Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Pawn Takes Queen: The Strategic Gameboard in Entrepreneurial Firms

Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Pawn Takes Queen: The Strategic Gameboard in Entrepreneurial Firms

Article excerpt


Entrepreneurship is about the creation of a new order and changing the rules of the game, consequently, strategy in such firms is a visionary process. Entrepreneurs rapidly change the firm's direction and redeploy resources. Ventures which persevere are led by entrepreneurs who continuously see what is not there, constantly strive to make the evolving vision a reality, and are willing to accept failure as a part of the meta-learning process. We present an illustration of the performance of firms in varying levels of rivalry and turbulence using the analogy of a game board much like chess. This approach illustrates how, in entrepreneurial venues, pawns can, and do, take queens.


Since its advent in the 1960s, strategic planning has been proclaimed as the vehicle for enhancing organizational performance. According to Miller and Cardinal (1994), the two major purposes of strategic planning are to promote adaptive thinking (Ansoff, 1991; Armstrong, 1982; Grinyer, Al-Bazzaz & Yasai-Ardekani,1986) and to support managerial integration and control (Grinyer et al. 1986; Vancil & Lorange, 1975). Strategy is the vehicle for providing organizational direction in navigating the environment. In fact, strategy should produce a harmonious co-alignment between the firm and its operating environment (Venkatraman, 1989; Venkatraman & Prescott, 1990). Yet, many firms face the challenges of hypercompetitive conditions (D'Aveni, 1994), replete with rapid, sometimes discontinuous changes in technology, regulation, customer demands and intensified competition, often global in scope (Ireland & Hitt, 1999). These forces pose questions concerning how to devise effective strategies in such a dynamic, complex environment.

One of the best known researchers in the management literature, Henry Mintzberg (1994), has written a scathing denunciation of strategic planning. Mintzberg (1994) avows that planning has "failed everywhere and everywhen" it has been implemented, thereby implying in a rather alliterative fashion that wherever and whenever planning has been implemented, it has failed. Reactions to his criticisms have run the gamut from acclaim to denunciation, but his work has clearly stimulated a great deal of thought about the planning process and its outcomes. Is it valuable? Does it improve venture performance? Or, is it a waste of time? Worse? Mintzberg's (1994) position has support from some studies attempting to link strategic planning to performance, but other research suggests that planning does positively influence firm performance (Ketchen, Thomas & McDaniel, 1996; Boyd, 1991; Brews & Hunt, 1999; Miller & Cardinal, 1994) . Interestingly, much of the evidence Mintzberg (1994) cites in support of his declaration are incidents of the slavish adherence to a strategy when it was clearly no longer appropriate. In other words, strategic planning failed during the implementation phase, not during the time when a strategy was being crafted. The unmistakable conclusion is that far too often people just decide upon a strategy, then follow the plan, step by step, even when it becomes obvious that the situation has changed; even when it becomes obvious that the plan absolutely cannot work.

Over the last two decades, the environment in which businesses operate in the United States has come to be characterized as hypercompetitive (D'Aveni, 1994). Hypercompetitive conditions involve an extremely turbulent competitive environment; one in which the number and the relative strengths of competitors changes rapidly; one in which international competition appears and disappears without notice; one in which entrepreneurial ventures enter the market and change everything we once understood about competing. More current research clearly demonstrates that the planning-performance link is substantially influenced by firm context (Ireland & Hitt, 1999). In other words, strategic planning really cannot be shown to be linked to improved venture performance unless one takes into consideration the environment in which the firm competes (Hart & Banbury, 1994; Brews & Hunt, 1999). …

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