Henry Mintzberg's 5Ps provide alternative perspectives on, and approaches to, developing organisational strategy.




Henry Mintzberg

Henry Mintzberg (born 1939) is a highly-regarded Canadian academic and author in the subjects of management and business and is particularly well-known for his various models, theories and approaches to the development of strategy (including his thoughts regarding deliberate and emergent strategies). He is also known for other work regarding organisational theory, configurations, and how different facets within a single organisational entity can cooperate towards the whole.


Approaching strategy

Strategies often develop very quickly within an organisation, with the key considerations only being how changes will be used to the benefit of the company. Leaders will come together and brainstorm various approaches and then will assess these with regards to their advantages. 

Though this can help build the basis of a strategy, there are far more factors that need to be considered in order to develop a well-rounded approach to organisational development. Strategies should also consider such things as the environment in which the organisation operates, its competitors, and the culture and values of the company, and of its workers. 

Organisational strengths and opportunities for growth are often unclear, but need to be maximised in order to fully dip into its potential.


The 5Ps of strategy

Mintzberg first tackled his different approaches to strategy in his 1987 work The Strategy Concept I: Five Ps for Strategy. These 5P's were developed in order to suit the different demands and strengths of all organisations. They were:


  1. Plan
  2. Ploy
  3. Pattern
  4. Position
  5. Perspective


By fully understanding and analysing each P against your own organisation, you can develop a specific strategy which takes full advantages of your strengths, competencies and capabilities. 


Plan

Planning is something which the vast majority of managers are at least familiar with - it is the natural approach to various day-to-day tasks and activities, and how you manage your own work and that of your team. This is often, therefore, the default approach we take to developing organisational strategy - we brainstorm a number of options, whittle these down to those which are actually viable, and then plan how we are going to put these into action. 

Planning is fine as the basis for organisational strategy; however, on its own, it is not enough to develop the full, well-rounded strategy that your company may need to fulfil its potential. This is where the other Ps can be used in collaboration with planning to maximise results.


Ploy

Ploy refers to activities which are actively dependent on the actions of others. Organisations can get themselves ahead of competitors by plotting to influence them in various ways, such as through dissuasion, disruption and discouragement. This can be utilised alongside a plan and helps the organisation to look externally at its environment and other operating within it whilst developing strategy. 

For example, a business could open a new branch in a specific, developing area, in order to stop a competitor business opening a shop there and tapping into the new market. 

For this to succeed, the leader needs to be competent in identifying and analysing future opportunities which may develop, predicting the actions of competitors, and understand how the effects of organisational activity may affect afore-mentioned competitors. 


Pattern

Plans and ploys are examples of very deliberate strategies. However, strategies can sometimes emerge from past organisational behaviour,  from unexpected events, or just from accidentally discovering which actions work. These emergent strategies are not a conscious choice, instead, they are the result of discovering a consistent and successful way of doing business. They can often develop incrementally by building on many small decisions made and solutions found. The leader is not aiming to gain a strategic advantage by making good decisions - but often they find themselves with one. 

Make note of the behaviours that are displayed within your organisation, and how specific, important tasks are handled and functions are operated. Ask yourself - have these become part of implicit organisational strategy? Are they routine? Are they integral to operations? If the answer to these seems to be a yes, consider how these behaviours could be positioned when you are approaching strategic planning.


Position

Position generally refers to how an organisational orientates itself within a market environment. By performing a full analysis of the environment and the opportunities which it presents, an organisation can facilitate the development of a sustainable competitive advantage through key strategic decisions and planning. Notably, Position often has significant overlap with other Ps and can be used in conjunction with another approach, such as a Ploy or a Plan. 

The most common example of this is finding a way to differentiate yourselves within a market environment by developing unique products and services.PESTLE analysis and Porter's Five Forces are two key models which can be used in order to assess the environment in which an organisation operates and to identify any specific areas in which one can develop a USP. 


Perspective

Similar to how Pattern strategies are dependent on the emergence of strategy from behaviour, Perspective can heavily influence the ways an organisation will be able to, or will choose to operate. This Perspective is, in itself, derived from the culture (i.e. the ways of thinking) that are present within the organisation, in conjunction with its values and overall mission. Leaders, when approaching planning, should be aware of the culture of the organisation and how that may influence decision-making and behaviour.

For example - an organisation which encourages risk-taking and entrepreneurship may find itself leading the way in the market due to its production of far more innovative products than its competitors. Whereas an organisation that operates are more rigid, uniform structure, based around systems and processes, may get a lot of business due to the quality by which it performs necessary services or through the manufacture of high quality, reliable products.


Developing strategy

Though they can be used as independent approaches to strategy, the 5Ps are best considered as different viewpoints or perspectives which should be considered when developing strategy as a leader. There are three specific points in the strategic planning process when considering the 5Ps can be most effective:


  1. Whilst gathering the initial information and conducting an analysis of the data necessary to make an accurate strategic decision, as a way of ensuring that you have considered all of the perspectives required. 
  2. After the development of initial strategic ideas, in order to ensure that they are comprehensive, feasible and robust, and that there are no obstacles you may have missed.
  3. As a final checkpoint, in order to flush out any inconsistencies and issues in your strategic plan, and to once again make sure that there are no opportunities or obstacles that you may not have considered.


The strategic planning process is crucial to operational success. If you do not identify the necessary opportunities for growth, or if you miss obstacles that the organisation will run into immediately or further down the line, then this will restrict or even hinder growth. Utilise the 5Ps as a lense during the planning stage so that you can reap all the possible benefits of a successful strategy.