Strategy in Practice



Tovstiga, George, Prof. Dr. Department of Management & Strategy, EDHEC Business School, Paris, FRANCE



45 contact hours


Introductory-level Business Strategy is recommended, but not mandatory.

Course Description:

This course focuses on a first-principles approach to strategic analysis, sense making, strategic option formation, evaluation, decision-making and strategy implementation in real business contexts. This course develops an insight-driven, strategic thinking approach to strategic management. The course objective is to enable students to:
• develop an understanding of current thinking and approaches to strategy and the field of strategic management;
• to think strategically; apply strategic thinking to analysis and sense making of competitive contexts;
• demonstrate competence in identifying the relevant issues and developing managerial insight through judicious application of appropriate tools of strategic analysis; to 'not lose sight of the forest for the trees' when dealing with everyday complex managerial challenges of strategic relevance; and
• demonstrate knowledge, understanding and competence in applying appropriate thinking and approaches to everyday business challenges, demonstrating ability to apply:
• advanced strategic analysis and sense-making,
• strategic option formation, evaluation, and decision-making, and
• strategy implementation and deployment in the practice field.

Assessable learning outcomes
On completion of the course, students should be able to:
• have a good understanding of the basics of strategy and strategic management, the notions of competitiveness and competitive advantage
• understand and apply the basic principles of the strategic thinking process to strategic analysis and sense making;
• demonstrate a high level of ability and skill in strategic thinking, strategic analysis (sense-making), synthesis and decision-making;
• analyse and understand the organisation and its external competitive environment from a strategic perspective;
• assess an organisation's internal value-creating activities and processes, contributing to competitive advantage and effectiveness;
• derive and evaluate appropriate strategic options for an organization, assessing their impact on competitive position and future performance of the organization; and
• develop a good understanding of the strategy implementation process.
• These outcomes will be achieved through acquiring high levels of knowledge and understanding, cognitive and intellectual skills. They will help students to develop and demonstrate personal and team competence and behaviours expected at a management level within an organization.

Students will also be provided with opportunities to develop team-working skills through completion of group work on strategy cases, as well as presentations skills.

Course Content (Topics and subtopics):

Part 1. Fundamentals of Strategy, Strategic Thinking and the Strategy Process Topic

Topic 1. Fundamentals of Strategy

• What is ‘strategy’?
• Key concepts, definitions; brief historical context
• Strategic thinking and the strategy process
• The fundamental building blocks of strategy
• Strategy: a management practice perspective

Topic 2. Strategy and Competitive Advantage

• Origins of competitive advantage and differentiation
• Concept of ‘value’ bundles: attributes and competitive relevance
• Unbundling value and its constituents
• Linking value, competitive advantage and the firm’s core strategic mandate

Part 2. Strategic Analysis and Sense-making
Topic 3. Introduction to Strategic Analysis and Sense-making

• Strategic thinking process and insight-driven strategy
• Strategic problem formulation; framing and analysis of strategic issues
• Derivation and articulation of strategic questions
• Roles of intuition and heuristics in strategic analysis
• Limitations of strategic analysis

Topic 4. Strategic Analysis I: High-level, ‘Big-Picture’ Analysis

• Rationale for high-level, ‘big-picture’ strategic analysis and positioning
• High-level strategic analysis: concepts and frameworks
• Value proposition: concept and framework
• Unique competing space: concept and framework
• Firm’s strategic boundaries and their significance

Topic 5a. Strategic Analysis II: Supporting-level Analysis (External Context)

• Making sense of the external competitive environment
o PESTLE analysis
o Key success factor analysis and “Blue Ocean Strategy”
o Competitor analysis
o Industry dynamics and nature of competition
o Industry value chain analysis
o Porter’s 5-Forces analysiso

Topic 5b. Strategic Analysis II: Supporting-Level (Internal Factors) & Consolidation of Supporting-Level Analysis

• Making sense of the firm’s internal basis of competitiveness
o Resource-based theory and analysis
o The firm’s internal value chain
o Assessing the strategic relevance of the firm’s resources and capabilities
 Grant’s ‘rent-earning potential’ analysis
 VRIO analysis
o Formal and informal organizational analysis
• Bringing it all together: Consolidation of External and Internal Analyses
o Opportunity – response analysis; strategic timing (“When?” question)

Part 3. Strategic Options
Topic 6. Strategic Options: Formation, Evaluation and Selection

• Strategic option derivation
• Strategic scenario building and application
• Evaluation of strategic options: Appropriateness, feasibility, desirability
• Selection of a suitable strategic option
• Critical reflection; analysis of impact and implications of strategic options

Part 4. Strategy Execution, Strategic Organizational Change and Performance Management
Topic 7. Strategy Execution and Strategic Change

• Key challenges in strategy implementation
• Strategic growth: objectives and approaches
• Strategic change, transformation, and its management
• Embedding strategic change: organizational perspective

Topic 8. Strategic Performance Management

• Strategic performance objectives and challenges
• Strategic performance metrics / key performance indicators (KPIs)
• Balanced score card approaches
Strategic performance in the practice field


Part 5. Contemporary Topics in Strategic Management
Topic 9. Strategic Innovation

• Strategic innovation: concept and notion
• Innovation perspectives:
o Strategic perspective
o Process perspective
o Organizational and cultural perspective
• Business model innovation

Topic 10. Strategic Alliances and Mergers & Acquisitions

• Strategic alliances and partnerships: rationale; issues, practice dimension
• Key forms of partnering; challenges and practices
• Cross-border dimension of strategic partnering
• Mergers & Acquisitions: rationale, issues, practice dimension
• Key concepts and challenges
• The M&A process: due diligence, post-acquisition integration
• M&A insights from the practice field

Course Organization:

Lectures and conceptual briefings, case studies, practical application of concepts in case-based group exercises, tests, in-class discussions, assessed group projects.

Course Reading (the full list):

Core reading:

  • Tovstiga, G (2015) “Strategy in Practice, 3rd Edition, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons

Supplementary reading:

  • Andrews, K R (1971) The Concept of Corporate Strategy. New York: Richard D. Irwin
  • Barney, J B & Clark, D N (2007) Resource-based Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Barney, J B & Hesterley, W S (2006) Strategic Management and Competitive Advantage. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall
  • Barney, J B (1991) Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17 (1), 99–120
  • Birchall, D W & Tovstiga, G (2002) Future Proofing. Oxford: Capstone – Wiley
  • Birchall, D W & Tovstiga, G (2005) Capabilities for Strategic Advantage. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Chandler Jr, A D (1966) Strategy and Structure. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, Doubleday 
  • Collis, D J & Montgomery, C A (2008) Competing on resources. Harvard Business Review, Jul/Aug, 140–50
  • Collis, D J & Rukstad, M G (2008) Can you say what your strategy is? Harvard Business Review, 86 (4), 82–90
  • DePamphilis, D M (2012) Mergers, Acquisitions, and Other Restructuring Activities, 6th Edition, San Diego: Elsevier – Academic Press
  • De Wit, B & Meyer, R (2010) Strategy: Process, Content, Context, 4th ed. Andover: South-Western Cengage Learning
  • De Witt, B & Meyer, R (2014) Strategy: An International Perspective, 5th Edition, Andover: Cengage Learning
  • Drucker, P F (1994) The theory of the business. Harvard Business Review, Sep/Oct, 95–104
  • Eisenhardt, K M & Martin, J A (2000) Dynamic capabilities: what are they? Strategic Management Journal, 21 (10–11), 1105–21
  • Grant, R M (2010) Contemporary Strategy Analysis, 7th ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons 
  • Hamel, G & Prahalad, C K (1989) Strategic intent. Harvard Business Review, May/Jun, 63–76
  • Hamel, G & Prahalad, C K (1994) Competing for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press
  • Hamel, G (1994) The concept of core competence. In: G Hamel & A Heene (eds), Competence-based Competition. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, pp11–33
  • Helfat, C E, Finkelstein, S, Mitchell, W, Peteraf, M A, Singh, H, Teece, D J, and Winter S G (2007) Dynamic Capabilities. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
  • Kiechel III, W (2010) The Lords of Strategy, Boston: Harvard Business Press
  • Kraaijenbrink, J, Spender, J C & Groen, A J (2010) The resource-based view: a review and assessment of its critiques. Journal of Management, 36 (1), 349–72 
  • Leonard-Barton, D (1995) Wellsprings of Knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press
  • Mitchell, R K, Agle, B R & Wood, D J (1997) Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: defining the principle of who and what really counts. Academy of Management Review, 22 (4), 853–86
  • Ohmae, K (1982) The Mind of the Strategist. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc
  • Osterwalder, A and Pigneur, Y (2010) Business Model Generation, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons
  • Parmeter, D (2015) Key Performance Indicators, third Edition, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons
  • Porter, M E (1985) Competitive Advantage. New York: Free Press 
  • Porter, M E (1990) The Competitive Advantage of Nations. New York: Free Press
  • Porter, M E (1996) What is strategy? Harvard Business Review, Nov/Dec, 61–78
  • Prahalad, C K & Hamel, G (1990) The core competence of the corporation. Harvard Business Review, 68, (3), 79–82
  • Rumelt, R (2011) Good Strategy Bad Strategy, London: Profile Books
  • Schein, E H (1992) Organisational Culture and Leadership, 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
  • Schwartz, P (2002) Inevitable Surprises. New York: Gotham Books
  • Teece, D J (2009) Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Teece, D J, Pisano, G & Shuen, A (1997) Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18 (7), 509–33 
  • Thompson, J & F Martin (2010) Strategic Management: Awareness and Change, 6th ed. London: Thomson 
  • Treacy, M & Wiersema, F (1995) The Discipline of Market Leaders. New York: Perseus Books

Exam format:

Duration: 120 minutes (please, mark exact timing)

Grading Policy (% or points):

Course progress – In-class quizzes (20%); assessed group project with final presentation (40%), final written (on-line) exam (40%) 

Alumni reviews