Strategy in the Battle of Britain and strategic management theory

Robert F. Grattan (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this paper is to compare the strategy formulation process recorded as being used during the Battle of Britain with concepts from current management theory.


The approach to the topic is through the medium of a case study. An account is given of the events in the battle, based on a variety of sources, and various management theories are then used in comparison.


The paper concludes that it was the strategic thought, or lack of it, that was the root cause of the German failure. The theories of strategic thinking; strategy formation; strategic change; and business level strategy are considered in turn in the context of the German side of the battle. The dominance of Hitler in the strategy formulation process is considered a disadvantage. Although the Luftwaffe had superior resources, the manner of their use was at fault. The strategy emerged over the period of the battle, but the results lacked consistency, coherence and a clearly defined aim.

Practical implications

Comparison of military and business strategy formulation processes is a valuable means of considering the validity of strategic management theory. Caution has to be exercised, however, when considering events 65 years ago and in making military business comparisons, which though indicative are never completely exact.


It is hoped that this comparative case study will be of value both to practising managers and to those researchers who can see value in this methodology. Military strategists should find value in the use of strategic management theories in their field.



Grattan, R. (2005), "Strategy in the Battle of Britain and strategic management theory", Management Decision, Vol. 43 No. 10, pp. 1432-1441.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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