Example Answers to Questions on What is Strategy

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What is the focus of the assigned material? Present a summary of each video/paper assigned; focus on the most important message presented in each. YouTube video: Talking Management: Pure Managing with Mintzberg.

The video discusses Mintzberg's research and experience into the fundamentals of pure management. According to Mintzberg (2010), management is not simple and that is more an Art than Science and remains a basic human activity in three planes where managers' act through information, works through people, and manage action directly. He describes the existence of a wide range of management practices and not a matter of which is right or wrong. He describes how a lot of myths are dispelled once you observe what managers actually do. To illustrate his point he dispels the myth that some people believe that leadership is more important than managing. He stresses that leadership and management are tantamount and should not be separated in practice (Mintzberg, 2010). Mintzberg discusses the unavoidable conundrums of management. He details the challenge of how does a person remains connected to what he or she is doing when becoming a manager disconnects you from what you are managing.

In his final point Mintzberg (2010), discusses that effective managers are not flawed fatally in the circumstance and the environment they are managing. As managers we have to make sure we are right for the job and where our weaknesses don't undermine our success.

b.). YouTube video: What is Strategy? by Michael Porter

The object of the video is to illustrate how good strategy is developed and how to separate strategy from other types of goals, objectives and issues that managers' are frequently engaged in (Porter, 2009).

According to Porter (2009), mistakes that organizations' often make is that they define steps they may want to take and which may be appropriate but are not strategy. To illustrate he uses examples whereby an organization may declare that their strategy is to internalize a process, or that their strategy is to consolidate their industry, or to outsource more of their production. These steps that organizations take are not strategy. Porter states that strategy is what your company's unique position needs to be, what it will be able to achieve to have a distinct advantage over your competition, and how it is going to be sustained over time (Porter, 2009). Numerous companies become engrossed on a particular action they may want to take and that becomes their strategy.

Reading: Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent by H. Mintzberg & J. Waters.

The article explains how strategies are formed in organizations between two ends

of a continuum where real-world strategies lie. The authors explain the formation of strategies as determined by comparing the relationship between leadership plans and intentions and what are actually realized (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985). By comparing what is intended with realized strategy allows for the distinction between deliberate or realized as intended strategies and emergent or realized despite or lack of intended strategies to be made.

To determine if a strategy is pure deliberate for it to be realized as intended three conditions must be met; 1.) specific organizational intentions exist and they are written in a level of detail to avoid doubts as to what is desired before actions are taken, 2.) to dispel doubt whether the intentions were organizational, they must be common to all concerned whether shared or as leaders, and respond to some sort of controls, and 3.) the collective intentions must be realized exactly as intended with no external forces interfering with them (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985). In contrast, for strategy to be pure emergent there must be order, have consistency in action over time, and there is an absence of intention about it (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985). The article also elaborates on the various types of strategies listed as planned, entrepreneurial, ideological, umbrella, process, unconnected, consensus, and imposed (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985). As a final point in the article it states that strategies are found to be more deliberate in centralized tightly controlled organizations while strategies are more emergent in decentralized loosely controlled organizations. The major difference between the two strategies is that deliberate depends on direction and control in achieving the desired outcomes versus emergent focuses on strategic learning (Mintzberg, & Waters, 1985).

Reading: What is Strategy? by Michael Porter.

The five part article focuses on how managers struggle in distinguishing between operational effectiveness and in developing an effective strategy. Porter stresses that choosing a unique and valuable position anchored in systems of activities that would be difficult to imitate is the essence of strategy (Porter, 1996). Operational effectiveness though important is not enough to maintain a competitive edge, however the combination of strategy and operational effectiveness are critical for optimal performance and profitability of a company.

The article also notes that strategic position emerges from satisfying customers' needs, providing accessibility, or offering a variety of products or services (Porter, 1996). Sustainable strategic position however requires companies to make trade-offs against competing in other market segments. This creates the need for making choices and limiting what a company decides as to what products or services it plans to offer. Another important factor about strategic position and maintaining a competitive advantage and sustainability is achieved by combining a chain of activities that fit and reinforce each other (Porter, 1996). This system of activities complimenting each other limits the number of companies that can replicate the whole system. Continuity of these activities also stimulates operational effectiveness, builds unique abilities, and reinforces the company's identity. Many times however, managers who are operating far from the productivity frontier get caught up in the operational effectiveness syndrome that they do not see the need for having a strategy. Another contributing factor that has a negative impact on strategy and erodes competitive advantage is when a company decides to concentrate on growth. Lastly, the article emphasizes that strategy is primarily the responsibility of the organizations leadership who are willing to make choices in defining core strategy, communicating the company's unique position, making trade-offs, and forging fit among activities (Porter, 1996).

What is your reflection of the assigned material? Present a discussion of your 'take-away' (i.e., reflection) of the assigned material for each assignment. Relate your 'take-away' to a) the overall semester theme/the topic of the assignment, and b) the material in presented in the David's text and/or relevancy to the semester project.

The videos and articles have contributed significant insights as to this semester's theme of developing strategic direction in the 21st century. In Mintzberg's video, the takeaway toward strategic management implies that the art of planning by effective managers though subject to interruptions and pressures must have the instincts and skills in taking on the leadership role through circumstance and environments in which they are managing. In terms of Michael Porter's, "What is Strategy?", the takeaways is that managers must take the leadership role in defining the organizations unique position, what it will be able to achieve to have a unique advantage over their competitors, and how to sustain it over time. They must be able to separate strategy from other types of goals, objectives and other issues they are engaged in. In terms of the article Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent, and strategic management, the takeaway is that there is a wide range of strategy planning models that are between the range of being deliberate or emergent depending on the leadership plans and structure of the organization. The principal takeaway in Porter's, "What is Strategy?", is that strategic planning must take the organization in a path that enforces its unique position in their market anchored in systems of activities that would make it very difficult it imitate by its competitors. Also managers must take the leadership responsibility in making trade-off decisions communicating the company's unique position in the market and forging fit among activities.

Mintzberg's video and article pertaining to managing as being an art and science and requiring managers to take the leadership role in planning, implementing and evaluating a system of activities that enforces its unique position in the market is very much in line to what is defined as strategic management in David's text. In addition the article and video has provided additional insight on developing our strategic plan in our team assignment. A key element in our development of the project is the strategic planning that the team will be involved with.

Porter's video and article pertaining to "What is Strategy?" , is also much in line with David's text where it discusses that strategy involves the formulation of a vision and mission which involves trade-offs decisions in establishing the companies long term objectives to enforce their unique position in the market. In terms of assisting our team in developing a strategic plan for our team project it has provided additional clarification in terms of what to avoid in terms of what is strategy. As stated in the video many organization including the one I work for seem to focus on operational effectiveness and efficiencies on an ongoing basis but rarely do we exam our role as to how do we maintain our uniqueness in attracting students to our college. We find ourselves losing ground because our sister colleges are quickly replicating our programs and services we provide our students.