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Homework must be answered discussion the introduction and conclusion,  four questions must be on bullet points and numbering.

Homework Topic overview: Strategic Analysis for an Organization:

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Strategy tools are vital for business and competitive analysis. These tools vary in terms of the level of analysis as some are found to be more suitable for analyzing the internal environment while others are more practical for the external environment analysis. How useful these strategic tools and models in helping decision-makers at organizations to make a better decision is a noteworthy question for investigation.

-This TMA is meant to assess the student’s ability in understanding, and application of the course materials and ideas from external sources, as well as to student’s reflection and critical thinking. It is also intended to test the student’s ability to argue relevantly and to justify a point of view besides, constructing, defending and evaluating an argument, using relevant evidence and giving reasons for conclusions.

Homework Topic

Renewable and Clean Energy in Automotive industry

Today, we are seeing an interest in clean energy procurement pop up in industries ranging from mining to manufacturing, as a result of a variety of motivators. In the beginning, the corporate renewables revolution was confined to the most environmentally progressive companies looking to meet sustainability goals. The increasingly competitive price of renewable energy is now inviting new industries to explore opportunities in the market. One of the most intriguing participants in the long-term renewable energy marketplace is the automotive industry. Renewable and clean energy is powering the future of the automobile industry. Gasoline and diesel may be the reigning champs, but it looks like they’ve got some competition. With growing concerns of the automotive industry’s impact on the environment through carbon emissions, where car owners are seeking alternative energy solutions that offer greater sustainability. Consumer demand for higher environmental consciousness is leading to a rise in sustainable mobility. Automobile manufacturers are witnessing a shift in the energy buying landscape.

You should answer the following four questions:

Question one: Critically discuss the key factors and forces in the general and industry environments that affect the demand for renewable and clean energy automobiles. (650 words)

Question two: Choose any manufacturer from automotive industry and based on your findings in Q one, discuss how these factors and forces affect your chosen manufacturer’s demand for their products and consequently their market position in this emerging industry. (350 words)

Question three: Discuss whether chosen manufacturer’s present and future market position is supported by its value chain and other key internal resources. Identify problems you think they are facing to meet these new upcoming challenges in this new emerging industry (650 words)

Question four: Critically discuss your chosen Business–Level-strategy. What are the challenges they might face to continue delivering its promises and stay ahead of competitors? Suggest ways by which they may sustain their worldwide market competitive position in future in this emerging industry. (350 words)


· Homework must be written in ESSAY (discussion) format for the introduction and conclusion, the question most be on bullet points and numbering.

· Word count should be exact with 10% (More/less) tolerance.

· You must acknowledge all sources of information using Harvard Style Referencing (In-text referencing plus list of references at the end). Minimum of three references are required. Wikipedia is not recommended as a reference.


Assessing the Internal Environment of the Firm

Copyright Anatoli Styf/Shutterstock


Value-Chain Analysis

Value-chain analysis looks at the sequential process of value-creating activities.

Value is the amount buyers are willing to pay for what a firm provides.

How is value created within the organization?

How is value created for other organizations in the overall supply chain or distribution channel?

The value received must exceed the costs of production.

©McGraw-Hill Education.

SWOT is a good starting point, but it doesn’t give enough guidance regarding the specific action steps needed to enact strategic change. For instance, a firm may have a capability that is a strength, but that, by itself, cannot create or sustain competitive advantage. It’s too easy to become preoccupied with a single dimension or element of what is, essentially, a moving target…MORE analysis may be necessary, which is where the value chain comes in. Value-chain analysis = a strategic analysis of an organization that uses value-creating activities. Value is the amount that buyers are willing to pay for what a firm provides them and is measured by total revenue, a reflection of the price a firm’s product commands, and the quantity it can sell. A firm is profitable when the value it receives exceeds the total costs involved in creating its product or service. Creating value for buyers that exceeds the costs of production (i.e. margin) is a key concept used in analyzing a firm’s competitive position.


Value-Chain Analysis Primary Activities

Primary activities contribute to the physical creation of the product or service; the sale & transfer to the buyer; and service after the sale.

Inbound logistics


Outbound logistics

Marketing & sales


©McGraw-Hill Education.

Primary activities = sequential activities of the value chain that refer to the physical creation of the product or service, its sale and transfer to the buyer, and its service after sale, including inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and service.


Value-Chain Analysis Support Activities

Support activities either add value by themselves or add value through important relationships with both primary activities & other support activities.


Technology development

Human resource management

General administration

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Support activities = activities of the value chain that either add value by themselves or add value through important relationships with both primary activities and other support activities; including procurement, technology development, human resource management, and general administration.


The Value Chain

Exhibit 3.1 The Value Chain: Primary and Support Activities

Adapted from Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance by Michael E. Porter. Copyright © 1985, 1998 by The Free Press.

Jump to Appendix 1 for long description.

©McGraw-Hill Education.

To get the most out of value-chain analysis, view the concept in its broadest context, without regard to the boundaries of your own organization – place your organization within a more encompassing value chain that includes your firm’s suppliers, customers, and alliance partners. This helps identify how value is created for other organizations in the overall supply chain or distribution channel. For an interesting example, look at Case General Motors. (Remember the strategic groups discussion from Chapter 2? What does GM have to do to compete with other groups in its industry? How important might the value chain be in this industry?)


Primary Activity: Inbound Logistics

Inbound logistics are primarily associated with receiving, storing & distributing inputs to the product.

Material handling


Inventory control

Vehicle scheduling

Returns to suppliers

Factors to consider include:

Location of distribution facilities

Warehouse layout

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Inbound logistics = receiving, storing, and distributing inputs of a product. Example = Toyota’s just-in-time (JIT) inventory systems where parts deliveries arrive at the assembly plants only hours before they are needed. This allows Toyota to fill a buyer’s new car order in just 5 days. Inbound logistics includes location of distribution facilities, design of material and inventory control systems, warehouse layout and design, and efficient systems to return products to suppliers.


Primary Activity: Operations

Operations include all activities associated with transforming inputs into the final product form.


Packaging & Assembly

Testing or quality control


Facility operations

Factors to consider include:

Efficient plant operations & layout

Incorporation of appropriate process technology

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Operations = all activities associated with transforming inputs into the final product form. Example = Shaw Industries’ ability to reduce expenses associated with the disposal of dangerous chemicals used in the manufacture of floor coverings. Operations includes assessment of efficiency of plant operations, incorporation of appropriate process technology, efficient plant layout and workflow design, degree of automation, extent of appropriate quality control systems.


Primary Activity: Outbound Logistics

Outbound logistics includes collecting, storing, & distributing the product or service to buyers.

Finished goods & warehousing

Material handling

Delivery vehicle operation

Order processing, scheduling & distribution

Factors to consider include:

Effective shipping processes

Minimizing shipping costs by grouping goods into large lot sizes

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Outbound logistics = collecting, storing, and distributing the product or service to buyers. Example = Campbell Soup uses an electronic network so retailers can inform Campbell of product needs and inventory levels. This allows Campbell to forecast future demand and determine which products to replenish, delivering inventory the same day. The retailer gains efficiency, and therefore has an incentive to carry a broader line of Campbell products. Outbound logistics includes effective shipping processes to provide quick delivery and minimize damages, efficient finished goods warehousing processes, the ability to ship goods in large lot sizes to minimize transportation costs, and the use of quality material handling equipment. (See also Case Campbell Soup.)


Primary Activity: Marketing & Sales

Marketing & sales activities involve purchases of products & services by end users and includes how to induce buyers to make those purchases.

Advertising & promotion

Sales force management

Pricing & price quoting

Channel selection & channel relations

Factors to consider include:

Innovative approaches to promotion & advertising

Proper identification of customer segments & needs

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Marketing and sales = activities associated with purchases of products and services by end users and the inducements used to get them to make purchases. Example = the Mercedes-Benz AMG got premiere “product placement” as a fleet of these showed up to pick up James Bond in the 2016 Spectre movie. Marketing and sales includes the development of a highly motivated and competent sales force, innovative approaches to promotion and advertising, selection of the most appropriate distribution channels, proper identification of customer segments and needs, and effective pricing strategies.


Primary Activity: Service

Service includes all actions associated with providing service to enhance or maintain the value of the product.

Installation & repair


Parts supply

Product adjustment

Factors to consider include:

Quick response to customer needs

Quality of service personnel, ongoing training

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Service = actions associated with providing service to enhance or maintain the value of the product. Example = Nordstrom service reps can take control of the customer’s web browser and lead her to the specific product she wants. Service includes effective use of procedures to solicit customer feedback and to act on information, quick response to customer needs and emergencies, ability to furnish replacement parts, effective management of parts and equipment inventory, quality of service personnel and ongoing training, and warranty and guarantee policies.


Support Activity: Procurement

Procurement involves how the firm purchases inputs used in its value chain.

Procurement of raw material inputs

Optimizing quality & speed

Minimizing associated costs

Development of collaborative win-win relationships with suppliers

Analysis & selection of alternative sources of inputs to minimize dependence on one supplier

©McGraw-Hill Education.

SUPPORT ACTIVITIES are those functions that support the value chain. Each industry might have distinct value activities that are unique to that industry, but here are some common ones. Procurement = the function of purchasing inputs used in the firm’s value chain, including raw materials, supplies, and other consumable items as well as assets such as machinery, laboratory equipment, office equipment, and buildings. Example = Microsoft does formal reviews of its outside suppliers, including a feedback system that helps clarify expectations. In addition to the above activities, procurement includes effective procedures to purchase advertising and media services, and the ability to make proper lease versus buy decisions.


Support Activity: Technology Development

Technology development is related to a wide range of activities.

Effective R&D activities for process & product initiatives

Collaborative relationships between R&D and other departments

State-of-the-art facilities & equipment

Excellent professional qualifications of personnel

Use of data analytics

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Technology development = activities associated with the development of new knowledge that is applied to the firm’s operations. The array of technologies employed in most firms is very broad, ranging from technologies used to prepare documents and transport goods, to those embodied in processes and equipment or the product itself. Technology development related to the product and its features supports the entire value chain, while other technology development is associated with particular primary or support activities. Example = the French firm Techniq is a global leader in the energy industry, focusing on pipelines. In collaboration with Schlumberger, Techniq has developed “intelligent” pipes that add significant value for customers, while increasing Techniq’s margins. Technology development includes activities related to the process as well as the product, such as enhancing the ability to meet critical deadlines. Strategy Spotlight 3.2 discusses how Coca-Cola has used data analytics to meet the taste demands of its global customers.


Support Activity: Human Resource Management

Human resource management consists of activities involved in recruitment, hiring, training & development, & compensation of all types of personnel.

Effective employee recruiting, development, & retention mechanisms

Quality relations with trade unions

Reward & incentive programs to motivate all employees

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Human resource management = activities involved in the recruiting, hiring, training, development and compensation of all types of personnel. It supports both individual primary and support activities such as the hiring of engineers and scientists, as well as supporting the entire value chain through activities such as negotiations with labor unions. Example = JetBlue recruited flight attendants with a one-year contract so they could travel, meet lots of people, then decide what else they might like to do. Human resource management includes creating a quality work environment to maximize overall employee performance and minimize absenteeism.


Support Activity: General Administration

General administration involves:

Effective planning systems to attain overall goals & objectives

Excellent relations with diverse stakeholder groups

Effective information technology to coordinate & integrate value-creating activities across the value chain

Ability of top management to anticipate & act on key environmental trends & events, create strong values, culture & reputation

©McGraw-Hill Education.

General administration = general management, planning, finance, accounting, legal and government affairs, quality management, and information systems; activities that support the entire value chain and not individual activities. These activities can be among the most important activities for competitive advantage. Example = how a telephone operating company effectively negotiates and maintains ongoing relations with regulatory bodies. General administration also includes, for instance, the ability to obtain low-cost funds for capital expenditures and working capital. Leadership plays a critical role here as well: Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Ma have been critical to the success of their respective companies, Facebook and Alibaba.


Interrelationships Among Value-Chain Activities

Managers must not ignore the importance of relationships among value-chain activities.

What are the interrelationships among activities within the firm?

What are the relationships among activities within the firm and with other stakeholders such as customers & suppliers?

Consider integrating customers into the value chain.

Creating individualized products

Soliciting ideas for products & services

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Interrelationships = collaborative and strategic exchange relationships between value-chain activities either (a) within firms or (b) between firms. Strategic exchange relationships involve exchange of resources such as information, people, technology, or money that contribute to the success of the firm. Example = within the firm, how effective human resource practices can support the entire value chain. Example = between the firm and stakeholders, how teaming up with customers through a “prosumer” or crowdsourcing relationship can help the firm gain insight into customer needs and leverage the wisdom of the customer to create value for all. However, be careful, because customers can use this forum to criticize the company and its products. Research has shown that crowdsourcing can backfire half the time.


Resource-Based View of the Firm

The resource-based view of the firm (RBV) integrates two activities.

An internal analysis of phenomena within a company

An external analysis of the industry & its competitive environment

Resources can lead to a competitive advantage.

If they are valuable, rare, hard to duplicate

If tangible resources, intangible resources, & organizational capabilities are combined

©McGraw-Hill Education.

A firm’s strengths and capabilities – no matter how unique or impressive – do NOT necessarily lead to a competitive advantage. Resource-based view of the firm (RBV) = perspective that firms’ competitive advantages are due to their endowment of strategic resources that are valuable, rare, costly to imitate, and costly to substitute. Without these unique resources, the firm can only attain competitive parity. RBV goes beyond a SWOT analysis to integrate internal and external perspectives in a broader competitive context. RBV can reveal how core competencies embedded in a firm can help it exploit new product and market opportunities.


Types of Tangible Firm Resources

Tangible resources are assets that are relatively easy to identify.

Physical assets: plant & facilities, location, machinery & equipment

Financial assets: cash & cash equivalents, borrowing capacity, capacity to raise equity

Technological resources: trade secrets, patents, copyrights, trademarks, innovative production processes

Organizational resources: effective planning processes, evaluation & control systems

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Firm resources are all assets, capabilities, organizational processes, information, knowledge, etc. controlled by a firm – resources that enable it to develop and implement value-creating strategies. Tangible resources = organizational assets that are relatively easy to identify, including physical assets, financial resources, organizational resources, and technological resources. These include assets that the firm uses to create value for its customers: physical resources such as the plant’s proximity to customers and suppliers; financial resources such as accounts receivables; organizational resources such as employee development, evaluation and reward systems; technological resources such as trade secrets and patents.


Types of Intangible Firm Resources

Intangible resources are difficult for competitors to account for or imitate. They are embedded in unique routines & practices.

Human resources: trust, experience & capabilities of employees; managerial skills & effectiveness of work teams, firm specific practices & procedures

Innovation resources: technical & scientific expertise & ideas; innovation capabilities

Reputation resources: brand names, reputation for fairness with suppliers, non-zero sum relationships; reputation for reliability & product quality with customers

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Intangible resources = organizational assets that are difficult to identify and account for, and are typically embedded in unique routines and practices, including human resources, innovation resources, and reputation resources. Example = Harley-Davidson’s strong brand image. A firm’s specific practices and procedures, and the firm’s culture, may also be resources that provide competitive advantage.


Types of Firm Resources: Organizational Capabilities

Organizational capabilities are competencies or skills that a firm employs to transform inputs into outputs. It is the capacity to combine tangible & intangible resources to attain desired ends.

Outstanding customer service

Excellent product development capabilities

Superb innovation processes & flexibility in manufacturing processes

Ability to hire, motivate, & retain human capital

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Organizational capabilities = the competencies and skills that a firm employs to transform inputs into outputs. Capabilities involve an organization’s capacity to deploy tangible and intangible resources over time and generally in combination, and to leverage those capabilities to bring about a desired end. Example = Apple’s ability to combine and package technological components in new and innovative ways while also seeking to integrate the value chain. See Case Apple.


Firm Resources and Sustainable Competitive Advantages

Strategic resources have four attributes.

Valuable in formulating & implementing strategies to improve efficiency or effectiveness

Rare or uncommon; difficult to exploit

Difficult to imitate or copy due to physical uniqueness, path dependency, causal ambiguity, or social complexity

Difficult to substitute with strategically equivalent resources or capabilities

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Strategic resources (also firm resources or organizational resources) = firms’ capabilities that are valuable, rare, costly to imitate, and costly to substitute. Firm attributes must be valuable in order to be considered resources and potential sources of competitive advantage. These valuable resources enable a firm to formulate and implement strategies that improve its efficiency or effectiveness. If competitors or potential competitors also possessed the same valuable resource, it is not a source of competitive advantage unless it is uncommon or rare. Inimitability or being difficult to imitate is the key to value creation because it constrains competition. Having a resource that competitors can easily copy generates only temporary value. Non-substitutability means there is no strategically equivalent valuable resources that are themselves not rare or inimitable. However, even though a company cannot exactly imitate someone else’s resource, it may be able to develop an equivalent resource from another source, such as Amazon internet capabilities allows it to compete against prime brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble locations.


Sources of Inimitability

Physical uniqueness are resources that are physically unique, therefore impossible to duplicate.

Path dependency: hard to duplicate because of all that has happened along the path followed in the development and/or accumulation of resources.

Causal ambiguity: impossible to explain what caused a resource to exist or how to re-create it.

Social complexity: resources that result from social engineering such as interpersonal relations, culture.

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Physical uniqueness = a beautiful resort location, mineral rights, or patents. Path dependency = a characteristic of resources that is developed and or accumulated through a unique series of events. See Strategy Spotlight 3.4 for an example. Causal ambiguity = a characteristic of the firm’s resources that is costly to imitate because a competitor cannot determine what the resource is and/or how it can be re-created. Google is given as an example. Social complexity = a characteristic of a firm’s resources that is costly to imitate because the social engineering required is beyond the capability of competitors, including interpersonal relations among managers, organizational culture, and reputation with suppliers and customers.


Criteria for Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Is a resource or capability . . .

Valuable?Rare?Difficult to Imitate?Without Substitutes?Implications for Competitiveness?
NoNoNoNoCompetitive disadvantage
YesNoNoNoCompetitive parity
YesYesNoNoTemporary competitive advantage
YesYesYesYesSustainable competitive advantage

Exhibit 3.7 Criteria for Sustainable Competitive Advantage and Strategic Implications

Source: Adapted from Barney, J.B. 1991. Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage. Journal of Management, 17:99 – 120.

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Resources and capabilities must be rare and valuable as well as difficult to imitate or substitute in order for a firm to attain competitive advantages that are sustainable over time. If resources and capabilities do not meet any of the four criteria it would be difficult to develop any type of competitive advantage in the short or long run. If resources and capabilities are not difficult for competitors to imitate or substitute firms could attain some level of competitive parity. Only when all four criteria are satisfied will competitive advantages be sustained over time.


Evaluating Firm Performance

Balanced Scorecard Analysis



Customer satisfaction

Internal processes

Innovation, learning & improvement activities

Financial perspectives

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Financial ratio analysis = a technique for measuring the performance of a firm according to its balance sheet, income statement, and market valuation. When performing a financial ratio analysis, you must take into account the firm’s performance from a historical perspective (not just at one point in time) as well as how it compares with both industry norms and key competitors. Balanced scorecard = a method of evaluating a firm’s performance using performance measures from the customers’ perspectives, as well as internal, innovation and learning, and financial perspectives.


The Balanced Scorecard

A meaningful integration of many issues that come into evaluating performance

Four key perspectives:

How do customers see us? (customer perspective)

What must we excel at? (internal perspective)

Can we continue to improve and create value? (innovation & learning perspective)

How do we look to shareholders? (financial perspective)

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Balanced scorecard = a method of evaluating a firm’s performance using performance measures from the customers’ perspectives, as well as internal, innovation and learning, and financial perspectives. It includes financial measures that reflect the results of actions already taken, but it complements these indicators with measures of customer satisfaction, internal processes, and the organization’s innovation and improvement activities – operational measures that drive future financial performance. The balanced scorecard approach recognizes how the interests of a variety of stakeholders can be interrelated.


Customer Perspective vs. Internal Business Perspective

Managers articulate goals for customer concerns.

Time versus Quality

Performance and service versus Cost

Then focus on those critical internal operations that enable them to satisfy customer needs.

Business processes

Cycle time, quality, employee skills, productivity


Coordinated actions

Key resources and capabilities

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Customer perspective = measures of firm performance that indicate how well firms are satisfying customers’ expectations. Managers must translate their general mission statements on customer service into specific measures that reflect the factors that really matter to customers. Internal business perspective = measures of firm performance that indicate how well a firm’s internal processes, decisions, and actions are contributing to customer satisfaction. Customer-based measures are important, however they must be translated into indicators of what the firm must do internally to meet customer’s expectations. The internal measures should reflect business processes that have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction.


Innovation and Learning Perspective

Managers must make frequent changes to existing products & services as well as introduce entirely new products with extended capabilities. This requires:

Human capital (skills, talent, knowledge)

Information capital (information systems, networks)

Organization capital (culture, leadership)

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Innovation and learning perspective = measures of firm performance that indicate how well firms are changing their product and service offerings to adapt to changes in the internal and external environments. A firm’s ability to improve, innovate, and learn is tied directly to its value. Simply put, only by developing new products and services, creating greater value for customers, and increasing operational efficiencies can a company penetrate new markets, increase revenues and margins, and enhance shareholder value. A firm’s ability to do well from an innovation and learning perspective is more dependent on its intangible than tangible assets.


Financial Perspective

Managers must measure how the firm’s strategy, implementation, and execution are indeed contributing to bottom line improvement. Financial goals include:

Profitability, growth, shareholder value

This should lead to:

Improved sales

Increased market share

Reduced operating expenses

Higher asset turnover

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Financial perspective = measures of firms financial performance that indicate how well strategy, implementation and execution are contributing to bottom-line improvement. Periodic financial statements remind managers that improved quality, response time, productivity, and innovative products benefit the firm only when they result in improved sales, increased market share, reduced operating expenses, or higher asset turnover.


Limitations of the Balanced Scorecard

Not a “quick fix” – needs proper execution

Needs a commitment to learning

Needs employee involvement in continuous process improvement

Needs cultural change

Needs a focus on nonfinancial rather than financial measures

Needs data on actual performance

©McGraw-Hill Education.

There is general agreement that there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of the balanced scorecard. The key limitation is that some executives may view it as a “quick fix” that can be easily installed. Implementing a balanced metrics system is an evolutionary process. It is not a one-time task that can be quickly checked off as completed. If managers do not recognize this from the beginning and fail to commit to it long-term, the organization will be disappointed. Poor execution becomes the cause of such performance outcomes. And organizational scorecards must be aligned with individuals’ scorecards to turn the balanced scorecards into a powerful tool for sustained performance. (For a variation on the balanced scorecard concept, see the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award at gov/baldrige/baldrige-criteria-commentary“>https://www.nist.gov/baldrige/baldrige-criteria-commentary. This award encourages organizations to focus on critical aspects of managing and performing as an organization, using an integrated performance management framework that addresses innovation management, intelligent risk, and strategic priorities; social media; operational effectiveness; and work systems and core competencies. Through a self-study process, organizations can submit their findings for the award in business/non profit, education, and healthcare categories.)



Business-Level Strategy: Creating and Sustaining Competitive Advantages

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Sustaining a Competitive Advantage

Business-level strategies require a choice.

How to overcome the five forces and achieve competitive advantage?

Suggestion – Use Porter’s three generic strategies.

Overall cost leadership



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Business-level strategy is a strategy designed for a firm or a division of the firm that competes within a single business. Generic strategies = basic types of business level strategies based on breadth of target market (industrywide versus narrow market segment) and type of competitive advantage (low-cost versus uniqueness).


Three Generic Strategies (1 of 3)

Exhibit 5.1 Three Generic Strategies

Source: Adapted from Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. Michael E Porter, 1980, 1998, Free Press.

Jump to Appendix 1 for long image description.

©McGraw-Hill Education.

The overall cost leadership and differentiation strategies strive to attain advantages industrywide, while focusers have a narrow target market in mind. Generic strategies are plotted on two dimensions: competitive advantage and market served.


Three Generic Strategies (2 of 3)

Overall cost leadership is based on:

Creating a low-cost position relative to a firm’s peers

Managing relationships throughout the entire value chain to lower costs

Differentiation implies:

Products and/or services that are unique & valued

Emphasis on nonprice attributes for which customers will gladly pay a premium

A focus strategy requires:

Narrow product lines, buyer segments, or targeted geographic markets

Advantages obtained either through differentiation or cost leadership

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Overall cost leadership = a firm’s generic strategy based on appeal to the industrywide market using a competitive advantage based on low-cost. Differentiation = a firm’s generic strategy based on creating differences in the firm’s product or service offering by creating something that is perceived industrywide as unique and valued by customers. Focus = a firm’s generic strategy based on appeal to a narrow market segment within an industry.


Three Generic Strategies (3 of 3)

Exhibit 5.2 Competitive Advantage and Business Performance

ParticularsDifferentiation and CostDifferentiationCostDifferentiation and FocusCost and FocusStuck in the Middle
Return on Investment (%)35.532.930.217.023.717.8
Sales growth (%)15.113.513.516.417.512.2
Gain in market share (%)
Sample Size12316010014186105

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Both casual observation and research supports the notion that firms that identify with one or more of the forms of competitive advantage outperform those that do not. According to the above study, businesses combining multiple forms of competitive advantage (differentiation and overall cost leadership) outperformed businesses that used only a single form. The lowest performers were those that did not identify with any type of advantage. They were classified as “stuck in the middle.”


Overall Low-Cost Leadership (1 of 2)

Overall cost leadership involves

Aggressive construction of efficient scale facilities

Vigorous pursuit of cost reductions from experience

Tight cost and overhead control

Avoidance of marginal customer accounts

Cost minimization in all activities in the firm’s value chain, such as R&D, service, sales force, and advertising

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Overall cost leadership = a firm’s generic strategy based on appeal to the industrywide market using a competitive advantage based on low-cost. Cost leadership requires a tight set of interrelated tactics, including close scrutiny of the value chain. See Exhibit 5.3.


Overall Low-Cost Leadership (2 of 2)

Cost leadership requires learning to lower costs through experience: the experience curve.

With experience, unit costs of production processes decline as output increases.

This strategy also requires competitive parity.

Being “on par” with competitors with respect to low-cost, differentiation, or other strategic product characteristics

Permits cost leaders to translate cost advantages directly into higher profits

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Experience curve = the decline in unit costs of production as cumulative output increases. A business can learn to lower costs as it gains experience with production processes. Among the most common factors producing the experience curve are workers getting better at what they do, product designs being simplified as the product matures, and production processes being automated and streamlined. However experience curve gains will only be the foundation for a cost advantage if the firm knows the source of the cost reduction and can keep those gains proprietary. Competitive parity = a firm’s achievement of similarity or being “on par” with competitors with respect to low-cost, differentiation, or other strategic product characteristics. Competitive parity on the basis of differentiation permits the cost leader to translate cost advantages directly into higher profits than competitors. Thus, the cost leader earns above-average returns. A business that strives for a low-cost advantage must attain an absolute cost advantage relative to its rivals. This is typically accomplished by offering a no-frills product or service to a broad target market using standardization to derive the greatest benefits from economies of scale and experience. However such a strategy may fail if the firm is unable to attain parity on important dimensions of differentiation such as quick responses to customer requests for services or design changes.


Improving Competitive Position vis-à-vis the Five Forces: Cost Leadership

An overall low-cost position

Protects a firm against rivalry from competitors

Protects the firm against powerful buyers

Provides more flexibility to cope with demands from powerful suppliers who want to increase input costs

Provides substantial entry barriers due to economies of scale and cost advantages

Puts the firm in a favorable position with respect to substitute products

©McGraw-Hill Education.

An overall low cost position enables the firm to achieve above average returns despite strong competition. It protects a firm against rivalry from competitors, because lower costs allow a firm to earn returns even if its competitors eroded their profits through intense rivalry. Buyers can exert power to drive down prices only to the level of the next most efficient producer because there are relatively few competitors that can provide a comparable cost/value proposition. Because the cost advantage can be applied across all operations, a low-cost position puts the firm in a favorable position with respect to substitute products introduced by new and existing competitors.


Pitfalls of Cost Leadership

Too much focus on one or a few value chain activities

Increase in the cost of the inputs on which the advantage is based

Strategy can be too easily imitated

A lack of parity on differentiation

Reduced flexibility

Obsolescence of the basis of a cost advantage

©McGraw-Hill Education.

Firms need to pay attention to all activities in the value chain. Managers should explore all value-chain activities, including relationships among them, as candidates for cost reductions. Firms can also be vulnerable to price increases in the factors of production. A firm’s strategy may consist of value-creating activities that are easy to imitate. Firms striving to attain cost leadership advantages must obtain a level of parity on differentiation. Building a low-cost advantage often requires significant investments in plant and equipment, distribution systems, and large, economically scaled operations. As result, firms often find that these investments limit their flexibility. As a result they have difficulty responding to changes in the environment. Ultimately, the foundation of the firm’s cost advantage may become obsolete. In these circumstances, other firms develop new ways of cutting costs, leaving the old cost-leaders at a significant disadvantage. See Cases: General Motors, & Ford.


Differentiation (1 of 2)

A differentiation strategy can take many forms:

Prestige or brand image





Customer service

Dealer network

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Differentiation strategy = a firm’s generic strategy based on creating differences in the firm’s product or service offering by creating something that is perceived industrywide as unique and valued by customers. Firms may differentiate themselves in both primary and support activities (see Exhibit 5.4). Firms achieve and sustain differentiation advantages and attain above-average performance when their price premiums exceed the extra costs incurred in being unique.


Differentiation (2 of 2)

Differentiation requires:

A level of cost parity relative to competitors

Integration of multiple points along the value chain

Superior material handling operations to minimize damage

Low defect rates to improve quality

Accurate and responsive order processing

Personal relationships with key customers

Rapid response to customer service requests

Differentiation along several different dimensions at once

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Firms achieve and sustain differentiation advantages and attain above-average performance when their price premiums exceed the extra costs incurred in being unique, but a differentiator cannot ignore cost. Differentiators must reduce costs in all areas that do not affect differentiation.


Improving Competitive Position vis-à-vis the Five Forces: Differentiation

An overall differentiation strategy

Creates higher entry barriers due to customer loyalty

Provides higher margins that enable the firm to deal with supplier power

Reduces buyer power because buyers lack suitable alternatives

Establishes customer loyalty and hence less threat from substitutes

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Differentiation provides protection against rivalry since brand loyalty lowers customer sensitivity to price and raises customer switching costs, therefore creating higher entry barriers and reducing the threat from substitutes. The resulting higher margins and lack of comparable alternatives avoids the need for a low-cost position.


Pitfalls of Differentiation

Uniqueness that is not valuable

Too much differentiation

Too high a price premium

Differentiation that is easily imitated

Dilution of brand identification through product line extensions

Perceptions of differentiation may vary between buyers and sellers

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It’s not enough just to be different. A differentiation strategy must provide unique bundles of products and/or services that customers value highly. Firms may also strive for quality of service that is higher than customers desire, thus they become vulnerable to competitors who provide an appropriate level of quality at a lower price. In addition customers may desire the product but are repelled by the price premium. Differentiation advantages can be eroded through imitation. Firms may also erode their quality brand image by adding products or services with lower prices and less quality, thus confusing the customer. Companies must also realize that although they may perceive their products and services as differentiated, their customers may view them as commodities.


Focus (1 of 2)

A focus strategy is based on the choice of a narrow competitive scope within an industry.

A firm selects a segment or group of segments (or niche) and tailors its strategy to serve them.

A firm achieves competitive advantages by dedicating itself to these segments exclusively.

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Focus strategy = a firm’s generic strategy based on appeal to a narrow market segment within an industry. A firm following this strategy selects a segment or group of segments and tailors its strategy to serve them. The essence of focus is the exploitation of a particular market niche.


Focus (2 of 2)

A focus strategy has two variants.

Cost focus

Creates a cost advantage in its target segment

Exploits differences in cost behavior

Differentiation focus

Differentiates itself in its target market

Exploits the special needs of buyers

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A narrow focus by itself is not sufficient for above average performance. Firms must choose either a cost or a differentiation focus. But both variants of the focus strategy rely on providing better service than broad-based competitors who are trying to serve the focuser’s target segment. Cost focus exploits differences in cost behavior in some segments, while differentiation focus exploits the special needs of buyers in other segments. See Strategy Spotlight 5.3 for the example of a luxury goods provider.


Improving Competitive Position vis-à-vis the Five Forces: Focus

An overall focus strategy

Creates higher entry barriers due to cost leadership or differentiation or both

Can provide higher margins that enable the firm to deal with supplier power

Reduces buyer power because the firm provides specialized products or services

Focused niches less vulnerable to substitutes

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Focus requires that a firm either have a low cost position with its strategic target, high differentiation, or both. These positions provide defenses against each competitive force because of higher margins or more specialized products or services. Focus is also used to select niches that are least vulnerable to substitutes or where competitors are weakest.


Pitfalls of Focus

Erosion of cost advantages within the narrow segment

Highly focused products and services still subject to competition from new entrants and from imitation

Focusers too focused to satisfy buyer needs

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The advantages of a cost focus strategy may be fleeting if the cost advantages are eroded over time. University of Phoenix is given as an example. Some firms adopting a focus strategy may enjoy temporary advantages because they select a small niche with few rivals. However, this strategy can be imitated. Finally, some firms attempting to attain advantages through a focus strategy may have too narrow a product or service.


Industry Life Cycle Stages (1 of 2)

The industry life cycle





Generic strategies, functional areas, value-creating activities, and overall objectives all vary over the course of an industry life cycle.

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Industry life cycle = the stages of introduction, growth, maturity, and decline that typically occur over the life of an industry. Managers must become even more aware of their firm’s strengths and weaknesses in many areas to attain competitive advantages. Factors such as generic strategies, market growth rate, intensity of competition, and overall objectives can change over the course of an industry life cycle. Managers must strive to emphasize the key functional areas during each of the four stages and to attain a level of parity in all functional areas and value-creating activities. Note: products and services go through many cycles of innovation and renewal. Typically, only fad products have a single lifecycle. Maturity stages of an industry can be transformed or followed by the stage of rapid growth if consumer tastes change, technological innovations take place, or new developments occur.


Industry Life Cycle Stages (2 of 2)

Exhibit 5.6 Stages of the Industry Life Cycle

Generic strategiesDifferentiationDifferentiationDifferentiation Overall cost leadershipOverall cost leadership Focus
Market growth rateLowVery largeLow to moderateNegative
Number of segmentsVery fewSomeManyFew
Intensity of competitionLowIncreasingVery intenseChanging
Emphasis on product designVery highHighLow to moderateLow
Emphasis on process designLowLow to moderateHighLow
Major functional area(s) of concernResearch and developmentSales and marketingProductionGeneral management and finance
Overall objectiveIncrease market awarenessCreate consumer demandDefend market share and extend product life cyclesConsolidate, maintain, harvest, or exit

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Industry life cycle = the stages of introduction, growth, maturity, and decline that typically occur over the life of an industry.


Strategies in the Introduction Stage

The introduction stage is when:

Products are unfamiliar to consumers.

Market segments are not well-defined.

Product features are not clearly specified.

Competition tends to be limited.


Develop a product and get users to try it.

Generate exposure so the product becomes “standard.”

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Introduction stage = the first stage of the industry life cycle, characterized by (1) new products that are not known to customers, (2) poorly defined market segments, (3) unspecified product features, (4) low sales growth, (5) rapid technological change, (6) operating losses, and (7) a need for financial support. Since there are few players and not much growth, competition tends to be limited. Success requires an emphasis on research and development and marketing activities to enhance awareness. The challenge becomes one of developing the product and finding a way to get users to try it, and generating enough exposure so the product emerges as the “standard” by which all other rivals’ products are evaluated. There’s an advantage to being the “first mover” in a market.


Strategies in the Growth Stage

The growth stage is:

Characterized by strong increases in sales

Attractive to potential competitors

When firms can build brand recognition


Create branded differentiated products

Stimulate selective demand

Provide financial resources to support value-chain activities

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Growth stage = the second stage of the product life cycle, characterized by (1) strong increases in sales; (2) growing competition; (3) developing brand recognition; and (4) a need for financing complementary value-chain activities such as marketing, sales, customer service, and research and development. In the growth stage, the primary key to success is to build consumer preferences for specific brands. This requires strong brand recognition, differentiated products, and the financial resources to support a variety of value chain activities such as marketing and sales, and research and development. Efforts in the growth stage are directed towards stimulating selective demand in which a firm’s products offerings are chosen instead of a rival’s. Revenues can increase at an accelerating rate because new consumers are trying the product and a growing proportion of satisfied consumers are making repeat purchases.


Strategies in the Maturity Stage

The maturity stage is when:

Aggregate industry demand slows

Market becomes saturated, few new adopters

Direct competition becomes predominant

Marginal competitors begin to exit


Create efficient manufacturing operations

Lower costs as customers become price-sensitive

Adopt reverse or breakaway positioning

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Maturity stage = the third stage of the product life cycle, characterized by (1) slowing demand growth, (2) saturated markets, (3) direct competition, (4) price competition, and (5) strategic emphasis on efficient operations. As markets become saturated, there are few new adopters. Rivalry among existing rivals intensifies because of fierce price competition at the same time that expenses associated with attracting new buyers are rising. Advantages based on efficient manufacturing operations and process engineering become more important for keeping costs low as customers become more price sensitive. It also becomes more difficult for firms to differentiate their offerings because users have a greater understanding of products and services. Firms can affect consumers’ mental shifts through (A) reverse positioning = a break in industry tendency to continuously augment products, characteristics of the product life cycle, by offering products with fewer product attributes and lower prices; or (B) breakaway positioning = a break in industry tendency to incrementally improve products along specific dimensions, characteristic of the product life cycle, by offering products that are still in the industry but that are perceived by customers as being different.


Strategies in the Decline Stage

The decline stage is when:

Industry sales and profits begin to fall.

Price competition increases.

Industry consolidation occurs.


Maintaining the product position

Harvesting profits and reducing costs

Exiting the market

Consolidating or acquiring surviving firms

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Decline stage = the fourth stage of the product life cycle, characterized by (1) falling sales and profits, (2) increasing price competition, and (3) industry consolidation. Firms must face up to the fundamental strategic choices of either exiting or staying and attempting to consolidate their position in the industry. In the decline stage, a firm’s strategic options become dependent on the actions of rivals. If many competitors leave the market, sales and profit opportunities increase. On the other hand, prospects are limited if all competitors remain. Maintaining refers to keeping a product going without significantly reducing marketing support, technological development, or other investments, in the hope that competitors will eventually exit the market. A harvesting strategy = a strategy of bringing as much profit as possible out of the business in the short to medium term by reducing costs. Exiting the market involves dropping the product from the firm’s portfolio. A consolidation strategy = a firm’s acquiring or merging with other firms in an industry in order to enhance market power and gain valuable assets. Firms can also resurrect old technologies by retreating to more defensible ground, using the new to improve the old, or improving the price-performance trade-off.


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