This is the most valuable book ever written on strategic management. Be sure to read and apply its lessons well!
I have worked in the field of strategic management since before it was called that, both as a practitioner and as a consultant. One of my favorite complaints about books in the field is that they emphasize one facet of developing and implementing stratgies and ignore the others. This book is the outstanding exception to that problemmatic standard of tunnel vision. There's no stalled thinking here about strategic management.
If you are like me, you would like to get better results from strategic management. Solving one part of the task and ignoring the others leads to failure just as surely as ignoring strategic managment does. Imbalance in perspective can be equally dangerous. As the authors point out, " . . . The greatest failings of strategic management have occurred when managers took one point of view too seriously."
Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel start out by pointing out that there are five different kinds of strategy definitions (as plan, pattern, perspective, position, and ploy). When you read books about strategy, keep these in mind.
They begin with the tale of the six blind men and the elephant. Each can grasp one element of the elephant, but cannot grasp the whole. That's the situation the authors are warning you against.
They define this work as "a field review not a literature review" so you don't find every book's details. Whew! That's a relief. On the other hand, they are clearly familiar with the literature and cite it where appropriate. The book is designed for managers, consultants, professors and students. The style is also designed to be easily accessible. And these goals are well achieved in my view.
Although recognizing that the human mind boggles past 7 items (which seems to be the limit of what short-term memory can retain), they found 10 themes in the field. The first three emphasize traditional left-brained thinking of the sort that dominates in business schools: Design, Planning, and Positioning. The next six are other aspects of strategic management that are more right-brained: Entrepreneurial, Cognitive, Learning, Power, Cultural, and Environmental. The final one is focused on transformation, the school of Configuration. Each one receives its own chapter and its weaknesses are displayed.
In chapter 12, the reader is encouraged to synthesize the 10 themes into integrated use. There is a table (12.1) that neatly summarizes each theme, a figure (12.2) that shows how they are mutually related, and a remarkably useful figure (12.3) that effectively shows how they can be integrated from perspective and in sequencing.
You may be wondering what all of the fuss is about. Basically, strategic management is one of those fields that has yet to emerge with an integrated perspective on the firm. In fact, the problem is poorly perceived because most people are unaware of the areas they are ignoring. In fact, I always create syntheses of these areas in my writing and am often criticized for dealing with subjectively perceived nonissues that the readers do not see the importance of. Strategic myopia seems to be a common problem, not just among the scholars.
I feel very indebted to the authors for developing such a wonderful overview that I can recommend to others (including my clients). I also appreciate their clarifying that the important question now for strategic management is creating a useful synthesis. My personal view is that this must be done by creating one simple, effective mindset that encompasses all ten perspectives, without requiring anyone to learn each one directly.
I strongly urge you to read and apply the lessons in this seminal work on strategic management. I also hope you will find your own novel integrations of these perspectives and share them.
Good luck in expanding your perceptions of strategic management and its potential to help you and your organization succeed!
After you have finished this book, ask yourself which of the perspectives are missing from or underrepresented today in your organization. Then begin to think of ways to add those perspectives.
If you would like to learn more about strategy, you should also read Mintzburg's outstanding book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, which I have also reviewed.