What is strategy?
What is strategy?

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What is strategy?

2.2 Interrelating the Ps

The five Ps may be related. Their connection is discussed in Box 4.

Box 4 Connecting the five Ps

Strategy as both position and perspective can be compatible with strategy as plan and/or pattern. In fact, the relationships between these different definitions can be more involved than that. For example, while some consider perspective to be a plan (Lapierre, 1980, writes of strategies as ‘dreams in search of reality’), others describe it as giving rise to plans (for example, as positions and/or patterns in some kind of implicit hierarchy). But the concept of emergent strategy is that a pattern can emerge and be recognized so that it gives rise to a formal plan, perhaps within an overall perspective.

We may ask how perspective arises in the first place. Probably through earlier experiences: the organization tried various things in its formative years and gradually consolidated a perspective around what worked. In other words, organizations would appear to develop ‘character’ much as people develop personality – by interacting with the world as they find it through the use of their innate skills and natural propensities. Thus pattern can give rise to perspective too. And so can position. Witness Perrow’s (1970, p. 161) discussion of the ‘wool men’ and ‘silk men’ of the textile trade, people who developed an almost religious dedication to the fibres they produced.

No matter how they appear, however, there is reason to believe that while plans and positions may be dispensable, perspectives are immutable (Brunsson, 1982). In other words, once they are established, perspectives become difficult to change. Indeed, a perspective may become so deeply ingrained in the behaviour of an organization that the associated beliefs can become subconscious in the minds of its members. When that happens, perspective can come to look more like pattern than like plan – in other words, it can be found more in the consistency of behaviours than in the articulation of intentions.

Of course, if perspective is immutable, then change in plan and position within perspective is easy compared to change of perspective. In this regard, it is interesting to take up the case of Egg McMuffin. Was this product when new – the American breakfast in a bun – a strategic change for the McDonald’s fast-food chain? Posed in MBA classes, this earth-shattering (or at least stomach-shattering) question inevitably evokes heated debate. Proponents (usually people sympathetic to fast food) argue that of course it was: it brought McDonald’s into a new market, the breakfast one, extending the use of existing facilities. Opponents retort that this is nonsense; nothing changed but a few ingredients: this was the same old pap in a new package.

(Mintzberg, 1996)
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