1.5 Contemporary Critique of Strategic Management
This book focuses attention on the widely accepted approaches that frame the contemporary practice and understanding of strategic management. The field of strategic management has always had its critics, and, as with any academic discipline, this criticism has challenged the field to adapt and improve over time. Over time, both practitioners and scholars have voiced concerns about various areas of the strategic management process, and this section summarizes the general critiques to deepen your own ability to critically consider the processes of strategic management in your own organizations and career.
The kinds of concerns about strategic management differ depending upon who is voicing them. From the perspective of firm managers or executives, commonly expressed concerns target the high levels of investment required in order to get more benefit than cost from an effective strategic management process. For strategic management to be done well, it is typically a complex process that is high in cost, time, and difficulty (Cameron, 2019; Katsanos, 2019). Further, some decision makers are skeptical of the ability of strategic management to achieve its goal: to accurately anticipate an unknown future (Cameron, 2019; Llopis, 2019). Some critics go so far as to suggest that committing to a strategy may limit a firm’s ability to respond to a changing environment when companies “make future decisions on obsolete data” (Cameron, 2019). In the opening paragraph of Michael Raynor’s bestselling book The Strategy Paradox, he says:
“Most strategies are built on specific beliefs about the future. Unfortunately, the future is deeply unpredictable. Worse, the requirements of breakthrough success demand implementing strategy in ways that make it impossible to adapt should the future not turn out as expected. The result is the Strategy Paradox: strategies with the greatest possibility of success also have the greatest possibility of failure” (2007, p. 1).
In his book, Mr. Raynor goes on to discuss that survivorship bias is an issue because the strategies of firms that survive are evaluated more than those that fail. The issue of survivorship bias also is a research area within the field of strategic management. Additionally, other strategy scholars raise concerns about how the dominant approaches to strategic management reinforce existing assumptions about power and inequalities within organizations (e.g., affecting gender, race, etc.) and in the global market (i.e., reproducing the same “winners” and “losers”) (Knights & Morgan, 1991; Levy et al., 2011; Montgomery et al., 1989).
Some critiques focus on the inadequacies of specific strategic tools or theories. For example, some scholars challenge existing firm-level, resource-based approaches for its inability to adequately assess and capture changing contexts and capabilities (resource-based approaches are introduced in Chapter 5) (Bromiley & Fleming, 2002; Teece, 2019). Finally, the field of strategic management has been critiqued for being too concerned with achieving immediate, business “results” (Montgomery et al., 1989), and at other times, for not being attuned enough to the real-time, practical needs of business (Pricop, 2012).
It is evident that there are plenty of reasons to think critically about how a firm’s decision makers choose to engage in their strategic management processes. Ultimately, responsibility for determining a firm’s strategic approach is left to the discretion of the firm’s executive team. While the theories, tools, and resources introduced throughout this text are well-researched, time-tested, and best practices in the field of strategic management, no approach is perfect, nor is it intended to be.
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Cameron, S. (2019). What are some disadvantages of strategic management? bizfluent. https://bizfluent.com/info-7933037-disadvantages-strategic-management.html
Katsanos, K. (2019). What are some disadvantages of strategic management. Chron. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/disadvantages-strategic-management-80740.html
Knights, D., & Morgan, G. (1991). Corporate strategy, organizations, and subjectivity: A critique. Organization Studies, 12(2), 251-273.
Levy, D. L., Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (2011). Critical approaches to strategic management. In M. Alvesson & H. Willmott (Eds.), Critical Management Studies, 14, 92-110. Los Angeles: Sage.
Llopis, G. (2019). Corporate strategies were not designed for today’s age of personalization. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2019/11/04/corporate-strategies-were-not-designed-for-todays-age-of-personalization/#5da602a51d06
Montgomery, C. A., Wernerfelt, B., & Balakrishnan, S. (1989). Strategy content and the research process: A critique and commentary. Strategic Management Journal, 10(2), 189-197.
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Raynor, M. E. (2007). The strategy paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it). Currency.
Teece, D. J. (2019). A capability theory of the firm: an economics and (strategic) management perspective. New Zealand Economic Papers, 53(1), 1-43.