Boston College
School of Management
Operations and Strategic Management Department

MD 09905 Strategy and Policy General Syllabus


Strategy and Policy

Strategy and Policy is an integrative or capstone course that attempts to accomplish two major purposes: 1) to integrate the functional disciplines that have been studied in the core undergraduate curriculum; and 2) to understand and apply an emerging body of knowledge related to strategic management. Strategic management requires understanding organizations from the perspective of the top management team or the general manager of a unit; it means dealing with the complex, messy, and unstructured problems in dynamic, rapidly changing social and economic environments.

To accomplish these purposes, the course progresses through several modules, including:

I. Strategy Identification and Evaluation

This module focuses on the means for identifying what the strategy of an organization is, the process by which strategy is formulated, and the tools and techniques by which strategy can be evaluated, including financial and operational analysis, resource assessment, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, determining distinctive competence of an organization, and strategic audit (analysis of internal resources).

II. Environmental Analysis

In this module, the focus is on evaluating the fit between the strategy that an organization has developed and its external environment. The module makes heavy use of the five forces model developed by Porter, identifying industry structure and dynamics, including product development, market shifts, critical success factors, driving forces, and trend analysis.

III. Strategic Alternatives and Choice

Here the focus is on evaluating strategic alternatives, including diversification and core strategies using the tools of portfolio analysis, and risk, return, and implications analysis. By paying attention to generic business strategies and strategic groups within an industry, the student gains an understanding of the ways in which organizations define and build competitive advantage, as well as respond to regulatory, societal, and political forces.

IV. Strategy Implementation

In this module, the analysis moves from the assessment of strategy and its formulation to the organizational and personal implications of strategy as it is implemented within the organization. The focus is on creating "fits" between strategy and structure, organizational culture, reward and control systems, especially as they affect resource allocation and performance outcomes, and the roles of leaders in forming and implementing strategy.


While these topics are separated for the purpose of illustrating the general flow of the course, in practice they occur simultaneously and overlap to a great extent. The course builds on material learned in earlier functional courses and in earlier modules and attempts to build linkages among topics as they develop. The predominant teaching methodology used in the course is the case analysis, supplemented by readings of conceptual and practical materials, short lectures, and other techniques. Because of this approach to the course material as well as the complex nature of the subject matter, there is a great deal of overlapping of content that occurs as each case is discussed.


Course Objectives

The major objectives of the course are:

  1. To develop analytical, conceptual, and practical decision making skills in complex situations;
  2. To develop an understanding of the conceptual frameworks for strategic thinking, strategy formulation and analysis, evaluation of strategic alternatives, and strategy implementation courses.
  3. To develop an understanding of the complexities and decision-making perspective inherent in the role of the general and other top managers, in a learning environment that provides opportunity for developing the decision making skills important to perform effectively in such general management roles.
  4. To develop an understanding of the ways in which the external economic and societal environment affects organizations and their strategies and to foster an ability to "diagnose" both environments and the organizations that operate within them.
  5. To stimulate life-long interest in the problems, responsibility, and importance of the role of management in modern life.


Grading Criteria

The following are the approximate weightings used to evaluate student performance in the Strategy and Policy Course (actual weightings vary by professor):

  • Class participation, including presentations and presentation responses
  • Group written analysis of case
  • Individual written analyses of cases
  • Mid-Term Exam
  • Final Exam


Preparation for Class

The overall purpose of Strategy and Policy is to create a learning environment for the students: learning takes place in the student as a result of hard study and active participation in the class. Particularly in the Strategy and Policy course, which is based on extensive analysis and discussion of cases, the responsibility for creating that learning environment rests with the student. Students are expected to come to each class prepared to discuss the readings and assigned case, to form study groups to discuss cases in advance of class, and develop joint projects and presentations. Case discussion works only when all students participate actively in the discussion.


Preparing for class involves more than merely reading the assigned case and readings. It involves thinking about and analyzing each assigned reading and assessing its relevance to the topic of the day. Cases should be read and analyzed thoroughly. This means that they should be read one time to gain a general idea of the situation, and a second time to seek out answers to questions or analytic points jotted down as you went through the first time. Exhibits should be carefully reviewed and analyzed, since important (particularly) financial information is often included in them. The third reading involves coming to terms with the following kinds of questions: 1) what is the strategy of this firm; 2) what economic and other environment forces are affecting it; 3) how well, financially and operationally, is the firm doing; 4)what is the major strategic problem/issue facing the firm; 5) what are the strategic alternatives open to the firm; 6) what should be done?


Concepts read and discussed in previous classes should be applied to the case. Financial analysis, which underpins the analysis of the case, should be extensively performed.


Class participation is evaluated on a daily basis by the faculty member, based on the quality of your contributions. Quality is judged by whether your comments move the discussion along, provide insight into the problems and issues of the case (and do not merely restate facts presented in the case), are based on intelligent quantitative as well as qualitative analysis, make distinctions between different types of case data, present or defend an opinion (especially when contrary to others being expressed), question assumptions of managers in the case or other students. Comments that merely rehash what is in the case have a strong negative effect on class participation grades.


Any student can expect to be called on at random to present his/her analysis of any aspect of the case. Class participation is required and hence attendance is also required. Missed classes detract from your final grade as well as your learning experience. Each student is permitted two absences during the semester without penalty beyond the lost learning experience.


Ethical Standards

Although students are encouraged and expected to discuss cases in groups in advance of class, it is inappropriate and unethical to discuss the case with those who may have had it in a previous class or to obtain written work or notes from students in prior classes. Not only does this impede your own learning process, but it is highly questionable behavior in general since you are presenting someone else's work as your own.


All written assignments are expected to be original. Individual assignments should be written by the student handing in the assignment, including any exhibits. The penalty for cheating is severe: an "F" in the course and possible expulsion form the university.


Other Courses in Operations and Strategic Management

If you wish to pursue an interest in the area of strategic management, the following are other courses offered by the Operations and Strategic Management Department:


Organizational Studies Department Wallace E. Carroll School of Management Boston College