Critical Article Review: International Business Strategy


In his article entitled Crafting strategy, Henry Mintzberg analyses the significance and ways of formulating strategies that can achieve and sustain the profitability of a company. The author utilises two metaphors to present the process of creating strategies as planning and crafting (Mintzberg 1987, pg. 68). Mintzberg hypothesises that the crafting metaphor provides a perfect and more practical reflection of strategy creation than the planning approach does. He skillfully and competently argues that while the planning approach is traditional and common in most literature, it distorts the process thereby misguiding the originations that utilise such an approach. Crafting, on the other hand, provides a practical reflection of strategy creation since it encompasses such essential elements as dedication, traditional skill and perfection that arises from the mastery of details. The craft approach places managers in control of the strategy, which adopts the position of clay. Managers can thus manipulate the strategies to correspond with the developments and needs of the company.

Mintzberg begins by providing a practical comparison of both the planning and crafting approaches to strategy creation. The two are different despite recognising that strategy making is a core function of the management. Similarly, both methods recognise that strategy is key to the success of any business. The planning approach has four principal elements, which include reason, control, analysis and stability. The method views strategy creation as a linear process in which a manager reasons with the existing facts and probably their colleagues before they analyse the possibilities and achieving stability by implementing the recommendations. The approach views managers as superiors who rarely engage their subordinates. The managers create the strategies, which are always rigid and definite then pass them down to their subordinates for implementations (McGarvey & Hannon 2004, pg. 87). The resultant strategies are explicit, clear and full-blown passed down the line for execution.

The case is different in crafting which views strategy creation as an art. The elements of the art are learning, harmony and change. The approach acknowledges that change management is a sophisticated planning that requires meticulous and skilful management to ensure success (Alstete 2014, pg. 79). Business organisations exist in competitive environments where they must adapt to prevailing circumstances. Superior strategies enable a company to develop competitive advantages over their competitors. 

The crafting approach places learning at the centre of strategy formulation. Managers must carry out extensive market analyses to understand the prevailing conditions. Similarly, they must understand the past with the view to maintaining consistency in the operations and products of the company. The learning process requires extensive collaboration with both stakeholders and subordinates thereby creating the harmony necessary to facilitate change (Doverspike 1972, pg. 11).

Ehret (2013, pg. 319) explains that strategy refers to the goal-oriented actions that a company adopts to achieve and sustain superior performance in a market. Companies compete for different types of resources in their respective industries a feature that validates the need for superior strategies. In his article, Mintzberg argues that effective strategies are two-pronged. They cover both patterns from the past and plans the management have for the company’s future. Similarly, such strategies are never definite. Using the metaphor of a potter and clay, he argues that an idea can arise from anywhere. As such, managers must remain vigilant and strive to gain a better understanding of both their markets and the internal factors that influence the productivity of a company.

Mintzberg’s metaphor of a pottery provides an intelligent coverage of the process necessary for developing practical strategies that reflect the values of an organisation. The scholar rightly points out that strategy formulation is not a preserve of the top management. A potter enjoys an intimate connection with his or her work. Strategies should arise from equally intimate engagement between the manager and the company through subordinates among other stakeholders (Rheaume & Gardoni 2016, pg. 109). The author further argues that a potter may not always make a single piece. In some cases, a potter makes new creations from small lumps of clay that remain from a significant work. The same applies to managers when formulating strategies because strategies can arise at any time and from multiple areas (Ireland, Hoskisson & Hitt 2008, pg. 110). In most cases, errors provide chances for managers to formulate effective strategies that safeguard the interest if the company.

The article has numerous strengths key among which is the practical explanation of the significance and processes of strategy formulating. The author utilises a simple and equally functional metaphor that makes the article both interesting and interactive piece of literature. Pottery is a universal discipline that resonates with a significant size of the target audience. Furthermore, the author explains a specific aspect of the metaphor and relates it to its corresponding aspect in strategy formulation thus making the article easy to understand. Mintzberg employs declarative and straightforward sentences coupled with equally descriptive adjectives that enhance meaning in the article. The straightforward language and the in-depth analysis of issues portray the author’s understanding of the topical issue.

However, the article has several weaknesses as well. First, the article does not relate strategy formulation to any theory of management. Strategy formulation is a key role of the administration in any organisation a feature that demonstrates the significance of providing adequate theoretical backing to the author’s proposition. Some of the conventional theories of management include systems theory, chaos theory and contingency theory among others (Cole 2004, pg. 82). The author should have demonstrated the application of the strategy creation metaphor to any of the theory to validate his claim. Similarly, the article lacks external citation, which is a key concern since it shows that the author attempted to introduce new critical information arbitrarily. External citation demonstrates scholarly research, which is the natural way of creating new knowledge. Lack of foreign references denies the author an aspect of legitimacy to some of his claims.

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  1. Alstete, J.W., 2014. Strategy Choices of Potential Entrepreneurs. J. Educ. Bus., 89, 77–83.
  2. Cole, G. A. (2004). Management theory and practice. London: Thomson Learning.
  3. Cooper, D.J., 2001. Employee commitment : the motivational role of senior management : theory of action.
  4. Doverspike, J., 1972. The umbrella approach to group problem solving. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 7(1): 9-13. 
  5. Ehret, M., 2013. Emergence of business markets — A critical realist foundation. Ind. Mark. Manag. 42, 316–323. 
  6. Mintzberg, H., 1987. Crafting strategy. Harvard Business review, July-August.  
  7. Ireland, R. D., Hoskisson, R. E., & Hitt, M. A., 2008. Understanding business strategy: Concepts and cases. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
  8. Ireland, R. D., Hoskisson, R. E., & Hitt, M. A., 2012. Understanding business strategy: Concepts plus. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
  9. Karangutkar, S.R., 2011. Crafting Creative Business Strategies- the Changing Nature of HRM. Asian J. Res. Bus. Econ. Manag. 320.
  10. Kozami, A., 2005. Business policy and strategic management. New-Delhi: McGraw-Hill Published.
  11. Manso, G., 2017. Creating Incentives for Innovation. Calif. Manage. Rev. 60, 18–32.
  12. McGarvey, B., & Hannon, B. M., 2004. Dynamic modeling for business management: An introduction. New York: Springer.
  13. Rheaume, L., Gardoni, M., 2016. Strategy-making for innovation management and the development of corporate universities. Int. J. Interact. Des. Manuf. IJIDeM, 73.
  14. White, P., 1926. Business management: An introduction to business. New York: H. Holt and Company.
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