Strategy Safari | Henry Mintzberg

Summary of: Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management
By: Henry Mintzberg


Embark on a journey through the wilds of strategic management with ‘Strategy Safari,’ authored by Henry Mintzberg. Discover ten distinct schools of thought in strategic management, each outlining their own unique methodologies to guide organizations in achieving goals. With an in-depth look at the popular SWOT model (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) along with other approaches such as design, planning, and cognitive schools, this summary will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of diverse strategies. Learn how to apply these schools of thought in real-world situations, keeping in mind their limitations, and ultimately, determining the most suitable approach for your organization.

SWOT Model – A Bird’s Eye View

The design school of strategic management employs the SWOT model which contextualizes an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the business environment. This provides a holistic view of the market and aids in developing strategies based on existing strengths. However, it can be too dogmatic and overlook feasibility problems during implementation. Designing strategies too far in advance can lead to failure as seen in US military strategies during the Vietnam War.

Planning School Strategies

The planning school of thought operates from the perspective that innovation can be included in institutions. This is achieved by performing a comprehensive analysis of the situation, forming a plan, and defining the steps necessary to see through the execution of the plan. The planning school follows a prescriptive strategy that, similar to the design school, defines the actions based on the plan. Although this approach is effective, the planning school often struggles with finding the right direction and can be prone to isolation. Additionally, their strategies rely on forecasting and predictions, which can be flawed by a single incorrect prediction, leading the entire strategy astray. While planning can take a while and may be less dynamic than other strategies, the planning school’s methodical approach can help achieve goals and objectives when done effectively.

Choosing Clear Decisions

The Positioning School of strategy formation is rooted in historical military thinking, where a set of defined strategies and analysis processes are followed. However, the focus on analysis doesn’t necessarily produce strategies, and it lacks a strategy for coming up with a strategy. Good strategies can fail without the right people, and prescriptive schools are only great at theoretical analysis. Descriptive schools bring things closer to reality, but are they any better at defining management strategies?

The Entrepreneurial School of Visionary Leadership

The entrepreneurial school of leadership focuses on the personal role of a single leader, inspiring flexible and dynamic strategies based on emotional resources instead of physical. Despite the limitations of relying on a single leader, entrepreneurial leadership brings important insights to the table, such as analyzing and problematizing the process of strategy formation. Visionary entrepreneurs often use the past as a precedent when formulating strategies, but too much analysis can blind organizations to unexpected new developments. Start-ups that need an innovative approach may find success following the entrepreneurial school of leadership.

The Cognitive School and Managerial Thinking

The cognitive school explores how managers create mental maps and interpret ideas and situations to formulate strategies. It serves as a bridge between objective and subjective schools, but can focus too narrowly. While cognitive maps offer insight into how managers think, they do not explain why. The challenge lies in turning mental maps into concrete strategies.

Embracing Change through the Learning School of Strategy

The Learning School of strategy believes that strategy formulation and implementation are linked through an emergent process that occurs as people work collectively. This allows individuals in any part of the organization to contribute to strategy development. By embracing changes through mistakes and interruptions, organizations can optimize their strategy. However, this school acknowledges that strategies are never final and that constant adaptation is necessary. Successful learning organizations find a balance between learning and implementing actual strategies, preventing unnecessary experiments that do not lead to new or improved strategies. While the Learning School is not the best option in times of crisis, it is a good alternative for changing and molding strategies to suit new conditions.

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