Strategy can be formulated on three different levels:
While strategy may be about competing and surviving as a firm, one can argue that products, not corporations compete, and products are developed by business units. The role of the corporation then is to manage its business units and products so that each is competitive and so that each contributes to corporate purposes.
Consider Textron, Inc., a successful conglomerate corporation that pursues profits through a range of businesses in unrelated industries.
Textron has four core business segments:
While the corporation must manage its portfolio of businesses to grow and survive, the success of a diversified firm depends upon its ability to manage each of its product lines. While there is no single competitor to Textron, we can talk about the competitors and strategy of each of its business units. In the finance business segment, for example, the chief rivals are major banks providing commercial financing. Many managers consider the business level to be the proper focus for strategic planning.
Corporate Level Strategy
Corporate level strategy fundamentally is concerned with the selection of businesses in which the company should compete and with the development and coordination of that portfolio of businesses.
Corporate level strategy is concerned with:
Corporations are responsible for creating value through their businesses. They do so by managing their portfolio of businesses, ensuring that the businesses are successful over the long-term, developing business units, and sometimes ensuring that each business is compatible with others in the portfolio.
Business Unit Level Strategy
A strategic business unit may be a division, product line, or other profit center that can be planned independently from the other business units of the firm.
At the business unit level, the strategic issues are less about the coordination of operating units and more about developing and sustaining a competitive advantage for the goods and services that are produced. At the business level, the strategy formulation phase deals with:
Michael Porter identified three generic strategies (cost leadership, differentiation, and focus) that can be implemented at the business unit level to create a competitive advantage and defend against the adverse effects of the five forces.
Functional Level Strategy
The functional level of the organization is the level of the operating divisions and departments. The strategic issues at the functional level are related to business processes and the value chain. Functional level strategies in marketing, finance, operations, human resources, and R&D involve the development and coordination of resources through which business unit level strategies can be executed efficiently and effectively.
Functional units of an organization are involved in higher level strategies by providing input into the business unit level and corporate level strategy, such as providing information on resources and capabilities on which the higher level strategies can be based. Once the higher-level strategy is developed, the functional units translate it into discrete action-plans that each department or division must accomplish for the strategy to succeed.