All management theories become conspiracies against good management and serve mainly to cover the manager’s ass.
T. George Harris
One would think that the field of corporate strategy or strategic management has existed as one of the linchpins of management development for as long as the academic sciences of business have been in existence.However, strategic management or strategy is a relatively young field facing all the problems and difficulties associated with a rising academic discipline. Historically, the field of strategy was viewed as ‘integrative’ – that area where all the functional disciplines could be merged into a coherent whole. How, for example, does the company’s financial strategy relate to its corporate strategy? Thereality was more sanguine with the field of strategy representing something of the United Nations of business disciplines – a surface caché with little of substance behind it. Indeed, even today, there are few academics trained in strategy. Most academics actively involved in the teaching of strategy hail from a host of disciplines, the most obvious being economics and organisational behaviour butmany others being represented as well – anthropology, sociology, population ecology, finance, marketing, political science and theology to name only a limited number. Add to this the fact that the field of strategy is where many management consultants can get their academic seal of approval by teaching at a business school and you have a potent mixture of ideas and egos that makes for someinteresting debate. But does it add to our knowledge? Is the debate fruitful? Is it scientific or purely religious? Much of the difficulty of developing a theory of strategy surrounds our inability to develop a set of principles to which everyone adheres. Table 1.1 presents a listing of some of the management principles and fads that have dominated strategic thinking over the last four decades. What isinteresting about this list is the growth in its size and the fact that much of what was considered relevant or correct in the past is viewed as irrelevant or incorrect in the future. For example, you could not pick up an edition of the Harvard Business Review in the 1960’s and 1970’s without being bombarded by the virtues of conglomerate mergers. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, an issue is not publishedthat doesn’t flog the importance of the focused organisation. The problem is that most management thought is normative rather than positive. Normative theories and ideas are driven by a pursuit of how things should be. Traditionally, normative theories are built on inductive reasoning. Positive theories and ideas concentrate on explaining why things are they way they are. They deduce theirconclusions from the investigation of data.
The Essence of Corporate Strategy © 1996
Table 1.1: Recent Management Fads
Decision Trees Managerial Grid Conglomeration Satisfiers/Dissatisfiers Strategic Planning Theory X and Theory Y Brainstorming Learning/Experience Curves Management by Objectives Scenario Planning T-Group Training Zero BasedBudgeting Corporate Culture Decentralisation Empowerment Excellence Intrapreneuring Just in Time/Kanban Management by Walking Around Matrix Management One Minute Management Portfolio Management Quality Circles/TQM Strategic Business Units Theory Z Time Based Competition Value Chain Variety Based Competition Visioning Wellness Programs Workout Benchmarking Broadbanding Business ProcessReengineering Change Management Chaos Theory Fuzzy Logic Globalisation Learning Organisation Quality Function Deployment Relationships Management Restructuring/Delayering Service Quality Management The Knowledge-Based Company The Virtual Corporation Value Constellations Value-Adding Partnerships
When in Vogue
1950’s 1950’s 1960’s 1960’s 1960’s 1960’s 1970’s 1970’s 1970’s 1970’s 1970’s 1970’s 1980’s...