Course 2019-2020 a.y.


Department of Management and Technology

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLEAM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - CLEF (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - CLEACC (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BESS-CLES (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - WBB (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BIEF (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BIEM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BIG (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BEMACS (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Suggested background knowledge

Students attending this course are expected to already know the key frameworks, the basic terminology and the essential tools of General Management.

Mission & Content Summary


Small and medium enterprises represent an important phenomenon worldwide and their success determines the economic prosperity and growth in most of economies. Our course is focused on key features and key processes of strategic management of small and medium enterprises, on the understanding of key characteristics of SMEs and of family-run and family-owned small and medium firms and the factors and on the decisions impacting over time their sustainable competitive advantage. Through multiple cases, examples and guest speakers sessions the students develop a comprehensive framework of strategic decision making for a small or medium business, with particular attention to the strategic positioning and growth options.


  • During the introductory part of the course the students learn to distinguish small and medium enterprises from larger business organizations not only from the quantitative point of view, but also by analyzing the uniqueness of managerial processes of SMEs, of the impact of the entrepreneur and of the owning family on SMEs' strategic choices, of the resources and competences endowment of SMEs. We also discuss the “stay or grow” dilemma inviting students to learn to distinguish “life-style SMEs” from “growth-oriented SMEs”.
  • The core part of the course is dedicated to the key choices and dilemmas of strategic management models of SMEs, including the competitive positioning within an industry, the competitive strategies, the growth options and the network-based strategy. A special focus is made on the internationalization growth option: students are introduced to the foreign markets assessment tools and to the strategic evaluation of foreign markets entry-mode options.
  • In conclusion, we discuss how the role of the macroeconomic and institutional context and of the policies on the entrepreneurship and development of SMEs. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Define the key charachteristics (qualitative and quantitative) of an SME.
  • Describe the impact of the family ownership on the strategic decision-making in an SME.
  • Identify the strategic positioning options for an SME by taking into consideration the industry structure and the firm's resources and competences endowment.
  • Identify the possible growth options for an SME.
  • Qualitatively assess the feasibility of possible growth options for an SME, with a particular focus on the international growth.
  • Assess the economic feasibility of a chosen growth option for an SME.
  • Describe the impact of the macroeconomic and institutional economic context, as well as the role of industrial districts, on the SME's competitive performance.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Work in international teams under time pressure.
  • Quickly define possible strategic options for an SME for further in-depth analysis.
  • Analitically link firm's and industry charachteristics to define the strategic positioning and growth options for an SME.
  • Evaluate strategic and economic feasibility of the growth strategy for an SME.
  • Evaluate advantages and disadvantages, for an SME, of reliance on external sources of competitive advantage.
  • Simulate the discussion of the feasibility of strategic growth possibilities for an SME.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Group assignments


  • Guest speaker's talks: we expect several entrepreneurs and business development managers to bring in class their experience to discuss the strategic decisions related to the creation and growth of an SME.
  • Exercises (Exercises, database, software etc.): most of double lectures are structured as follows: during the first lecture the instructor discusses (through cases and examples) theoretical frameworks and practical tools; during the second double lecture the students work in class on a mini case/managerial dilemma and present their conclusions.
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online): face-to-face lectures and groups assignments are structured around cases, practical examples and guest speakers talks.
  • Group assignments: attending students are expected to complete several in-class group assignments as described above.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


  • 50% of the grade - “attending students points” - presentations of small group projects: students are asked to work on short cases or assignments given by the instructor in the class. After the work in small groups in class, all small groups make pilot presentations of their findings or solutions, allowing the small groups to accumulate from 0 to 16 points of the grade on top of the grades obtained during the written exam. The attending student status is achieved after a student accumulated a minimum of 8 points. Once a student declares to be a part of the attending group  and accumulates a minimum of 8 points, the “attending student” status is valid until September 2019 exam sessions (September session included).
  • 50% of the grade - “final exam points” - are obtained at the final written exam consisting of multiple choice questions.
    • The exam consist of “CORE QUESTIONS” 16 questions (0-16 points) and “ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS” for attending students (0-8 points).
    • Students who achieved more than 8 but less than 16 “attending student points” and are willing to improve their final grades, are given the possibility to answer to ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS (optional). For instance, a student who accumulated 10 out of 16 maximum attending student points are given a possibility to select and to answer to 6 out of 8 ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS.


The assessment of non-attending students, independently of the year of the course attendance,  consists of a final written exam. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions aiming to test the student’s knowledge of key theoretical frameworks and definitions contained in the two obligatory readings.

Teaching materials


  • Slides and students' own lecture notes.
  • Cases as indicated in syllabus.
  • Selected chapters as indicated in syllabus of: O. ANNUSHKINA, L. CARCANO, U. LASSINI, et al., Strategic Management and Small and Medium Enterprises, McGraw, 2012.


  • P.BURNS, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
  • O. ANNUSHKINA, L. CARCANO, U. LASSINI, et al., Strategic Management and Small and Medium Enterprises, McGraw, 2012.
Last change 29/05/2019 08:52