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There is no Universal Agreement on the Meaning of Strategy Essay


Different people and organizations have a different perception and meaning of strategy. In most cases, strategy to these entities imply high level plans management devises that lead these organizations to their future business activities (Robert, 1998). On the other hand, strategy to others means detailed and specific actions that an individual or an organization takes to realize the desired outcome.

Nonetheless, some people believe that strategy is synonymous to best practices. For this matter, to clearly understand what strategy is, it is important that key principles of strategy must be examined. However, despite different meaning ascribed to strategy, these key principles remain to be common elements in all sets of definitions provided by different scholars.

To begin with, one of the key principle of strategy is trade-offs. Every strategy requires trade-offs to have an edge in the competition platform (Niven, 2008). An organization must be guided by what needs to be done in order to create value for its core business. Nonetheless, it must not strive to serve and satisfy everyone’s needs but the core needs of the organization should be the one to be prioritized and all efforts geared towards their attainment.

Secondly, according to Niven (2008), activities chosen must fit and be compatible to one another for the success of the organization. This means that different activities to be undertaken in business plans must provide an integrated whole for the attainment of the desired goals of the organization or for the business entity.

Thirdly, Ehnert (2009) provides continuity to be another key principle that constitutes strategy. In relation to this, it means that strategy should not be constantly reinvented so as to give the already adopted strategy some element of continuity. However, these strategies must evolve when dramatic changes occur in the operating environment, there must be some element of continuity which must be maintained through updating of the adopted strategy to avoid skepticism and confusion.

Fourthly, Berman and Evans (2006) hold that strategy should comprise different activities of which their pursuit results are valuable and unique in positioning the entity in a better position in the operating environment.

However, in the event where organizations pursue same activities, differentiation only results from cost and operational effectiveness that are employed by specific entity. Nonetheless, Ansoff (1990) believes that going beyond the ordinary and casting the net into the unknown and unproven may result to the breakthrough that is always desired in strategies.

Therefore, in view of these strategic principles examined, Clegg and Hardy (1999) provide meaning of strategy to be broad priorities that are adopted by an organization in recognition of its operating environment which are geared towards attainment of its mission.

Nonetheless, this is not the universally accepted meaning of strategy since different researchers and scholars in the field of management and related disciplines hold different view for the meaning of strategy. Therefore, the paper seeks to explore different school of thoughts that attempts to provide their view on the meaning of strategy to get fuller understanding of the different view points of strategy.

There is no Universal Agreement on the Meaning of Strategy

Strategy was coined from military operation and later incorporated in business. In the military activities, strategy was used to define tactics and policies which were used to bridge the gap between means and ends. These were then incorporated into business operations to mean tactics and policies that are employed in business to define the means that achieve desired ends.

Nonetheless, as earlier pointed out in the introduction, there is no universally agreed definition of strategy as there are different schools of thought concerning meaning of strategy. There are several meaning of strategy as opined by different schools of thoughts. These schools of thought include:

Hart Liddell Definition of Strategy

According to Jenkins and Ambrosini (2002), Liddell who is an authority in management military activities of the Greek rule to provide definition of the word strategy. He provides meaning of strategy to be the practical adaptation of the ways placed at a general’s disposal to achieve desired objectives.

Nonetheless, definition provided by Liddell was incorporated in management to mean ways of applying and using military tactics in order to achieve the set goals. This definition recognizes tactics employed by a business entity in order to excel in the market environment while at the same time conquering the opponent (the enemy) in the military terms who in the business environment is the business competitor.

Strategy According to Steiner George

Steiner was a professor in management and was considered an authority in the area of strategic management. He agrees that there is no agreed meaning of strategy in the area of business. Nonetheless, Steiner acknowledges different meanings of strategy in the business world. In his strategic research works, he takes strategy to have a variety of meanings. These meanings include; how we achieve the ends that we seek.

However, for this meaning, Steiner is in agreement with Liddell who also viewed strategy to mean means of achieving the desired ends. Moreover, he also takes strategy to mean answers that try to address the question of what the organization should be doing. In relation to this, strategy in this case is taken to mean what the organization institutes to achieve its core mission and objectives. In addition, Steiner also takes strategy to be what the management of the organization implements that is of core importance to its business activities.

Therefore, from different definitions given by Steiner can easily be affirmed that although strategy means different to different people and authorities, it also means different within an authority or an individual. For instance, Steiner as an individual could not come up with one comprehensive meaning of strategy but provided different view points as of the meaning of strategy.

Nonetheless, confusion and misunderstanding of the meaning of strategy affected strategic planning in 1980s as no meaningful strategic planning process could take place without first understanding what strategy was. Consequently, this led to rise of other authorities in the field of strategic planning that further tried to give strategy some meaning which was hoped to be universally accepted. Therefore, authorities such as Henry Mintzberg came forth to give their contributions.

Meaning of Strategy According to Mintzberg Henry

Strategy according to Mintzberg in his book titled “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning” notes that people use the word strategy in different ways. Some of this ways according to Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel (2005) takes strategy to be a plan on how to move from one point to the next.

Nonetheless, this has some connections with meaning of strategy postulated by other scholars such as Liddell who were of the opinion that strategy is the means of achieving desired ends. Moreover, Mintzberg continues to provide other meaning of strategy to be the perspective that encompasses direction and vision.

Nonetheless, this definition lacks some key elements of planning. For instance, it does not recognize objectives, mission and core values which makes strategy to be complete in the current times. In addition, Mintzberg takes strategy to be the position that reflects decisions to provide specific products or service in a given market. However, this meaning also has some deficiencies since it does not entail means of providing these products or service to have a competitive edge on the market.

Nevertheless, Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel (2005) acknowledge that strategy always changes with time as intentions collide in order to accommodate changes in the environment. They further notes that although an entity can start with a perspective, changes may happen in the environment that calls for a certain position which should be attained through a carefully planned strategy.

Meaning of Strategy According to Andrews Kenneth

Andrews provides meaning of strategy in his book entitled “The Concept of Corporate Strategy”. In this book, Andrews postulate strategy to mean decisions that determine organization’s objectives, goals or purposes that provides principal plans and policies to attain these goals so as to define business that the organization is to pursue.

Nevertheless, the definition of strategy as given by Andrew anticipates Mintzberg’s position on the meaning of strategy which incorporates plan, pattern and perspective. In addition, there is some agreement in these two authorities that strategy always defines business competition platform.

Nonetheless, closely related to this view of meaning of strategy is Michael Porter, a professor in the Harvard Business School who also in some extent agrees with the element of positioning in the meaning of strategy but also provides a completely different meaning of this concept.

Meaning of Strategy According to Michael Porter

According to Porter, he holds that strategy is a framework that shape choices that establish the direction and that nature of an organization (Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, & Lampel, 2005). In addition, Porter also emphasize that strategy is about positioning in the business environment in order to gain some competitive edge against existing players in the market.

Furthermore, he also holds that strategy is a combination of goals that an entity is committed to achieve or what is commonly referred to as goals and the means that the entity seeks to use in achieving these goals or what is known as policies. Therefore, it is evident that Porter takes strategy to be the position and plans.

As a result, with these definitions in perspective, it is evident that meaning of strategy has never been universally agreed upon by researchers, scholars and authorities in the field of management and other related disciplines. Nonetheless, despite absence of a single meaning being fronted by these authorities, there are several commonly key elements that almost every authority seems to concur with in the meaning of strategy.

For instance, most authorities acknowledge element of planning to be a key component of strategy. Entities usually plan on the ways and means of obtaining the ends. Moreover, it is acknowledged by all authorities that the concept of strategy was coined from military expeditions and activities.

Nonetheless, it is also acknowledge by most authorities in the field of management that strategy is the pattern, the perspective and the position that and entity embrace in order to achieve the set goals and expectations. Therefore, strategy is commonly taken in the management science to mean the bridge through which policies on one side and the approaches on the other side are intertwined in a business environment to achieve the set goals.

Nonetheless, strategy can be taken to refer to a set of elements such as insights, ideas, expertise, goals, perceptions, memories and expectations which are general guidelines for specific actions in order to attain a pre-determined ends. Therefore, it can be affirmed that strategy is shaped and determined by the actions that are taken in facilitating business activities.

Nonetheless, according to Johnson and Scholes (2008), regardless of the meaning or definition given to this concept of strategy, there are some fundamental elements that must be considered when coming up with a corporate strategy.

These fundamental concepts are the entities mission and vision and the desired corporate strategy. However, all these fundamental elements have other concepts and elements that must be keenly evaluated in coming up with a concrete strategy for the organization irrespective of the meaning of strategy adopted by the organization.

For that reason, in respect to mission and vision, one has to consider several factors. For instance, before drafting a strategy, one has to fully understand the entity in question, what the entity does as the core business and the kind of an organization that the entity wants to become in future.

On the other hand, in terms of corporate strategy, it is imperative for the authority responsible for drafting entity’s strategy to fully understand its current strategy, that is whether it is explicit or implicit, environmental changes that include; technological, social and educational among other changes, the market in terms of competition and the core business of the entity. For these reasons, when all these concepts are taken into consideration, the end product is usually a strategy that addresses specific needs of the organization.

Nonetheless, according to Lynch (2006), coming up with a universally acceptable definition of strategy is truly a herculean task. Nonetheless, several scholars have tried to come up with different definition of strategy which varies from one to the next. For instance, Mintzberg and Quinn (2003) hold that strategy is about deciding a different set of activities of which their pursuit results is to have a unique and valuable position in the environment.


To wind up, by understanding the meaning of strategy in deeper extend, entities or organizations are able to draft strategies that are able to reinforce their core business and in so doing supporting their desired position.

Nonetheless, despite difference in meanings that are in existence, elements of strategy remains common to most of these meanings postulated by different authors, school of thoughts and scholars. Therefore, it is imperative that entities take into consideration some concepts such as mission and vision of the respective organization and the desired corporate strategy to attain a resultant strategy that addresses the needs of the organization.

Nonetheless, it is also important to note that strategy is always about means of attaining the ends and therefore despite different meanings opined by different authors, authorities and schools of thought, the key components of strategy remain universal in all these meaning provided. In a nutshell, it is important to acknowledge that the paper has looked at the concept of strategy in a multi faceted manner by looking at the meaning of strategy as provided by different authorities in the field of management and related field.

However, there is no one single meaning of strategy that have been established as the universally accepted since this concept is ambiguous and broad topic that authorities in the field of management have been divided on one universally accepted meaning of strategy.


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Berman, B. & Evans, J. (2006) Retail Management, A Strategic Approach. London, Prentice Hall.

Clegg, S.R. & Hardy, C. (1999) Studying Organization: Theory and Method. London, Sage.

Ehnert, I. (2009) Sustainable Human Resource Management. London, Springer.

Healey, P. (1997) Making Strategic Spatial Plans: Innovation in Europe. London, Routledge.

Jenkins, N. & Ambrosini, V. (2002) Strategic Management: A Multi-Perspective Approach. Basingstoke, Palgrave.

Johnson, G. & Scholes, K. (2008) Exploring Corporate Strategy. 8th Ed. London, Prentice Hall.

Lynch, R. (2006) Corporate Strategy. 4th Ed. London, Prentice Hall.

Mintzberg, H. & Quinn, J. (2003) Strategy Process and Cases. 4th Ed. London, Prentice Hall.

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B. & Lampel, J. (2005) Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds Of Strategic Management. London,Prentice Hall.

Niven, P.R. (2008) Balanced Scorecard: Step-byStep for Government and Nonprofit Agencies. New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons.

Robert, M. (1998) Strategy Pure & Simple 2: How Winning Companies Dominate their Competitors. New York, McGraw-Hill.

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