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Competitive Strategy

Competitive strategy refers to how a company competes in a particular business (note: overall strategy for diversified firms is referred to as corporate strategy). Competitive strategy is concerned with how a company can gain a competitive advantage through a distinctive way of competing.

Framework Publications

The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy
     Michael E. Porter
     Harvard Business Review
     January 2008

Editor’s Note: In 1979, Harvard Business Review published “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy” by a young economist and associate professor, Michael E. Porter. It was his first HBR article, and it started a revolution in the strategy field. In subsequent decades, Porter has brought his signature economic rigor to the study of competitive strategy for corporations, regions, nations, and, more recently, health care and philanthropy. “Porter’s five forces” have shaped a generation of academic research and business practice. With prodding and assistance from Harvard Business School Professor Jan Rivkin and longtime colleague Joan Magretta, Porter here reaffirms, updates, and extends the classic work. He also addresses common misunderstandings, provides practical guidance for users of the framework, and offers a deeper view of its implications for strategy today.

-- summary article and video interview

-- related McKinsey Award video interview

-- purchase full article


Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors
Michael E. Porter
     Free Press, 1998 (1980)
Publisher's site with table of contents and first chapter excerpt


Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance
     Michael E. Porter
     Free Press, 1998 (1985)
Publisher's site with table of contents and first chapter excerpt


"What is Strategy?"
     Michael E. Porter
     Harvard Business Review, November-December 1996.
Today's dynamic markets and technologies have called into question the sustainability of competitive advantage. Under pressure to improve productivity, quality, and speed, managers have embraced tools such as TQM, benchmarking, and reengineering. Dramatic operational improvements have resulted, but rarely have these gains translated into sustainable profitability. And gradually, the tools have taken the place of strategy. As managers push to improve on all fronts, they move further away from viable competitive positions. Michael Porter argues that operational effectiveness, although necessary to superior performance, is not sufficient, because its techniques are easy to imitate. In contrast, the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match.
Order article at Harvard Business Online

“The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy”

     Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer
     Harvard Business Review, December 2002
When it comes to philanthropy, executives increasingly see themselves as caught between critics demanding ever higher levels of "corporate social responsibility" and investors applying pressure to maximize short-term profits. Increasingly, philanthropy is used as a form of public relations or advertising, promoting a company's image through high-profile sponsorships. But there is a more truly strategic way to think about philanthropy. Corporations can use their charitable efforts to improve their competitive context--the quality of the business environment in the locations where they operate. Using philanthropy to enhance competitive context aligns social and economic goals and improves a company's long-term business prospects. Addressing context enables a company not only to give money but also leverage its capabilities and relationships in support of charitable causes. Taking this new direction requires fundamental changes in the way companies approach their contribution programs. Adopting a context-focused approach requires a far more disciplined approach than is prevalent today. But it can make a company's philanthropic activities far more effective.
Order article at Harvard Business Online

"The Importance of Being Strategic"

     Michael E. Porter
     Balanced Scorecard Report, May 15, 2002
At the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative's recent North American Summit, Michael E. Porter, Bishop William Lawrence Professor at Harvard Business School, addressed the question "Is the world changing too fast for companies to have a long-term strategy?" "No," said Porter, a preeminent strategy expert; in the wake of the dot-com shakeout, strategy is more important than ever. See why he says this, and read the accompanying sidebar, "What Strategy Isn't."
Order article at Harvard Business Online

Other Publications, Speeches and Presentations In the News

What is Strategy: Issues for the World Bank

Michael E. Porter
World Bank Strategy Discussion
Washington, D.C.
August 2, 2012

Competitive Advantage: Enduring Ideas and New Opportunities
Michael E. Porter
Rotman School Conference for Leaders
Toronto, Canada
June 22, 2012
related videos: excerpt on CSV, discussion with Roger Martin

International Air Transport Association Vision 2050
June 2011
     IATA asked 35 strategic thinkers to develop this vision for the next 40 years for the airline industry. The group benefited greatly by the inspirational and strategic leadership and wisdom of Singapore’s Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew. And Harvard University Professor, Michael Porter, helped to frame the analysis with his insights on global competitiveness.

The Pluses in Corporate Philanthropy
Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer
Boston Globe, January 13, 2003

The Tax Cut That Could Pay Dividends
Michael E. Porter
The Financial Times, January 13, 2003

Now is the time to rediscover strategy
Michael E. Porter
The Wall Street Journal, November 2001
     Also published as part of the European Business Forum's Does Strategy Really Matter Anymore?

“Competition and Strategy: The Creation of a Group and a Field”
Michael E. Porter and Nicolaj Siggelkow
In The Intellectual Venture Capitalist: John H. McArthur
and the Work of the Harvard Business School, 1980-1995
Thomas K. McCraw and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, eds.
Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999

Strategy in Deal-Based Industries (pdf)     
Remarks to the 1989 HBS Real Estate Symposium
Michael E. Porter


How chewy cookies altered P&G's destiny
by Geoff Colvin
February 13, 2013

May the forces be with you and your plans for 2008
Stefan Stern
Financial Times
January 8, 2008

(Michael Porter discusses strategy)
(Learning from Porter and Welch)
July 2004
中外管理 SINO Foreign Management
(Chinese only)

(Michael E. Porter’s Magic Wand of Strategy)
战略 配称核心优势
(Strategy Matches the Key Advantage)
(Five Key Points in Competitive Strategy)
(some thoughts inspired by Michael E. Porter’s theory)
 新华航空 Expression
 July 2004, No. 7, Vol. 42
     (Chinese only)

2003 Porter Prize Winners and Michael Porter Interview
January 10, 2004
Toyo Keizai
(pdf, Japanese only)

"Retrospective: Michael Porter's Competitive Strategy"
Academy of Management Executive
May 2002, Vol.16, No.2

"Hitotsubashi University to Present 'Porter Prize' to Companies"  (subscription required)
Financial Times
July 11, 2001
Discusses new prize for Japanese companies that implement outstanding innovative corporate strategies.

Conversation Series with Porter Prize Winners: Canon Lens, Hoya Vision Care, Mabuchi Motor, Matsui Securities (in Japanese)
Weekly Toyo Keizai, July 2002

“Michael Porter's Big Ideas”
Keith H. Hammonds
Fast Company
March 2001

“The Return of Michael Porter”
James Surowiecki
Fortune Business 2.0
February 1999

Reference Chapters in On Competition

"The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy"
     On Competition, Chapter 1
     Michael E. Porter

"What is Strategy?"
     On Competition, Chapter 2
     Michael E. Porter

See chapter/article descriptions in the framework publication section above.


Recommended Links

Porter Prize
The Porter Prize was established to bestow recognition on Japanese companies that have achieved and maintained superior profitability in a particular industry by implementing unique strategies based on innovations in products, processes, and ways of managing.



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