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Strategy Safari is a book that explores the field of strategy and together with its unique

and complex components by Henry Mintzberg and his colleagues Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph

Lampel. It uses the analogy of the famous story of blind men trying to describe an elephant.

The blind men description of the elephant portrays the different approach people use in


Business concerns cannot be predicted with simple strategy since the business industry is

become more complex and volatile. Wider strategic view is best achieved when members

works jointly in solving their problems.

In the world of marketing it can be compared to a big Jungle in which the toughest live. In order

to thrive different form of strategies and careful planning must be done. The describes

different form of strategic planning’s as well as its strong points and points of improvement.

The book itself was an international bestseller a proof that in terms of strategic planning the

book Strategy Safari is a very useful tool.

In a world in which different forms of business is thriving along with a number of different

competitors. Strategic planning a must to be able to establish a name in the world business and


The book is a very efficient tool to navigate your way safely through the world of marketing. In

which everything is very volatile and rapidly changing.

In the aforementioned book it discusses the blind men giving different description of the

elephant. It greatly reflects the complexity of strategic planning in which each and everyone

has a different point of view.

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Strategy safari explores the field of strategy and its unique and complex component. The core

component of the book is the “ Ten schools of thought” these components help as describe the

strategic beast. The Ten Schools of thought are as follows: Design School, Planning School,

Positioning School, Entrepreneurial school, Cognitive school, Learning School, Power school,

Cultural school, Environmental school,and the Configuration school.

The ten schools fall into three groupings. The first three school are prescriptive in nature

concerns mainly on the formation of strategy. The six schools that follows considers specific

aspects of the process of strategy formation, and have been considered less with prescribing

ideal strategic behavior than describing how strategies do. Some prominent writers associated

strategy with entrepreneurs and have describe the process in terms of creation of vision by

great leader.Each of the four schools that follows has tried to open up the process of strategy

formation beyond the individual, to other forces and other actors.

These schools appeared at different stages in the development of strategic management. A few

had already peaked and declined , others are now developing , and some remain as thin but

nonetheless significant trickles of publication and practice.

The five P’s of strategy

These are really five different ways of thinking about the essential characteristics of strategic


a. Strategy is a plan – a direction, a guide or course of action in the future. Organizations

develop plans for their future and they evolve patterns out of their past.
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b. Strategy is a pattern – consistency in behavior over time. A company that perpetually

markets the most expensive products in its industry pursues what is commonly called

high-end strategy. (p9)

c. Strategy as position – namely locating particular products in particular market

d. Strategy as Perspective – the grand vision of the enterprise

e. Strategy is a ploy – a specific maneuver intended to outwit an opponent or competitor.

Strategy advantage and its disadvantages

- for every advantage associated with strategy , there is an associated drawback of

disadvantage. In a simpler way to describe it strategy is considered as a double edge sword.

a. Strategy sets direction

- strategic directions can serve as blinders to hide potential dangers. Even though

direction is very important moving slowly a little bit at a time so that adjustments

can done at a moment’s notice.

b. Strategy focuses effort

- although strategy promotes coordination of activity, groupthink arises when

effort is too carefully focused. There might be an absent of peripheral vision , to open

other possibilities. A given strategy may become deeply rooted to the organization that

can be a hindrance in implementing change or adjustments.

c. Strategy defines the organization

– If accompany is defined to simply sometimes stereotyping arises in all the rich

complexity of the system is lost.

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d. Strategy provides consistency

– strategy is needed to reduce ambiguity and provide order. However strategy can

have a misrepresenting or distorting effect.

The aforementioned 5 P’S of strategy allows organization to discover essential features that

could aid the organization how to perform in order to achieve their set goals.

The Strategy beast : Areas of agreement ( Chaffe 1985;89-90)

I. Strategy concerns both organization and environment. – the organization uses strategy

to deal with changing environments.

II. The substance of strategy is complex – the substance of strategy remains unstructured,

unprogrammed nonroutine and non repetitive.

III. Strategy affects overall welfare and organization – strategic decisions are important

enough to affect the overall welfare of the organization.

IV. Strategy involves issues of both content and process – includes both action taken and

the process by which actions are decided and implemented.

V. Strategies are not purely deliberate – intended emergent and realized strategies may

differ from one another

VI. Strategies exist on different levels

VII. Strategy involves various thought processes – strategy involves conceptual as well as

analytical exercises.
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The book has presented 10 school of thoughts that would serve as our guiding tool in aiding for

better understanding of the strategic “beast” as a whole. All these schools represent the

evolution of field of strategy.

The Ten school of thought

1. The design School

– represents the most influential view of the strategy formation process. The

school explains relationship between formulation and formulation.The organization

needs to formulate innovative approaches in order to resolve business problems. Uses

the most fundamental steps in assessment process which is the assessment of strength

and weaknesses or SWOT analysis. The company knows its strong points and areas of

improvement through conscious thought expressed verbally on a paper. Upon defining

the company’s strength and weaknesses and having shared different opinion the

company can then formulate an organizational structure with clear sets of directions

that can aid in strengthening the company’s areas of weakness.

2. The planning School

- its proponents developed extensive procedures for explicating and ,

wherever ; possible , quantifying the goals of organization. (Mintzberg,Lampel and

Ahlstrand (1998,p.55) Strategies made from this school is a result of from a controlled
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,conscious process, of formal planning , decomposed into distinct steps, each dileanated by

checklist and supported by techniques. In this school hierarchy of positions are well sorted

with different responsibilities and functions. Responsibility for the overall process rest with

the chief executive in principle; responsibility for its execution rest with staff planners in

practice. ((Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998,p.64)

3. The Positioning School

– accepted moat of its premises that underlay the planning and design schools

as well as their fundamental model it added content by two ways it did so by

emphasizing the importance of strategies themselves . and it added substance by

focusing on the content of strategies. (Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998,p.87) The

positioning school argued that only a few key strategies such as positions in economic

marketplace are desirable in any given industry. In conclusion with the school’s

emphasis to analysis and calculation the positioning school has reduced its role from the

formulation of strategy to the conducting of analyses in support of that process.

(Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998,p.126) The school neglects social elements

such as politics, power, and culture because its management is analytical science.

4. The Entrepreneurial School

– The first three schools took formal leadership seriously , rooting strategy

formation in the mental process of the chief executive. The entrepreneurial school has

done exactly the opposite thing. Not only has this school focused the strategy

formation on single leader , but it has also stressed the most innate of mental states
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and processes – intuition , judgment, wisdom , experience and insights. The most

central concept of this school is vision. That vision serves as both an inspiration and a

sense of what’s need to be done-a guiding idea.

5. The Cognitive School

- This school is at best in evolving school of thought into strategy formation . These

focuses on the needs and wants of customers. Strategies thus emerge as perspectives -

in the form of concepts, maps,schemes, and frames that shape how people deal with

inputs from the environment ( (Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998,p.55). It is the

first of the schools that discussed to recognize that there is an interesting environment

out there; that strategist don’t just pluck strategies from some tree of environmental

opportunity . (Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998,p.173) This school draws

attention to particular stages in the strategy formation process. Above all it tells us that

we had better understand the human brain if we are to understand strategy formation.

The school focuses on the customers forming different strategies to attract them as

well as being able to compete in the jungle like world of economy. The school

demonstrates that individuals have different cognitive approach in line with their own

persepective and understanding.

6. The Learning School

- According to this school strategies emerge as people , sometimes acting

individually but more often. (Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998) The overall

concept of the school is that strategy and different form of approach can be made and
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improved through learning. Learning comes from different forms wether the

organization learn thru it’s environment or learn thru it’s mistakes and success. The

learning organization is the antithesis of the old bureaucratic organization; it is

decentralized, encourages open commuinication and individuals to work in teams.

(Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998)

Learning school argues that the process of formulation cannot be separated from

implementation . the actions taken from the past will serve as a pattern for the

formulation of plans .

7. The power school

– The school’s idea is established from the political concept of power. Power

indicates authority and influence. According to this school almost all imaginable

organizations,private as well as public , are at least mildly or occasionally political. .

(Mintzberg,Lampel and Ahlstrand (1998). When strategies appear out of political

processes, they tend to be more emergent than deliberate and more likely in form of

positions than perspective. Strategy formation is about power but it is not only about

power. According to this school the role of integrating forces , such as leadership and

culture tends to get slighted , as does the notion of strategy. The school shows the

importance of politics in promoting strategic change.

8. The cultural school

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– Defines strategy formation as a process rooted in the social force of

culture. The main concern of the school is largely the influence of culture in maintaining

strategic ability. Strategy takes the form of perspective above all, more than positions,

rooted in collective intentions and reflected in the pattern by which the deeply

embedded, resources, or capabilities of the organization are protected and used for

competitive advantage . The school explains that organizational culture greatly has big

influence in the organization’s decision –making style. The culture can made decision

making smoothly although culture can make people resistant to change, culture

encourages the production of unique outcomes. The school strong lesson is that

organizational culture of the company makes it hard to replicate thus organizational

culture can become the best strategic advantage.

9. Environmental School

– defines strategy formation as a reactive process. Explains that an

organization is greatly affected by its environment. In this school the environment is

considered as the central actor in the strategy making process. The condition of the

environment will affect how the organization will work. The view of the school makes

people in strategic management to consider the range of decisional powers available,

given the forces and demands of the external context.

10. The configuration school

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– This school considers strategy formation as a process of formation. The school

explained that transformation is needed to maintain stability of the organization. All

organizations eventually undergo conditions that threaten their very existence that is

why organizations need to develop or transform their approach in order to adapt our

rapidly changing environment. The transformation of organization is done through a

slow and gradual process.


The book for me had explained the process of strategy making. The book clearly

explains that no specific solution can be use to handle the uncertainty of marketing

environment. The different strategic management the books discusses is clearly not only

limited to business establishments. Non-profit organization can benefit as well since

strategy making is the main focus of the book. The method explained by the ten schools of

thought are systematic but rational in a way. In fact all ten schools has been put into wide

use and practice with not only by different kind of organization but as well as used as an

approach to politics. However it has been observed that the focus of the Ten schools of

thought is how to come up with a better marketing strategy to attract more customers or to

develop a strategy that would not only help the organization earn profit but makes them a

tough competitor in the world of marketing.

The book explained the important role of the customers in surviving the tough industry.

With the aid of technology customers can easy search information about a product. They
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can even easily post reviews of the products online, their one simple comment can turn a

company upside down.

Strategy Safari had made it clear that despite all the strategies being used there is still no

assurance if an organization will thrive or not. Strategy Safari had shown the importance of

flexibility the organization would do better if it would be willing to adjust their strategic plan

when the need arises.

The book had also shown that it’s not only the executive leaders and managers can make a

change in the organization, but the employees as well their performance and relationship

can affect the organization.

It had also explained that formulating a strategy is not enough in business. Aside from

cooperation from different workers. The aid of professional and entrepreneur advisers are

also needed.

The Ten Schools of thought is considered as the core essence of the book. The schools the

schools had considered different factors affecting the organization both internal and

external factors. The issue of surviving the wilderness involves a series of organizational

strategies on how and what it should be done.

Perhaps one of the best part of strategy making is that even though most experts would say

that in the world of business there are no room for mistakes. Such statement has been

made wrong by the book. I had noticed that in every aspect of the ten schools it had been
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clearly stated that these schools actually had been developed thru trial and error strategies

are formed and developed learning from the previous mistakes made.

For me the most significant schools among the ten is the Environmental school, Learning

School, Cultural School, and Lastly the Configuration School.

I do believe that the mentioned schools are very influential and are being applied by

majority of the organizations. The cultural school had considered culture in strategic

formation, organizational culture is very important in marketing industry.

The environmental school had acknowledged the power of environment that surround the

organization. In fact most companies nowadays has been structured to be more flexible and

be more sensitive towards its environment. Their approach and strategy changes

immediately according to the environment’s demand and trends. The school had

recognized that external factors has a major factor in forming strategic formation.

Lastly is the configuration school I found it very significant because I had learned that the

key factor of the school is transformation. It shows that organizations need to be flexible

enough to apply changes, development and transformation when the time arises. In fact big

companies nowadays experiencing difficulties uses company remodeling and

transformation as part of their plan to keep the organization afloat.

What made the configuration school very significant is that it provides option for

companies to do some changes in the company and these transformations are based on the

needs of the company. Transformation can be used to addressed the organization’s weak
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points and to correct their previous mistakes, and in the end being able to develop a better

and practical strategy which indeed a must in the business industry.

Having the strongest strategy does not actually assures that an organization will be successful.

Strategy safari can be considered as a guide in the world of industry. The complex world and

volatility of marketing makes it very difficult for the organization to compete. In marketing

struggling for success will always be there specially that we are continually developing.
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Mintzberg, Ahlstrand , and Lampel. 2002 Strategy Safari: A guided tour through the Wilds of
Strategic Management. FT Prentice Hall

Mintzberg, Ahlstrand , and Lampel.1998 Strategy Safari: A guided tour through the Wilds of
Strategic Management. Copyright The Free Press: A Division of Simon and Schuster Inc. New

Pelling, Nick.2004. Mintzberg’s Ten Schools. Kingston University Business School Survey

Minzberg, Henry. 1978. Patterns in Strategy Formation Management Science.Institute of

Management Sciences, Quebec, Canada

Mintzberg, Henry. 2001. California Management Review: The Strategy Concept 1. P.16.
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