SOE11505/SOE11405 Contemporary Issues in Strategic Management
End of Module Coursework: Case Study Assessment
This summative assessment accounts for 90% of your final grade and is based on a case
study of Southwest Airlines. The other 10% of your grade is accounted for by the end of unit
tests, so it is important to make sure that you have completed these.
In the assessment brief below you will find:
• Details of the coursework assessment
• Guidelines to assist you in answering the questions
• The assessment marking criteria
• Information on presentation and the submission date
You are required to conduct an analysis of the following case study and article:
Southwest Airlines by Andrew Inkpen, in:
Hitt, M.A., Ireland, R.D., Hoskisson, R.E. (2016)
Strategic Management: competitiveness and globalization – concepts and cases (12th
edition). Boston: Cengage Learning
• The objective of your case analysis will be to demonstrate your comprehensive
understanding of the competitive environment in the US Airline industry, Southwest
Airlines’ capabilities and core competencies, and its strategic choices at business and
• If you are not familiar with the company then you can find out more about it by visiting
its website, but take care – when answering the questions below, you should only use
information on Southwest that is contained in the case study.
• You should not use alternative sources of information on the company, because it is
your ability to analyse the case information provided that is being assessed.
ONLY USE EVIDENCE FROM THE CASE STUDY PROVIDED
To gain the best possible grades, please pay attention to: presentation of analysis,
application of appropriate tools and use of case evidence.
QUESTION 1 Using only Porter’s Five Forces model, fully analyse the competitive
environment in the U.S. Airline industry based on the case study timeline.
QUESTION 2 Conduct a Value Chain analysis to comprehensively assess Southwest
Airlines’ capabilities. In doing so, identify, appraise and evaluate its core competencies, and
argue how these core competencies underpin its choice of generic competitive strategy.
QUESTION 3 Using the cultural web as discussed in the course content, describe the
organisational culture at Southwest Airlines, and briefly discuss how these features might
impact successful implementation of the company’s strategic choices.
QUESTION 4 At the time the case study was written, Southwest Airlines had not
expanded outside the U.S., although in 2013, Southwest’s CEO remarked that “opportunities
for growth now lie beyond US borders”.
Evaluate possible international strategy approaches (multi-domestic, global or transnational)
and select which strategy Southwest should pursue to achieve success.
To answer the questions in a robust and comprehensive way, please look at the following
Review Porter’s Five Forces model (Unit 3) and apply it to analyse the US airline industry. This
is an industry-level analysis of the competitive environment – part of external environment
analysis. At this stage do not focus too much on how Southwest Airlines managed to overcome
the forces and successfully compete in the industry, as this is the basis for the analysis of its
internal capabilities in question 2.
The purpose of the Five Forces Model is to gain a deeper understanding of the intensity of
competition in the industry and which forces are the key influencers. The more intense the
competition, the less attractive the industry, the lower the average level of industry profitability.
The reverse applies to less intense levels of competition. You must analyse each force
individually through an examination of the structural factors which determine the impact
of this force. The discussion of how these factors influence each force means that your
answer will go beyond the description of each force. For each force arguments should be
presented as to whether the force’s influence is high, medium or low. Your arguments should
reach formal conclusions:
• Is this an attractive/unattractive industry (high/low/average profit margins) as result of the
intensity of the competitive forces?
• What are the most significant forces facing the US airline industry in the future that all
competitors should take into account in their strategy formulation?
Conduct an internal analysis (Unit 4) of Southwest Airlines’ capabilities, then to identify
and evaluate its core competencies:
• Use the Value Chain framework to analyse Southwest Airlines’ capabilities. You must go
further than describing what it does in each activity through a discussion of what it does well
(strengths) and what areas it needs to improve (weaknesses to address).
• To identify Southwest Airlines’ core competencies, analyse critical linkages/processes in
the Value Chain, some of which should be the basis for your choice of core competencies
(CCs). The explanation of Value Chain linkages is an intermediary stage to identifying CCs.
Assess which linkages are “core” by applying either Barney’s or Grant’s criteria.
• The final part of the question requires you to identify its choice of generic competitive
strategy – differentiation, cost leadership or hybrid (Unit 5). Your choice should be
supported by the capabilities and CCs you have derived from your preceding value chain
The focus here is on the organisational culture of the airline, and how this is able to influence
its strategic choices and implementation. Use the cultural web (Unit 10), and back up your
description with evidence from the case study. Again, you must go further than simply
describing what the culture is, by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of different
elements of the framework, and how they might impact the ability of the company to make and
implement strategic decisions.
Consider three international strategy approaches (multi- domestic, global or transnational),
and to select which strategy you think Southwest Airlines should pursue, in the context of
the case study. To develop an argument to support your choice, work through the elements
of the Integration-Responsiveness Grid (from Unit 7) which apply to the industry and also to
Southwest’s own capabilities. You may wish to draw on your earlier analysis of Southwest’s
strengths and weaknesses to comment on how the company might overcome some of the
common difficulties associated with your chosen strategy.
Coursework Marking Criteria
Your assignment will be marked using GradeMark on Moodle, according to the following
Category Grade Comment
Presentation of analysis, use of
appropriate tools and case
(10% weighting of total grade)
Five Forces analysis of the
competitive environment in the US
(25% weighting of total grade)
Analysis of Southwest Airlines’
Value Chain capabilities, core
competencies and generic
(30% weighting of total grade)
Assessment of Southwest Airlines’
organisational culture and its
influence on strategy choice and
(20% weighting of total grade)
Evaluation of international
strategy approaches and
proposed strategy choice for
(15% weighting of total grade)
Grades are awarded as follows:
F6 F5-F1 P1 P2-P3 P4-P5 D1+
Very good Excellent
ASSESSMENT PRESENTATION INFORMATION
When preparing for your assessment, please take note of the following;
• It is not necessary to include a history of Southwest Airlines. A case analysis is not a
conceptual explanation or discussion so do not spend too much time on conceptual
explanation. Focus should be on how the concepts are used to analyse the case events
and reach evaluative judgments.
• Always draw on evidence from the case to support your analysis and conclusions. Using
evidence without analysis will amount to describing what has happened in the case and will
not gain many marks.
• Try to keep your answers to report format. Write in sections which reflect the major
elements of your analysis.
• It is critically important that if you use information from the case or theory from academic texts,
you must reference it appropriately. Any direct quotations from the text should be used sparingly
– these must be placed in quotation marks and referenced in the same way.
All References should be in APA6 format. Notes on referencing are available on Moodle.
• The case ends in 2013 and you should answer the questions in terms of the information
presented in the case up to this time. As a result, you should not include references on
Southwest Airlines from the internet orfrom sources other than those contained in the
Target Length: 4500 words
Maximum Length: 5000 words
Submission date: Friday 04 Dec, 23:59 (UK time), via Turnitin on Moodle
Assignments submitted after the deadline without an agreed extension will be penalised
according to the University Regulations.
The word limit excludes the cover sheet, figures/tables, references and appendices. Where a
submission exceeds the stated word limit, the maximum grade awarded will be P1. Appendices
can be used to provide additional raw information from your analysis, so long as the analysis
itself is incorporated into the main body of the assignment.
You may upload your assignment as many times as you wish before the deadline, using the
Draft Assessment Checking Facility. It is recommended that you do so at least once in order
to check your Turnitin score – this is a helpful way of making sure that you have used
references appropriately. Bear in mind that during busy periods Turnitin may experience delays
in generating scores. Assignments submitted to the checking facility will not be marked.
To make your final submission, use the Final Assessment Submission Link.
SOE11505/SOE11405 Contemporary Issues in Strategic Management