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Principles of Management

8.6 Competition, Strategy, and Competitive Advantage

Principles of Management8.6 Competition, Strategy, and Competitive Advantage
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Managing and Performing
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Do Managers Do?
    3. 1.2 The Roles Managers Play
    4. 1.3 Major Characteristics of the Manager's Job
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    7. Chapter Review Questions
    8. Management Skills Application Exercises
    9. Managerial Decision Exercises
    10. Critical Thinking Case
  3. 2 Managerial Decision-Making
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 Overview of Managerial Decision-Making
    3. 2.2 How the Brain Processes Information to Make Decisions: Reflective and Reactive Systems
    4. 2.3 Programmed and Nonprogrammed Decisions
    5. 2.4 Barriers to Effective Decision-Making
    6. 2.5 Improving the Quality of Decision-Making
    7. 2.6 Group Decision-Making
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  4. 3 The History of Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 The Early Origins of Management
    3. 3.2 The Italian Renaissance
    4. 3.3 The Industrial Revolution
    5. 3.4 Taylor-Made Management
    6. 3.5 Administrative and Bureaucratic Management
    7. 3.6 Human Relations Movement
    8. 3.7 Contingency and System Management
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
  5. 4 External and Internal Organizational Environments and Corporate Culture
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 The Organization's External Environment
    3. 4.2 External Environments and Industries
    4. 4.3 Organizational Designs and Structures
    5. 4.4 The Internal Organization and External Environments
    6. 4.5 Corporate Cultures
    7. 4.6 Organizing for Change in the 21st Century
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  6. 5 Ethics, Corporate Responsibility, and Sustainability
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Ethics and Business Ethics Defined
    3. 5.2 Dimensions of Ethics: The Individual Level
    4. 5.3 Ethical Principles and Responsible Decision-Making
    5. 5.4 Leadership: Ethics at the Organizational Level
    6. 5.5 Ethics, Corporate Culture, and Compliance
    7. 5.6 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
    8. 5.7 Ethics around the Globe
    9. 5.8 Emerging Trends in Ethics, CSR, and Compliance
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Chapter Review Questions
    13. Management Skills Application Exercises
    14. Managerial Decision Exercises
    15. Critical Thinking Case
  7. 6 International Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 Importance of International Management
    3. 6.2 Hofstede's Cultural Framework
    4. 6.3 The GLOBE Framework
    5. 6.4 Cultural Stereotyping and Social Institutions
    6. 6.5 Cross-Cultural Assignments
    7. 6.6 Strategies for Expanding Globally
    8. 6.7 The Necessity of Global Markets
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  8. 7 Entrepreneurship
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Entrepreneurship
    3. 7.2 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
    4. 7.3 Small Business
    5. 7.4 Start Your Own Business
    6. 7.5 Managing a Small Business
    7. 7.6 The Large Impact of Small Business
    8. 7.7 The Small Business Administration
    9. 7.8 Trends in Entrepreneurship and Small-Business Ownership
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Chapter Review Questions
    13. Management Skills Application Exercises
    14. Managerial Decision Exercises
    15. Critical Thinking Case
  9. 8 Strategic Analysis: Understanding a Firm’s Competitive Environment
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Gaining Advantages by Understanding the Competitive Environment
    3. 8.2 Using SWOT for Strategic Analysis
    4. 8.3 A Firm's External Macro Environment: PESTEL
    5. 8.4 A Firm's Micro Environment: Porter's Five Forces
    6. 8.5 The Internal Environment
    7. 8.6 Competition, Strategy, and Competitive Advantage
    8. 8.7 Strategic Positioning
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  10. 9 The Strategic Management Process: Achieving and Sustaining Competitive Advantage
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Strategic Management
    3. 9.2 Firm Vision and Mission
    4. 9.3 The Role of Strategic Analysis in Formulating a Strategy
    5. 9.4 Strategic Objectives and Levels of Strategy
    6. 9.5 Planning Firm Actions to Implement Strategies
    7. 9.6 Measuring and Evaluating Strategic Performance
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  11. 10 Organizational Structure and Change
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Organizational Structures and Design
    3. 10.2 Organizational Change
    4. 10.3 Managing Change
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    7. Chapter Review Questions
    8. Management Skills Application Exercises
    9. Managerial Decision Exercises
    10. Critical Thinking Case
  12. 11 Human Resource Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 An Introduction to Human Resource Management
    3. 11.2 Human Resource Management and Compliance
    4. 11.3 Performance Management
    5. 11.4 Influencing Employee Performance and Motivation
    6. 11.5 Building an Organization for the Future
    7. 11.6 Talent Development and Succession Planning
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  13. 12 Diversity in Organizations
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 An Introduction to Workplace Diversity
    3. 12.2 Diversity and the Workforce
    4. 12.3 Diversity and Its Impact on Companies
    5. 12.4 Challenges of Diversity
    6. 12.5 Key Diversity Theories
    7. 12.6 Benefits and Challenges of Workplace Diversity
    8. 12.7 Recommendations for Managing Diversity
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  14. 13 Leadership
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 The Nature of Leadership
    3. 13.2 The Leadership Process
    4. 13.3 Leader Emergence
    5. 13.4 The Trait Approach to Leadership
    6. 13.5 Behavioral Approaches to Leadership
    7. 13.6 Situational (Contingency) Approaches to Leadership
    8. 13.7 Substitutes for and Neutralizers of Leadership
    9. 13.8 Transformational, Visionary, and Charismatic Leadership
    10. 13.9 Leadership Needs in the 21st Century
    11. Key Terms
    12. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    13. Chapter Review Questions
    14. Management Skills Application Exercises
    15. Managerial Decision Exercises
    16. Critical Thinking Case
  15. 14 Work Motivation for Performance
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 Motivation: Direction and Intensity
    3. 14.2 Content Theories of Motivation
    4. 14.3 Process Theories of Motivation
    5. 14.4 Recent Research on Motivation Theories
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    8. Chapter Review Questions
    9. Management Skills Application Exercises
    10. Managerial Decision Exercises
    11. Critical Thinking Case
  16. 15 Managing Teams
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Teamwork in the Workplace
    3. 15.2 Team Development Over Time
    4. 15.3 Things to Consider When Managing Teams
    5. 15.4 Opportunities and Challenges to Team Building
    6. 15.5 Team Diversity
    7. 15.6 Multicultural Teams
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  17. 16 Managerial Communication
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 The Process of Managerial Communication
    3. 16.2 Types of Communications in Organizations
    4. 16.3 Factors Affecting Communications and the Roles of Managers
    5. 16.4 Managerial Communication and Corporate Reputation
    6. 16.5 The Major Channels of Management Communication Are Talking, Listening, Reading, and Writing
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    9. Chapter Review Questions
    10. Management Skills Application Exercises
    11. Managerial Decision Exercises
    12. Critical Thinking Case
  18. 17 Organizational Planning and Controlling
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 Is Planning Important
    3. 17.2 The Planning Process
    4. 17.3 Types of Plans
    5. 17.4 Goals or Outcome Statements
    6. 17.5 Formal Organizational Planning in Practice
    7. 17.6 Employees' Responses to Planning
    8. 17.7 Management by Objectives: A Planning and Control Technique
    9. 17.8 The Control- and Involvement-Oriented Approaches to Planning and Controlling
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Chapter Review Questions
    13. Management Skills Application Exercises
    14. Managerial Decision Exercises
    15. Critical Thinking Case
  19. 18 Management of Technology and Innovation
    1. Introduction
    2. 18.1 MTI—Its Importance Now and In the Future
    3. 18.2 Developing Technology and Innovation
    4. 18.3 External Sources of Technology and Innovation
    5. 18.4 Internal Sources of Technology and Innovation
    6. 18.5 Management Entrepreneurship Skills for Technology and Innovation
    7. 18.6 Skills Needed for MTI
    8. 18.7 Managing Now for Future Technology and Innovation
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  20. References
  21. Index
  1. What does it mean to compete with other firms in a business environment, what does it mean when a firm has a competitive advantage over its rivals, and what generic strategies can a firm implement to gain advantage over its rivals?

Now that you understand more about the environment that businesses operate in, let’s take a deeper look at exactly how they operate. Businesses exist to make profits by offering goods and services in the marketplace at prices that are higher than the costs they incurred creating those goods and services. Businesses rarely exist alone in an industry; competition is a usually a key part of any marketplace. This means that businesses must find ways to attract customers to their products and away from competitors’ products. Strategy is the process of planning and implementing actions that will lead to success in competition.

The analytical tools we discuss here are part of the strategic planning process. Managers cannot successfully plan to compete in an industry if they don’t understand its competitive landscape. It is also unlikely that a firm planning to launch a new product they are not equipped to make will be successful.

Competition

Porter’s Five Forces model is centered around rivalry, a synonym for competition. In any industry, multiple firms compete against each other for customers by offering better or cheaper products than their rivals. Firms use PESTEL to understand what consumers are interested in and use VRIO to evaluate their own resources and capabilities so that they can figure out how to offer products and services that match those consumer interests and that are better in quality and price than the products offered by their competitors.

A firm is described as having a competitive advantage when it successfully attracts more customers, earns more profit, or returns more value to its shareholders than rival firms do. A firm achieves a competitive advantage by adding value to its products and services or reducing its own costs more effectively than its rivals in the industry.

Generic Business-Level Competitive Strategies

When discussing business strategy, a business is a firm or a unit of a firm that centers its activities around one primary type of product or service line. Business-level strategy is the general way that a business organizes its activities to compete against rivals in its product’s industry. Michael Porter (the same Harvard professor who developed the Five Forces Model) defined three generic business-level strategies that outline the basic methods of organizing to compete in a product market. He called the strategies “generic” because these ways of organizing can be used by any firm in any industry.

Cost Leadership

When pursuing a cost-leadership strategy, a firm offers customers its product or service at a lower price than its rivals can. To achieve a competitive advantage over rivals in the industry, the successful cost leader tightly controls costs throughout its value chain activities. Supplier relationships are managed to guarantee the lowest prices for parts, manufacturing is conducted in the least expensive labor markets, and operations may be automated for maximum efficiency. A cost leader must spend as little as possible producing a product or providing a service so that it will still be profitable when selling that product or service at the lowest price. Walmart is the master of cost leadership, offering a wide variety of products at lower prices than competitors because it does not spend money on fancy stores, it extracts low prices from its suppliers, and its pays its employees relatively low wages.

Differentiation

Not all products or services in the marketplace are offered at low prices, of course. A differentiation strategy is exactly the opposite of a cost-leadership strategy. While firms do not look to spend as much as possible to produce their output, firms that differentiate try to add value to their products and services so they can attract customers who are willing to pay a higher price. At each step in the value chain, the differentiator increases the quality, features, and overall attractiveness of its products or services. Research and development efforts focus on innovation, customer service is excellent, and marketing bolsters the value of the firm brand. These efforts guarantee that the successful differentiator can still profit even though its production costs are higher than a cost leader’s. Starbucks is a good example of a differentiator: it makes coffee, but its customers are willing to pay premium prices for a cup of Starbucks coffee because they value the restaurant atmosphere, customer service, product quality, and brand.

Porter’s typology assumes that firms can succeed through either cost leadership or differentiation. Trying to combine these two, Porter suggests, can lead to a firm being stuck in the middle.

Focus

Porter’s third generic competitive strategy, focus, is a little different from the other two. A firm that focuses still must choose one of the other strategies to organize its activities. It will still strive to lower costs or add value. The difference here is that a firm choosing to implement a focused strategy will concentrate its marketing and selling efforts on a smaller market than a broad cost leader or differentiator. A firm following a focus-differentiation strategy, for example, will add value to its product or service that a few customers will value highly, either because the product is specifically suited to a particular use or because it is a luxury product that few can afford. For example, Flux is a company that offers custom-made bindings for your snowboard. Flux is a focus differentiator because it makes a specialized product that is valued by a small market of customers who are willing to pay premium prices for high-quality, customized snowboarding equipment.

A photo shot from the above shows a snowboard featuring Flux premium bindings.
Exhibit 8.11 Snowboard bindings The Flux premium bindings on this snowboard are an example of a product on a focus-driven company. Snowboard bindings are the only products Flux markets. (Credit: Ted and dani Percival/ flickr/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

Strategic Groups

When managers analyze their competitive environment and examine rivalry within their industry, they are not confronted by an infinite variety of competitors. Although there are millions of businesses of all sizes around the globe, a single business usually competes mainly against other businesses offering similar products or services and following the same generic competitive strategy. Groups of businesses that follow similar strategies in the same industry are called strategic groups, and it is important that a manager know the other firms in their strategic group. Rivalry is fiercest within a strategic group, and the actions of one firm in a group will elicit responses from other group members, who don’t want to lose market share in the industry. Take a look at Exhibit 8.12: although all of the firms shown are in the retail industry, they don’t all compete directly against one another.

A diagram shows the strategic groups present in the retail industry.
Exhibit 8.12 Strategic Groups in the Retail Industry (Attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC-BY 4.0 license)

Although some cross competition can occur (for example, you could buy a Kate Spade wallet at Nordstrom), firms in different strategic groups tend to compete more with each other than against firms outside their group. Although Walmart and Neiman Marcus both offer a wide variety of products, the two firms do not cater to the same customers, and their managers do not lose sleep at night wondering what each might do next. On the other hand, a Walmart manager would be concerned with the products or prices offered at Target; if laundry detergent is on sale at Target, the Walmart manager might lose sales from customers who buy it at Target instead, and so the Walmart manager might respond to Target’s sale price by discounting the same detergent at Walmart.

Concept Check

  1. What is competition, and what is the role of strategy in competition?
  2. When does a firm have a competitive advantage over its rivals?
  3. Explain the differences between the three business-level generic competitive strategies.
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