Business strategists can easily become slaves to their inbox or to the passing enthusiasm of the times, their supervisors or outside influencers, ranging from social activists to securities analysts and investment bankers. This article seeks to put their work in historical context and to encourage them to engage in meta-cognition – a deep consideration of their role in helping to shape their business’s response to its current environment and challenges.
The article reviews the history of modern business strategy and divides it into three major phases, centered on the theories and practices of three strategists: Frederick Taylor, Peter Drucker and Michael Porter. The author suggests that each of these strategists was addressing the key business questions of their time and influenced the thinking of others who built on – and in many cases improved on – their theories and models. He suggests that a business strategist’s thinking should build on the work of those who came before in responding to contemporary questions of importance to their firm.
Business strategy is fundamentally an exercise in understanding and improving business performance and growth. It requires a depth of sophisticated thought that can be sharpened and focused through meta-cognition – thinking about thinking, i.e. a thoughtful consideration of what dominates our thinking and why.
This article invites practicing strategists to find their own place on that arc.
The article presents the history of business strategy as an arc of inquiry that has forward direction, moving inexorably outward, from time–motion studies on the shop floor, to the human beings who occupied it, and to the larger society in which they and the firm live. It invites practicing strategists to find their own place on that arc.
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