Strategy (economy)

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In business, strategy is classically understood as the (mostly long-term) planned behavior of companies to achieve their goals . In this sense, the corporate strategy in corporate management shows how a medium-term (approx. 2-4 years) or long-term (approx. 4-8 years) corporate goal is to be achieved. This classic definition of strategy is criticized today primarily because of its assumption that it can be planned. It has therefore experienced some extensions, such as: For example, by Henry Mintzberg . However, there is no homogeneous conception of strategy in the scientific literature.

In connection with the corporate strategy, there is often talk of the upstream concepts of the vision and the corporate mission statement , as well as strategic management . Sub- strategies ( marketing strategy , financing strategy , etc.) and the tactical (medium-term) as well as the operational (short-term) level are viewed as subordinate .

Origin of the strategy


The word "strategy" comes from the Greek strategos "army leader". "Strategy" was originally understood to mean the art of commanding an army.

Military strategy concept and economic strategy

In the 19th century, the term “strategy” was further developed and redesigned by Carl von Clausewitz . From the perspective of Clausewitz, strategy was seen as [the use of combat for the purpose of war]. The political quality of warfare was first highlighted and military strategy was seen as part of politics. Both the army and a company are confronted with a challenge that involves the targeted use of scarce resources in order to maximize their own competitive advantage and to react offensively or defensively to all competition. In addition, the economy was compared to the military as well as commercial business to the war by Clausewitz. This is where the first parallels to the stronger value orientation in corporate strategy that can be seen today were found. And a central feature of the current concept of strategy has emerged: the consideration of the commitment of resources and the development of long-term competitive advantage.

Strategy in game theory and economic strategy concept

Another concept of strategy, which came from the mathematical game theory of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern in 1947, is also closely related to military and economic strategies . Game theory depicts the occurrence and treatment of a conflict situation and focuses on decision-making states in which the choice of one's own strategy is also influenced by assumptions about the decisions of other players. Similar to game theory, the consideration of the actions of other market participants is significant and necessary for the management of a company to decide what to do. Therefore another central feature of the current concept of strategy emphasizes: consideration of the actions of all actors in the market.

Evolution of the concept of strategy

Harvard concept of strategy development

The term strategy was introduced in the Business Policy course at Harvard Business School (HBS) in the 1950s . Since 1911, the business policy concept has been included as a course at the HBS for senior management training. In the Harvard concept , corporate strategy is understood to mean setting the company's long-term goals, as well as their policies and actions to achieve these goals. Strategies for individual business areas are also taken into account within the corporate strategy. According to this concept, the corporate strategy is divided into strategy formulation and strategy implementation. The individual steps of the Harvard concept are shown below.

  1. Determination of the "strategic profile"
  2. Analysis of relevant environmental sections
  3. Strategic forecasts
  4. Analysis of the company's strengths and weaknesses
  5. Resource analysis
  6. Development of strategic alternative courses of action
  7. Consistency test
  8. Strategic choice

Five-phase model

The Harvard concept was mainly taken up in the German-speaking area by Bruno Bircher and Hans H. Hinterhuber . A five-phase model was developed by Hinterhuber based on the Harvard concept. Compared to the classic concept, a new approach to portfolio management is integrated into the corporate strategy. Five concrete phases include:

  1. Phase: Analysis of the current situation and the prospect
  2. Phase: strategy formulation
  3. Phase: Creation of strategic planning and policy
  4. Phase: restructuring of the organization according to the strategies
  5. Phase: implementation of the strategies

Resource-based strategy approach

Internal resources of a company hardly play a role in the Harvard concept. With the increasing emphasis on internal corporate resources, the resource-based strategy approach was adopted in the early 1990s. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Jay Barney were important representatives of this development . The resource-based strategy approach focuses on aligning strategy development with internal resources. According to this concept, the corporate strategy is developed in view of the needs arising in the market and in combination with the resources within a company. This ensures a long-term competitive advantage for the company. In addition, the integration of internal resources and the organizational skills to use these resources can be seen as core competencies .

Porter's strategy

Michael E. Porter already slightly moves away from the concept of predictability. For him, long-term planning is not relevant, but the ability to develop a competitive advantage based on a long-term perspective that is based on clear differentiating features.

Strategy according to Drucker

Drucker generalizes the strategy to “doing the right thing”. According to Drucker, a company should do the right thing. Therefore, the strategy of creating the future means not reacting to the future. The central task of the company is to find out how it can satisfy its customers with its problem solutions and services. In order to achieve this goal, the company should use its resources efficiently.

Strategy according to Mintzberg: 5 Ps of Strategy

In addition to the rational planning of strategies, Henry Mintzberg explicitly sets the possibility of emergent strategies that have not been written down anywhere, but have developed out of the company. In his opinion, a strategy has five meanings that all play a role in the context of strategic management: Mintzberg suggested "5 P's of Strategy". This concept is considered a common concept today. The "5 p" are plan, position (positioning), pattern (pattern), ploy (list) and perspective (mindset). As a “plan”, the strategy describes the goals of a company and the way to achieve them. The position describes how a company can position itself in the market against all competitors. A competitive position can be achieved both through the effort of the company and accidentally through the mistakes of competitors. Under pattern, the strategy is understood as a consistent pattern that results from a large number of individual decisions made in the past, Ploy describes a "stratagem" of spontaneous, tactical measures with which a company can outsmart its competitors. Perspective describes the mindset of management. The mindset cannot be written or communicated in writing, but the mindset or perspective significantly influences the strategic behavior of the company.

Kirsch's strategy

Werner Kirsch differentiates in a similar way between formulated (i.e. written down) and formed (i.e. self-created) strategies. For him, every strategy is by definition a formed strategy with a strongly evolutionary character. Formulations are only part of it, which tries to intervene in a rational manner. A similar attitude can already be found with Harry Igor Ansoff when he speaks of “planned learning”. For Kirsch, strategic is something that significantly affects the company's capabilities.

Strategy according to Hinterhuber

Hans H. Hinterhuber refers to Moltke's definition , according to which strategy is “the further development of the originally guiding thought in accordance with the constantly changing circumstances”. The guiding principle of a company is to gain and maintain a strong market position with the help of clearly defined, perceptible and lasting competitive advantages . A strategy thus implies that a certain desired target position can be reached through a series of coherent decisions that are made at the right time.

Of strategies, planned and emergent

Henry Mintzberg repeatedly defines strategy as

"A pattern in a stream of decisions"

"A pattern in a stream of decisions"

- Henry Mintzberg

Classic strategy

That is, Mintzberg sets two conditions for the classic strategy : First, there must be a plan (intended strategy), which, second, is fully implemented (realized strategy). So no part of the strategy remains unrealized, no additional activities are necessary.

Business strategy

As soon as part of the conditions - the exact plan - is relaxed, the classic definition is already at the end and doesn't help. Mintzberg starts from a well-understood vision (i.e. not a detailed plan, but a good idea of ​​where it is going) and calls the resulting decision-making pattern the entrepreneurial strategy , as it is typical in small, young companies led by a central figure.

In this case, if the environment changes, e.g. If, for example, the desired goal becomes unattainable or an exceptionally good opportunity presents itself, then it may well happen that the original goal is dropped and a new goal is pursued. It is this flexibility that characterizes the entrepreneurial strategy: It is not explicit and therefore easy to change. An explicit strategy binds an organization psychologically to the specifications, even if they represent a disadvantage. Mintzberg proves this on the basis of a work by CH Kiesler (1971).

The entrepreneurial strategy , according to Mintzberg, can be described as a planned strategy, since the pattern of decisions is intentionally oriented towards a specific goal.

Ideological strategy

When many people within an organization share a vision and identify with it, e.g. As if a strong leadership figure has left the organization, then you can from an ideological strategy talk. Here the decision is synchronized through the same thought patterns, so that the ideological strategy can also be called an intentional strategy. Because a group's will is more difficult to change than the will of an individual, it may even be more difficult to achieve a change in the strategic decision-making pattern in ideological strategy than in other forms of strategy.

Umbrella strategy

Now Mintzberg relaxes the condition of unconditional control (bureaucratic, personal or ideological) - i.e. H. the central decision-makers can no longer immediately force strategic decisions. Leaders in such organizations often design a kind of (rain) umbrella of guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. within which the actors of the organization can move. Mintzberg calls this form of strategy umbrella strategy . Decisions will therefore no longer follow exactly the same direction, but will “move within a given framework”.

Mintzberg describes umbrella strategies as a very common form of strategic control and justifies this with the uncontrollable environment that can influence almost any strategic plan. The necessary adjustments to changed conditions usually have to be carried out by many people at the same time. Because of its complexity, this is an uncontrollable task that can only be tackled by establishing precautionary guidelines on how to deal with problems.

Mintzberg describes the possibilities an organization has if one of the actors moves outside the framework of the guidelines. In this case, Mintzberg believes the organization has the option to a) quit, b) ignore (possibly with the intention of observing the outcome), and c) adjust the strategy so that the action is covered. He uses the umbrella metaphor : when an arm gets wet, you can pull the arm back, let it get even wetter, or move the umbrella so that the arm is under the umbrella again.

Process strategy

Similar to the umbrella strategy is what Mintzberg calls process strategy. Again it is about organizations in which the actors must have considerable freedom of choice. Instead of creating complicated sets of rules about the content of strategy , the central decision-makers choose a different route. They influence the process of strategy development and leave the content of the strategies to others. This happens z. B. in that the people who decide the content of the strategy are selected by the central decision-makers. We often find this type of strategy in divisionalized organizations, where a central headquarters appoints the division managers, who then independently (for the reasons mentioned above) develop mostly planned strategies. Note: Planning tools like the portfolio analysis introduced by BCG bring these strategies back into the realm of umbrella strategies.

Disconnected strategy

The unconnected strategy is perhaps the most straightforward of all. There is so much room for maneuver in one part of a large organization that that part of the organization can simply pursue its own strategy. Something like this happens in the highly complex environment of expert organizations (e.g. some management consultancies), where an expert can take a completely new direction by virtue of his powers.

Consensus strategy

In this strategy - Mintzberg they called consensus strategy (consensus strategy) - converge the activities of many different actors on a subject or pattern, it that the whole organization penetrates and has no need for centralized control or directionality. In contrast to ideological strategies, in which the consensus stems from shared, widespread convictions, the consensus strategy grows through mutual adaptation of the actors to one another. This creates a common, presumably unpredictable pattern. ( Not only cynics will recognize Wikipedia here ).

In other words: the convergence will not arise through the will of a central administration or the common will of the actors, but through the coincidental development of the activities. Individual actors will promote a consensus or even negotiate on it. The key point is that the strategy arises from activities , not intent .

Imposed strategy

As the last form of strategy, Mintzberg names the imposed strategy . It arises when we completely give up control of the environment and the environment forces the organization to act. It is easy to imagine that a single person or other organization has such a great influence on an organization that it behaves in a certain way (e.g. routing sewage through a sewage treatment plant, following a quota for women or reducing working hours).

Mintzberg's conclusions

In conclusion, Mintzberg explains that there is no such thing as a purely externally controlled strategy, any more than there are purely planned strategies. Strategies are on a sliding continuum between purely planned and completely emergent strategies. This realization is considerably more differentiated than the previous dichotomy , which separated two untenable and incompatible points of view. Only if there is an emergent part of strategy, Mintzberg argues, can there be strategic learning , since in the "classic" strategy the plan is only implemented and changes are not possible.

Mintzberg demands that the process of strategy development must be brought more into the center of attention in order to complement the extensive results on the content of strategy .

He concludes his remarks with the following observation:

"Our conclusion is that strategy formation walks on two feet, one deliberate, the other emergent."

"Our conclusion is that strategy goes hand in hand with two legs - one deliberate and the other emergent."

- Henry Mintzberg, James A. Waters

The relative weight may shift from one side to the other from time to time, but not the need to examine both sides of the phenomenon.


In microeconomics it is assumed that the strategy for companies is to achieve and maintain a position in which a producer surplus is generated.

Investment strategies

An investment strategy or investment strategy is the strategy of holding, buying and selling financial products such as shares , bonds , options or certificates .

Based on the investment horizon, i.e. the planned investment period, a distinction is usually made between the following three types of investment: speculative, medium-term and conservative investment types.

For example, a low-risk investment strategy that makes use of diversification could include the following three elements:

  • Spread risks across different types of investment.
  • Spread risks across different types of investment (high-income and insecure as well as lower-income and safer types of investment).
  • Spread risks across different economic sectors and nations.

Political economic strategies

Political-economic strategies are created by states for planning and setting goals in relation to their economic performance. Examples of this are the five-year plan or the Lisbon strategy of the European Union.

Corporate strategy

Corporate strategy is the basic and long-term plan of a company in which the company's vision and goals are defined. The corporate strategy identifies the means and ways to achieve the goal. When developing a company's strategy, an analysis of internal and external factors is normally carried out.

Features of corporate strategy

The first characteristic of corporate strategies is that the subject or reference object of the corporate strategy is the entire company compared to other strategies. Therefore, the field of activity is throughout the company, not just a functional area. In addition, the strategies are geared towards the future. In which the future goals and the ways to achieve these goals are determined. In this sense, corporate strategies reflect the values ​​of a company and are of great importance for the company's assets and earnings. Three characteristics should also be taken into account during the strategy development: connection with internal resources, analysis of the environment (opportunities and risks of a company) and competitors. In addition, the corporate strategies can be understood as a process. This includes the decision of the strategic vision, formulation of action plans, implementation and control.

Typical content of the corporate strategy

To develop a corporate strategy, the corporate image and vision can be used as an introduction to the corporate strategy. In addition, four key areas are particularly important to consider. The four core areas are core competencies, strategic thrust, business areas and competitive advantages as well as the design of the value chain and can be summarized in the "strategy quadrants". The strategy quadrants are shown in the graphic below.

1. Vision, mission and long-term corporate goals as the introduction of the corporate strategy.

The corporate strategy is based on a vision, mission and long-term corporate goals.

The vision describes a long-term idea of ​​the state that the company wants to achieve and indicates a normative guideline for the development of a company. All employees within the company should orient themselves towards the vision. The vision is of crucial importance and comprises three functions: identity function, identification function and mobilization function.

The vision is set out in writing in the mission. The mission ensures the visibility of the goals and norms based on the vision and helps to realize the vision. The mission is more concrete than the vision and it contains three sub-aspects for the direction of a company: area of ​​activity, competence and values ​​of the company. Mission offers a qualitative starting point and orientation point for the formulation of corporate strategies. The mission can be used to set the priority of the corporate strategy and to resolve conflicts between strategy orientations.

Long-term corporate goals are derived from the mission. The long-term goals of a company are more operationalizable than the mission. In which the assessment criteria for the performance are defined. In this sense, mission is the benchmark for corporate strategy.

2. Core competency

Core competence describes the essential ability of the company to achieve success. The core competence is understood to mean the internal strength of a company. The core competence can result from the analysis of internal and external companies. The company builds up its long-term core competence through the efficient use of the available resources.

According to Barney (1991), resources are of strategic importance if they meet the following criteria: The resources should be scarce both for your own company and for your competitors. In addition, it should not be possible to imitate the resources. This means that the strategy cannot be imitated by the competitor. In addition, the resources should be valuable or the resources can enable a company to seize opportunities or avoid risks.

The core competence differs from the potential strength in the following aspects: enthusiasm, ability to develop, exclusivity, flexibility and profitability. First of all, the core competence enables both external and internal customers to be enthusiastic about the services. Also, a company can apply the core competencies that are difficult to imitate to different markets to ensure long-term financial success. Therefore, the core competence requires a sustainable corporate development.

3. Business areas and competitive advantages

3.1. Business areas

Business fields describe the fields of activity in which a company is engaged. The characteristics of the business fields are normally the market attractiveness (e.g. the relative market growth ) and the competitive advantages (e.g. the relative market share). The target groups or buyers of the company are also defined here. The products and services of a company are derived from the needs of the target group. In this sense, the services are also the solution to customer problems. For this purpose, the production processes should also be taken into account when creating the products.

3.2. Environmental conditions in the individual business areas

The environmental conditions describe the environment of the business areas. In order to analyze the surrounding conditions, the following aspects should not be neglected: branch situation of the business fields, competitors and customers. In order to develop a strategy successfully, the company should get to know the situation of the industry situation of the business fields. For example, how will the market grow in the future? Then the company should discover the needs of the customers so that a company can offer the right products for its target group. It is also necessary to analyze the competitive structure and forces. This enables a company to position its products correctly.

3.3. competitive advantages

Competitive advantages are the prerequisites for successfully implementing the strategies and for surviving the company in the long term. Given the opportunities and risks, the competitive advantages of a company in connection with its resources can be derived. The competitive advantage enables a company to attract more customers and offer the greatest benefit to its customers. Hence, a company realizes to create large market share. In addition, it is important to differentiate your own competitive advantages with your competitors.

4. Design of the value chain

Value chain represents a process in which the value chain is added step by step to the end product. In the corporate context, the value chain is understood as a business process from raw materials to the end product.

A company usually has limited resources and capital. In order to develop a successful corporate strategy and to maximize profits, the company should concentrate its resources and capital on the right value chains. Based on the successful design of the value chain, the company can build up its core competence and its competitive advantages. In addition, the synergy effects of all value chains must be taken into account when introducing forward or backward integration, for example outsourcing to external companies. Integration costs and the long-term desired profit therefore play an important role.

5. Strategic thrust (main strategic goals with regard to value drivers)

The strategic thrust is understood to be the factors that can influence the company's value. In the corporate strategy, the main goals, value drivers and strategic thrusts for increasing the corporate value are defined. There are a total of three thrusts as the main variants of strategies: the growth strategy, the profitability-oriented strategies (production or cost-oriented strategies) and the risk-oriented strategies. While the growth strategies can be implemented in the long term, the profitability-oriented strategies can be implemented in the short term. A typical growth strategy could be, for example, opening up new regions or diversification, etc. And a typical profitability-oriented strategy can reduce manufacturing costs, administration costs or development costs, etc. The company can derive the sub-goals from the strategic thrusts and implement appropriate measures. A corporate strategy can thus be implemented.

Differentiation of corporate strategy, portfolio strategy and business strategy

Corporate strategy describes the strategies at the level of the entire company. The future development for the entire company is determined in the corporate strategy.

The portfolio strategy is understood to be the strategy of how a company should distribute its capital across the strategic business units. The aim of the portfolio strategy is to maximize the company's value. Typical questions of the portfolio strategy are which strategic business units should be promoted or deleted, or which portfolios bring the greatest value for the company. Furthermore, the synergy effects between the different SBUs are considered.

After defining suitable strategies, the company looks at the strategy of each individual business unit. For this purpose, the respective specific strategies such as core competence or competitive advantages are developed. These then have no relation to other strategic business units.

Concrete strategies

Strategic management

Strategic management is a process and it focuses on the formulation and implementation of corporate strategies. The strategic management is divided into two levels, the company level and the business level. Many concrete strategies or concepts are developed in the field of strategic management. In the 1960s and 1970s, strategies for growth, diversification and vertical integration were emphasized. Relevant concepts have emerged as the product life cycle , the experience curve, the strategic business unit and the portfolio matrix. The Boston Consulting Group had a major influence on such strategies. In the 1980s, strategic management geared towards competitors and Michael Porter played an important role with his five forces model (1979), his category strategy (1985) and his value chain (1985). Further strategies are, for example, needs assessment strategy, differentiation strategy, innovation strategy, etc.

Strategic planning and control

Strategic planning is not a one-off act in a company, but a multi-stage process that has to be performed again and again. The general action orientation should ideally flow from the basic corporate goals and the strategic program. The strategic program defines in which markets with which products a company should be active and how the competition should be contested.

So while the strategic planning aims to define the basic framework for central company decisions, the operational planning is geared towards gaining a concrete orientation for day-to-day actions, taking into account the strategic goals. The operational plan creates an orientation framework for daily, weekly and monthly activities. An operational plan specifies e.g. B. the machine occupancy of the coming week, determines the maintenance times for the system, links the material flow with the production program, etc.

Strategic planning can be of a short-term nature without being in the least an operational plan. Think of the acquisition of a stake in a company that was offered as a surprise, or of the dramatic turnaround of resources in order to cope with a crisis that has arisen. It therefore makes more sense to differentiate planning according to the matter, i.e. between the strategic and the operational level, and separately according to the time horizon.

In many companies - following the idea of hierarchy - the strategic planning focus is on the upper management levels, while the operational planning focus is on the lower hierarchy levels. However, other constellations are also conceivable. Often, strategic reorientations are based on suggestions from the base, and it is not uncommon for operational planning to be so important for business success that no board of directors would give up its direct involvement in it.

Because planning is a very selective control technology, it must be supplemented with measures that can at least partially compensate for the selection risk. This compensation task is classically taken over by the management function of control (although this task could also be carried out by other management functions). The strategic control has the task of reducing the risks of strategic planning as much as possible by continuously checking the strategy and its implementation for validity and feasibility. The aim of this review is to optimize the relevant aspects accordingly. It is therefore advisable to deal with planning and control together.

See also


  • Alexander Broich: The genesis of corporate strategies to reorient the theoretical discussion. Kirch, Munich 1994.
  • Alexander Huber: Strategic planning in German companies. Empirical study of over 100 companies. Berlin 2006.
  • KR Andrews: The Concept of Corporate Strategy . 3. Edition. Homewood, 1987.
  • HH Hinterhuber: Strategic corporate management . 3. Edition. Berlin / New York 1984.
  • H. Hungenberg: Strategic management in companies, goals - processes - procedures . 8th edition. Gabler, 2014.
  • ME Porter: Competitive advantages: Achieve and maintain top performance . 4th edition. Frankfurt a. M. 1996.
  • Henry Mintzberg et al. a .: Strategy Safari. A journey through the wilderness of strategic management. 3. Edition. Redline Economy at Ueberreuter, Frankfurt am Main / Vienna 2002.

Web links

Individual evidence

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  2. ^ WH Staehle: Management . 8th edition. Vahlen, Munich 1999, p. 601 f .
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  4. ^ KR Andrews: The concept of corporate strategy . 3. Edition. 1987, p. 13, 21 .
  5. ^ CR Christensen, KR Andrews, JL Bower, RG Hamermesh, ME Porter: Business Policy: Text and Cases . 6th edition. 1987, p. 125 ff .
  6. ^ Hans H. Hinterhuber,: Strategic corporate management . 3. Edition. Berlin / New York 1984, p. 34 ff .
  7. ^ WH Staehle: Management . 8th edition. Vahlen, Munich 1999, p. 606 f .
  8. R. Dillerup, R. Stoi: corporate management . 4th edition. Munich 2013, p. 168 f .
  9. ^ Henry Mintzberg: The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning . The Free Press, New York 1994
  10. H. Mintzberg, B. Ahlstrand, J. Lampel: Strategy Safari, a guided tour through the wilds of strategic management . New York 1998, pp. 9 ff .
  11. ^ Hans H. Hinterhuber: Competitive Strategy . 2nd Edition. DeGruyter, Berlin / New York 1990, ISBN 3-11-009943-8 , p. 50 f.
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    Henry Mintzberg: Mintzberg on Management: Inside Our Strange World of Organizations . Free Press, New York 1988
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    Henry Mintzberg, Richard T. Pascale, M. Goold, Richard P. Rumelt : The Honda Effect Revisited . In: California Management Review , 38, Summer 1996, pp. 78-117
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  25. ^ W. Gleißner: Future Value, 12 modules for strategic value-oriented corporate management . Wiesbaden 2004, p. 136 f .
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