Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Researching the Dynamics of Miles and Snow's Strategic Typology

Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Researching the Dynamics of Miles and Snow's Strategic Typology

Article excerpt


In strategic management there are numerous studies focused on identifying and understanding the level of strategy, i.e. strategic orientation of companies in various industries (Moore, 2005). Strategy researchers focused on various ways in which a company adapts to its environment by studying the relations between organizational environment, strategic process, strategic content, organizational performances, and many other variables.

Although company strategies are very distinctive categories, the researchers sought to explain company business strategies by creating their typology, with the aim of grouping similar characteristics of organizational behavior of different companies under a common denominator. Different strategic typologies typically have a foothold in the theory of industrial organization and the resource theory, depending on the source of competitive advantage. There are numerous and different approaches, such as the studies on strategic groups by Murray et al. (2002), Caves and Porter (1977) and Harrigan (1985), those on generic competitive strategies by Porter (1980/1995, 1985/1998) and those on organizational configuration by Child (1972).

However, strategic typologies are conceptually (not empirically) derived classifications of companies, which are commonly based on researcher's experience in a limited number of industries. Numerous studies conducted in various industries aim to empirically test the validity and usefulness of different strategic typologies.


One of the key premises of literature that investigates the area of strategy1 is that the strategy should align business performance with the environment in which the entity operates. In other words, the most successful organizations also have the most efficient interaction with their environment. Thus, the strategy acts as a kind of an adaptive mechanism.

Miles and Snow's main research interest, presented in their book Organizational Strategy, Structure, and Process (1978), is why and to what extent organizations within the same industry differ in their strategies, structures and processes. It is elaborated on empirical findings derived from four industries2. The authors study the interdependence of various organizational attributes, such as structure, strategic planning, market penetration, management processes and power of distribution within different types of strategic behaviors and determine the differences in the methods and intensity of their application.

At the same time, organizational success rests on the quality of adaptation that management needs to achieve for some key variables, such as organizational domains of manufacturing markets, technologies servicing the specified domain and organizational structures and processes developed for the purpose of coordinating and controlling specific technologies, which is an extremely difficult task considering the fact that environment is constantly changing (Miles and Snow, 1978).

The authors believe that companies develop their adaptive strategies based on their own perception of the environment in which they compete. Given that different organizational types have a different perception of their environment, they also apply different strategies. These adaptive strategies allow individual organizations to be more adaptable or sensitive to their environment than others, and different organizational types present a range of adaptability to the environment. The authors point out that organizations develop relatively permanent patterns of strategic behavior in order to achieve compatibility of organizations and environment, and strategic types are determined by the level of adaptation to the competitive environment. The compatibility of the organization and environment is referred to as the process of adaptive choice (Child's strategic choice3), i.e. adaptive cycle (Miles and Snow, 1978).

There are three key strategic issues of adaptive cycles (Figure 1), which the authors refer to as problems of a complex and dynamic process of strategic choice. …

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