Johnson et al (2017) – Strategic Management Process and Framework (Summary)

Johnson et al (2017) - Strategic Management Process and Framework (Summary)

Johnson et al (2017) – Strategic Management Process and Framework (Summary)

Johnson et al (2017) have done a comprehensive strategic management process and framework in their book titled ‘Exploring Strategy’. The following are insights into their thoughts and ideas of strategy.

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Conceptualising strategy

According to Johnson et al (2017, p.4), strategy is “the long-term direction of an organisation”. The advantage of this definition is that it bundles in deliberate, logical, and incremental aspects of strategy including emergent trends in strategy. Further, it accommodates strategic directions that emphasise on competitive differences and those that focus on cooperation and imitation to some extent. Johnson et al (2017) recognise their definition as advantageous as it goes beyond definitions of previous theorists such as Alfred Chandler, Michael Porter, Peter Drucker, and Henry Mintzberg. Definitions by these authors are as in figure 1 below.

Figure 1 – Definitions of strategy by previous theorists

Purpose of strategy

The purpose of strategy according to Johnson et al (2017) (Borrowing from Harvard University’s Cynthia Montgomery) is to define and express a clear and motivating purpose for an organisation. This often goes beyond profit-maximisation to include long-term prosperity and employee motivation.

Main components of Johnson et al’s (2017) strategy definition

The three main elements of their (Johnson et al (2017)) strategy definition are – direction, long term, and organisation.

1. The long-term

Strategy is typical viewed in terms of years and thus this should be reflected in its definition. Using the three-horizons framework, horizon 1 refers to core activities that have been going on, horizon 2 refers to emergent activities that are likely to form core activities in later years, and horizon 3 refers to risky activities currently under R&D and that could either succeed or fail.

2. Direction

Strategic direction is based on the overall trajectory of the firm over the years. This trajectory could be revealed in terms of long-term objectives of the firm or the pattern of activities. While it often overlays with profit, strategic direction is not always consistent with profit objectives. The figure 2 below shows the three horizons of strategy. Johnson et al (2017, p.7) see organisations as “involv(ing) many relationships, both internally and externally” and hence not “discrete, unified entities”. Organisations depend on people and groups that are diverse and with competing as well as reasonable views of what should be going on around them. Similarly, these groups and people depend of the organisation. This mutually beneficial relationship should be managed.

Figure 2 – The three horizons of strategy

3. Organisation

Ideally, strategy should be concerned with an organisation’s external boundaries. (Boundaries being they key element). This focus would help the organisation determine what to include within the organisation and how to manage its relationships with what is outside its boundaries.

Strategy framework

Johnson et al (2017) emphasise that strategic issues and interconnected and hence recommend a three-part approach to exploring strategy. The resultant framework thus includes understanding the strategic position, assessing the strategic choices, and managing strategy in action. Figure 3 below summarises Johnson et al’s (2017) strategy framework used to analyse organisations.

Figure 3 – Johnson et al’s (2017) framework for exploring strategy.

A. Strategic position

This element of exploring strategy is meant to assess the impact of strategy on five areas; the macro-environment, the industry, the strategic capabilities including resources and competences, the stakeholders, and the organisation’s culture. When a firm understands its current strategy in terms of these five areas, it then has a better view of what could constitute future strategy.

B. Strategic choices

Choice in the context of strategy implies the options for strategy in regard to the direction and methods. Direction for example could mean pursuing new product lines, new consumer bases, expanding current segments, etc. These directions could be pursued using different methods such as acquisition, merging, alliances, direct entry, exporting, etc.

C. Strategy in action

The main focus with action is HOW strategies are formed and implemented. Fundamental questions are answered in several areas including how to evaluate strategy, how strategy is developed using the formal planning process, how the strategy is organised with structures and systems, how leadership and change intersect with strategy including leadership styles and different levels of change, and how the strategy will be put to practice for instance defining roles and responsibilities (and stating the people, methods, and activities involved).

Strategy checklist by Johnson et al (2017)

The checklist developed by Johnson et al (2017) for exploring strategy under their framework is as in figure 4 below.

Figure 4 – Strategy questions checklist.

Do you need a specific analysis of a case or company based on Johnson et al’s (2017) strategic framework? Contact us via the channels on our homepage or fill in the order form. We will get you a custom copy tailored to your context.

Example Question for the model:

In what ways can the Johnson et al. (2017) strategic management process reduce complexity and be useful to practicing managers?


Johnson, G., Whittington, R., Regner, P., Scholes, K., & Angwin, D. (2017). Exploring corporate strategy: Text and Cases (11th Edition). Financial Times Prentice Hall.

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