Unlike many textbooks in this field, this one tries to explain the world as it is rather than as someone thinks it is supposed to be. Although there has sometimes been a tendency to disdain such descriptive theories, prescriptive (or normative) ones have often been the problem, rather than the solution, in the field of management. There is no one best way in management; no prescription works for all organizations. Even when a prescription seems effective in some context, it requires a sophisticated understanding of exactly what the context is and how it functions. In other words, one cannot decide reliably what should be done in a system as complicated as a contemporary organization without a genuine understanding of how that organization really works. In engineering, no student ever questions having to learn physics, or in medicine, having to learn anatomy. Imagine an engineering student’s hand shooting up in physics class: ‘Listen, sir, it’s fine telling us how the atom works. But what we really want to know is how the atom should work!’ Why should a management student’s similar demand in the realm of strategy or structure be considered any more appropriate? How can people manage complex systems they do not understand?
Both cases and readings offer opportunities to pursue the full complexity of strategic situations. You will find a wide range of issues and perspectives addressed. One of the main goals is to integrate a variety of views, rather than allow strategy to be fragmented into just ‘human issues’ and ‘economic issues.’ The text and cases provide a basis for treating the full complexity of strategic management.