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Teaching strategic management classes can be a very difficult challenge for professors. In most
business schools, strategic management is a “capstone” course that requires students to draw on
insights from various functional courses they have completed (such as marketing, finance, and
accounting) to understand how top executives make the strategic decisions that drive whether
organizations succeed or fail. Many students have very little experience with major organizational
choices. This undermines many students’ engagement in the course.
Our book is designed to enhance student engagement. A good product in any industry matches what
customers want and need, and the textbook industry is no exception. It is well documented that
many of today’s students are visual learners. To meet students’ wants and needs (and thereby create
a much better teaching experience for professors), our book offers the following:
• Several graphic displays in each chapter that summarize key concepts in a visually
appealing format.Chapter 1 "Mastering Strategy: Art and Science", for example, offers graphic
displays on (1) the “5 Ps” of strategy; (2) intended, emergent, and realized strategies; (3) strategy in
ancient times; (4) military strategy; and (5) the evolution of strategic management as a field of study.
The idea for the graphic displays was inspired by the visually rich and popular series on business
published by DK Publishing.
• Rich, illustrative examples drawn from companies that are relevant to many
students. As part of our emphasis on examples, each chapter uses one company as an ongoing
example to bring various concepts to life. In Chapter 1 "Mastering Strategy: Art and Science", Apple is
used as the ongoing example.
• A “strategy at the movies” feature in each chapter that links course concepts with a
popular motion picture. In Chapter 1 "Mastering Strategy: Art and Science", for example, we
describe how The Social Network illustrates intended, emergent, and realized strategies.
Politicians in many states are paying more and more attention over time to the cost of a college
education, including the high prices of most textbooks. It is therefore reasonable to expect an ever-
increasing number of professors to seek modestly priced textbooks. Professors still want to be
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assured of quality, of course. Both of us are endowed chairs at Research I universities. We have long
track records of publishing our research in premier journals, and we have served in a variety of
editorial and review board roles for such journals. Finally, we recognize that professors want to
minimize their switching costs when adopting a new book. Although every textbook is a little unique,
our table of contents offers a structure and topic coverage that parallels what market leading books
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Mastering Strategy: Art and Science
L E A R N I N G O B J E C T I V E S
After reading this chapter, you should be able to understand and articulate answers to the following
1. What are strategic management and strategy?
2. Why does strategic management matter?
3. What elements determine firm performance?
Strategic Management: A Core Concern for Apple
The Opening of the Apple Store
Image courtesy of Neil Bird, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nechbi/2058929337.
March 2, 2011, was a huge day for Apple. The firm released its much-anticipated iPad2, a thinner and
faster version of market-leading Apple’s iPad tablet device. Apple also announced that a leading publisher,
Random House, had made all seventeen thousand of its books available through Apple’s iBookstore.
Apple had enjoyed tremendous success for quite some time. Approximately fifteen million iPads were sold
in 2010, and the price of Apple’s stock had more than tripled from early 2009 to early 2011.
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But future success was far from guaranteed. The firm’s visionary founder Steve Jobs was battling serious
health problems. Apple’s performance had suffered when an earlier health crisis had forced Jobs to step
away from the company. This raised serious questions. Would Jobs have to step away again? If so, how
might Apple maintain its excellent performance without its leader?
Meanwhile, the iPad2 faced daunting competition. Samsung, LG, Research in Motion, Dell, and other
manufacturers were trying to create tablets that were cheaper, faster, and more versatile than the iPad2.
These firms were eager to steal market share by selling their tablets to current and potential Apple
customers. Could Apple maintain leadership of the tablet market, or would one or more of its rivals
dominate the market in the years ahead? Even worse, might a company create a new type of device that
would make Apple’s tablets obsolete?
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1.1 Defining Strategic Management and Strategy
L E A R N I N G O B J E C T I V E S
1. Learn what strategic management is.
2. Understand the key question addressed by strategic management.
3. Understand why it is valuable to consider different definitions of strategy.
4. Learn what is meant by each of the 5 Ps of strategy.
What Is Strategic Management?
Issues such as those currently faced by Apple are the focus of strategic management because they help
answer the key question examined by strategic management—“Why do some firms outperform other
firms?” More specifically, strategic management examines how actions and events involving top
executives (such as Steve Jobs), firms (Apple), and industries (the tablet market) influence a firm’s
success or failure. Formal tools exist for understanding these relationships, and many of these tools are
explained and applied in this book. But formal tools are not enough; creativity is just as important to
strategic management. Mastering strategy is therefore part art and part science.
This introductory chapter is intended to enable you to understand what strategic management is and why
it is important. Because strategy is a complex concept, we begin by explaining five different ways to think
about what strategy involves (Figure 1.1 "Defining Strategy: The Five Ps"). Next, we journey across many
centuries to examine the evolution of strategy from ancient times until today. We end this chapter by
presenting a conceptual model that maps out one way that executives can work toward mastering
strategy. The model also provides an overall portrait of this book’s contents by organizing the remaining
nine chapters into a coherent whole.
Defining Strategy: The Five Ps
Defining strategy is not simple. Strategy is a complex concept that involves many different processes and
activities within an organization. To capture this complexity, Professor Henry Mintzberg of McGill
University in Montreal, Canada, articulated what he labeled as “the 5 Ps of strategy.” According to
Mintzberg, understanding how strategy can be viewed as a plan, as a ploy, as a position, as a pattern, and
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as a perspective is important. Each of these five ways of thinking about strategy is necessary for
understanding what strategy is, but none of them alone is sufficient to master the concept. 
Figure 1.1 Defining Strategy: The Five Ps
Images courtesy of Thinkstock (first); Dave, K., Short, J., Combs, J., & Terrell, W. (2011). Tales of
Garcón: The Franchise Players. Irvington, Wikipedia (third); Old Navy (fourth); James Duncan
Davidson from Portland, USA (fifth).
Strategy as a Plan
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Strategic plans are the essence of strategy, according to one classic view of strategy. A strategic plan is a
carefully crafted set of steps that a firm intends to follow to be successful. Virtually every organization
creates a strategic plan to guide its future. In 1996, Apple’s performance was not strong, and Gilbert F.
Amelio was appointed as chief executive officer in the hope of reversing the company’s fortunes. In a
speech focused on strategy, Amelio described a plan that centered on leveraging the Internet (which at the
time was in its infancy) and developing multimedia products and services. Apple’s subsequent success
selling over the Internet via iTunes and with the iPad can be traced back to the plan articulated in 1996. 
A business model should be a central element of a firm’s strategic plan. Simply stated, a business model
describes the process through which a firm hopes to earn profits. It probably won’t surprise you to learn
that developing a viable business model requires that a firm sell goods or services for more than it costs
the firm to create and distribute those goods. A more subtle but equally important aspect of a business
model is providing customers with a good or service more cheaply than they can create it themselves.
Consider, for example, large chains of pizza restaurants such as Papa John’s and Domino’s.
Franchises such as Pizza Hut provide an example of a popular business model that has been successful worldwide.
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Image courtesy of Derek Jensen, http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Bremen-indiana-pizza-hut.jpg.
Because these firms buy their ingredients in massive quantities, they pay far less for these items than any
family could (an advantage called economies of scale). Meanwhile, Papa John’s and Domino’s have
developed specialized kitchen equipment that allows them to produce better-tasting pizza than can be
created using the basic ovens that most families rely on for cooking. Pizza restaurants thus can make
better-tasting pizzas for far less cost than a family can make itself. This business model provides healthy
margins and has enabled Papa John’s and Domino’s to become massive firms.
Strategic plans are important to individuals too. Indeed, a well-known proverb states that “he who fails to
plan, plans to fail.” In other words, being successful requires a person to lay out a path for the future and
then follow that path. If you are reading this, earning a college degree is probably a key step in your
strategic plan for your career. Don’t be concerned if your plan is not fully developed, however. Life is full
of unexpected twists and turns, so maintaining flexibility is wise for individuals planning their career
strategies as well as for firms.
For firms, these unexpected twists and turns place limits on the value of strategic planning. Former
heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson captured the limitations of strategic plans when he noted,
“Everyone has a plan until I punch them in the face.” From that point forward, strategy is less about a
plan and more about adjusting to a shifting situation. For firms, changes in the behavior of competitors,
customers, suppliers, regulators, and other external groups can all be sources of a metaphorical punch in
the face. As events unfold around a firm, its strategic plan may reflect a competitive reality that no longer
exists. Because the landscape of business changes rapidly, other ways of thinking about strategy are
Strategy as a Ploy
A second way to view strategy is in terms of ploys. A strategic ploy is a specific move designed to outwit or
trick competitors. Ploys often involve using creativity to enhance success. One such case involves the
mighty Mississippi River, which is a main channel for shipping cargo to the central portion of the United
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States. Ships traveling the river enter it near New Orleans, Louisiana. The next major port upriver is
Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge. A variety of other important ports exist in states farther upriver.
Many decades ago, the governor of Louisiana was a clever and controversial man named Huey Long.
Legend has it that Long ordered that a bridge being constructed over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge
be built intentionally low to the ground. This ploy created a captive market for cargo because very large
barges simply could not fit under the bridge. Large barges using the Mississippi River thus needed to
unload their cargo in either New Orleans or Baton Rouge. Either way, Louisiana would benefit. Of course,
owners of ports located farther up the river were not happy.
Ploys can be especially beneficial in the face of much stronger opponents. Military history offers quite a
few illustrative examples. Before the American Revolution, land battles were usually fought by two
opposing armies, each of which wore brightly colored clothing, marching toward each other across open
fields. George Washington and his officers knew that the United States could not possibly defeat better-
trained and better-equipped British forces in a traditional battle. To overcome its weaknesses, the
American military relied on ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, and other guerilla moves. It even broke an
unwritten rule of war by targeting British officers during skirmishes. This was an effort to reduce the
opponent’s effectiveness by removing its leadership.
Centuries earlier, the Carthaginian general Hannibal concocted perhaps the most famous ploy ever.
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Hannibal’s clever use of elephants to cross the Alps provides an example of a strategic ploy.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hannibal3.jpg.
Carthage was at war with Rome, a scary circumstance for most Carthaginians given their far weaker
fighting force. The Alps had never been crossed by an army. In fact, the Alps were considered such a
treacherous mountain range that the Romans did not bother monitoring the part of their territory that
bordered the Alps. No horse was up to the challenge, but Hannibal cleverly put his soldiers on elephants,
and his army was able to make the mountain crossing. The Romans were caught completely unprepared
and most of them were frightened by the sight of charging elephants. By using the element of surprise,
Hannibal was able to lead his army to victory over a much more powerful enemy.
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Ploys continue to be important today. In 2011, a pizzeria owner in Pennsylvania was accused of making a
rather unique attempt to outmaneuver two rival pizza shops. According to police, the man tried to
sabotage his competitors by placing mice in their pizzerias. If the ploy had not been discovered, the two
shops could have suffered bad publicity or even been shut down by authorities because of health concerns.
Although most strategic ploys are legal, this one was not, and the perpetrator was arrested. 
Strategy as a Pattern
Strategy as pattern is a third way to view strategy. This view focuses on the extent to which a firm’s actions
over time are consistent. A lack of a strategic pattern helps explain why Kmart deteriorated into
bankruptcy in 2002. The company was started in the late nineteenth century as a discount department
store. By the middle of the twentieth century, consistently working to be good at discount retailing had led
Kmart to become a large and prominent chain.
By the 1980s, however, Kmart began straying from its established strategic pattern. Executives shifted the
firm’s focus away from discount retailing and toward diversification. Kmart acquired large stakes in
chains involved in sporting goods (Sports Authority), building supplies (Builders Square), office supplies
(OfficeMax), and books (Borders). In the 1990s, a new team of executives shifted Kmart’s strategy again.
Brands other than Kmart were sold off, and Kmart’s strategy was adjusted to emphasize information
technology and supply chain management. The next team of executives decided that Kmart’s strategy
would be to compete directly with its much-larger rival, Walmart. The resulting price war left Kmart
crippled. Indeed, this last shift in strategy was the fatal mistake that drove Kmart into bankruptcy. Today,
Kmart is part of Sears Holding Company, and its prospects remain uncertain.
In contrast, Apple is very consistent in its strategic pattern: It always responds to competitive challenges
by innovating. Some of these innovations are complete busts. Perhaps the best known was the Newton, a
tablet-like device that may have been ahead of its time. Another was the Pippin, a video game system
introduced in 1996 to near-universal derision. Apple TV, a 2007 offering intended to link televisions with
the Internet, also failed to attract customers. Such failures do not discourage Apple, however, and enough
of its innovations are successful that Apple’s overall performance is excellent. However, there are risks to
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following a pattern too closely. A consistent pattern can make a company predictable, a possibility that
Apple must guard against in the years ahead.
Strategy as a Position
Viewing strategy as a plan, a ploy, and a pattern involve only the actions of a single firm. In contrast, the
next P—strategy as position—considers a firm and its competitors. Specifically, strategy as position refers
to a firm’s place in the industry relative to its competitors. McDonald’s, for example, has long been and
remains the clear leader among fast-food chains. This position offers both good and bad aspects for
McDonald’s. One advantage of leading an industry is that many customers are familiar with and loyal to
leaders. Being the market leader, however, also makes McDonald’s a target for rivals such as Burger King
and Wendy’s. These firms create their strategies with McDonald’s as a primary concern. Old Navy offers
another example of strategy as position. Old Navy has been positioned to sell fashionable clothes at
Old Navy occupies a unique position as the low-cost strategy within the Gap Inc.’s fleet of brands.
Image courtesy of Lindsey Turner, http://www.flickr.com/photos/theogeo/2148416495.
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Old Navy is owned by the same corporation (Gap Inc.) as the midlevel brand the Gap and upscale brand
Banana Republic. Each of these three brands is positioned at a different pricing level. The firm hopes that
as Old Navy’s customers grow older and more affluent, they will shop at the Gap and then eventually at
Banana Republic. A similar positioning of different brands is pursued by General Motors through its
Chevrolet (entry level), Buick (midlevel), and Cadillac (upscale) divisions.
Firms can carve out a position by performing certain activities in a different manner than their rivals. For
example, Southwest Airlines is able to position itself as a lower-cost and more efficient provider by not
offering meals that are common among other airlines. In addition, Southwest does not assign specific
seats. This allows for faster loading of passengers. Positioning a firm in this manner can only be
accomplished when managers make trade-offs that cut off certain possibilities (such as offering meals and
assigned seats) to place their firms in a unique strategic space. When firms position themselves through
unique goods and services customers value, business often thrives. But when firms try to please everyone,
they often find themselves without the competitive positioning needed for long-term success. Thus
deciding what a firm is not going to do is just as important to strategy as deciding what it is going to do. 
To gain competitive advantage and greater success, firms sometimes change positions. But this can be a
risky move. Winn-Dixie became a successful grocer by targeting moderate-income customers. When the
firm abandoned this established position to compete for wealthier customers and higher margins, the
results were disastrous. The firm was forced into bankruptcy and closed many stores. Winn-Dixie
eventually exited bankruptcy, but like Kmart, its future prospects are unclear. In contrast to firms such as
Winn-Dixie that change positions, Apple has long maintained a position as a leading innovator in various
industries. This positioning has served Apple well.
Strategy as a Perspective
The fifth and final P shifts the focus to inside the minds of the executives running a
firm. Strategy as perspective refers to how executives interpret the competitive landscape around them.
Because each person is unique, two different executives could look at the same event—such as a new
competitor emerging—and attach different meanings to it. One might just see a new threat to his or her
firm’s sales; the other might view the newcomer as a potential ally.
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An old cliché urges listeners to “make lemons into lemonade.” A good example of applying this idea
through strategy as perspective is provided by local government leaders in Sioux City, Iowa. Rather than
petition the federal government to change their airport’s unusual call sign—SUX—local leaders decided to
leverage the call sign to attract the attention of businesses and tourists to build their city’s economic base.
An array of clothing and other goods sporting the SUX name is available at http://www.flysux.com. Some
strategists such as these local leaders are willing to take a seemingly sour situation and see the potential
sweetness, while other executives remain fixated on the sourness.
Executives who adopt unique and positive perspectives can lead firms to find and exploit opportunities
that others simply miss. In the mid-1990s, the Internet was mainly a communication tool for academics
and government agencies. Jeff Bezos looked beyond these functions and viewed the Internet as a potential
sales channel. After examining a number of different markets that he might enter using the Internet,
Bezos saw strong profit potential in the bookselling business, and he began selling books online. Today,
the company he created—Amazon—has expanded far beyond its original focus on books to become a
dominant retailer in countless different markets. The late Steve Jobs at Apple appeared to take a similar
perspective; he saw opportunities where others could not, and his firm has reaped significant benefits as a
K E Y T A K E A W A Y
• Strategic management focuses on firms and the different strategies that they use to become and remain
successful. Multiple views of strategy exist, and the 5 Ps described by Henry Mintzberg enhance
understanding of the various ways in which firms conceptualize strategy.
E X E R C I S E S
1. Have you developed a strategy to manage your career? Should you make it more detailed? Why or why
2. Identify an example of each of the 5 Ps of strategy other than the examples offered in this section.
3. What business that you visit regularly seems to have the most successful business model? What makes
the business model work?
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 Mintzberg, H. 1987. The strategy concept I: Five Ps for strategy. California Management Review, 30(1), 11–24.
 Markoff, J. 1996, May 14. Apple unveils strategic plan of small steps. New York Times. Retrieved
from http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/14/business/apple-unveils-strategic -plan-of-small-steps.html
 Reuters. 2011, March 1. Philadelphia area pizza owner used mice vs. competition—police. Retrieved from
 Porter, M. E. 1996, November–December. What is strategy? Harvard Business Review, 61–79.
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