The Case Centre’s bestselling authors

Peter Killing

Peter Killing
IMD

"I ruthlessly edit my cases to make them as short as possible. Executives hate wasting time and if you can present a case in four pages instead of 10, do it! They will thank you."

I do not write cases in the hope that they will be adopted by other schools. I write cases first and foremost for my own use, with my own students. So I have a group of particular students or participants, as we call them, in mind when I write a case. They might be senior executives, or they might be MBAs. And they might be from all over Europe, all over the world, or quite local. So rule one is know who your intended audience is. At IMD I nearly always write cases that feature senior managers of companies from at least two countries, and maybe two continents, because that reflects the participants in our classrooms and the type of challenges that they face.

Ruthless editing

Rule two is, know what you are trying to achieve with the case. Let’s say I am writing a case on a joint venture situation. I could focus on the financial aspects of the JV, the cross-cultural aspects, or the very personal issues that arise for the executives trying to put the deal together or make it work as planned. Whatever you choose, make sure there is enough information to support a good discussion, but no more! I ruthlessly edit my cases to make them as short as possible. Executives hate wasting time and if you can present a case in four pages instead of 10, do it! They will thank you.

Professional video

I make my cases as personal as possible. I never write cases solely from public reports, but based on interviews which I usually conduct myself. I avoid writing disguised cases if I possibly can. And in the last ten years or so, I have always made a video of the executives involved to accompany the case (after it has been edited). For the best results, I video the executives in class, using a professional camera and sound people, as I find that in front of an audience they are usually more eloquent and expansive than when in their offices.

Favourite cases

The best cases feature issues that executives identify with and believe are important; in addition, participants can disagree about the issues and make good arguments for either side of an argument about the case. It’s even better when the executives in the case disagree. But you have to be rather lucky to find such a situation that can be made public. My favourite cases that feature such disagreements are SONY Europa by Kamran Kashani and J.B. Kassarjian of IMD, and my own Nestlé series.

The ultimate goal of a case is to create an in-depth and meaningful discussion in class so that participants learn from each other and the professor. It is not to ram the professor’s point of view down anyone’s throat. 

View cases written by Peter

 
About the author

Peter Killing is Professor of Strategy at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland. His major interest is the interface between strategy and leadership. His teaching, research and consulting activities focus on leaders who are working with their teams to create the right strategy and set the ground for effective implementation. He is currently examining these issues in family businesses, and in particular, the role of non-family CEOs who are running a family business. Peter’s approach for creating focus and energy in a top team is captured in the 2005 book Must–Win Battles (written with Professor Tom Malnight and Tracey Keys). In the past few years, he has run must-win battle workshops for a diverse set of companies in North America, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Professor Killing is an active case writer, with recent cases including PepsiCo in Mexico, a turnaround situation that was driven by the creation of must-win battles; Crompton Greaves; a study of an Indian company proposing to make an acquisition in Belgium; and the bestselling Nestlé series of cases.

Much of the underlying work that Peter has done on strategy and change is captured in Strategic Analysis and Action, a textbook currently in its sixth edition. The change leadership model in this book has influenced the activities of many individual managers and companies, including Exxon Mobil, Nestlé and ICI. Peter won The Case Centre’s Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method Award in 2013. He also picked up awards from The Case Centre in 1992 for Nestlé and 2000 for Brent Spar Platform Controversy.

e peter.killing@imd.ch

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