Strategy Safari - Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, Joseph Lampel

Strategy Safari - Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, Joseph Lampel

Learn how to beat the competition jungle with an excellent strategic planning roadmap and understand how business strategy decisions are made.

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Nowadays, we are so immersed in business strategies, that analyzing them in a more critical way is necessary to avoid making mistakes. In this summary of the book "Strategy Safari," you will walk through all schools of strategic thinking, analyzing all the convictions regarding this subject.

Much more than making decisions, it is necessary to understand how they happen, understand the reasoning of each one of them to find the positive and negative factors of each one.

If you're interested, get ready to live an adventure!

About the book "Strategy Safari"

The book Strategy Safari, developed by authors Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, and Joseph Lampel, is a guide that provides critiques of the major schools of Strategic Planning.

On it, the reader finds the main premises of each school, as well as the reasons why they cannot be considered as absolute truth.

In this way, this book comes to open our eyes to the key tools already used in the strategic world and discussions about their effectiveness.

About the authors Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, Joseph Lampel

Henry Mintzberg is a professor at McGill University in Canada and author of several books. In addition, he is also a Ph. D. from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a master of management from the same institute.

Bruce Ahlstrand is a professor at Trent University in Ontario (Canada), majoring at the London School of Economics and Oxford University, and has contributed to the development of the field of strategy for many years.

Joseph Lampel is a professor at City University and director of Cass University's Center for Film, Media and Entertainment Research, both in London.

To whom is this book indicated?

Given all the content presented, we recommend reading for those who want to understand a little more about strategy and the weaknesses of the tactics currently used.

This work is also suitable for those who want to learn in-depth about the various schools of strategic planning and their shortcomings.

Main ideas of the book "Strategy Safari"

Before we begin, we have some initial insights:

  • The strategy is a long term behavior;
  • Strategies that redirect organizations to a single niche diminish prospects;
  • What you know as belief in the strategic field may be a myth;
  • "Strategies can be biased";
  • All schools of strategic thinking have improvements.

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[Book Summary] Strategy Safari - Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, Joseph Lampel

Overview: The Beast of Strategic Management

The book begins by presenting strategy as a pattern, a long-term behavior, as we plan for the future, we build on the past to understand patterns.

Thus, the author raises a pertinent question:

"Should the strategies performed have always been intended?"

In practice not always.

To exemplify this, we have three types of strategy: deliberate, unrealized, and emerging. Deliberate strategies are those that have been performed and emerging strategies are those where the executed pattern was not previously intended.

Another point addressed in this chapter is that for every advantage there is a disadvantage. Thus, the book presents the positive and negative sides of common phrases about the strategic environment:

  • "Strategy sets the direction";
  • "Strategy concentrates effort";
  • "Strategy defines the organization";
  • "Strategy favors coherence".

Overview: Conception

In the second part of "Strategy Safari", we learn that in order to select the best strategy through these steps:

  • Consistency;
  • Consonance;
  • Advantage;
  • Viability.

Consistency refers to the solidity of the objectives; the consonance, the ability to react to the environment; the advantage refers to the competitive differential; and viability happens if your strategy is financially sustainable.

Thus, the authors criticize the insertion of companies in a niche, teaching of Design School, and that raising a strategy on the basis of assumptions can ignore important aspects.

Overview: Planning

This third part presented by Mintzberg and others shows the basic model of strategic planning, showing recent advances in this area. However, "Strategy Safari" shows that these basic models may not consider uncertainty very well.

And because uncertainty can cause problems, the book teaches us how to build scenarios to aid decision-making by identifying the main "driving forces", which are:

  • Social dynamics: issues related to consumer habits, lifestyle, and values;
  • Economic issues: macroeconomic trends that may influence your business;
  • Political issues: electoral and legislative affairs;
  • Technology issues: New technologies that can impact your business.

For the authors, long-term planning may decrease the chances of immediate impulse-force strategies that can lead to a variety of problems.

The authors point out that the way we build strategic planning today assumes that the entire environment must be constant, and is an unrealistic premise because the business market can change.

Overview: Process

This fourth part of "Strategy Safari" begins by critiquing the positioning assumptions and presenting the three waves of strategy:

  • The first wave: originating from military tactics - the book features authors such as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz;
  • The second wave: paired by the BCG Matrix and the PISM model, a method that identifies a series of strategic variables and is responsible for measuring returns;
  • The third wave: consisting of Porter's forces.

Shortly thereafter, the book presents a critique of excessive concerns about the school's focus, context, and strategy process. The authors point out that the positioning school sees strategy as something generic when they should consider it unique.

Overview: Vision

In this chapter, we begin with the presentation of the entrepreneurial school, which makes the leader the great strategy maker and the vision, his main tool.

Thus, the authors state that the developer of this school is the managerial area, responsible for implementing the idea of personalized leadership as the path to success.

Thus, "Strategy Safari" raises some premises of the entrepreneurial vision:

  • Strategy exists in the leader's mind as the organization's vision of the future;
  • The strategy process is based on the leader's intuition;
  • The leader promotes vision decisively;
  • Strategic vision and organization are malleable;
  • An entrepreneurial strategy is for a niche.

And to all these assumptions are criticized, because the entrepreneurial school from which they originated has the leader as the main focus, thus being a risky approach, since focusing everything on just one person can make the organization depended on it.

Overview: Mentality

Strategists formulate their strategies based on their experiences. As a consequence, "Strategy Safari" brings out the cognitive bias as the formulator of these patterns.

The first point is cognition as confusion, that is, the biases and distortions of thinking in decision-making.

The second point is cognition as information processing, that is, the effects that teamwork can have on information perception.

Cognition as mapping is the area of thought organization that aims to structure knowledge, and cognition as a realization of the concept refers to strategy as a belief.

Finally, cognition as construction is the view of seeing strategy as a unique interpretation within the human mind and without any equal reproduction in the external environment.

All of these cognition present premises that are discussed and criticized by the authors, so that the reader understands the pros and cons of this approach.

Overview: Emerging Process

This seventh part raises the main premises of the school and learning, current of the strategic branch that is concerned with understanding how strategies are formed.

Thus, the authors point out that the strategy needs to take on a long-term learning process, whose leader is a learner who must coordinate strategic learning.

However, even as the learning process develops within the organization, it is still subject to being restricted if it puts more emphasis on what is already routine rather than what is innovative.

And as with all book chapters, this book also criticizes this school because it considers that excesses in the learning process can destroy viable strategies.

Overview: Negotiation

In this chapter, Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel raise the point that the more relevant a strategy, the greater the chances of political maneuvering that can make it difficult for the organization to reach its goal.

However, the policy is not at all harmful, it can also be helpful when used to bring about satisfactory change as both sides of a situation can be debated.

On the other hand, the strategy also consists of coordinating the demands of agents such as suppliers, employees and government regulators. But how to deal with so many demands?

The book suggests three basic strategies:

  • "Deal with demands as they arise";
  • "Strategically reveal information";
  • "The organization can create a discussion environment between two groups".

The first strategy suggests dealing with demands one at a time, the second refers to the idea that each member of the organization feels he or she is achieving what he or she wants, and the last refers to the fact that discussion environments can be beneficial to achieve better results.

Overview: The collective

The ninth chapter of "Strategy Safari" deals with culture, a collectively developed process.

Thus, within the school of culture, the strategy is based on beliefs that are acquired by socialization, collective intentions, which impacts the way resources are used to generate competitive advantage.

Thus, culture becomes the major influencer of organizational decisions, acting as a filter and enabling two companies in the same niche to have totally different interpretations on a given subject that impacts both.

But do not fool yourself. While culture can create a collaborative environment, it can discourage change. To overcome this resistance, the authors suggest that an environment of acceptance, flexibility, and innovation should be created, as changes in culture mean changes in strategy: the company diversifies.

Overview: Reactive process

But what about the business environment? In this chapter, leadership is subordinate to the environment, a set of forces that act outside the organization. Thus, companies are subject to ideological and political pressures from the environment, which can change the way they see something.

But what are the dimensions of the environment that make organizations different? To answer this question, the authors raise four factors:

  • Stability;
  • Complexity;
  • Market diversity;
  • Hostility.

Each of these four aspects can be interpreted differently by organizations, which makes them make their decisions based on their view of the facts. In turn, the environment reacts to business decisions to generate an infinite loop of mutual influence.

Overview: The transformation

"If an organization adopts states of being, then strategy generation becomes a process of jumping from state to state."

In this penultimate chapter, transformation is treated as a force that changes the stable configuration of companies, generating changes that can be driven from top to bottom or bottom to top.

Thus, top-down changes begin with restructuring the company, crushing unnecessary bureaucracies, empowering employees, and continually refining to sustain competitive advantage.

On the other hand, bottom-up changes suggest that small changes in the organization lead to the transformation process, so that the changes come from employees, decentralizing the central figure of the leader.

Overview: The Whole Beast

Now that you have mastered the beast of strategy, this last chapter raises questions to test your learning. It presents questions and answers about strategy complexity, integration, the dilemma between unique and new strategies, centralization, control, among other aspects addressed in the book.

All of these questions will make you review the whole strategy animal, for this chapter is a review of the points raised in previous chapters. For this, the author asks the following questions:

  • "How complex should a good strategy be?"
  • "How far should a good strategy be integrated?"
  • "How good should a good strategy be?"
  • "How far should a good strategy be centralized?"

All of these questions and many more are answered here but briefly compared to previous chapters.

What do other authors say about it?

"Creating Breakthrough Innovations" in the Results-Driven Management series features articles from Harvard Management Update and Harvard Management Communication Letter. The aim of the series is to help managers gain a competitive advantage in the market through strategies and tools. The work in question focuses on the idea of developing innovations in companies and maintaining their growth.

In the book "The Black Swan", author Nassim Nicholas Taled reveals that ignoring uncertainty is a risky step in the strategic environment and that some widely used statistical tools can minimize the effects of these events (black swans) to the point that they are not so effective.

Finally, in the Iron Law, presented by Josh Kaufman in "The Personal MBA" you have to wonder if the market you are investing in really exists. Because without the revenue needed to support themselves, any business is doomed to failure. So your revenue depends on people really wanting what you have to offer.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

  • Analyze the positives and negatives of every strategy;
  • Do not be blinded by your beliefs;
  • Be critical of the decisions you intend to make;
  • The strategy need not focus only on the leader;
  • Corporate culture can shape a company's strategies;
  • Be aware of uncertainties.

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