The Strategy Concept I:
Five Ps for Strategy*
Human nature insists on a definition for every concept. The field of strategic management cannot afford to rely on a single definition of strategy, indeed the word has long been used implicitly in different ways even if it has traditionally been defined formally in only one. Explicit recognition of multiple definitions can help practitioners and researchers alike to maneuver through this difficult field. Accordingly, this article presents five definitions of strategy-as plan, ploy, pattern, position, and perspective-and considers some of their interrelationships.
To almost anyone you care to ask, strategy is a plan-some sort of consciously intended course of action, a guideline (or set of guidelines) to deal with a situation. A kid has a "strategy" to get over a fence, a corporation has one to capture a market. By this definition, strategies have two essential characteristics: they are made in advance of the actions to which they apply, and they are developed consciously and purposefully. (They may, in addition, be stated explicitly, sometimes in formal documents known as "plans," although it need not be taken here as a necessary condition for "strategy as plan.") To Drucker, strategy is "purposeful action"', to Moore "design for action," in essence, "conception preceding actionn2 A host of definitions in a variety of fields reinforce this view. For example: in the military: Strategy is concerned with "draft[ing] the plan of war.. .shap[ing] the individual campaigns and within these, decid[ing] on the individual engagement^."^ in Came Theory: Strategy is "a complete plan: a plan which specifies what choices [the player] will make in every possible ~ituation."~
in management: "Strategy is a unified, comprehensive, and integrated plan.. .designed to ensure that the basic objectives of the enterprise are a c h i e ~ e d . " ~ and in the dictionary: strategy is (among other things) "a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or r e ~ u l t . " ~ *"The Strategy Concept I: Five Ps for Strategy" by Henry Mintzberg. Copyright O 1987 by The Regents of the University of California. Reprinted from the California Management Review, Vol. 30, No. 1 . Fall 1987. By permission of The Regents.
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As plans, strategies may be general or they can be specific. There is one use of the word in the specific sense that should be identified here. As plan, a strategy can be a ploy, too, really just a specific "maneuver" intended to outwit an opponent or competitor. The kid may use the fence as a ploy to draw a bully into his yard, where his Doberman Pincher awaits intruders. Likewise, a corporation may threaten to expand plant capacity to discourage a competitor from building a new plant. Here the real strategy (as plan, that is, the real intention) is the threat, not the expansion itself, and as such is a ploy. In fact, there is a growing literature in the field of strategic management, as well as on the general process of bargaining, that views strategy in this way and so focusses attention on its most dynamic and competitive aspects. For example, in his popular book, Competitive Strategy, Porter devotes one chapter to "Market Signals" (including discussion of the effects of announcing moves, the use of "the fighting brand," and the use of threats of private antitrust suits) and another to "Competitive Moves" (including actions to preempt com.~ petitive r e ~ p o n s e )Likewise in his subsequent book, Competitive Advantage, there is a chapter on "Defensive Strategy" that discusses a variety of ploys for reducing the probability of competitor retaliation (or increasing his perception of your own).8 And Schelling devotes much of his famous book, Tbe Strategy of Conflict, to the topic of ploys to outwit rivals in a competitive or bargaining s i t ~ a t i o n . ~
But if strategies can be intended (whether as general...
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