The design school: Reconsidering the basic premises of strategic management

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Abstract

Among the schools of thought on strategy formation, one in particular underlies almost all prescription in the field. Referred to as the ‘design school’, it proposes a simple model that views the process as one of design to achieve an essential fit between external threat and opportunity and internal distinctive competence. A number of premises underlie this model: that the process should be one of consciously controlled thought, specifically by the chief executive; that the model must be kept simple and informal; that the strategies produced should be unique, explicit, and simple; and that these strategies should appear fully formulated before they are implemented. This paper discusses and then critiques this model, focusing in particular on the problems of the conscious assessment of strengths and weaknesses, of the need to make strategies explicit, and of the separation between formulation and implementation. In so doing, it calls into question some of the most deep-seated beliefs in the field of strategic management, including its favorite method of pedagogy.

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