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The Design School: Reconsidering the Basic Premises of Strategic Management Henry Mintzberg Faculty of Management, Mcgill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

By | October 2012
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Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 11, 171-195 (1990)

THE DESIGN SCHOOL: RECONSIDERING THE BASIC PREMISES OF STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT HENRY MINTZBERG Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Among the schools of thought on strategy formation, one in particular underlies almost all prescription in the field. Referred to as the 'design school', it proposes a simple model that views the process as one of design to achieve an essential fit between external threat and opportunity and internal distinctive competence. A number of premises underlie this model: that the process should be one of consciously controlled thought, specifically by the chief executive; that the model must be kept simple and informal; that the strategies produced should be unique, explicit, and simple; and that these strategies should appear fully formulated before they are implemented. This paper discusses and then critiques this model, focusing in particular on the problems of the conscious assessment of' strengths and weaknesses, of the need to make strategies explicit, and of the separation between formulation and Implementation. In so doing, it calls into question some of the most deep-seated beliefs in the field of strategic management, including its favorite method of pedagogy.

The literature that can be subsutned under 'strategy formation' is vast, diverse and, since 1980, has been growing at an astonishing rate. There has been a general tendency to date it back to the mid-1960s, although some important publications precede that date, such as Newman's initial piece 'to show the nature and importance of strategy' (p. iii) in the 1951 edition of his textbook Administrative Action (1951: 110-118). Of course the literature on military strategy goes back much further, in the case of Sun Tzu probably to the fourth century B.C. (Griffith, in Sun Tzu, 1971: ix). A good deal of this literature naturally divides itself into distinct schools of thought. In another...

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