Strategic Framework

  While much of strategy deals with strategic analysis, any practising manager will immediately agree that any strategy is only as good as adhering to the Strategic Framework. The question of strategy formulation, management and execution is therefore a key challenge for managers and will form the focus of this course. Executing the framework involves balancing every aspect of the framework and operational goals of the organisation while appreciating the interconnectedness of strategy, structure and systems. It involves gaining the commitment of organisational members to a new strategy as well as managing processes of organisational change, both of which deal with the complex dynamics of people, power and politics.

In this course, we will examine how managers can anticipate, understand and resolve different problems that arise when a new strategy is put in place. In general, a different area of the strategy framework will be explored during each class. Class discussions, exercises and readings from the textbook and the business press will be used to link the conceptual material we will consider with real world issues and problems. Case analysis and discussion are integral parts of the course and I will expect all students to have carefully prepared the assigned cases before class. The cases are designed to test and sharpen the ability of students’ to identify course concepts in actual business settings and apply these concepts in decision-making but the case approach only works if students prepare properly for class.

Knowledge Objectives
• Understand the central concepts in the strategy framework
• Understand how to develop a plan for the implementation of a strategy
• Understand the sorts of challenges and barriers that may pose problems for strategy implementation

Skill Objectives
• Ability to apply concepts and frameworks from strategy implementation to business cases and real-life firms
• Ability to identify problem areas when implementing a strategy and use theory to develop potential solutions
• Enhanced skills in written and verbal communication, teamwork, analytical thinking, decision-making, project planning and general management


Upon completion of the course students will:
• Understand the principles of strategy formulation, management and execution.
• Have developed a deep understanding of the challenges of executing strategy within a given framework

Strategy: Some Thoughts
2. Strategies about What? While we have plans and patterns, the question that still remains is ‘strategies about what?’ The answer is usually ‘about applying your core competencies or resources’. The most common approach is to associate strategy with the bigger picture, the higher or more important things, as opposed to tactics, which is concerned with the details. The trouble with this simplistic duality is that sometimes in retrospect the details (that is, the tactics) can prove strategic! Borrowing a popular line from the military:
‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of the shoe the horse was lost, for the want of the horse the rider was lost and so on… to the general and so the battle.’ Similarly, in the corporate world one can point to Henry Ford having lost the war with GM because he refused to paint his cars anything but black.
3. You need to understand this key point, one’s persons strategy can be another’s tactics. It all depends very much upon where you sit and there are times when you may only need to manage the details and let the strategies emerge for themselves. The answer thus to the earlier question may well be ‘potentially anything’. In this sense you should become familiar with the terms ‘intended strategy’ and ‘realised strategy’.
4. The strategic hierarchy (sequential breakdown of strategy from corporate (national) objectives at the top to market based operations at the bottom) and the three levels of business activity are central themes of the course. Through the course other concepts will be introduced and discussed or there will a need to review material covered earlier in Issues in Strategic Management (ISM). Students are warned however, that authors can and do develop or apply terminology in different ways to suit their specific purposes.
5. Some key terms are outlined below:
• Strategy – is an integrated and coordinated set of commitments and actions designed to exploit core competencies and gain competitive advantage
• Core competencies – are resources and capabilities that serve as a source of competitive advantage for a firm over its rivals
• Competitive Advantage – is when a firm implements a value-creating strategy that other firms are unable to duplicate or find too costly to imitate
• Risk – the uncertainty about economic gains or losses that will result from a particular action
• Strategic Management Process –includes strategic inputs from analysis of the environment, strategic actions that result from strategy formulation and implementation action, and strategic outcomes that result from the implementation process
• Strategic Intent – is the leveraging of internal resources, capabilities and core competencies to achieve the goal in a competitive environment
• Strategic Mission – is a statement of a firm’s unique purpose and the scope of its operations in product and market terms
Dimensions of Strategy
6. Analysis of military-diplomatic strategies and similar analogies in other fields can provide valuable insights into basic dimensions, the nature and the design of formal strategies.
7. Effective formal strategies have the following dimensions:
• First, they contain 1) the important goals to be achieved, 2) the key policies that guide or limit action, and 3) the major actions to achieve the defined goals.
• Next they develop around a few key concepts and intentions that give focus, cohesion and balance. This also suggests the need for coordination and control.
• As well, strategy must deal with the unpredictable and the unknowable. Hence the need to build a posture that is strong and flexible in selective ways so that the organisation can achieve its goals.
• Finally like military echelons, any complex organisation must develop a hierarchy of related and mutually supporting strategies. These strategies are complete in themselves, but aligned/congruent with higher level strategies.
8. Criteria for Effective Strategy. The criteria for effective strategy (see Mintzberg & Quinn, 1996, p9) are as follows:
• Clear, decisive objectives
• Maintaining the initiative
• Concentration
• Flexibility

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