In what extent do Senior Managers apply Strategic Management in order to ensure successful organizational performance?


Strategic Management as a discipline has long been known to Military leaders across the world; however, its actual application in management of contemporary organizations dates from 1950s onwards.  The design and planning school of strategy were the first to introduce the worldwide known concepts of strategic planning in the management of organizations (SWOT, Mission, Vision, Objectives, Hierarchy of plans), followed by Porter’s positioning school, which added to the discipline the industry positioning  (Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Value Chain). The number of these SM concepts, tools, and methodologies, grows in the past fifty years (VRIO, 7S, Balanced Scorecard and similar); however, their influence and successful application depends on whether they are applied by senior managers in the organizations.


By the requirement of their organizational position, Senior Managers perform activities which result in strategic leadership of the organization. Thus, the main perception of employees, shareholders, clients and the wider public is based on this assumption i.e. that the organization is led through the application of specific and attested knowledge. There is no open issue of whether organizational teams actually apply strategic management tools or not, as their application is evident in the Annual Report of the Organizations (Linstead 2004, Herrmann 2005).


However, strategic management is not just a set of tools and guidelines for their application. It is as well the decision making behind it (Linstead 2004). Besides the mainstream proponents of  strategic management as are Ansoff (1965), Andrews (1971, 1964), Porter (1980, 1985), Barney (1991, 2001) and Rummelt (1991, 2001), the  research will extensively cover the work of Powell (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007) and  his criticism on the false assumptions on which the theory of Strategic management is based. of Powell (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007) argues that mainstream strategic management concepts provide companies with tools for identification and development of their sustainable competitive advantage; however, in reality these companies do not always by default outperform their rivals. In simple words, the competitive advantage is not a requirement,  nor a necessity, for companies to outperform rivals.

Powell (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007) was the first to introduce into the discipline the concept of competitive disadvantage, arguing that in many cases companies with a certain competitive disadvantage outperform rivals with a strong competitive advantage.  The reason lies in the better understanding of their external environment and the capacities of their leaders to make the right strategic decisions. Powell (2007) argues that in such a case the company with a competitive advantage failed due to the poor understanding and application of strategic management concepts and  tools by Senior Managers, who made poor decisions – The Axis of Error.


Despite being conceptually developed, the work of Powell (2007) is philosophical. As a result it has rarely been explored by researchers in the past decade due to lack of measurement’s conformity. These operational challenges however should not be an issue for learning more on what actually happens when senior managers apply strategic management concepts in the decision making and how do they end up with decisions that significantly improve the success of their companies.


The research aim emerges from the previous section –  to what extent Senior Managers apply strategic management concepts and tools in the process of decision making, enables researchers and practitioners in the area of SM to understand the context, and the process of the top organizational decision making, and whether the same ensures successful organizational performance.


The research objectives of the proposal are the following:

  • to explore existing literature on the subject of strategic management and the application of the SM concepts in the decision making of senior managers
  • to identify core issues on which the researcher can develop its research model;
  • to identify and develop a research methodology which will enable reliable analysis;
  • to conduct a field research of selected senior managers; and
  • to apply the identified concepts and the model on the topic of the research proposal.


The scope of the research is the UK and Senior Managers of companies in the UK. Senior managers in the UK are educated and well versed with the application of strategic management tools and concepts; therefore, this uniformity of knowledge will enable a more reliable environment in terms of validity and reliability of the research findings- there will be marginal variation caused by poor knowledge on SM concepts.


The research proposal envisions use of a conceptual framework based on theory and previous empirical research.  As a result, the proposed research philosophy is positivism with research design based on deductive logic. (Saunders, 2009:115).

According to Saunders, (2009) the research methodology provides the concept which guides the research process and ensures accuracy of the research findings.   In the concerned case, the research is a combination of descriptive and explanatory study within the wider subject of strategic management.


The research philosophy of positivism, accompanied with the deductive logic in the research design, is usually operational through a survey as research strategy.  Survey as a research strategy is different compared to a survey as data collection method.  It consists of the following elements:


  1. Development of the measurement model for the variables of the conceptual model;
  2. Development of the research instruments (questionnaire);
  3. Sampling strategy – snowball sampling of a group of Senior Managers through the professional network LinkedIn);
  4. Survey as a data collection method (online, telephone, face to face, self-administrated and similar)
  5. Validity and reliability issues
  6. Ethics and access to data


All validity and reliability issues will be addressed during the development of the research design in order to ensure these challenges are timely closed, and do not contaminate the research findings.

In terms of ethics and data access, the research will ensure adequate closure of all ethical challenges in each of the phases of the research i.e. in the research design, implementation, and analysis of the findings. All survey respondents will be adequately informed on the purpose of the research, and guaranteed confidentiality and privacy of their data.


The time plan for development of the research study is provided in Appendix 1.



Andrews, K. J. (1971), The Concept of Corporate Strategy, Irwin.

Andrews, P.W.S. (1964), On Competition in Economic Theory. Macmillan: London.

Ansoff, I. (1965), Corporate Strategy: An Analytical Approach To Business Policy for Growth and Expansion. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Babbie, E.R. (2010), The Practice of Social Research, 12th Ed. Cengage Learning: Belmont.

Barney, J. (1991), “Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive

Advantage”, Journal Of Management, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 99-121

Barney, J. (2001), Is the resource-based view a useful perspective for strategic management research? Yes, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 26, No.1, pp.41-56

Denrell, J., Fang, C., and Winter, S. G. (2003), “The economics of strategic opportunity”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 24, pp.977–990

Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L. (2000), Working knowledge: how organizations manage what they know. Harvard Business Press: Harvard.

Edmondson, C.A. (2008), “The Competitive Imperative of Learning”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 86, No. 7/8, pp. 60-67

Eisenhardt, K. M. and Martin, J. A. (2000), Dynamic capabilities: What are they? Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 21, pp. 10-11

Grant, R.M. (2005), Contemporary Startegy Analysis, 5th Ed. Malden,Blackwell Publishing: USA

Herrmann, P.(2005), Evolution of Strategic Management: The Need for New Dominant Designs. International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 111-30

Linstead, S. (2004), Management and organisation: a critical text, 1st Ed. Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire.

Powell, T. and Arregle, J. (2007), “Firm Performance and the Axis of Errors”, Journal Of Management Research (09725814), Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 59-77

Powell, T. and Lloyd, C. (2005), Toward A General Theory Of Competitive Dominance: Comments And Extensions On Powell (2003), Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 385-394

Powell, T.C. (2001), Competitive Advantage: Logical And Philosophical Considerations, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 22, No. 9, pp. 875-888

Powell, T.C. (2002), The Philosophy of Strategy, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 23, No. 9, p. 873

Powell, T.C. (2003), Strategy Without Ontology, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 24, No. 3, p. 285

Rumelt, R.P. (1991), How much does Industry matter?, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.167-252

Rumelt, R.P. (2011), Good strategy/bad strategy. Crown Business: New York.

Saunders, M. et al. (2009), Research Methods for Business Students. Prentice Hall: London.


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