Page Introduction Placing the article in wider literature debate Underlying theoretical assumptions Strengths and Weaknesses Concluding remarks References 2 2 3 4 5 6
Introduction In today’s modern society shaped by economic and social challenges, business strategy has never been more important. A rethink of theoretical management practices is ‘fundamental’ to establishing innovative strategic design to cope with these challenges. (Hahn et al, 2010). This is not a new idea, in fact, in 2009, Guerrera challenged Michael Porter’s underlying premise that businesses are there to make money while Figge and Hahn (2008) go as far as to accuse such strategies of ‘aggravating’ the current economic situation. Henry Mintzberg’s assessment of strategic planning can be associated with Whittington’s Processual school of strategy (2002). This literature review places the article in the wider context of the prescriptive – emergent debate and compares Mintzberg’s arguments with those of other influential strategists including Michael Porter and Peter Drucker. Secondly, by identifying Mintzberg’s theoretical underlying assumptions, we present a critical assessment of the underpinning arguments and challenge the drawn conclusions. By looking at the overall strengths and weaknesses of the article, we will critically review its position amongst wider academic literature. We will conclude with some managerial implications and proposals for the ongoing research agenda.
The debate Mintzberg’s article contributes to a well documented academic debate about the formulation of successful business strategy. Porter (1979) and Ansoff (1968) are known for their support for prescriptive methods: analysing the current business environment for opportunities of competitive advantage and developing a structured plan to achieve these goals. The challenging view, of course, is the idea of strategy emerging from within the organisation as it interacts with its environment. Mintzberg comes from the learning group of strategists where organisations must be reactive and flexible in the face of dynamic environments (Oliver, 2006). This article presents his argument that strategy making relies on ‘the most sophisticated, subtle, and, at times, subconscious elements of human thinking.’[p111] Alfred Chandler (1977) described strategy as an organisation’s long-term goals and objectives, and the management of resources necessary to achieve these goals. The link between intentions and behaviour is tenuous at best (Freeman & Boeker, 1984) Mintzberg himself accuses strategic planning as simply reducing the power that managers have in decision making by reducing their ability to learn. [p109]. Mintzberg’s approach is simple; ‘Strategies cannot be created by analysis, but their development can be helped by it.’ [p112] Bryson (2004) presents an interesting argument that planning is an important ingredient for strategic success but only when used in conjunction with creativity. Management innovation provides opportunities for competitive advantage by deconstructing processes and being critical about existing beliefs (Hamel, 2006). Challenging Schein’s (1999) deepest level of organisation culture; basic underlying assumptions, is a basis of variety, flexibility and devolution (Drucker, 1994)
This idea of ‘crafting’ strategy (Mintzberg, 1987) out of both analysis and practice has support from Acur and Bititici (2004). Using the Prophesy model as developed by Acur in 2001, their focal point is to assess tangible and intangible resources to formulate horizontal strategies that encourage sharing of resources and skills. Mintzberg himself, in 1975, admits that managers can not be strategic planners, organisers and controllers at the same time. More recent research on strategy deployment have uncovered some new lessons for organisations to cope with the modern and dynamic environments in which they operate. Adrian Carr et al (2004) start with the...