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FAQs for teachers of strategy

Strategy and the dynamics approach

  • Why is a new approach needed for strategy teaching?
  • There is widespread dissatisfaction with the tools and frameworks for strategy taught in business schools to both MBAs and executive audiences (see for example the Journal of Management Inquiry, December, 2008 and the Wikipedia entry on strategic management). Students don’t like the courses, recruiters don’t value what they learn, executives don’t use its tools, and academics don’t want to be part of the field.
  • How have these problems with strategy arisen?
  • There are two problems...

    First, the strategy tools most widely used and taught largely aim to answer the question of where a commercial organization should best position itself compared to its competitors, in order to achieve sustained strong profitability. However, this choice is made only very rarely over an organization’s life – most successful firms identify a potentially strong position, then pursue it relentlessly.

    Secondly, established tools and frameworks mostly derive from efforts to understand how a firm can be more profitable than others. But investors value sustained growth in cash flows, which may or may not coincide with strong profit returns.

    The nature of strategy and strategic management is explored further here.
  • What does strategy dynamics offer that is really new?
  • It offers rigorous, rock-solid frameworks for understanding why an organization's performance is changing over time, and how to improve it. It therefore provides the foundation for professional strategic management, in contrast to the positioning question that has dominated strategy for 30 years.

The text book and supporting materials

  • Why is this book different from other strategy textbooks?
  • The main difference is that it focuses on explaining how organizations improve performance over time. Most standard approaches use static analysis to identify a promising strategy.
  • What does it offer that is really new?
  • The book introduces some fundamental frameworks for understanding why an organization's performance is changing over time, and how to improve it. These are rigorous, quantitative and practical.
  • How does this show up in the way the book explains things?
  • The main difference readers will see is that the book's figures are full of time-charts, rather than 2-by-2 boxes, checklists or qualitative flow-charts. Time-charts show for example how profits are rising and falling over months or years, how customers are being won and lost, or how reputation is changing. The figures also show rigorous causal connections between these factors, e.g. how profit growth is slowing because the rate of customer losses is rising, or how falling reputation is preventing us winning customers.
  • So does it ignore all the existing ideas in strategy?
  • Certainly not! It explains most of these in their own terms, and then shows how they connect with the mechanisms that make performance change. However, unlike other strategy books that start with analyzing market and competitive conditions then look at the business itself, this book starts with how the organization system itself actually functions before putting it into a context that may include competitors and other external factors.
  • Does the book include new case-studies?
  • No, although it refers to many organizations with which readers will be familiar. Its frameworks can be applied to any of the cases that feature in other textbooks or elsewhere. It does, however, develop an extensive illustration of how the method works for one of the most popular cases in use today - a low-fare airline.
  • Does it cover all the aspects of strategy?
  • No - the field is too extensive to achieve complete coverage in the first textbook of this type. It covers strategy issues for single-business firms and for business units. It also deals with many functional issues, e.g. in marketing and sales, human resources, and R&D. Corporate and international strategy will feature in the next edition. It also does not focus significantly on issues of strategy process.
  • Is it at all useful for non-commercial situations?
  • Definitely! Since most strategy frameworks originate from analysis of competitive commercial markets, their contribution to public-sector and voluntary organizations' strategy is limited. In contrast, the frameworks in this book are equally applicable to such cases, as examples included in the book demonstrate.
  • I already teach a strategy course with an existing textbook - can I still make use of this one?
  • Yes. Because Strategic Management Dynamics adds rigorous causal links from the choices that management make, through the business system, to the outcomes for profits etc. It brings to life the principles that would come up in a regular strategy class - 'So we have decided it would be good for company X to reduce prices. Let's work out what will happen to growth in customers and sales if we change prices in different ways, and hence estimate what will happen to profits.'
  • Where in my course will I most likely want to use chapters from the book?
  • The book builds on principles concerning how resources develop over time - customers, staff, product-range and functionality, reputation, etc. The first place where the book will help will therefore be where you are discussing strategy principles that concern the organization itself, rather than its market or competitive environment. It does, however, go on to examine these issues in great detail, so you will be able to extend your use of the book as your confidence increases. Another strong contribution is to the issue of strategy implementation - 'OK, we have decided to attack a certain market with a certain product, positioned in a certain way, but how do we decide on pricing, marketing, hiring, product development and so on as this initiative progresses and we see how well it is working?'.
  • I have heard that the book is quite technical - how am I going to learn about it myself so I can teach it well?
  • The basic principles are quite simple, so it is not essential to master the math of how the method works in order to teach with the book. The book itself, along with the extensive supporting materials, provides the resources needed to learn more about the approach and link it to existing strategy frameworks. In addition, there is a considerable library of simulation-based exercises for students, which provide great learning experience without the need for instructor guidance.
  • What supporting materials are available?
  • Materials that directly support the book that are available free of charge to registered teachers on this site include – slides of all the figures in each chapter in PDF format, suggested answers to end of chapter questions.

    We offer access to the online course for registered teachers, for personal learning.

    Our catalogue of Microworlds and the mystrategy software can also be used to support teaching.


Strategic Management Dynamics
Kim Warren

Wiley 2008 Strategic Management Dynamics book cover
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