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Re-thinking the Foundations of the Strategic Business Process


The ideas of several scholars who have considered addressing the issues of strategic management by developing models or ‘Schools’ of thought have been extensively canvassed and justified in French (2009c), but all these schools have been developed in a Modernist/Functionalist epistemology. Since no models have been developed utilizing the ideas from critical theory a new model is suggested that can be discerned and justified from the literature (see Table 1). It is further sub-divided into three groups: The Classical Schools, The Neo-Classical Schools and the Post-Classical Schools. The first two groups require a Modernist sensibility and the last group a Postmodern and Critical sensibility.


Table 1—The Seven-School Model.



1. Design School

2. Planning School

3. Positioning School



4. Contingency View

5. Resource-based View



6. Learning School

7. Emergence School


Source: developed for this paper.


The requirement to consider alternative epistemological paradigms has also been discussed in French (2008b). As a consequence of this evaluation, it is suggested that the Seven-School model (see Table 2) could be further refined to reflect the differing epistemological paradigms required to ensure that the ideas from each school are rational.


Table 2—The Seven-School Model Re-designed.

Modernist Epistemology

1. The Design School.

2. The Planning School.

3. The Positioning School.

4. The Resource-based School.

5. The Contingency School.

Postmodern Epistemology

6. The Learning School.

Critical Epistemology

7. The Emergence School.

Source: developed for this paper.



The ideas of the scholars of strategic management have been discussed, and a seven-school model justified to facilitate discussion of ideas. If the subject of strategic business thinking is to move on (Andrews, 1971; MacCrimmon, 1993), then epistemological and systemic possibilities other than Modernism or Postmodernism and cybernetics must be explored. Perry and Zuber-Skerritt (1991) ask how graduate research in the area of management theory can be made more relevant to management practice and suggest that management research is often written for a purely academic audience and is of dubious relevance to practicing managers. They continue to argue that management research is not only having little direct influence on management practice but also that it is not even having an indirect effect. “In brief, traditional management research appears to be irrelevant to management practice” (Perry & Zuber-Skerritt, 1991, p. 68). Reason (2001) concurs with this view and suggests that, although the primary purpose of academic research is to “contribute to an abstract body of knowledge available to third persons, it has long been argued that the findings in our scholarly management journals are only remotely related to the real world of practicing managers” (Reason, 2001, p. 2). In critiquing traditional research, these scholars are suggesting that the exploration of some management issues may be better undertaken using some non-traditional methodologies and epistemological paradigms.