Astral Case Study

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‣ This case gives a good flavor of the challenges of a general manager, in particular when one is new to the job. The case explores the “parachuting in” of Sarah Conner, a venture-capitalist (BLL, 60% owner of Astral) employee, to take over the running of Astral (North America) following the sudden death of its long-time president (Maxwell). Astral is mostly a manufacturer of CD records for other labels, though Maxwell has expanded its own recording business (10% of revenues) across a range of musical genres. Astral has established a name for quality and innovation, but generallyavailable technology has become so reliable that quality no longer really serves as a differentiator in the industry. The first purpose of case studies is developing a better understanding through learning to apply appropriate and diverse tools/concepts leading to “better” answers increasing your probability of success. With the information provided make sure you 1. state the “facts”, 2. provide interpretation of these facts (also through use of concepts), and then 3. conclude. The latter two steps are often missing in case study reports. Also, structure is key. Some narration is not a problem, narration without structure definitely is a problem!

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Define the Context
‣ ‣ Defining the context is not synonymous to providing a summary of the case study. Based on what you have read state, interpret and draw conclusions. If you state the industry of Compact Discs is no longer differentiated but price is becoming the main competition issue, you need to indicate why this is relevant and what this implies (like: scale is of tremendous importance in this situation and if Astral does not find another way to differentiate itself, like developing the DVD, from competitors its future will look rather grim). If you state Astral’s formation of strategy resembles that of the entrepreneurial school residing in the mind of the leader, you need to translate this into Astral terms (the strategy of Astral NA resided and was executed in the head of sir Max) and conclude what consequences this has for Conner (very few people in Astral NA will be able to decide according to this strategy because that is what sir Max did). If you state that sir Max resembled the artist type of a manager, you need to conclude what consequences this has/d for Astral’s operations: short on details and followthrough which means that Conner is bound to find a lot of loose ends (like the letter from Yurbank dating July 1st, apparently not acted upon). Top quality, high tech product means high investment needs, rather high entry barriers, high risk of substitutes, etc and this in turn means that one can easily ‘miss’ potential competitors; Entrepreneurial leader means low empowerment of employees and the level of political power depends on proximity to the leader; A Venture Capitalist as key stock holder means a potentially stronger focus on shorter term return; A female leader in a paternalistic working environment means Conner has some extra hurdles to take and pitfalls to avoid; A manufacturing company like Astral means coordination by standardization of work processes implying a rather big planning and quality management department; A growth strategy means high dependency on credit lines to secure cash to secure growth; etc.

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Define the Key Issues or Problems
‣ Cases are semi-structured problems, and problem definition skills are one of the main learning products of repeated case study analysis. Stating the many weak signals and symptoms in a case study without pointing to bigger issues and/or problems does not help. What is really going on in this case study and why did it happen this way? Output of this step should be a clear definition of the key issues or problems at hand backed...
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