Ten School of Strategy : Henry Mintzberg
Introduction
Ten deeply embedded, though narrow, concepts typically dominate current thinking on strategy. These range from the early Design and Planning schools to the more recent Learning, Cultural and Environmental Schools. While academics and consultants keep focusing on these narrow perspectives, business managers will be better served if they strive to see the wider picture. Some of strategic management's greatest failings, in fact, occurred when one of these concepts was taken too seriously.

Recall the story of the blind men measuring an elephant - to one, the elephant seemed "very much like a wall", and to another, grasping the elephant's trunk, it felt very much like a snake. "We are all like the blind men and the strategy process is our elephant", say Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel.3 "Everyone has seized some part or other of the animal and ignored the rest. Consultants have generally gone for the tusks, while academics have preferred to take photo safaris, reducing the animal to a static two dimensions. As a consequence, managers have been encouraged to embrace one narrow perspective or another, like the glories of planning or the wonders of core competences.

The Design School
The original view sees strategy formation as achieving the essential fit between internal strengths and weaknesses and external threats and opportunities (see SWOT analysis). Senior management formulates clear and simple strategies in a deliberate process of conscious thought - which is neither formally analytical nor informally intuitive - and communicates them to the staff so that everyone can implement the strategies. This was the dominant view of the strategy process at least into the 1970s given its implicit influence on most teaching and practice.
The Planning School
This school grew in parallel with the design school. But the planning school predominated by the mid-1970's and though it faltered in the 1980's it continues to be an important influence today. The planning school reflects most of the design school's assumptions except a rather significant one: that the process was not just cerebral but formal, decomposable into distinct steps, delineated by checklists, and supported by techniques (especially with regard to objectives, budgets, programs, and operating plans). This meant that staff planners replaced senior managers, de facto, as the key players in the process.
The Positioning School
This prescriptive school was the dominant view of strategy formulation in the 1980's. It was given impetus especially by Harvard professor Michael Porter in 1980, following earlier work on strategic positioning in academe and in consulting, all preceded by a long literature on military strategy, dating back to 500 BC and that of Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. In this view, strategy reduces to generic positions selected through formalized analysis of industry situations. Hence, planners became analysts. This proved especially lucrative to consultants and academics alike, who could sink their teeth into hard data and so promote their "scientific truths" to companies and journals alike.
The Entrepreneurial School
Much like the design school, the entrepreneurial school centered the process on the chief executive, but unlike the design school, and in contrast to the planning school, it rooted that process in the mysteries of intuition. That shifted the strategies from precise designs, plans, or positions to vague visions, or perspectives, typically to be seen through metaphor.
The Cognitive School
On the academic front, there was interest in the origin of strategies. If strategies developed in people's mind as frames, models, or maps, what could be understood about those mental processes? Particularly in the 1980's, and continuing today, research has grown steadily on cognitive biases in strategy making and on cognition as information processing. Meanwhile, another, newer branch of this school adopted a more subjective interpretative or constructivist view of the strategy process: that cognition is used to construct strategies as creative interpretations, rather than simply to map reality in some more or less objective way.
The Learning School
Of all the described schools, the learning school became a veritable wave and challenged the omnipresent prescriptive schools. Dating back to early work on "incrementalism", as well as conceptions like "venturing", "emerging strategy", (or the growing out of individual decisions rather than being immaculately conceived) and "retrospective sense making", (that we act in order to think as much as we think in order to act), a model of strategy making as a learning developed that different from the earlier schools
The Power School
This comparatively small, but quite different school has focused on strategy making rooted in power, in two senses. Micro power sees the development of strategies within the organization as essentially political, a process involving bargaining, persuasion, and confrontation among inside actors. Macro power takes the organization as an entity that uses its power over others and among its partners in alliances, joint ventures, and other network relationships to negotiate "collective" strategies in its interests.
The Cultural School
As opposite to the power school that focuses on self-interest and fragmentation, the cultural school focuses on common interest and integration. Strategy formation is viewed as a social process rooted in culture. The theory concentrates on the influence of culture in discouraging significant strategic change.
The Environmental School
Perhaps not strictly strategic management, if one takes that term as concerned with how organizations use their degrees of freedom to create strategy, the environmental school nevertheless deserves attention for the light it throws on the demands of the environment.
The Configuration School
This school enjoys the most extensive and integrative literature and practice at present. One side of this school, more academic and descriptive, sees organization as configuration - coherent clusters of characteristics and behaviors - and so serves as one way to integrate the claims of the other schools: each configuration, in effect, in its own place, planning for example, in machine-type organizations under conditions of relative stability, entrepreneurship under more dynamic configurations of start-up and turnaround.

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