Strategic Management: The Art, The Science & The Craft of Business
Rushin H Vadhani
AYM Syntex Ltd.
(Formely Welspun Syntex Ltd)
Business (or Strategic) management is the art, science, and craft of formulating, implementing and evaluating cross-functional decisions that will enable an organization to achieve its long-term objectives. It is the process of specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives and then allocating resources to implement. Strategic management seeks to coordinate and integrate the activities of the various functional areas of a business in order to achieve long-term organizational objectives. A balanced scorecard is often used to evaluate the overall performance of the business and its progress towards objectives.
Strategic management is the highest level of managerial activity. Strategies are typically planned, crafted or guided by the Chief Executive Officer, approved or authorized by the Board of directors and then implemented under the supervision of the organization’s top management team or senior executives. Strategic management provides overall direction to the enterprise and is closely related to the field of Organization Studies. In the field of business administration it is useful to talk about “strategic alignment” between the organization and its environment or “strategic consistency”. According to Arieu “There is strategic consistency when the actions of an organization are consistent with the expectations of management and these in turn are with the market and the context.”
Three-step strategy formulation process is sometimes referred to as determining where the organization or business is now, determining where it wants to go and then suggesting how to get there.
Strategy formulation :
- Performing a situation analysis, self-evaluation and competitor analysis: both internal and external; both micro-environmental and macro-environmental.
- Concurrent with this assessment, objectives are set. These objectives should be parallel to a timeline; some are in the short-term and others on the long-term. This involves crafting vision statements (long term view of a possible future), mission statements (the role that the organization gives itself in society), overall corporate objectives (both financial and strategic), strategic business unit objectives (both financial and strategic) and tactical objectives.
- These objectives should, in the light of the situation analysis, suggest a strategic plan. The plan provides the details of how to achieve these objectives.
Strategy Implementation :
- Allocation and management of sufficient resources (financial, personnel, time, technology support)
- Establishing a chain of command or some alternative structure (such as cross functional teams)
- Assigning responsibility of specific tasks or processes to specific individuals or groups
- It also involves managing the process. This includes monitoring results, comparing to benchmarks and best practices, evaluating the efficacy and efficiency of the process, controlling for variances, and making adjustments to the process as necessary.
- When implementing specific programs, this involves acquiring the requisite resources, developing the process, training, process testing, documentation, and integration with (and/or conversion from) legacy processes.
In order for a policy to work, there must be a level of consistency from every person in an organization, including from the management. This is what needs to occur on the tactical level of management as well as strategic.
Strategy Formulation vs Strategy Implementation
Following are the main differences between Strategy Formulation and Strategy Implementation-
|Strategy Formulation||Strategy Implementation|
|Strategy Formulation includes planning and decision-making involved in developing organization’s strategic goals and plans.||Strategy Implementation involves all those means related to executing the strategic plans.|
|In short, Strategy Formulation is placing the Forces before the action.||In short, Strategy Implementation is managing forces during the action.|
|Strategy Formulation is an Entrepreneurial Activity based on strategic decision-making.||Strategic Implementation is mainly an Administrative Task based on strategic and operational decisions.|
|Strategy Formulation emphasizes on effectiveness.||Strategy Implementation emphasizes on efficiency.|
|Strategy Formulation is a rational process.||Strategy Implementation is basically an operational process.|
|Strategy Formulation requires co-ordination among few individuals.||Strategy Implementation requires co-ordination among many individuals.|
|Strategy Formulation requires a great deal of initiative and logical skills.||Strategy Implementation requires specific motivational and leadership traits.|
|Strategic Formulation precedes Strategy Implementation.||Strategy Implementation follows Strategy Formulation.|
Strategy Evaluation :
- Measuring the effectiveness of the organizational strategy, it’s extremely important to conduct a SWOT analysis to figure out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (both internal and external) of the entity in question. This may require to take certain precautionary measures or even to change the entire strategy.
In corporate strategy, Johnson and Scholes present a model in which strategic options are evaluated against three key success criteria:
- Suitability (would it work?)
- Feasibility (can it be made to work?)
- Acceptability (will they work it?)
One of the most important tool of strategic management along with SWOT-Analysis, is the matrix developed by BCG- Boston Consultancy Group. BCG-Matrix also called as growth-share matrix, is a corporate planning tool, used to portray firm’s brand portfolio or SBUs on a quadrant along relative market share axis (horizontal axis) and speed of market growth (vertical axis) axis.
Growth-share matrix is a business tool, which uses relative market share and industry growth rate factors to evaluate the potential of business brand portfolio and suggest further investment strategies.
The analysis requires that both measures be calculated for each SBU-Strategic Business Unit. The dimension of business strength, relative market share, will measure comparative advantage indicated by market dominance. The key theory underlying this is existence of an experience curve and that market share is achieved due to overall cost leadership.
BCG matrix has four cells, with the horizontal axis representing relative market share and the vertical axis denoting market growth rate. The mid-point of relative market share is set at 1.0. if all the SBU’s are in same industry, the average growth rate of the industry is used. While, if all the SBU’s are located in different industries, then the mid-point is set at the growth rate for the economy.
Resources are allocated to the business units according to their situation on the grid. The four cells of this matrix have been called as stars, cash cows, question marks and dogs. Each of these cells represents a particular type of business.
10 x 1 x 0.1 x
Figure: BCG Matrix
Stars represent business units having large market share in a fast growing industry. They may generate cash but because of fast growing market, stars require huge investments to maintain their lead. Net cash flow is usually modest. SBU’s located in this cell are attractive as they are located in a robust industry and these business units are highly competitive in the industry. If successful, a star will become a cash cow when the industry matures.
- Cash Cows-
Cash Cows represents business units having a large market share in a mature, slow growing industry. Cash cows require little investment and generate cash that can be utilized for investment in other business units. These SBU’s are the corporation’s key source of cash, and are specifically the core business. They are the base of an organization. These businesses usually follow stability strategies. When cash cows loose their appeal and move towards deterioration, then a retrenchment policy may be pursued.
- Question Marks-
Question marks represent business units having low relative market share and located in a high growth industry. They require huge amount of cash to maintain or gain market share. They require attention to determine if the venture can be viable. Question marks are generally new goods and services which have a good commercial prospective. There is no specific strategy which can be adopted. If the firm thinks it has dominant market share, then it can adopt expansion strategy, else retrenchment strategy can be adopted. Most businesses start as question marks as the company tries to enter a high growth market in which there is already a market-share. If ignored, then question marks may become dogs, while if huge investment is made, then they have potential of becoming stars.
Dogs represent businesses having weak market shares in low-growth markets. They neither generate cash nor require huge amount of cash. Due to low market share, these business units face cost disadvantages. Generally retrenchment strategies are adopted because these firms can gain market share only at the expense of competitor’s/rival firms. These business firms have weak market share because of high costs, poor quality, ineffective marketing, etc. Unless a dog has some other strategic aim, it should be liquidated if there is fewer prospects for it to gain market share. Number of dogs should be avoided and minimized in an organization.
Limitations of BCG Matrix :
The BCG Matrix produces a framework for allocating resources among different business units and makes it possible to compare many business units at a glance. But BCG Matrix is not free from limitations, such as-
- BCG matrix classifies businesses as low and high, but generally businesses can be medium also. Thus, the true nature of business may not be reflected.
- Market is not clearly defined in this model.
- High market share does not always leads to high profits. There are high costs also involved with high market share.
- Growth rate and relative market share are not the only indicators of profitability. This model ignores and overlooks other indicators of profitability.
- At times, dogs may help other businesses in gaining competitive advantage. They can earn even more than cash cows sometimes.
- This four-celled approach is considered as to be too simplistic.
Benefits of Strategic Management :
There are many benefits of strategic management and they include identification, prioritization, and exploration of opportunities. For instance, newer products, newer markets, and newer forays into business lines are only possible if firms indulge in strategic planning. Next, strategic management allows firms to take an objective view of the activities being done by it and do a cost benefit analysis as to whether the firm is profitable.
Just to differentiate, by this, we do not mean the financial benefits alone (which would be discussed below) but also the assessment of profitability that has to do with evaluating whether the business is strategically aligned to its goals and priorities.
The key point to be noted here is that strategic management allows a firm to orient itself to its market and consumers and ensure that it is actualizing the right strategy.
It has been shown in many studies that firms that engage in strategic management are more profitable and successful than those that do not have the benefit of strategic planning and strategic management.
When firms engage in forward looking planning and careful evaluation of their priorities, they have control over the future, which is necessary in the fast changing business landscape of the 21st century.
It has been estimated that more than 100,000 businesses fail in the US every year and most of these failures are to do with a lack of strategic focus and strategic direction. Further, high performing firms tend to make more informed decisions because they have considered both the short term and long-term consequences and hence, have oriented their strategies accordingly. In contrast, firms that do not engage themselves in meaningful strategic planning are often bogged down by internal problems and lack of focus that leads to failure.
The section above discussed some of the tangible benefits of strategic management. Apart from these benefits, firms that engage in strategic management are more aware of the external threats, an improved understanding of competitor strengths and weaknesses and increased employee productivity. They also have lesser resistance to change and a clear understanding of the link between performance and rewards.
The key aspect of strategic management is that the problem solving and problem preventing capabilities of the firms are enhanced through strategic management. Strategic management is essential as it helps firms to rationalize change and actualize change and communicate the need to change better to its employees. Finally, strategic management helps in bringing order and discipline to the activities of the firm in its both internal processes and external activities.
In recent years, virtually all firms have realized the importance of strategic management. However, the key difference between those who succeed and those who fail is that the way in which strategic management is done and strategic planning is carried out makes the difference between success and failure. Of course, there are still firms that do not engage in strategic planning or where the planners do not receive the support from management. These firms ought to realize the benefits of strategic management and ensure their longer-term viability and success in the marketplace.
Key References :
- Perspectives on Strategies – Boston Consultancy Group by Carl W.Stern
- Business Strategy : Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity & Enterprise by J.C.Spender
- Reference Case studies on Strategic Management
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author in his personal capacity of knowledge & perspectives on the mentioned subject.