Strategy Management – Definition, Keywords and Benefits

Strategy Management“If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand. He who will not worry about what is far off will soon find something worse than worry.” -Confucius

The joke mentioned below captures the notion and essence of Strategy Management, which is to achieve and maintain the Competitive advantage.

“Once there were two company presidents who competed in the same industry. These two Presidents decided to go on a camping trip to discuss a possible merger. They hiked deep into the woods. Suddenly, they came upon a grizzly bear that rose up on its hind legs and snarled. Instantly, the first president took off his knapsack and got out a pair of jogging shoes. The second president said, “Hey, you can’t outrun that bear.” The first president responded, “Maybe I can’t outrun that bear, but I surely can outrun you!” “

Origins

The strategic management discipline originated in the 1950s and 1960s. Among the numerous early contributors, the most influential were Peter Drucker, Philip Selznick, Alfred Chandler, Igor Ansoff, and Bruce Henderson. The discipline draws from earlier thinking and texts on ‘strategy’ dating back thousands of years. A strong military heritage underlies the study of strategic management. Terms such as objectives, mission, strengths, and weaknesses first were formulated to address problems on the battlefield. The word strategy comes from the Greek strategos, which refers to a military general and combines stratos (the army) and ago (to lead). The history of strategic planning began in the military. A key aim of both business and military strategy is “to gain competitive advantage.” In many respects, business strategy is like military strategy, and military strategists have learned much over the centuries that can benefit business strategists today. Both business and military organizations try to use their own strengths to exploit competitors’ weaknesses. If an organization’s overall strategy is wrong (ineffective), then all the efficiency in the world may not be enough to allow success. Business or military success is generally not the happy result of accidental strategies. Rather, success is the product of both continuous attention to changing external and internal conditions and the formulation and implementation of insightful adaptations to those conditions. The element of surprise provides great competitive advantages in both military and business strategy; information systems that provide data on opponents’ or competitors’ strategies and resources are also vitally important. Of course, a fundamental difference between military and business strategy is that business strategy is formulated, implemented, and evaluated with an assumption of competition, whereas military strategy is based on an assumption of conflict.

Defining Strategic Management

Strategic management can be defined as the art and science of formulating, implementing, and evaluating cross-functional decisions that enable an organization to achieve its objectives. As this definition implies, strategic management focuses on integrating management, marketing, finance/accounting, production/operations, research and development, and information systems to achieve organizational success.

Stages of Strategic Management

 The strategic-management process consists of three stages: strategy formulation, strategy implementation, and strategy evaluation. Strategy formulation includes developing a vision and mission, identifying an organization’s external opportunities and threats, determining internal strengths and weaknesses, establishing long-term objectives, generating alternative strategies, and choosing particular strategies to pursue. Strategy-formulation issues include deciding what new businesses to enter, what businesses to abandon, how to allocate resources, whether to expand operations or diversify, whether to enter international markets, whether to merge or form a joint venture, and how to avoid a hostile takeover.

Strategy implementation requires a firm to establish annual objectives, devise policies, motivate employees, and allocate resources so that formulated strategies can be executed. Strategy implementation includes developing a strategy-supportive culture, creating an effective organizational structure, redirecting marketing efforts, preparing budgets, developing and utilizing information systems, and linking employee compensation to organizational performance.

Strategy evaluation is the final stage in strategic management. Managers desperately need to know when particular strategies are not working well; strategy evaluation is the primary means for obtaining this information. All strategies are subject to future modification because external and internal factors are constantly changing. Three fundamental strategy-evaluation activities are (1) reviewing external and internal factors that are the bases for current strategies, (2) measuring performance, and (3) taking corrective actions. Strategy evaluation is needed because success today is no guarantee of success tomorrow!

Strategy Management: The Art and Science (Intuition vs Analysis)

The strategic management process can be described as an objective, logical, systematic approach for making major decisions in an organization. It attempts to organize qualitative and quantitative information in a way that allows effective decisions to be made under conditions of uncertainty. Yet strategic management is not a pure science that lends itself to a nice, neat, one-two-three approach. Based on past experiences, judgment, and feelings, most people recognize that intuition is essential to making good strategic decisions. Intuition is particularly useful for making decisions in situations of great uncertainty or little precedent. It is also helpful when highly interrelated variables exist or when it is necessary to choose from several plausible alternatives. Some managers and owners of businesses profess to have extraordinary abilities for using intuition alone in devising brilliant strategies. For example, Will Durant, who organized GM, was described by Alfred Sloan as “a man who would proceed on a course of action guided solely, as far as I could tell, by some intuitive flash of brilliance. He never felt obliged to make an engineering hunt for the facts. Yet at times, he was astoundingly correct in his judgment.” Although some organizations today may survive and prosper because they have intuitive geniuses managing them, most are not so fortunate. Most organizations can benefit from strategic management, which is based upon integrating intuition and analysis in decision making. Choosing an intuitive or analytic approach to decision making is not an either–or proposition. Managers at all levels in an organization inject their intuition and judgment into strategic-management analyses. Analytical thinking and intuitive thinking complement each other. The strategic-management process is an attempt both to duplicate what goes on in the mind of a brilliant, intuitive person who knows the business and to couple it with analysis.

Key terms in Strategic Management

 Before I delve deeper into Strategic Management, mentioned below are some of the key terms that are very integral to understanding of the Strategic Management.

Competitive Advantage

Strategic management is all about gaining and maintaining competitive advantage. This term can be defined as “anything that a firm does especially well compared to rival firms.” When a firm can do something that rival firms cannot do, or owns something that rival firm’s desire, that can represent a competitive advantage. Having less fixed assets than rival firms also can provide major competitive advantages in a global recession. For example, Apple has no manufacturing facilities of its own, and rival Sony has 57 electronics factories. Apple relies exclusively on contract manufacturers for production of all of its products, whereas Sony owns its own plants. Less fixed assets has enabled Apple to remain financially lean with virtually no long-term debt. Sony, in contrast, has built up massive debt on its balance sheet. Normally, a firm can sustain a competitive advantage for only a certain period due to rival firms imitating and undermining that advantage. Thus it is not adequate to simply obtain competitive advantage. A firm must strive to achieve sustained competitive advantage by (1) continually adapting to changes in external trends and events and internal capabilities, competencies, and resources; and by (2) effectively formulating, implementing, and evaluating strategies that capitalize upon those factors.

Vision and Mission Statements

The Vision statement of an organization is nothing but answer to the following question “What do we want to become?” Developing a vision statement is often considered the first step in strategic planning, preceding even development of a mission statement. Many vision statements are a single sentence. For example, the vision statement of Stokes Eye Clinic in Florence, South Carolina, is “Our vision is to take care of your vision.” Mission Statements addresses the basic question that faces all strategists: “What is our business?” Mission statements are “enduring statements of purpose that distinguish one business from other similar firms. A mission statement identifies the scope of a firm’s operations in product and market terms.” A clear mission statement describes the values and priorities of an organization. Developing a mission statement compels strategists to think about the nature and scope of present operations and to assess the potential attractiveness of future markets and activities. A mission statement broadly charts the future direction of an organization. A mission statement is a constant reminder to its employees of why the organization exists and what the founders envisioned when they put their fame and fortune at risk to breathe life into their dreams.

External Opportunities and Threats

External opportunities and external threats refer to economic, social, cultural, demographic, environmental, political, legal, governmental, technological, and competitive trends and events that could significantly benefit or harm an organization in the future. Opportunities and threats are largely beyond the control of a single organization—thus the word external.

Some examples of External opportunities and threats are as follows:

  • Consumers expect green operations and products.
  • Marketing has moving rapidly to the Internet.
  • The double whammy of falling demand and intense price competition is plaguing most firms, especially those with high fixed costs.
  • The business world has moved from a credit-based economy to a cash-based economy.
  • There is reduced capital spending in response to reduced consumer spending.

Other opportunities and threats may include the passage of a law, the introduction of a new product by a competitor, a national catastrophe, or the declining value of the dollar. A competitor’s strength could be a threat. Unrest in the Middle East, rising energy costs, or the war against terrorism could represent an opportunity or a threat. A basic tenet of strategic management is that firms need to formulate strategies to take advantage of external opportunities and to avoid or reduce the impact of external threats. For this reason, identifying, monitoring, and evaluating external opportunities and threats are essential for success.

Internal Strengths and Weaknesses

 Internal strengths and internal weaknesses are an organization’s controllable activities that are performed especially well or poorly. They arise in the management, marketing, finance/accounting, production/operations, research and development, and management information systems activities of a business. Identifying and evaluating organizational strengths and weaknesses in the functional areas of a business is an essential strategic management activity. Organizations strive to pursue strategies that capitalize on internal strengths and eliminate internal weaknesses.Strengths and weaknesses are determined relative to competitors. Relative deficiency or superiority is important information. Also, strengths and weaknesses can be determined by elements of being rather than performance. For example, strength may involve ownership of natural resources or a historic reputation for quality.  Internal factors can be determined in a number of ways, including computing ratios, measuring performance, and comparing to past periods and industry averages. Various types of surveys also can be developed and administered to examine internal factors such as employee morale, production efficiency, advertising effectiveness, and customer loyalty.

Long-Term Objectives

Objectives can be defined as specific results that an organization seeks to achieve in pursuing its basic mission. Long-term means more than one year. Objectives are essential for organizational success because they state direction; aid in evaluation; create synergy; reveal priorities; focus coordination; and provide a basis for effective planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling activities. Objectives should be challenging, measurable, consistent, reasonable, and clear. In a multidimensional firm, objectives should be established for the overall company and for each division.

Strategies

 Strategies are the means by which long-term objectives will be achieved. Business strategies may include geographic expansion, diversification, acquisition, product development, market penetration, retrenchment, divestiture, liquidation, and joint ventures. Strategies are potential actions that require top management decisions and large amounts of the firm’s resources. In addition, strategies affect an organization’s long-term prosperity, typically for at least five years, and thus are future-oriented. Strategies have multifunctional or multidivisional consequences and require consideration of both the external and internal factors facing the firm.

Annual Objectives

Annual objectives are short-term milestones that organizations must achieve to reach long term objectives. Like long-term objectives, annual objectives should be measurable, quantitative, challenging, realistic, consistent, and prioritized. They should be established at the corporate, divisional, and functional levels in a large organization. Annual objectives should be stated in terms of management, marketing, finance/accounting, production/operations, research and development, and management information systems (MIS) accomplishments. A set of annual objectives is needed for each long-term objective. Annual objectives are especially important in strategy implementation, whereas long-term objectives are particularly important in strategy formulation. Annual objectives represent the basis for allocating resources.

Policies

Policies are the means by which annual objectives will be achieved. Policies include guidelines, rules, and procedures established to support efforts to achieve stated objectives. Policies are guides to decision making and address repetitive or recurring situations. Policies are most often stated in terms of management, marketing, finance/accounting, production/operations, research and development, and computer information systems activities. Policies can be established at the corporate level and apply to an entire organization at the divisional level and apply to a single division or at the functional level and apply to particular operational activities or departments. Policies, like annual objectives, are especially important in strategy implementation because they outline an organization’s expectations of its employees and managers. Policies allow consistency and coordination within and between organizational departments.

Advantages of doing Strategy Management

  • It allows for identification, prioritization, and exploitation of opportunities.
  • It provides an objective view of management problems.
  • It represents a framework for improved coordination and control of activities.
  • It minimizes the effects of adverse conditions and changes.
  • It allows major decisions to better support established objectives.
  • It allows more effective allocation of time and resources to identified opportunities.
  • It allows fewer resources and less time to be devoted to correcting erroneous or ad hoc decisions.
  • It creates a framework for internal communication among personnel.
  • It helps integrate the behavior of individuals into a total effort.
  • It provides a basis for clarifying individual responsibilities.
  • It encourages forward thinking.
  • It provides a cooperative, integrated, and enthusiastic approach to tackling problems and opportunities.
  • It encourages a favorable attitude toward change.
  • It gives a degree of discipline and formality to the management of a business.

The above extract is basically my understanding of the book written by Fred R. David. The book can be downloaded from http://202.28.25.105/e-learning/courses/703309/document/StrategicManagementDavid.pdf?cidReq=703309

 

About Abhinav Ranjan

Technologist | Strategist
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