mintzbergs 5 ps strategy
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Mintzberg’s 5 P’s of Strategy

While you may think you know what the word strategy means, it can be hard to develop an effective business strategy. Henry Mintzberg’s book ‘The Five P’s of Strategy’ looks at five different definitions or approaches to strategy. This post will cover those five approaches to help you develop a successful strategy.

The Five P’s of Strategy that Mintzberg defined are as follows:

  • Plan
  • Ploy
  • Pattern
  • Position
  • Perspective

1. Plan

‘a detailed proposal for doing or acheieving something’

A plan is a course of action that you have made a conscious decision about following. A strategy is, therefore, a plan as it will be made in advance of the actions taken, and requires conscious development, rather than an ad hoc approach. Planning tends to be the aspect of strategy that most people are familiar and comfortable with. When developing a strategy, we pull together a plan of what we want to do and how will we do it. However, planning is not enough on its own to deliver a truly successful strategy. The rest of the five P’s will help with that development.

2. Ploy

‘a cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage’

Part of a strategy may be about beating your competitors, which is where the ‘ploy’ element comes in. For example, some large supermarkets have been known to buy up land in a town, not because they want to develop on it, but because they don’t want their competitors to be able to. When developing your strategy, it is not enough to only think about what your business will do; you need to consider your competitors. This may involve researching facts and figures but also potentially talking to competitor’s customers or staff to try to gain as much useful information as you can.

 

3. Pattern

‘a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in the way in which something happens or is done’

The third element is pattern. A plan and a ploy are both deliberate intended elements of strategy. When those intentions actually come to fruition, this may produce patterns. Patterns can also develop without the initial planning, and can still be used as part of a strategy. So rather than having a deliberate plan to do something, a business may develop a consistently successful way of doing business which becomes their strategy, whether intentional or not.

If you want to use patterns in developing your strategy, you need to review your business to see what patterns you can spot. These may be behavioural patterns in your staff, patterns showing where customers are coming from or maybe financial patterns. Then review whether these patterns form an intentional part of your strategy, and if not, whether they should?

4. Position

‘a situation, especially as it affects one’s power to act’

In this context, we are looking at position in terms of how you position yourself in your marketplace. So, when developing your strategy, you should be considering what your competitive advantage really is and how to build on that. For example, is your position in the market that you are one of a number of similar providers? If so, you need to develop a strategy to differentiate your business.

5. Perspective

‘a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view’

The strategy that you develop for your business needs to be a perspective that is shared by all members of your team so that they can enhance the strategy with their actions. When developing your strategy, consider how it might appear to others, and whether it truly reflects the way you do business.

Conclusion

When using the 5 Ps, it is less about following a process and more about using them to review your strategy at different stages of its development:

  • In the initial stages of developing a strategy, you are likely to be collecting information and data about your business. Use the 5 P’s here to make sure you have considered everything that is relevant.
  • When you have come up with some strategic ideas, before they are set in stone, use the 5 P’s to check that your ideas are realistic and a good fit for the business.
  • When you feel your strategy is complete, use the 5 P’s as a final review to check for any inconsistencies or areas of weakness.

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