Accomodating strategy

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Porter’s ideas are still relevant, my colleagues and I still teach them, so I still believe in them and when I talk to corporate CEOs they still use them as part of their strategy planning thinking.

But they are getting a bit long in the tooth for today’s different world.

Emergent strategy is a set of actions, or behavior, consistent over time, "a realized pattern [that] was not expressly intended" in the original planning of strategy.

Given today’s world, I think emergent strategy is on the upswing. But first, in the interest of transparency, I have worked closely with Henry co-directing and co-teaching on Leadership Programs at Mc Gill, where we are both on the faculty, for more than a decade.

In fact, many times, I have presented key parts of Porter’s ideas on strategy for a couple of hours and then Henry presents his ideas as a contrast to Michael’s.

We started doing this tag team effort about 11 years ago and it has become increasingly easy for Henry to shoot me down in the last few years. It seems the relatively stable world of (at least part of) my corporate career has gone the way of the dodo. Let me count the ways: Japan, the PIGS, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, SARS, the financial collapse of 20, the BP oil spill, and many more examples.

Both have been very influential in the study of strategy, an area of considerable interest to many readers.  You can contrast their two views as Porter’s taking a more deliberate strategy approach while Mintzberg’s emphasize emergent strategy.   Both are still taught, in fact, I taught Porter’s 3 Generic Strategies and his 5 Forces Model not two weeks ago in an undergraduate strategy course at Mc Gill.  Which is most useful today?

Meanwhile, Henry is working on Yet when I consider their most recent respective work I see that they are looking at two not dissimilar topics, albeit in different ways.  We are indeed fortunate that these two outstanding minds are still at it when many others are retired. The other week I will write an on-line column like this one.  A key theme is to ruminate on how younger people, what I call the Post Modern Generation, want to be worked with.  A book I am working on is entitled: Post Modern Management: There are two people, and only two, whose ideas must be taught to every MBA in the world: Michael Porter and Henry Mintzberg.All of these seemed pretty “black swanish” to me at the time!”   Fair point, nevertheless, it seems that strategy has shifted in the last decade to where the planning school no longer has the street cred it once had.This was true more than 25 years ago, when I did my MBA at USC.These are two academics who have had real impact for a long time.

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