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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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4.4 Reflection

Here, we give some thought to how our own preferences have influenced the criticism of Mintzberg’s paper. First, we recognise and acknowledge that what is presented is our own subjective (biased) construct. Hopefully, however, this was insightful in that it identified some of the taken-for-granted assumptions that were present in the article, that were not acknowledged by Mintzberg. Second, our own views about how strategy is most effectively studied and written about, meant that we focused on certain aspects of the paper. Others, who do not share these views, would have passed over these. Similarly, we have passed over aspects that our colleagues would have picked up on, simply because their focus would have been different to ours. Our preference for more ‘micro explanations’ of strategy meant that we focused in on Mintzberg’s very macro and abstracted (in our view) level of analysis. Others, who share Mintzberg’s perspective, would probably not aim their critique at this. And lastly, we have to acknowledge that our criticism is not ‘absolute’, but for us it is useful, as we have drawn out aspects of the paper that we could integrate into an essay or exam question answer that could be used to support an argument we are trying to make.

By going through Mintzberg’s ‘Five Ps’ paper and asking these questions, we were able to engage with the article on a deeper level than merely reading what is there. From a critical perspective, what is not there is as important as what is on the page. It is this sort of questioning attitude that you will need as you make progress through your postgraduate studies.

Finally, you need to remember that your analysis is subjectively constructed by you, so it is in part shaped by your own preferences concerning how you understand strategy. No two critical viewpoints are identical in every aspect, as each has unique constructs. However, some critical viewpoints will be better constructed than others because the quality of argument is more developed, comprehensive and internally consistent. Acknowledging and recognising your criticism to be biased by your own thoughts, feelings and prejudices is good reflection-in-action, and helps remind you that your criticism is not definitively ‘right’ (in any finite sense), but it should be insightful and useful.