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Your strategy should match your competitive environment. That means companies operating in dissimilar competitive environments should be planning, developing, and deploying their strategies in very different ways, three consultants with the Boston Consulting Company write in Harvard Business Review.

Martin Reeves, Claire Love, and Philip Tillmanns say the crucial variables for determining your strategic style are predictability (how far in the future and how accurately can you forecast such factors as corporate performance) and malleability (to what extent can you or your competitors shape the future in your industry). That leads to four strategic styles:

Classical: If the environment is predictable but hard to change, you want the classic strategy taught in business schools of setting a goal, targeting the most favourable market position, and developing successive steps to reach your goal. Once you set a plan, it will stay in place for many years.

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Adaptive: When the environment is totally unpredictable and hard to change, forecasts and long-term plans are usually worthless. You must be adaptive, constantly refining goals and tactics, shifting resources quickly to respond to events.

Shaping: If the environment is unpredictable but you can shape it, you want short or continual planning cycles, with flexibility, aiming to shape the environment by bringing together customers, suppliers and others in an effort to define the industry.

Visionary: In predictable environments that you can shape, seek a "build it and they will come" approach, developing bold strategies that will lead to dominance.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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