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Mintzberg's 5Ps

Mintzberg's 5Ps

Mintzberg's 5Ps

Use this framework to devise a competitive strategy

Henry Mintzberg developed the 5P model of strategic thinking in 1987 under the title The Strategy Concept I: Five Ps For Strategy which was published in California Management Review. His model was aimed to give more precision to the definition of strategy.

Strategy as a Plan: An intended course of action

The most usual type of strategy is a master plan – one that states a goal with a course of action that sees that it is achieved. It is a plan developed consciously and purposefully. It is prepared in advance to guide the actions that follow.  Most strategies have a plan.  They may also have one of the other distinctive attributes of a strategy recognized by Mintzberg.

Strategy as a Ploy: A manoeuvre to beat the competition

A strategy can be an action designed to frustrate or even mislead a competitor.  Chapter 20 described the Lanchester strategy. It tells of a manoeuvre by the copier company, Canon, who beat Rank Xerox in the UK copier market by first concentrating on a region that it knew wasn't core for Xerox. It focused on Scotland where, little by little, it built up a 40% market share from which it had a springboard to move south to the bigger pickings.  Had Canon attempted to attack London at the outset, it would almost certainly have failed.

Strategy as a Pattern: A strategy that emerges, perhaps by accident

Successful strategies have a consistency in the way they are applied. The plan is the intended strategy and the pattern is what actually happens. In fact, what actually happens may not be part of the original plan. Patterns can often be recognised amongst market leaders. They can be predictable in the way that they act. They put their prices up once or twice a year and they expect competitors to follow. If they are attacked on price, they may well have a reaction that is anticipated.

Strategy as a Position: A brand that stands out against competitors

Companies may choose to fight within a market by taking a low-cost position, or a differentiated position based on its brand, or play within a niche. These different positions are described by Porter in his Generic Strategies (see chapter 40).  Harley Davidson’s strategy as a manufacturer of motorcycles is an example of a company fighting from the strong position it has carved out for itself. It has focussed on a niche (albeit a big niche) amongst customers who want a heavyweight luxury bike, with a highly differentiated brand that signifies their lifestyle.

Strategy as a Perspective: The unique way the company works within its market

Many companies have a culture, a view of the world that defines them and the way they work. Southwest Airlines would be such an example. It is a company that has been successful through limiting the types of planes it uses, it has restricted its geographical operation to the south-west of the US, and it has focused on a low-cost reliable service. It is however, the spirit of the employees that sets the company apart.  The book Nuts! tells the story of Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, whose unorthodox leadership style created a company with a certain perspective. The subtitle of the book is Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe For Business And Personal Success. It describes the positively outrageous service that makes the company successful and that is so difficult for competitors to copy.

Mintzberg's model is descriptive and it provides a good explanation for the strategic management process. It is useful for describing a type of strategy and bringing the focus on to how managers can pursue a strategy to survive within a market. It can be used alongside other frameworks such as Porter's Generic Strategies which can help a company decide how it should position itself in the market.

Some things to think about:

  • Strategies are critical for the successful growth of any company. However, strategies have to be flexible and may change. The strategy of a company must align with its strengths and the needs of the target market.

  • Although strategies require some flexibility, it is important that they don’t change too frequently. A company has to give a strategy sufficient time for it to bear fruit.

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