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The conceptual background to strategy, marketing and planning

Stephen Cashman, February 2003
This online background paper provides a review of some of the definitions, theories and concepts underpinning strategy. As such it is intended to introduce the key concepts involved, or to form an overall reminder of the various issues relating to these areas.

1. What is strategy about and why is it so important?

‘Every company needs a strategy – either explicit or implicit.’ Costas Markides (1995) ‘An effective strategic management process has become the essential norm for businesses.’ Richard Hanscombe and Philip Norman (1993) ‘Effective strategic management is the ultimate aim of all managers.’ Financial Times, 1997 ‘The survival, growth and prosperity of any organisation depends on the quality and viability of the strategy the organisation is pursuing.’ Andrew Kakabadse, Ron Ludlow and Susan Vinicombe (1988) Indeed, such is the importance attached to the subject of strategy that one commentator on the subject, Richard Whittington (1993), reports that ‘there are thirty-seven books in print with the title Strategic Management’. Similarly a leading strategy thinker, Henry Mintzberg, and his colleagues (1998) note that ‘The literature of strategic management is vast – the number of items we reviewed over the years numbers close to 2,000 – and it grows larger every day.’ However, despite the importance given to them, thinking, writing and talking about ‘strategy’-related topics are subject to two main challenges, as is acknowledged by the warning issued by a leading thinker on marketing strategy, Paul Fifield.

‘The word “strategy” has become one of the most common and badly used words in business writing.’ Paul Fifield (1992) The twin challenges faced here in using the term ‘strategy’ are as follows: • First, unless the user is wary of how…...

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