- Which organisations and industries/sectors does it relate to?
- Is the organisation doing well or badly and how has it performed in the past? Is it an organisation that has an unbroken record of success or has it fallen on hard times?
- Look at the development of the organisation over time. What strategies has it pursued? Which have succeeded and which have failed? How successful has the organisation been – and on what bases do you know?
- What are your initial impressions of the main issues and choices confronting the organisation? Is it in an expanding industry/sector, or a maturing one? Are customer needs changing? Does the organisation confront a variety of opportunities? Or is there a particular strategic issue which the case is oriented towards?
- What information is there in the case as tables and annexes?
Step 2: Start to analyse seriously
- First, with regard to its environment:
- Which are the types of environment where it has been able to succeed, and in which types has it had problems?
- What have been and are likely to be the key drivers in the macro environment that may give rise to changes that could provide opportunities or give rise to threats?
- What is the nature of the competitive environment?
- Second, get insights about the organisation itself:
- What kind of strategic resources does the organisation have – and which does it lack?
- Think about which of these have provided advantage over competitors; or could provide competitive advantage.
- Draw these analyses together by considering in what ways the organisation has strengths or weaknesses greater than competition.
So you will have built up a picture of the relative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) for the organisation.
- Third, look at issues about the organisation's stakeholders. What are their expectations? Are they similar or in conflict? Who has more or less power and influence over the organisation's strategy?
- And consider the organisation's culture. How has this influenced past strategies and is it likely to influence future strategy or constrain attempts to change strategy?
- Beware of regarding different frameworks of analysis as distinct and separate; they relate to each other. For instance, the results of a value chain analysis could be put in the context of data from a PESTEL and 5-Forces analysis and are likely to provide more insight if they are.
- Pull together your analyses and ask: 'What are the major issues that future strategy needs to address?'.
- In all of this consider what information is there in all the tables, annexes and appendices? What are they and how do they relate to and inform the questions above?
Step 3: Develop and Evaluate Strategic Options
- Use the results of these analyses as a starting point for developing strategic options. You will have begun to think of what the organisation might do during your analyses. Note these down.
- But don't just rely on these. Generate more systematically other options by using some of the frameworks in part II, in particular Chapter 10, of Exploring Corporate Strategy – for example a TOWS matrix builds on a SWOT analysis that you have carried out; and Chapter 10 provides checklists of generic strategic options.
- Evaluate the options by asking the following questions:
- Which are most suitable in terms of the strategic position of the organisation; i.e. the strengths and weaknesses it has and the opportunities and threats it faces?
- Would a strategy, if followed, achieve competitive advantage for the organisation and provide bases for the sustainability of such advantage?
- Which are most likely to be acceptable in terms of the expectations of major stakeholders?
- Which are feasible in terms of the likelihood of implementation: for example in terms of resourcing the strategy and managing change.
Step 4: Justify your conclusions with reference to the case
- Relate your analysis to the task or questions you have been set. What elements of the strategic analysis do you require to answer the question? And what don't you need, or are less significant (don't try to justify your arguments by using all the information you have – select what is most powerful to support your argument)? And is there further information or analysis that you need?
- Ask yourself whether you have really supported your conclusions and recommendations with hard evidence (events and results) from the case study? Have you allowed yourself to be swayed by the opinions of the organisation's own managers? Do the facts support their claims of success, or their excuses for failure?
- Make sure you clearly state what your recommendations are. There is no point marshalling a list of fifteen possible reasons why the organisation should do this or that without making it clear which one(s) is your preferred option. Unless you clearly state what is your recommendation, you could lose marks.
Step 5: Present a balanced view
- Make sure you have considered the alternatives to your recommendations. There is hardly ever just one single option available to an organisation in a given industry/sector.
- Make sure your have made it clear why the recommendation you have chosen is the best of the available alternatives.
- Make sure you have examined the downside of your options.