Foundations of Corporate Success: How Business Strategies Add Value

By John A. Kay | Go to book overview

VII
THE FUTURE OF STRATEGY

The subject of business strategy is the management of the relationship between the firm and its external environment--its customers, its suppliers, its competitors, and the governments of the countries within which it operates. There is, of course, much more to management than strategy. But there is rarely a successful firm without an effective strategy, and strategy is usually the most public of management activities and the principal concern of the most senior executives. Strategy consultants are the most respected, and best rewarded, of business advisers.

Like Molière's M. Jourdain, who learnt that he had spoken prose all his life without knowing it, successful managers devised and implemented strategies long before business strategy was the explicit subject of books, courses, and public debate. That process began around 1960. Its origins were various. The development at Harvard Business School of a course in Business Policy, designed to integrate other aspects of management practice and to illustrate and to stress the strategic thinking demanded of senior executives, has exercised a continuing influence on business thinking and business education. Alfred Chandler's book, Strategy and Structure, published in 1962, is possibly the most influential published business history. Chandler studied the evolution of four US corporations ( General Motors, du Pont, Exxon, and Sears Roebuck) and argued that their structure followed their strategy. Chandler explained that the development of multi-divisional organization was a response to the growing complexity of objectives of these large corporations, and the force of his argument derived from the way in which the strategic objectives of the firm dictated the way in which many other management issues were resolved. Chandler's analysis gained strength from what is certainly one of the most thoughtful, and probably the most quoted, accounts of a businessman's own experiences--My Years at General Motors by Alfred Sloan--which appeared at much the same time.

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