The ‘Power’ and ‘Cultural’ Schools of Thought – A Critical Essay Introduction
The ten schools of thought proposed by Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel (2009) provide an insight into different aspects of strategy formation. Mintzberg (2009) explains how we are unable to gain a complete picture of the process of strategy by simply looking at single schools alone, we must look at them all to gain the whole image. The poem the ‘Blind Men and the Elephant’, written by John Godfrey Saxe.The purpose of this essay is to evaluate and compare two schools of thought (chosen at random), the ‘power’ and ‘cultural’ schools.
The ten ‘schools of thought’ are divided by Mintzberg et al (2009) into two distinct catagories. The ‘prescriptive’ schools are concerned more with how strategies should be formed and the ‘descriptive’ schools, which are more concerned with how strategies are formed. The ‘power school’ is to be found in the decriptive school catagory. The influence of power on strategy formation concerning organisations can occur in two environments; the micro-environment, involving power holding parties internal to the organisation, i.e. managers, CEO’s etc., and the macro-environment, which invoves the organisation as a single entity working with intrest groups from the external environment. It should be made clear at this point what we mean when we talk about ‘power’. French and Raven (1960) further argue that power can arise from five separate sources or bases (further explained in appendix 1); coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power. Mintzberg et al (2009) describe strategy formation in the power school as a process of negotiation, with its base discipline in political science, Kotelnikov (unknown). The eventual goal of negotiation is to form an agreement between two or more parties whom originally may have had very different ideas about the given topic. It does not mean simply splitting the arguments down the middle, but reaching agreed goals, thorough bargaining and compromise, which will (hopefully) create positive outcomes for those involved. It is before and during this process that political influences can become prevalent. For those involved in the strategy formulation any number of ‘political games’ (Mintzberg et al (2009)) can be employed in order to affect power and influence among those involved often for personal gain or advantage. Bolman and Deal ((1997) from Mintzberg et al (2009:246) from this propose a number of points about organizational politics and among these suggest that ‘power is the most important resource’. These political games and negotiations are especially rife within the micro-environment. Once this power has been achieved Mintzberg also refers to the ‘48 Laws of Power’ written by Greene and Elffers (1998) who having studied relevant individuals from the realms of history and present suggest a number of ways of concealing and using power for personal gain. When talking about the macro-environment negotiation becomes less of an internal affair but more so external, for example with pressure groups, suppliers and unions. In this, the macro-instance the ‘stakeholders get added to share holders and the ‘market’ gets replaced by the ‘environment’, thereby opening up the organization to a much wider array of actors and forces’ Mintzberg et al (2009:260). It is also put forward by Pfeffer and Salancik ((1978) from Mintzberg et al (2009), that under the political influences that have changed the way in which organisations operate within the external environment (through the power school) it has three strategic options available to it (further explained in appendix 2); deal with each demand as it arises, strategically withhold and disclose information and play one group against another. These three options all adapt the external environment in order to suit the needs and requirements of the organisation. The benefits of the power school allow...
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