Strategy Safari, a Guided Tour through the Wilds of Strategic Management by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel
The authors, who are management academics, review the various schools of business managment thinking, employing the conceit of a safari in search of the fabulous beast of business strategy in the jungle of management theory.
Each school has it emphases, its insights and its blind spots. The schools are considered in rough order of historical emergence from the Design, Planning and Positioning Schools which insist on detailed anaylsis and planning by a central strategist, through the Entrepreneurial, Cognitive and Learning schools which empasise adapation to change by organisation, the Power and Cultural schools which examine the political and organisational dynamics of strategy, the Environmental school which considers the environment which conditions strategy, the Configuration school which tries to integrate all the preceding schools by strategy formation as a process of transformation. The authors conclude by unearthing the questions management theory hasn’t resolved or addressed. The narrative is enhanced by Mintzberg’s ability to draw on his own work in several of the schools.
Anyone looking for a plug and play business or marketing strategy will be disappointed. The book is a worthwhile read for anyone trying to make sense of business strategy. It gives a perfectly adequate overview of the area, salted with the shrewd comments which underscore both the uses and the limits of business strategy. It has proved to be sufficient coverage of business strategy for someone whose primary interest is to glean insights from business strategy to what might be termed development strategy, providing useful insights into the origins of the dated strategy paradigms, the Design and Planning Schools, which dominate what passes as development strategy.
It’s not an easy read, discussing strategy can become a melange of phrases which make formal sense but without an accompanying picture or sense of how strategy affects quotidian activity . Mintzberg and company try to avoid this, but cannot quite escape the nature of the subject itself.