Faculty Advisor Primer most faculty participate on ‘601’

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York University
Schulich School of Business
MGMT 6100: Strategy Field Study
Faculty Advisor Primer

Mgmt 6100 referred to as ‘601’ the capstone course of the Schulich MBA program.
 All full time faculty have an obligation to advise on two 601 groups per year.

 Some contract faculty have in their contract, a number of groups to advise.

 Other part time instructors are from time to time invited to advise when appropriate and approved.
Participating on an Advisory Panel has benefits to faculty in terms of seeing how students integrate their area of focus with others in a practical setting. Advisors clearly help the groups learn by giving strategic advice as well as advice regarding their area of expertise.


For New or less Experienced Advisors

 Explanation of the role and expectations

 Description of meeting processes with tips

 Overview of the course

 Detailed phase meeting student deliverables and agendas
For Experienced Advisors

 A refresher

 Description of new deliverables at phase meetings

 Each group has a three-person Advisory Panel (a Faculty Chair and two Advisors)

 Role of the Advisory Panel is to meet 4 times during the process and

o Ask questions, provide guidance and advice at key phase meetings

o Clarify deliverables for the next Phase meeting

o Evaluate the final report and presentation, and assign a grade (Phase 4)

 The student group may ask individual Advisors for further assistance between meetings within reason re topics related to their expertise (doing a market survey, financial valuation, sources in literature etc.)

 Student Chair normally manages relations with the faculty panel
Students will seek you out. You will be asked by student groups to be an advisor. They should know their site when they ask so you can assess whether it makes sense for you to act as an advisor. You should not unreasonably decline them if you have obligations to advise. You can however, choose the sites you think are most appropriate to your interests and experience. If you are not being recruited and want to be involved contact a 601 Faculty Chair or the Strategy Field Study office N227)
 Questions are preferred approach -- Ask questions to make sure you understand the site. Ask questions to help students think through or explain their thinking to date.

 Make suggestions about how they should do their analysis or explain how to correct methodological errors they are making.

 Comment on poor presentation of material but be more careful and ‘picky’ when it comes to phase 3 draft report rather than others.

 The panel members do not need to agree with each other – different perspectives are encouraged and part of real life of this project!

 Don’t restrict yourself to your area of expertise – be strategic with your insights and your questions.
All Advisors (and Students) must be physically present in all scheduled Phase meetings. Exceptions must receive the Faculty Chairs prior permission.

 Groups must submit a copy of each Phase deliverable/report to each member of the Advisory Panel one week prior to every Phase meeting or as agreed with Panel (Advisors may at their discretion accept receipt the Friday before the meeting).

 Reports must be delivered in hard copy, in a sealed envelope (or disc if desired by Advisor) but not via email for confidentiality reasons.

 All reports are returned to students and the end of each meeting – your comments in margins may be helpful to students. However, this is part of the confidentiality process.

 Let student contact know if you have meeting time restrictions (not after 6 pm etc) in case this conflicts with their availability – don’t advise that group.

 Bring diary to each phase meeting so next meeting can be set at the end of the meeting.

 Advise the students of special delivery requirements within reason – they can’t courier around the globe.

 You should get a summary of the meeting by email shortly after the first three phases, quickly read and see if anything is missing or amiss. Email back to all with any comments. Keep their summary to remind you what happened.


The Strategy Field Study is an intensive, eight month project where groups of 8 second year students undertake a comprehensive strategic analysis of an organization (“client site”) and its environment and provide strategic recommendations to enhance the site’s future success and viability.

• The group is comprised of students with a strong grounding in all aspects of management and varied backgrounds and experience.

• The group finds a company or organization that is suitable for a strategic study and willing to take part in the study and then spends eight months studying the company and preparing the report on how to make the site more successful.

• An Advisory Panel of a Faculty Chair and two professors oversee the process, advise the group and determine a grade.

• The Strategy Field Study is broken into 5 Phases. In the final Phase of the Strategy Field Study, the student group presents its final report to the client site’s senior management summarizing their strategic assessment and making strategic recommendations for implementation.

• All aspects of the Strategy Field Study remain strictly confidential and are the sole property of the client site. The Study cannot be discussed or revealed without the expressed written consent of the client site. All participants in the study, including students and faculty, are bound by confidentiality agreements.
For more information on the approach and advice to students:

Course Intranet: http://601.schulich.yorku.ca

External Website: www.schulich.yorku.ca/601

 The Strategy Field Study is divided into five Phases. Each Phase represents a milestone towards the final deliverable.

 The full faculty panel meets four times during this process – each of these are detailed below

 At each Phase, groups prepare a Phase report (edited and page numbered) for the Advisory Panel and then meet with the Advisory Panel to discuss the progress of the project.

 Groups should send a 1 to 2 page summary of meeting within 48 hours of each Phase meeting.



(All = 3 Advisors, all group)


Phase 1 Situation Assessment & Research Plan


Term 1, Week 6

Phase 2A Progress on Research

Chair only

Term 1, Week 12

Phase 2B Strategic Assessment & Alternatives


Term 2, Week 3

Phase 3 Draft Report


Term 2 Week 8

Phase 4 Report Delivered

Phase 4 Meeting


Term 2, End of Week 12

Within 3 weeks

Phase 5

Site -- No Advisors

By end of term 2

An outline of deliverables and meeting agendas are provided below for the four key meetings.

A Final Report
 The final report consists of a body of text presenting an argument for the strategic recommendations and implementation plan that will make the site more successful. The body of the report typically should not exceed 50 pages, double-spaced.

o An Executive Summary of about 1 or 2 pages is mandatory.

o Combination of paragraph and point form welcomed. Descriptive highlights can be displayed on charts, or in point form. Remember that a persuasive argument must be conducted using a logical series of statements. That means sentences.

 The structure or format of the report is optional but a simple flow such as the following usually works.

1. Executive Summary – make the case

2. Highlights of Strategic Assessment – key issues and choices

3. Strategic Direction Recommendations:

  • alternatives considered — and why one chosen

  • cost benefits or implications in terms of criteria, goals and financials

4. Action Recommendations

  • all relevant functional components, e.g., marketing, organization, etc

  • sensitivity and contingency analysis included if appropriate

  • implementation timing, resources required, risks and contingencies, assignment of responsibility and monitoring processes

Appended Research Papers
 Research Papers refers to a series of appendices supporting the group’s strategic assessment and recommendations. Use as many appendices as necessary but use tabs to separate them. Each should be organized as a self-contained piece of analysis with the following 2 or 3 pages at the front of the analysis:

o Purpose and Scope of the Paper

o Sources and Methodology

o Findings & Conclusions

Presentation & Defense

  • A formal 20 minute (maximum) uninterrupted oral presentation to the Faculty Chair and Advisors.

  • Defense -- The Faculty Chair and Advisors question the group on aspects of their argument, their underlying research, their recommendations and proposed implementation. All students are expected to participate in this discussion and the group needs to demonstrate they are prepared for any question. Advisors may choose to ask questions of individual group members

Phase 1 Deliverables
1. Presentation of Preliminary Strategic Assessment (max 5 minutes using PowerPoint)

 Prepare and deliver a short presentation summarizing your initial view of the company’s situation and strategic challenges/opportunities. In doing this, think about these question -- Is the company successful? Why? What future challenges will it face in terms of its competitive environment?

2. Summary Report (Point form or PowerPoint “deck” style)

Format can be point form but make sure it flows and is understandable without being orally presented. This report may be 20 to 30 pages in point form format. It should include the following:

1. Company Description — describe the company, its products, history, financial results, organization, key people and its goals. You can distribute brochures at the meeting or give copies as an attachment to help. Provide financial statements.

2. External Assessment — Describe its industry(ies) with an overview of competitors, demand trends, segments, changing technology and customer needs, value chain of how the industry works — charts, matrices and maps help present these. Worry about precision later; get a sense down on paper! Provide a listing of potential sources of information.

3. Preliminary Strategic Assessment — What business is it in? What are its goals? Is it successful and why? What is its current strategy (product/market scope, competitive differentiation or business model (how it makes profit)? What is happening internally or externally that might affect its future success? What are the key issues and options for this organization?

3. Research Plan

 The research for this assignment should be thought of as being comprised of a number of projects, each answering a specific set of questions.

 Identify the research papers you plan to prepare in Phase 2 and for each research paper include the following:

 Purpose and scope of research — sentence or so

 Sources and methodology

 Team assignments with timing and milestones

  1. There is no magic number of research papers but most groups find 8 to 10 distinct topics as a basis for organizing and documenting their research and analysis. Here are some examples:

  • Industry Size, Structure & Trends

  • Competitor Assessment

  • Customer Needs and Analysis

  • Market Segment Analysis

  • Internal Profitability by Product

  • Internal Organization Assessment

  • Financial Model and Analysis

  • Technology Developments

The Phase 1 Meeting Agenda (Allow 2 Hours)

This meeting orients Advisors to the site so they can give advice about the future research in Phase 2.

  1. Five minute presentation - Start with the overview of key issues.

  2. Clarify site issues - Questions about scope and focus should be identified at this meeting as well as any issue relative to access to site information.

  3. Discuss the Report - Advisors will ask questions and make suggestions. The group should ensure that they prepare a list of questions for the Advisory Panel.

  4. Research Plan - review plan for research papers and provide advice.

  5. Summary - Where are we?

  6. Set the date for the next meeting.

It is difficult to overplay the importance of this stage of the assignment. Without a solid understanding of the company, its situation, including both internal and external aspects, the final report will lack understanding and credibility. The group’s conclusions and strategic recommendations must rest on informed findings and analysis – the evidence.

 During Phase 2, the group needs to execute the research plan i.e. do the research and analysis to prepare the research papers – making adjustment to the research plans as new information is found.

 The group also needs to keep assessing what they are finding in terms of the overall strategic significance in terms of what will make this organization more successful and better able to address strategic issues.

 Assessing the strategic significance of what is being learned through the research helps inform whether to alter the research plan or begin some new areas of inquiry as initial hypotheses are tested.

There are two meetings to this Phase: 2a to check-in on progress with the research with only the Faculty Chair and 2b with the full Advisory Panel to discuss the deliverable for Phase 2.
Deliverables for 2b

1. Strategic Assessment Report

Format can be point form versus paragraph but make sure it flows and is understandable without being presented. About a 30 to 40 page point form report should be sufficient. It should include the following:

a. Company Assessment — current goals, strategy, positioning/business model, services, financial results, SWOT etc.

b. Highlights of environmental and industry analysis — leading to key findings affecting the success of the company.

c. Strategic Assessment Issues and Conclusions — the company's strategic situation, key strategic issues looking forward re meeting its goals.

d. Alternatives — Outline of possible goals, strategic directional options that the site might consider.

e. Preliminary recommendation about overall strategic direction (optional).

Research & Analysis Papers (Appendices)

To the extent possible, groups should produce the final draft research papers for this meeting. Some additional research may be required and further financial projections will be prepared. Otherwise, try to make this a final version of your research work which can then be edited for submission with the final report in Phase 4!!!

  1. Required Format — the first three items should be covered on the first 2 to 3 pages.

a) Purpose and Scope.

b) Methodology and sources of information.

c) Highlights of findings and implications for company strategy.

d) Detailed analyses. Use a format appropriate to the material.

The Phase 2b Meeting (Allow 2 Hours)

  1. Presentation on Overall Strategic Conclusions –limit of 10 minutes!

  2. Discuss the research completed

  • Questions of adequacy and clarity and gaps in information & research and suggestions.

  1. Strategic issues, choices and implications

 Preliminary conclusions about strategic choices and alternatives.

 Alternatives worth investigation.

  1. Next Steps

 Set date for next meeting.

 Grading evaluation criteria, group issues, and potential grade allocation process will be discussed.

Deliverables for Phase 3
1. Draft Final Report
Phase 3 should be a draft of the final report. This includes strategic assessment, alternatives and their evaluation using criteria and financial forecasts, the preferred strategy with some concrete outline of the action initiatives and functional strategies to support the overall direction. Specific elements of how to implement the strategic recommendations can be further detailed in Phase 4.
2. Research and Analysis Papers (Revised and Additions)
 Additional research and significantly changed research papers should be submitted for comment along with the financial alternatives analysis paper.

 You can bring in the Phase 2b copies of research papers which are not modified.

3. Presentation (maximum 15 minutes)
 The group should do a dry run of the final presentation which tells the whole story line and recommendations. Keep it to 10 to 15 minutes.
Phase 3 Meeting Agenda (2 Hours)
1. Presentation (15 minutes max)

2. Discussion of Report

3. Next Steps

  • Clarify Phase 4 report and meeting expectations.

Deliverables for Phase 4

  • See Outline for Final Deliverable

Phase 4 Meeting – Presentation and Defense to the Advisory Panel
The Phase 4 Meeting has the following elements:

  • A formal 20 minute (maximum) uninterrupted oral presentation to your Advisory Panel. All students must be physically present, even if they don’t participate in the formal presentation.

  • The Advisory Panel question the group on aspects of their argument, their underlying research, their recommendations and implementation suggestions. All students are expected to participate in this discussion where faculty members have the opportunity to challenge the students' arguments, to delve into the facts and the analysis presented, and assess the thoroughness, completeness and conviction of the students' report. The Advisory Panel may choose to ask questions of individual group members. This part of the meeting can take from 45 minutes to 90 or so minutes depending on the issues to be addressed.

  • Students leave the room and Advisors complete their evaluation.

  • Students return and Advisory Panel announces their evaluation and grade and discusses next steps with Phase 5 presentation.

PHASE 5: REPORT AND PRESENTATION TO THE SITE (No Faculty typically present)
 The presentation to the site's senior management should take place within two weeks of the Phase 4 meeting.

 Typically, the Advisor Panel should receive a brief feedback note on how it went.

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