Strategy research: governance and competence perspectives


  • Oliver E. Williamson

    Corresponding author
    1. Walter A. Haas, School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, California, U.S.A.
    • Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1900, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author


Business strategy is a complex subject and is usefully examined from several perspectives. This paper applies the lenses of governance and competence to the study of strategy.

Both the governance and the competence perspectives have had the benefit of distinguished antecedents. They have also had to deal with tautological reputations. I begin with the governance perspective, with emphasis on the six key moves through which it has been operationalized. I then examine the competence perspective in these same six respects.

Governance challenges the competence perspective to apply itself more assiduously to operationalization, including the need to choose and give definition to one or more units of analysis (of which the ‘routine’ is a promising candidate). The research challenges posed by competence to which governance can and should respond include dynamic transaction costs, learning, and the need to push beyond generic governance to address strategy issues faced by particular firms (with their distinctive strengths and disabilities). A lively research future for these two perspectives, individually and in combination, is projected. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.