Analysis of Henry Mintzberg's Article Titled Crafting Strategy


In these review, we will be discussing a work from Henry Mintzberg called Crafting Strategy. His work is placed in a field of strategic management, that contains various subjects and topics. It is no doubt that there are still many debates towards strategy concept. We will analyse this by firstly summarising the article, putting the article in to a wider debate about strategy and then discussing its main strengths and weaknesses of the concept or with other words – critically review it.

We will finish with a short conclusion.


In "Crafting Strategy", Mintzberg wrote an incisive article on his views on strategy. He methodically explores the traditional way people view strategy as something planned by the strategist (for example CEOs or Strategic Planning departments) to be implemented by others. He, however, explains that managers' feel for the way the organization should be going can result in a series of decisions from which a strategy can emerge.

In other words, strategies are not just plans that are deliberate but can emerge over time as firms respond to pressures in the operating environment and are compelled to innovate.

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Mintzberg uses the metaphor of a potter which demonstrates involvement by the craftsman where the potter uses his/her skills, experience and dedication and adjusts as necessary as he/she is working on the product, resulting in a creative article being produced.

In this way, Mintzberg shows that formal strategic planning alone is not enough to explain how managers develop strategies but also the spontaneous knowledge of the firm and feel for the company enables managers to come up with creative decisions from which an innovative strategy emerges.

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From his metaphor of a potter working with clay, Mintzberg develops his argument for personal strategy of experimentation which leads to harmony strategy that follow the trend in the industry, which rise from organizational people learning from the market what customers want. The author also discusses the concept of umbrella strategy where senior managers set extensive guidelines and leave the specifics to others in the organization resulting in a deliberate-emergent strategy.

He also discusses the Process Strategy where management controls the process of strategy formation whilst leaving the actual ontent to others down the organizational hierarchy. The author explains that these deliberate-emergent strategies are essential in businesses that require great expertise and innovation.

Mintzberg also dismisses the conventional view that change must be continuous with the organization adapting all the time but explains that strategic change takes place in strategic revolutions followed by periods of stability where change is only marginal. Mintzberg labels "adhocracy" organizations that produce individual, custom made products in an innovative way, on a project basis.

Placing of the article in the wider strategy debate

This article’s view fits the debate of prescriptive and emergent strategy. According to Whittington, prescriptive strategy is a rational approach in which planning plays a vital role, and it is more appropriate for large and mature industries. However, Mintzberg challenged this perspective, saying that the process of strategy is distorted by the planning that misguides the organisations.

The differences between prescriptive and emergent strategy can be identified in two points. Prescriptive strategy means formal planning, which involves an analytic process by top executives to set up a long-term mission and later undertaking by staff. However, in the view of emergent strategy, “It is not possible to develop a perspective of the future and formulate explicit objective in an unpredictable environment - instead, it is necessary to react in a flexible, opportunistic and accidental manner to new, unpredictable developments”.

In addition, due to the instability and variability in market conditions, management decisions depend on information that is imprecise and varied. As a result, an emergent strategic approach is more suitable for forms to conduct and business strategy should be adjustable instead of developing a prescriptive strategy with a predicted result. Moreover, the difference can also be shown by the attitude towards learning.

Purely deliberate strategy precludes learning once the strategy is formulated, emergent strategy fosters it. Emergent strategy refers to the strategy formulation process which  focuses on understanding of strategic learning and let the firm to experiment in a dynamic environment. Though agreement and compromise are part of the formulation process, there is an evident lack of knowledge in the performance system, which leads to a process featured with the emergency of meaning.

In terms of how learning applies to make the strategy, states that emergent strategy making means all the employees utilise the flexible and strong adaptability to equalise structure and rapid change rather than responding to external change. The basic problem in strategy making is to achieve innovation and remain consistent and reliable strategy implementation. This may include adapt faster than other companies and responding and learning quickly from flaws.

In another word, emerging organisation can improve employee effectiveness, resulting in a positive influence on greater creativity and motivation in the organisational processes, and it, in turn, leads to better organisational performance. In this article, it discusses emergent strategy, strategic reorientations and how to manage strategy. This is explained by compare with the deliberate strategy. Mintzberg’s article clearly belongs to prescriptive and emergent strategy debate and it gives strong support towards emergent strategy.


We can include some main strengths and weaknesses in terms of the strategy debate. There is no entirely prescriptive strategy or entirely emergent one, many approaches fall between these two extreme points. Most efficient strategy blends organisational learning with flexibility and deliberation and control. This idea fully reflects the complexity for the business world, even though Mintzberg has a keen preference towards emergent strategy, there is no guaranty that this is the most suitable or perfect method for all business.

Besides, other analyses also illustrate the importance of strategy-making blends autonomy and planning in emergent strategy mode. To be more specific, by combining those two modes, organisation can gain productive adaptive capability and optimal alignment in firm through adapting to unpredictable environment in emergent strategy mode and coordinating business activities to complete company’s efficiency in strategy planning. Another strength of this article is the statement about  strategic thinking.

Other authors are pointing out that the central to sustain competitive advantage is to have a creative and divergent strategic thinking. This fresh perspective represents a new way for managers to consider and evaluate the operation of organisation. Just as Mintzberg mentions, strategic thinking is captured by informal learning from diverse sources included experiences, leading to an integrated view towards the firm, and then synthesizing the learning into an image of the business direction.

In contrast, many administrators just analyse the figures and graphs, but those are the analysis of past information and predictions, which hold a substantial risk for business. Moreover, strategic thinking displays a whole perspective of mutual influences between each part of the company and its related environment. It also considers the interlinked relationship of past, present and future in order to think in time and utilise newly emerging chances.

However, there still exists criticism about this article as well. One drawback is Mintzberg failed to study the problems of emergent strategy in the business environment. To begin with, sometimes this strategy may consume too much time. As this process includes various experiments, it keeps trying to identify new method until it successes. No doubt that this involves a long period since no one can find a suitable compromise every time.

Apart from that, each time firm tries a new strategy, it costs an enormous amount of resources such as labours or machines use, which is a waste of capital. As Ansoff point out, Mintzberg does not consider the consequence ofusi ng a trial and error approach in various programs. In fact, this approach costs hugely, and research presents that acquisitions can achieve better financial results by conducting a planned approach to diversification instead of trial and error one.


In summary, this article presents the crafting strategy that is a metaphor towards strategy-making, and it considers the process of strategy making as craftsmen make their clay, which gives readers a vivid image of how the strategy formulates and implements. This practice is valuable at both beginning of strategy development and strategy review processes.

Although this article was written under two decades ago, it still sounds very innovative and thought provoking. I have read the article several times over the years and I enjoy it every time. However, the article is not for the beginner in strategy but for those pursuing the subject at an advanced level, being familiar with literature on the subject.


  1. Andersen, T. J., ; Nielsen, B. B. (2009). Adaptive strategy making: The effects of emergent and intended strategy modes. Available at: (Accessed: 11.5.2018)
  2. Ansoff, H.I. (1991). Critique Of Henry Mintzberg‘S ‘The Design School: Reconsidering The Basic Premises Of Strategic Management. Available at: (Accessed: 11.5.2018)
  3. Mintzberg H. 1994. The fall and rise of strategic planning. Available at:  Documents/fall%20and%20rise%20of%20strategy%20-%20mintzberg.pdf (Accessed: 11.5.2018)
Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Analysis of Henry Mintzberg's Article Titled Crafting Strategy. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Analysis of Henry Mintzberg's Article Titled Crafting Strategy essay
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