Miles and Snow Typology

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In their 1978 book Organization Strategy, Structure, and Process, Raymond E. Miles and Charles C. Snow argued that different company strategies arise from the way companies decide to address three fundamental problems: entrepreneurial, engineering (or operational), and administrative problems. The entrepreneurial problem is how a company should manage its market share. The engineering problem involves how a company should implement its solution to the entrepreneurial problem. The administrative problem considers how a company should structure itself to manage the implementation of the solutions to the first two problems. Although businesses choose different solutions to these problems, Miles and Snow suggested that many companies develop similar solutions. As a result, they postulated that there are four general strategic types of organizations: prospector, defender, analyzer, and reactor organizations. Prospector organizations face the entrepreneurial problem of locating and exploiting new product and market opportunities. These organizations thrive in changing business environments that have an element of unpredictability, and succeed by constantly examining the market in a quest for new opportunities. Moreover, prospector organizations have broad product or service lines and often promote creativity over efficiency. Prospector organizations face the operational problem of not being dependent on any one technology. Consequently, prospector companies prioritize new product and service development and innovation to meet new and changing customer needs and demands and to create new demands. The administrative problem of these companies is how to coordinate diverse business activities and promote innovation. Prospector organizations solve this problem by being decentralized, employing generalists (not specialists), having few levels of management, and encouraging collaboration among different departments and units. Defender organizations face the entrepreneurial problem of how to maintain a stable share of the market, and hence they function best in stable environments. A common solution to this problem is cost leadership, and so these organizations achieve success by specializing in particular areas and using established and standardized technical processes to maintain low costs. In addition, defender organizations tend to be vertically integrated in order to achieve cost efficiency. Defender organizations face the administrative problem of having to ensure efficiency, and thus they require centralization, formal procedures, and discrete functions. Because their environments change slowly, defender organizations can rely on long-term planning. Analyzer organizations share characteristics with prospector and defender organizations; thus, they face the entrepreneurial problem of how to maintain their shares in existing markets and how to find and exploit new markets and product opportunities. These organizations have the operational problem of maintaining the efficiency of established products or services, while remaining flexible enough to pursue new business activities. Consequently, they seek technical efficiency to maintain low costs, but they also emphasize new product and service development to remain competitive when the market changes. The administrative problem is how to manage both of these aspects. Like prospector organizations, analyzer organizations cultivate collaboration among different departments and units. Analyzer organizations are characterized by balance—a balance between defender and prospector organizations. Reactor organizations, as the name suggests, do not have a systematic strategy, design, or structure. They are not prepared for changes they face in their business environments. If a reactor organization has a defined strategy and structure, it is no longer appropriate for the organization's environment. Their new product or service development fluctuates in response to the...
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