This work reflects the materials of the “strategic management” subject and a specific concept marked in the course materials. As mentioned in the lecture, strategy is a pre-planned reaction of an organization to a change in the external environment, as well as a line of the behavior chosen to achieve the desired result. The essence of strategic management consists of forming and implementing an organization’s development tactic based on continuous monitoring and evaluation of ongoing changes in the activities.
Accordingly, a competent and effective strategy can be implemented with the help of several schools of thought. Thus, ten schools of thought are the actual, fundamental, and modern approaches to defining a strategy. Each of them is unique and inimitable in its understanding and purpose. Hence, for example, the school of design is the thought school that looks deeply, comprehensively, and from different angles at the holistic picture of the situation. It illustrates the company’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and potential problems and obstacles that businesses may face. This reflection paper will look at the design school described in the strategic management subject and course materials.
The Design School
To date, there are several schools of strategic management and more specific classification of them. Nevertheless, they place research accents in different ways, highlighting certain methodological priorities. Supporters of each school adhere to unique views on the same aspect of the strategy-building process. In the literature of recent years, the most detailed analysis of the schools of strategic management is presented in the works of Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel. However, this paper focuses on one specific direction in strategic management – the school of design. This approach allows one to consider, study and realize certain points in a deeper and broader understanding.
A Brief Description
The school of design is one of the most meaningful, prescriptive, and primary schools in strategic management. Its key ideas form the basis of university strategic management courses and are often used in practice. There are several other names for this direction – for example, the school of modeling or construction. In fact, “establish fit” is the main motto of the design concepts (Mishra et al., 2017).
This school also differs from others in that it understands strategy as a process of offering and accepting new ideas and concepts (Strategy Safari summary and review, 2019). Moreover, the modeling school is among the top three “leaders” in the classification. This statement is explained by the fact that the construction direction is the fundamental basis of the strategic process.
Without a doubt, this school expresses the most significant point of view on the process of building a strategy. “Design” defines the essence and meaning of the problem; the approach uses a wide range of possibilities to solve problems (Singh, 2019). These elements are directly combined with several aspects of the school of culture rooted in anthropology (Singh, 2019). In general terms, the school of design offers a model of building a strategy to achieve a coincidence or correspondence of internal and external capabilities (Castillo, 2021).
In addition, it describes events and phenomena in terms of how “approaches” should be formed. Adherents of the school are more interested in how strategies should be formed than how they are developed. Therefore, the school of design concentrates on building a strategy as an informal design process and in fact – the process of comprehension and elaboration.
Several key points and critically important features of the modeling school are unique only to it. For example, the design school has developed a special language in which the problems of strategy formation are discussed. Moreover, it introduced the central concept of strategic management, namely the position that the strategy reflects the fundamental correspondence between the external capabilities and the internal potential of the organization (Hattangadi, 2019). However, indeed, the most important “achievement” of this school is the implementation of the SWOT project (Castillo, 2021).
Supporters of the design school came up with the famous abbreviation “S.W.O.T.,” meaning an assessment of the “Strengths” and “Weaknesses” of the organization in the light of existing “Opportunities” and “Threats” (Hattangadi, 2019). SWOT analysis is one of the most effective tools in strategic management. With its help, you can easily look at the state of affairs of a company, product, or service in the industry in the right and necessary context. Therefore, it is the most popular tool in risk management and decision-making.
The History and the Origins
The history of the school of design is rich, vivid, and diverse; it combines several bright, memorable and interesting moments. The origins of the modeling school go back to two books – “Management in Administration” by Philip Selznick and “Strategy and Structure” by Alfred Chandler. The strongest impulse to develop the school of design was the activity of the general management group of Harvard University and the birth of the textbook “Business Policy”. In a short time, this book has become the most popular source, reflecting the ideas of the adherents of the design school.
Kenneth Andrews has released the theoretical part of the book, which contains the clearest expression of the school’s positions. Thus, the writer combined Chandler and Drucker’s concepts and gave this approach a clear definition. In his understanding, this strategy is “the pattern of major objectives, purposes […] stated in such a way as to define what business the company is in or is to be (Narikae & Lewa, 2017).” It is worth noting that this researcher became the founder of the SWOT concept in the usual sense (Narikae & Lewa, 2017). At the moment, Andrews’ text is used as the main source of the school of design ideas.
The Main Model
Indeed, the main model of the school focuses on the assessment of external and internal situations. Thus, external situations include various threats and opportunities and accordingly, internal provisions include, as a rule, strengths and weaknesses (Hattangadi, 2019). Hence, based on the above four aspects, a holistic picture of the company’s position is compiled, as well as prospects and development paths are outlined. Moreover, organizational values, or management values, and social responsibility, particularly the moral foundations of the society in which the organization operates, are very important for forming a strategy.
Following the definition of alternative strategies in the model under consideration, a stage of their comprehensive assessment and selection of the optimal tactic follows. The approach evaluation system includes several criteria at once. This includes consistency, consistency, advantage, and feasibility.
Consequently, a good strategy does not contain contradictory goals and programs. It also offers an adaptive response to the external environment and changes. Tactics provide opportunities for creativity and do not involve an excessive expenditure of available resources. Moreover, it is assumed that the company’s management has developed several alternative strategies in advance, from which, after an appropriate assessment, it is necessary to choose one. Then, the approval of the strategy is followed by its implementation. In addition, after the evaluation strategy is designed to narrow down the choice, the process expands again since its implementation requires the active participation of all levels of the organization.
The ideas of the design school are based on several assumptions, and the Mintzberg school of strategies represents some of them. Primarily, strategy formation should be a deliberate process of conscious thinking. Action must come from the mind – effective approaches are created during a tense and tightly controlled thought process. The authors describe, explain and introduce details about the environment variables – this information leads to the right path and gives a productive direction (Panda, 2019).
At the same time, the strategy-building model should remain fairly simple and informal – to remain “easy”, the strategy must be precisely defined. Careful elaboration and formalization are the very essence of the strategic process model (Foss et al., 2021). The only way to control the process by one person is to keep it as simple as possible. Furthermore, responsibility for control over the strategic process and its conscious nature is assigned to the head, who is the strategist. Ultimately, the school of design recognizes a one strategist-leader.
Moreover, the strategy should be one of a kind – only the best and obtained from individual modeling. Strategy development is based not on variables common to all cases but on the requirements of a specific situation. The school of design practically does not affect the content of the strategy. The attention of its supporters is concentrated on the development process, which should be primarily a “creative act” based on distinctive competencies (Hattangadi, 2019).
The modeling process is considered completed when the strategy is formulated as a perspective (Foss et al., 2021). The school of design practically does not discuss the problems of new, unexpectedly developing strategies and the method of sequential growth, which involves the continuation of the “formulation” of the strategy during and after its “implementation.” It is assumed that there is a whole picture – a general strategy, the basic business concept. The strategy is presented as a perspective, fully formed and ready “for use” by a certain point in time.
Eventually, its implementation begins only after a unique, mature, clear, and simple strategy is finally formulated. Representatives of the school of separate design reflection from action in full accordance with the classical concepts of rationality. The central point of this division is the assumption that the structure should logically follow the strategy. Formulating a new strategy every time requires a revision of the structure and all other aspects of the organization.
The Degree of Effectiveness of the School
The model of the school of design is most suitable in a situation of radical changes. It is necessary for an organization that has experienced a period of instability and is entering a stability phase. This model can be applied to a new organization that needs a clear course that will allow it to compete on an equal footing with more experienced competitors or position itself in a niche free from its direct influence.
A strategy based on the modeling school will be great if the following criteria are met. Primarily, an individual can process all the information and data related to the tactic’s formation. Strategists must have complete, detailed knowledge of the current situation; they should be aware of the deep meaning of what is happening. In this case, knowledge is essential when formulating a strategy; without the necessary information, the school may fail (Bhasin, 2019). In addition, a person can truly know an organization only by staying inside it. Moreover, the necessary information needs to be determined before a new strategy is implemented. A situation should remain fairly stable or at least predictable.
A strategist must have access to the necessary knowledge base and be close enough to it. At a certain point, they should imagine what knowledge is needed to understand the strategic perspective, which will be significant at the end of the strategy’s implementation period. Certainly, members of an organization should be ready to obey the chief strategist and devote their time, energy, and other resources to implementing the strategy. Participation in this process presupposes the presence of goodwill and enthusiasm among the organization’s members.
Despite the above advantages and positive aspects of the school of design, in this case, it is worth noting the shortcomings of its strategies, approaches, and methods. For example, the disadvantage of the school of design is that placing the strategy in a certain niche limits its perspective in terms of the strategy formation process. The assumptions on which the model under consideration is based do not leave some place for important strategy formation aspects. These aspects include consistent development and the emergence of a new strategy, the influence of the existing structure on the strategy, full participation in the process, and the heads of the organization, and other people.
It should be noted that the school of design asserts the independence of thought from action and believes that the formation of strategy is not so much a process of learning as of comprehension. This is most clearly manifested at the fundamental stage of the strategic process during the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. Therefore, an organization learns about its strength and weakness from discussions, evaluations, and analyses.
It happens through the process of conscious reflection – oral and written. However, no organization can know in advance what its competencies will turn out to be – strengths or weaknesses. Understanding “what is the sphere of business in which we operate” requires not only speculative constructions but also their practical verification, the acquisition of certain experiences. Consequently, the advantages are often not so great, and the disadvantages are much more serious than expected.
The modeling school asserts that the structure should follow the strategy and be determined by it. Anyway, any organization has a past and a certain environment and structure that make up a certain important part of its history. Consequently, the statement that the strategy should precede the structure and surpass it in importance is equivalent to its position and advantage over the organization’s production potential “embedded” in the structure. Thus, structure follows strategy consistently, decisively, and “evenly.” Both strategy development and design structures support the organization and each other. They simultaneously precede and follow each other, except for those moments when they develop in parallel at moments of a sharp transition of the organization to new positions. Building a strategy is a complex system, but not only an arbitrary sequence.
Additionally, the concept under consideration requires a clear definition of the strategies being developed. However, to accurately determine the strategy, its creators must know with confidence in which direction they plan to start moving. In fact, firms also have to deal with uncertain situations. According to the school of design, an organization should function not only according to the strategy but also during its formation, and this period can be quite long. Specific plans limit the field of view, pointing exclusively to the main direction, and preventing strategic changes when needed. It is important to determine when accuracy is needed, to what extent, and when there is no need for accuracy, but the design school does not even raise these questions.
Briefly, the root of many modern organizations’ problems should be sought because the design school encourages managers to simplify the strategic process. One must not forget that the premises of the design school are very controversial (Iskander, 2018).
This approach adherents insist on the possibility of developing a strategy based on a “summary” of the company’s activities. They also deny that strategy formation is a long, subtle, and complex learning process; the school encourages managers to separate thinking and action, encouraging them to cabinet seclusion. The attention of adherents of the school of design focuses not on the result but on the process. But its representatives assume that the process and the result are internally connected, that the strategy is a grandiose plan which requires a great thinker to create.
In conclusion, this reflection paper outlined the main points affecting the meaning, essence, origin, and significance of the design school within the framework of strategic management. In studying the material and the subject, I learned a lot of interesting facts and formed certain knowledge and opinions about a specific strategy and school. This information can be applied both theoretically and practically. Based on the provisions of the above strategy, I can easily build a company or business development strategy based on the methods, tools, and approaches studied.
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