Bachelor in International Business students experiment with Porter’s value chain in the field

After noticing that her students in the Bachelor in International Business (BIB) program found the teaching of Porter’s value chain concept, within the Fundamentals of Business Strategy course, too abstract, Catherine ARCHAMBAULT, professor of strategy, chose to take them completely against the grain by making them go on the field directly to make this teaching much more concrete.

If there is one activity that all young students around the world enjoy, it is eating a hamburger outside. The BIB students therefore went to McDonald’s in Lille Centre to analyze each step of their customer journey, what Michael Porter calls, in his value chain, external or distribution logistics: how the company delivers products (and especially value) to customers. They had to focus on three major aspects: how to increase value for customers, reduce costs for the company and improve sustainability / better manage waste.

Each group of students had 45 minutes to complete an order, explore the restaurant and nearby competitors and formulate their recommendations, using different design thinking techniques such as the “Crazy 8” (drawing 8 ideas in 30 seconds each) or “Bono’s hat” (one member challenges another team’s ideas). They then presented their recommendations to the site manager, who asked them many questions about their analysis and their ideas for improvement.


This educational activity was very instructive for the students: it gives them the idea of leaving the classroom (tomorrow, the office) to go and see the reality of things in the field and get in touch with the customers. It allows them to better understand all the micro-processes of value creation (for example, MacDonald’s has quickly implemented actions in the framework of the new anti-waste law, but some processes must now be improved/optimized according to consumers’ uses). Finally, this activity allows them to act as consultants, to know how to quickly build quality presentations and to experiment with “design thinking” activities by understanding how they impact and accelerate the creativity process.

This activity was very much appreciated by the students, who had to get out of their comfort zone and confront new, very concrete and practical ways of learning, which they will be able to duplicate easily for other projects and courses to come.

The value chain is a method used to analyze a company’s activities in order to create value along its strategic chain of activities in order to obtain a competitive advantage. It is based on the work of Michael Porter, a professor of strategy at Harvard Business School who developed this concept to provide companies with practical tools for strategic management.

This general representation of the company is based on a process composed of a sequence of activities transforming inputs into outputs, which are finally bought and used by final consumers. This type of analysis is the basis for constructing value-creating processes that eventually lead to a more efficient business strategy.


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