.

Through the case studies analyzed in this course, you will be encouraged to develop the following skills:

1. Problem identification skills - real business problems do not come with convenient labels. Often there are problems contained within problems and each different problem may require a unique solution. You will develop your skill at identifying the critical issues that seem to be driving the success or failure of the firms you study.

2. General analytical skills - your case exercises will help you learn to handle complex information. You will be encouraged to classify, organize and evaluate information. You will learn to recognize noise, extraneous or unneeded information, as well as missing information.

3. Use of strategy models - The cases will provide a laboratory for you to apply many of the basic strategy models, including, but not limited to: the five forces model of competitive behavior, the value chain, stakeholder analysis as well as more common financial models and tests like liquidity, leverage, activity and profit measurements.

4. Creativity - Creativity is essential in providing alternative prospective solutions to policy/strategy problems. In addition to having strong analytical skills and a command of the basic models of strategy, a good strategist is also a creative problem solver.

5. Decision making skills - Ultimately, you will be required to make and defend decisions. In developing a greater understanding of the decision process, you will be encouraged to consider the long term impact of your decisions on all of the organization's stakeholders.

6. Communication skills - The case discussions will provide a forum for you to present your ideas. You will be encouraged to bring your own overheads, diagrams, notes, etc. to class to support the decision you have made. In addition, you will develop your skills at listening, empathizing, supporting, arguing and coalition building as you lobby for your ideas.

7. Self-awareness - Hopefully, the case study environment will provide a forum for you to better understand you own values, judgment and skills. You will be able to compare your performance on a regular basis with other students who are often at a similar stage of their career.

In order to fully develop your skills, the following guidelines are provided for the study of a business policy case:

1. Read the case before you study the case. Many of us read with a pencil and highlighter in hand, noting important points as we read. This method will greatly limit your success with case studies. It is very dangerous to make premature judgments as to what is important in a case study. Read the entire case to develop a sense of the whole before you attempt to make any judgments about the case.

2. Identify the symptoms that may indicate there is a problem. Be aware that cases, like real management problems, don't always provide the clearest of signals. Cases contain noise, excess information, and/or incomplete information that can mislead the reader. At this stage, begin to gather facts, assess financial information, analyze competition, etc.

3. Identify the problem or problems you feel need a solution. Be prepared to explain why you feel a given situation is a problem. Try to identify the critical issues that need resolution. If this problem were solved, what would happen to the company?

4. Generate alternative solutions to problems. Look for quantity as much as quality at this stage. Problem solving is a creative act. Don't slow your creativity by taking time to evaluate alternatives at this stage.

5. Evaluate your tentative solutions. Be aware of the implementation issues associated with each alternative, e.g., capital requirements, time to implement, politics, etc. Note the relationship between the proposed solution, the critical issues and the potential outcomes of the organization.

6. Write a brief summary of your proposed "best" solution. Seek for brevity and clarity in writing. Your ability to concisely summarize a problem, alternative solutions and your recommendations is a powerful skill.

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