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How Do the Subject Matter Experts (Porter, Mintzberg, & More) Define Strategy?

Strategy is about the methods used to attain goals.  It’s the “how” of achieving goals—desired future conditions and circumstances towards which effort and resources are spent until their achievement.

If Strategy has any meaning at all, it is in relation to some aim or end in view.

Strategy is 1 of the 4 dimensions of an enterprise structure:

  1. Goals of the organization.
  2. Resources at our disposal.
  3. Strategies for achieving above-mentioned goals –i.e., the methods used to deploy the resources.
  4. Tactics—i.e., the ways in which the deployed resources are used.

Strategy and tactics – integral part of Strategy Development – bridge the gap between goals and the methods used to achieve those goals.  These 4 dimensions of enterprise structure relate to one or both of the 2 domains; Policy and Management.  Policies determine the goals of an enterprise, whereas attaining goals is typically a matter of Management.  Tactics belong to the managers; strategy is the combined realm of the governors and managers; whereas resources are controlled jointly.

The employed resources through use of Strategies and Tactics give us “certain” conditions.  Inspecting them in light of the “desired” conditions enables us to determine future employment of the resources and thus emerges a pattern of actions and decisions which makes Strategy an adaptive and evolving view of what is required, to achieve goals.

We take a look at various perspectives on and definitions of Strategy, as explained by 8 of the most impactful and renowned Strategists in modern times.  Familiarity with the perspectives of these strategists enables us to develop a more holistic and thorough understanding of the topic, helping us improve our strategic thinking, decision making, and analytical skills.  All of these experts agree on the fact that Strategy is a means to implement a policy or a view envisioned by those who matter.  Let’s see how the following strategists define Strategy:

  1. Michael Porter
  2. Henry Mintzberg
  3. Treacy and Wiersema
  4. H. Liddell Hart
  5. George Steiner
  6. Kenneth Andrews
  7. Kepner-Tregoe
  8. Michel Robert

Let’s break down how a few of these renown strategists define “Strategy.”

Michael Porter

Michael Porter, the father of modern Business Strategy, views Competitive Strategy as “intentionally opting a collection of activities that are dissimilar to the competitors in order to provide a unique mix of value”– i.e. Competitive Advantage.  Porter states that Strategy is about:

  • A competitive position.
  • Differentiating yourself in the eyes of the customer.
  • Adding value through a collection of activities different from competitors.

Henry Mintzberg

Mintzberg is credited with co-creating the Organigraph.  He has written extensively on management and business Strategy.  His contribution to Organizational Theory in the form of “The Organizational Configurations Framework” is a model that describes 6 valid organizational configurations or Organizational Design.

Mintzberg argues that the contrast of changing realities with intentions necessitates accommodation, generating Strategy.  According to him Strategy is a combination of:

  • The Perspective – Vision and Direction.
  • The Position – Decisions to offer particular products or services in particular markets.
  • The Plan – a means of getting from here to there.
  • A Pattern in actions over time – for example, a company that regularly markets very expensive products is using a “high end” Strategy.

Treacy and Wiersema

Treacy and Wiersema’s Value Discipline Model talks about 3 different value disciplines: Customer Intimacy, Product Leadership, and Operational Excellence.  Their research on market leading organizations reveals that they outdid their competitors through mastering 1 of these 3 disciplines.

Treacy and Wiersema assert that companies achieve leadership positions by narrowing, not broadening, their business focus on any one of the following:

  • Operational Excellence – lead the industry in terms of price and convenience and is based on the Strategy of production and delivery of products or services. It implies world-class marketing, manufacturing, and distribution processes.
  • Customer Intimacy – Long-term customer loyalty and customer profitability is based on the Strategy of tailoring and shaping products to the increasingly fine definitions of Customer-centric Design.
  • Product Leadership – concentrates on quick commercialization of new ideas. It hinges on market-focused R&D as well as organizational nimbleness and agility.

Interested in learning more about the 8 definitions of Strategy?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on 8 Perspectives on Strategy here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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