Strategy was defined by Thompson and Strickland (1996: 20) as: ‘The pattern of actions managers employ to achieve organizational objectives’. Strategy has two fundamental meanings. First, it is forward looking. It is about deciding where you want to go and how you mean to get there. It is concerned with both ends and means. In this sense a strategy is a declaration of intent: ‘This is what we want to do and this is how we intend to do it’. Strategies define longer-term goals but they also cover how those goals will be attained (strategic planning). They guide purposeful action to deliver the required result. As defined by Quinn (1980: 7): ‘A strategy is the pattern or plan that integrates an organization’s goals into a cohesive whole’. A good strategy is one that works, one that, as Abell (1993: 1) expressed it, enables organizations to adapt by ‘mastering the present and pre-empting the future’.
The second meaning of strategy is conveyed by the concept of strategic fit. The focus is upon the organization and the world around it. To maximize competitive advantage a firm must match its capabilities and resources to the opportunities available in the external environment. As Hofer and Schendel (1986: 4) concluded: ‘A critical aspect of top management’s work today involves matching organizational competences (internal resources and skills) with the opportunities and risks created by environmental change in ways that will be both effective and efficient over the time such resources will be deployed.’
Strategy has been defined in other ways by the many writers on this subject, for example:
- A strategy ‘is a sequence of united events which amounts to a coherent pattern of business behaviour.’ (Kay, 1993: 9)
- ‘The emphasis [in strategy] is on focused actions that differentiate the firm from its competitors.’ (Purcell, 1999: 35)
- ‘Strategy, then, is a set of strategic choices, some of which may be formally planned. It is inevitable that much, if not most, of a firm’s strategy emerges in a stream of action over time.’ (Boxall and Purcell, 2003: 15)
- ‘Strategy is about building sustainable competitive advantage that in turn creates above-average financial performance.’ (Becker and Huselid, 2006: 899)