Read the Wal-Mart case carefully and get to understand the business of discount retailing and the capabilities of Walmart in particular. Then using the VRIO framework to analyze the case, answer the following question: which resource and/or capability has been a source of competitive advantage for Walmart in the past and is most likely to remain a source of competitive advantage in the future? Use the VIOR framework and analyze each dimension separately and together to answer the question. Papers will receive higher grades for analyzing a source of substantive competitive advantage that has a large effect on profitability relative to Walmarts overall profitability.
Be careful not to bring in sources of data or theory that are outside of the VIOR framework and outside the case discussion; do not make this more complicated by bringing in outside data or theories. Keep it simple and stick to the case facts and the VIOR framework discussed in class.
Another suggestion is to consider how the VIOR framework is designed somewhat like a checklist; please make sure to cover all the important points that the VIOR framework argues are important for identifying a source of competitive advantage.
Details for answering each SAS paper individually will be given in class. But every one of the papers follows the same format with the same goals. Each of these papers is an opportunity for students to demonstrate critical thinking skills in writing and the application of strategic theories. Papers should be arguments, based on concise, useful, and accurate analysis and supported by data. The audience is any strategic manager interested in the firm or industry. The best papers are based on clear arguments and provide insights that readers feel are useful even if they disagree with the overall argument.
The general format of papers
The maximum length of 2 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 margins all around. Authors full name and day and time of class at the top of every page, and multiple pages stapled.
The first sentence should state the overall conclusion of the entire paper: If you are arguing yes or no about an action, say it upfront. If arguing for taking a specific action, say it upfront. Do not make the reader wait for your insight.
Paragraphs should all begin with an argument, then support it: Do not start with summary facts; start with the argument, then bring in the facts and thinking that supports it.
If a topic involves a strategic advantage you must consider what competitors will and can do: All strategic advantage is relative to competitors and their reactions, not absolute.
Explicitly use theories from class in your paper: Theories from class are both more powerful and accurate than the common sense myths that surround strategic management, but also are more authoritative in convincing your audience. Without using theoretical analysis, a paper will likely be (and certainly will appear to be) a set of shallow personal opinions.
What to avoid
- DO NOT include additional research on the case or related theories in the analysis. Doing so will reduce the papers grade by at least one-half letter grade. Why? Because the hindsight bias (Links to an external site.) and influence of authority links of outside researchers are very powerful and unhelpful forces affecting how everyone analyzes events. People will fail to be as insightful when faced with obvious opinions that come from knowing the future or the recommendations of experts. Useful practice in analysis requires sticking with analysis of the case facts where the future is unknown, and experts do not provide easy to adopt answers.
- DO NOT summarize the case or theories: The audience has read the book and case.
- DO NOT provide a balanced view and argue both sides of an issue: Ultimately strategy is about action and you cannot do both do and not do an action.
- It is best practice to not turn in the first draft or fail to use spellcheck: Good writing is re-writing.