Crafting Strategy, Henry Mintzberg (1978)

Henry Mintzberg, a renowned Canadian management scholar, introduced the concept of “Crafting Strategy” in his influential work published in 1978, titled “Patterns in Strategy Formation.” Mintzberg challenged the prevailing notion that strategy formulation is a rational, top-down, and deliberate process conducted by senior management alone. Instead, he argued that strategy emerges through a combination of deliberate and emergent actions taken by various stakeholders within an organization.

Mintzberg’s approach emphasizes that strategy is not solely a result of careful planning and analysis but also emerges through day-to-day activities, interactions, and learning within an organization. He identified ten different approaches or “schools” of strategy formation, each reflecting different perspectives and modes of strategic thinking.

  • The Design School: This school views strategy formation as a formal, analytical process driven by top management. It emphasizes careful planning, analysis of external factors, and alignment of internal resources and capabilities.
  • The Planning School: Similar to the design school, this approach sees strategy as a formal process but also incorporates the involvement of middle managers and a more systematic planning process.
  • The Positioning School: This school focuses on finding and maintaining a unique competitive position in the market through analysis of industry structure and competition. It emphasizes factors such as market segmentation, differentiation, and competitive advantage.
  • The Entrepreneurial School: This perspective emphasizes the role of visionary leaders or entrepreneurs in shaping strategy. It highlights the importance of seizing opportunities and taking risks to create and grow businesses.
  • The Cognitive School: This school emphasizes the role of individual and collective mental processes in strategy formation. It explores how individuals interpret and make sense of their external environment and use their mental models to guide strategic actions.
  • The Learning School: This perspective sees strategy formation as an ongoing process of learning and adaptation. It emphasizes experimentation, feedback loops, and continuous improvement.
  • The Power School: This school focuses on the role of power and politics within organizations in shaping strategy. It recognizes that strategic decisions are often influenced by power dynamics and the interests of various stakeholders.
  • The Cultural School: This perspective highlights the role of organizational culture and shared beliefs in shaping strategy. It emphasizes the importance of values, traditions, and social norms in guiding strategic actions.
  • The Environmental School: This school emphasizes the impact of external factors, such as industry trends, market conditions, and societal changes, in shaping strategy. It emphasizes the need to adapt and respond to the external environment.
  • The Configurational School: This approach takes a holistic view of strategy formation, considering the interdependencies and fit between various organizational elements such as structure, processes, resources, and capabilities.

Mintzberg’s concept of “Crafting Strategy” recognizes that strategy is not a linear, predictable process but rather a complex and dynamic phenomenon that involves multiple actors and perspectives. It emphasizes the need for flexibility, adaptation, and a deep understanding of the organization’s internal dynamics and external environment. This perspective has influenced strategic management thinking and has contributed to a more nuanced understanding of strategy formulation and implementation.