The continuing relevance of strategy
Huff, Anne Sigismund (2001) The continuing relevance of strategy. Human Relations, 54 (1). pp. 123-130. ISSN 0018-7267
My father-in-law understood what accounting was, or at least he was satisfied with his definition. He was much less sure about 'strategy', and I was not much help. It has never been easy for me to explain my field to others, although an example will sometimes suffice. 'Strategic decisions have longterm impact,' I said to my father-in-law a number of years ago. 'Your decision not to open a branch store in Aspen was strategic.' This kind of definition can lead to further conversation, or stop it. 'I didn't realize it was so important at the time,' he might have said, giving me an entrée to Mintzberg's (1978) arguments about realized strategy. Instead he dismissed my example by contending, 'I couldn't give it much thought, because I didn't have anyone who could handle it.' Unfortunately, I had not read Edith Penrose (1959) at the time. I recently have had an increasing number of such unsatisfying conversations. Though I have much better stories to tell, I still worry that collectively we are falling short. Strategy is too often dismissed in this globalizing world of shifting alliances and instantaneous electronic connections as timeconsuming and irrelevant. I think one problem is definitional. In the last several decades, organization behavior, organization theory, human relations and other areas of management inquiry have grown and developed, yet they do not seem to have had the difficulties defining their subject that we have had. The conversations we start, among ourselves and with others, are rarely brought to conclusion; they tend to falter in the face of new enthusiasms. The millennium is a good point to examine some of these starting points, and contemplate how we might further a fascinating, but elusive, area of inquiry.
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