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Whittington and Mintzberg: What Is Strategy? Essay

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Updated: Apr 19th, 2022


The business environment has been characterized by undying competition. Companies have therefore invented ways of ensuring that they remain afloat in the competition. Strategies that have been adopted vary widely, while others are similar. Despite many companies adopting different strategies, a common meaning for the concept strategy has not been coined.

This essay evaluates the statement “there is no universal meaning of strategy”. This essay will consider Mintzberg’s schools of strategy and Whittington’s classification of strategic perspective in the analysis and consider the extent to which their classifications of strategic perspective need to be modified in the light of contemporary research.

Meaning of strategy

Elfring & Volberd (2011, p. 2) indicate that strategic management is viewed as comprehensive process that leads to progressive outcome of a company. It is coined by the managers who in conjunction with the board of directors or a committee implement the strategy and regularly evaluate it and can make changes where appropriate.

It involves the formulation of policies, allocation of resources, implementation and regular review. Skaik (2009, p. 1) argues that a strategy gives direction to the company by providing specific goals that determine the decision making process and allocation of resources.

According to Porte (2001, p. 8), a strategy is that outstanding action that is unique to a company that gives it a competitive advantage. In this light, a strategy is therefore different from the normal decisions because a strategy must be challenging to emulate.

Moreover, decisions of the company that lead to increased productivity cannot be considered as strategies since they can be imitated by the competitor. Thus, efficiency of the company is not strategy. A strategy can also be viewed as the integration of the combined efforts from different divisions of the company that make the strategy intricate to emulate.

The aim of adopting a strategy is to ensure continuity of the organization and enabling it attain revenue in a competitive market. Furthermore a strategy will also enable the company be secured from uncertainties. Strategic management is employed to guide the company to develop in the same environment that is competitive as revealed by Skaik (2009, p. 1).

Whittington coined different perspectives in the attempt to define strategy as pointed out by (Porte 2001, p. 8). Strategy can be classical, evolutionary, processual or systemic. In classical, strategy would be responsible for the disbarment of resources within and outside the company. The manager in classical strategy is rational and may from time to time choose to become an opportunist and is also guided by his own interests.

The evolutionary strategy is dependent on the market forces and other competitors. The success of the evolutionary strategy is dependent on the behavior of managers, rationality, market and response of the external environment. Processual strategy holds that economic success is realized from the interaction of people amongst themselves and with the environment.

These interactions are often unpredictable. Individuals have personal interests and can unite and engage in compromises making strategy dynamic and unpredictable. Lastly, systemic strategy advocates for a more diverse and wide view of the world.

Thus systemic strategy accommodates different cultures, belief systems, education accounts and social classes among others. Thus, depending on different situations, different strategies may be employed.

On the other hand Mintzberg views strategy as a plan that may be planned for and at one point emergency strategy may be adopted. Mintzberg holds that strategy is a process. Strategy that is planned for is different from the emergency one.

A planned strategy will be in form of a clearly outlined program or plan with specific goals while emergency strategy emanate from the response to the market, emerging opportunities and ability to negotiate or compromise. Depending on the company, the transition from planned to emergency strategy may vary and may adopt entrepreneurial expertise or initiate other considerations that fit the company (Ansoff 2006).

In line with Skaik (2009, p. 1), classical strategy as coined by Whittington is a perspective that may not be applicable anymore in the contemporary world. This strategy is rigid to creation of strategy and is impractical in a varying environment. The evolutionary strategy is criticized for focusing on the market and applies the principle of survival.

Thus there is an eminent struggle in the market that is continuous where the managers must make the decisions to obtain maximum benefit. Moreover, the evolutionary strategy glorifies the forces of the market and views success as a result of struggles.

Whittington is criticized for the contradiction in the evolutionary strategy where the company is seen to pursue maximization of profit yet the market forces are characterized by struggles where the strongest survive. Consequently the evolutionary is a shorter strategy.

Similar to evolutionary strategy, processual strategy is a short- term strategy that advocates for accumulation of knowledge and ability to accommodate changes in the market, since the market is constantly changing.

Systemic strategy advocates for wide world view that encourage planning that can be realized from effective management of the company. This strategy argues that a balance between social and economic factors must be considered for the company to realize success without separating the factors.

Harfiel (2009, p. 3) says that the classical strategy adopts a hierarchical order where the manager is in charge and gives directives. Upon the individual, businesses that are interdependent rely on the managers for their maximization of profit. This perspective is therefore seen as rigid and long term and may be not receptive to change. Additional processual strategy introduces biases held by the alliance of managers.

The managers are hardly rational hence the market forces affect the managers who have to adjust. Strategy in the processual perspective is only adopted to explain the crisis that is caused by the forces of the market. In evolutionary strategy, only those with the ability to adapt to changes reign in the market.

Thus, the inefficient competitors loose in the competition. Systematic strategy sees the economy and the social world as integrated. Social activities and social relationship can enhance economy hence must be considered. When designing a strategy, the company must consider the unique culture, religion, education and background of its market for the best results.

Whittington and Mintzberg define strategy noting the different perspectives. Elfring & Volberd (2011, p. 4) note that Mintzberg perspectives are more detailed and offer a variety of specification about strategy. A closer analysis of the ten perspectives shed light that the strategies that are revealed may actually be spontaneous as opposed to being planned for.

They further argue that planning may actually be a hindrance to the success of the company as the environment is dynamic. Planning encourages rigidity and leaves no room for creativity. Mintzberg focuses on the overall image of strategy and fails to note that there are other aspects of strategic management that require attention.

Skaik (2009, p. 1) points out that Mintzberg contradicts Whittington when he identifies ten theories that hold different perspectives about strategic management. The theories differ in the description, how they are applied, how research is conducted as well as their prescription.

Prescriptive perception gives the origin and development of a strategy while descriptive perception is concerned with the process and gives emphasis to the formulation of the strategy.

The perspectives given by Mintzberg are seen as inadequate and are believed to be having genuine differentiation. Unlike the perspectives given by Whittington, Mintzberg perspectives lack harmony in their language and at times the concepts refer to different ideas.

Power (2011, p. 1) points out that Mintzberg perspectives of strategic management are insufficient since the perspectives are simplistic and will require a more realistic solution. The argument is that inadequate strategic processes may lead to failure although the plans may be effective.

Mintzberg is also criticized for assuming that strategy is planned. There are situation that the company will be required to make plans and others they may not. Mintzberg idea of planning is criticized because it is defined on the basis of the formalized decision making that are arrived at prior to consultations.

In addition planning is criticized since those involved in planning may be guided by individual interest rather that the interest of the organization.

Elfring & Volberd (2011, p. 2) argue that the classification of strategy makes the meaning of strategy fade away. Mintzberg ten perspectives fail to provide solutions to problems that arise from strategic management. Consequently, the perspectives become more complex when it comes to application.

The perspectives may lead to separations of different fields and hinder development of the discipline towards a common meaning for strategy. They note that obtaining a common meaning of strategy is possible if an analysis that does not pay attention to the classifications of perspectives is done.

It has been challenging to coin a specific meaning for the concept strategic management because many theorists have defined the meaning by giving the perspectives to understand the concept. Mintzberg ten perspectives for instance, differ because they were coined at different periods of time. The development of the perspectives also happened in diverse ways.

Additional, the process of coining the perspective was also different hence the perspectives are classified on differently. Strategy is also believed to have its roots in the military hence the meaning of strategy may become difficult to employ and get a uniform meaning in the business field. Strategy has been associated with leadership in the contemporary world.

Different perspectives of strategic management encourage a company to remain afloat in the global competitive market. Companies are able to merge and integrate in the market to form strong alliances that are mutually benefiting and lead to increased revenues. The perspectives make a company become knowledgeable on the avenues that a company adapts to the dynamic environment.

For instance, a company can choose a strategy that will make them obtain new technology that will enable them position themselves in the market. Knowledge is given importance by the company and becomes part of the strategy. Strategic management is an avenue for businesses to make progress and develop.

A company will require efficiency and effectiveness as part of its organizational values. Efficiency is not adequate enough to become a strategy since every company will subscribe and strive towards efficiency. The effectiveness in operation must be constant and improve so that the company can maintain the strategy.

Strategy considers competition posed by rival companies. Instead of having uniform activities that lead to better efficiency and success of the company, the company can adopt exceptional processes that are efficient to deliver better and unique products (Porte 2001, p. 9).

There are areas of commonality as highlighted by Skaik (2009, p. 1) in the attempt to understand the meaning of strategy. All propositions on the meaning of strategy imply that the company has to identify its mission, vision and goals which are coined at the beginning of the company.

The strategies that are implemented are closely dependent on the goals, mission and vision of the company. Strategic management is therefore characterized by investigations, decisions, allocation of resources, execution and feedback.

Elfring & Volberd (2011, p. 5) notes that the contemporary strategy takes note of the different perspectives of strategy and has similarities. Strategic management is significantly making it possible for companies to overcome uncertainties that may occur in the future. Strategies that are implemented and lead to success are spontaneous and not planned for.

The process is constantly changing depending on the environmental situations and success is obtained only if a combination of the right strategy and effectiveness is adopted. Competition is eminent and a company’s competitive advantage contributes largely to the success of the company. Throughout the strategic process, the company is engaged in competition.

The company must engage in an innovative behavior and identify a unique strategy that is difficult to imitate for the strategy to be superior. The human resources play a major part in the strategy and due attention must be awarded for effectiveness and motivation that will lead to creativity. Evaluation and feedback are a major component of strategy that is important.


Strategy is viewed as the goals and process that lead to the success of the company. Another definition argues that strategy must have a unique idea that is difficult to emulate and must be outstanding. For strategy management to be a success, the strategy must include efficiency. There is no consensus if strategy is planned for or if it is spontaneous.

Whittington and Mintzberg define strategy by identifying perspectives of strategy. Whittington identifies four perspectives while Mintzberg classifies strategy into ten perspectives. The meaning of strategic management is challenging to obtain since the concept has roots in the military. The perspectives of strategy were obtained at different times and using different processes.

Strategy is most often in line with the mission, vision and the goals of the company. Strategy enables the company to have a competitive advantage over its competitors. Strategy should enable the company absorb changes in the market and prepare the company for uncertainties.

Planned strategies are rigid and may fail to lead to success even with the company’s efficiency. Emergency strategies are also effective. Another issue that arises from the meaning of strategic management is the role of manager in strategy. Strategy enable companies succeed in a competitive market and to remain afloat.

Reference List

Ansoff, H. I., 2006. Critique of Henry Mintzberg’s ‘The design school: Reconsidering the Basic premises of strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 12, 6, 449- 461.

Elfring, T and Volberd, H.W. 2010. . Web.

Harfiel, T., 2009. Strategic Management and Michael Porter: Apostmodern reading. Web.

Porte, M. E., 2001. Web.

Power, D., 2011. Web.

Skaik, S. H., 2009. General Management. Web.

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