Case Questions


1.    What are the roots of 3M’s culture of entrepreneurship and innovation? What were the key tenets of this culture as they emerged over time?

2.    How has the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation nurtured at 3M from the era of McKnight through to that of DeSimone? How has entrepreneurship been institutionalized within the company?

3.    What were the strengths of the organization and culture of 3M during the McKnight to DeSimone era? What were the potential weaknesses?

4.    The expansion of 3M into international markets was highly successful. What explains this?

5.    What was the drawback with 3M’s international expansion strategy?

6.    By the 1990s 3M was starting to develop some problems. What were the causes of these problems?

7.    Why did 3M’s board hire an outsider, McNerney, to run 3M after DeSimone. What was McNerney trying to do at 3M? What were the pros and cons of his approach?

8.    McNerney was succeeded by another outsider, George Buckley in 2005. What was the thrust of Buckley’s strategy at 3M?


1.    Historically, what were Apple’s major competitive advantages?

2.    Why did Apple fail to build on these advantages to lead the industry?

3.    Was Apple’s demise inevitable, or could they have succeeded despite the decision not to license the OS?

4.    How has the structure of the personal computer market changed over the last 30 years? What are the implications for the profitability of personal computer manufacturers?

5.    Given the analysis of industry dynamics, what must a PC firm do to make an economic return in this industry? Is Apple protected from these competitive forces in any way?

6.    In the early 1990s, Dan Eilers commented that Apple was on a “glide path to history”. What underlay this assessment?

7.    How did the company come to dominate desktop publishing?

8.    Evaluate Apple’s strategies from 1990-2003 (focus on Scully and the return of Steve Jobs)? How did Scully try to save Apple? How did Jobs?

9.    The iPod: Why was Apple so successful with the iPod business?

10.  What were the main elements of Apple’s strategy from 2003-2007. What was Apple trying to do here?

11.  How did the iPhone change things?

12.  How does the iPad fit into this?

13.  What does the iPhone and iPad mean for Apple, and for the computer industry?

Charles Schwab

1.         Analyze the competitive structure of the broker dealer industry. What are the principle drivers of profitability in this industry? How have changing regulation, demographics, and technology impacted upon competition in the industry over the last two decades?

2.         How does the business model of a discount broker like Schwab differ from that of a full service broker such as Merrill Lynch?

3.         How was Schwab able to emerge from the pack of discount brokers established in the late 1970s to become the category leader by the mid 1990s?

4.         What are were main elements of Schwab’s competitive advantage by the mid 1990s?

5.         How did the arrival of the web transform the nature of competition in the broker dealer industry? Was this a disruptive technology?

6.         How was Schwab able to make the shift from a “tradition” discount broker to an “online broker”? What lessons about managing strategic change in a turbulent environment can be drawn from the Schwab case?

7.         How would you characterize Schwab’s strategy from 2000-2004 strategy? What was Schwab trying to do? What was the potential upside? What were the risks?

8.         Why did the strategy crafted by David Pottruck during 2000-2004 fail? What did Charles Schwab try to do when he returned to the CEO position?

9.         What was Charles Schwab trying to do after he returned in 2004? How successful was he?

10.    What was been the thrust of the company’s strategy since Charles Schwab stepped down in 2008? What is Schwab’s successor as CEO, Walter Bettinger, trying to do? What are the risks here?

Estonia Air’s Big Buy

1.    Conduct a SWOT analysis for Estonian Air. What are the implications of each of these elements for Estonian Air’s management?

2.    Using Porter’s Five Forces Model, what is your assessment of the degree of competitiveness in the regional airline industry?

3.    What are the competitive groups of the worldwide airline industry? Illustrate a competitive map of Estonian Air’s position in the industry.

4.    In light of the analysis you conducted in questions 1, 2, and 3, is the European regional carrier market space defensible in the long term against encroachments by either the legacy or low cost carriers? Do regional carriers, like Estonian Air, risk being “stuck in the middle” and ultimately wiped out?

5.    Should Estonian Air expand its fleet? Why or why not?

6.    Evaluate each plane Estonian Air is considering in terms of operational criteria (load factors, scheduling, crew and maintenance training, etc.).

7.    From a financial point of view, which alternative would be best for Estonian Air over the next six years (the term of the lease)? Be sure to take into account variations in fuel prices, passenger traffic growth, ticket prices, and staff salaries. Remember, that Estonian Air can consider adding zero, one, or two planes.

8.    Considering both the qualitative and quantitative analyses completed, what do you recommend for Estonian Air? Be sure to include a discussion of the factors that lead you to your decision.

9.    Is there any additional information you would have liked to have before making your recommendation? If so, what is it and how would it potentially change your recommendation?


1.      Critically analyze the business strategy of Harley-Davidson. Explain how focused differentiation helped Harley-Davidson to be unique in its industry.

2.      Discuss the key issues and challenges faced by Harley Davidson in the twenty-first century, especially with the advent of global recession and changing demographics.

3.      Critically analyze the "Delivering Results through Focus" strategy and its impact.

4.      How can Harley-Davidson maintain its iconic standing in the global motorcycle industry? What approach should the company adopt to attract new customers without alienating existing ones?

1.      What went wrong and why?

a.       What did they do wrong?

b.      What did they do right?

c.       What did you think about merger and merger related issues?

2.      Is this an opportunity?

a.       Why did so many brilliant people give Terry Drayton the required funding?

b.      What did they see that we are missing?

3.      What is special about this industry? Can it be dis-intermediated?

4.      What should Terry Drayton do now?


1.         What business level strategy does IKEA pursue?

2.         How did the successful execution of this strategy revolutionize furniture retailing, first in Scandinavia, and then elsewhere?

3.         How does IKEA execute its business level strategy? What does the company do at the functional level to make sure that it delivers high value to its target market at a low cost?

4.         How does IKEA’s organization and culture fit into the picture?

5.         Why was IKEAs early expansion into Western Europe so successful?

6.         Why did IKEA initially stumble in the USA? How did it correct this stumble? What did it learn from this experience?

7.         What strategy is IKEA pursuing globally?

Nucor in 2013

1.    What was Nucor’s formula for success?

2.    How was Nucor able to sustain its success between the 1980s and 1990s? What sets Nucor apart from its competitors?

3.    How has the steel industry evolved in the Twenty-First century? How did it effect Nucor?

4.    What are the problems that Nucor is likely to face in the Twenty Second century?

Telsa Motors

1.    What are the challenges and opportunities of competing in the electric vehicle industry?

2.    What are Tesla’s strengths and weaknesses? Does it have any sources of sustainable competitive advantage?

3.    How is the Tesla Model S positioned in the market? How do its functional-level strategies align with this positioning?

4.    Did it make sense for Tesla to enter the market with a high-end car, and plan a transition path to a mass-market car?

The Tata Group

1.    What were Jamsetji Tata’s original motives in the founding and early evolution of Tata Company?

2.    What were the advantages of Tata entering so many different businesses?

3.    Which of Tata’s businesses still reap strong benefits from being tied to the Tata Group? What are those benefits? Are their costs to being tied to the Tata Group? Which (if any) of Tata’s businesses would you expect to experience pressure to be separated from the rest of the group?

4.    Why did Tata develop the Nano? Do you think it believed it would be a profitable project? Was it a good idea?