Eight Categories of Strategies Espoused by Companies

In this article, the eight kinds of strategies (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985) are presented, from the most deliberate, the planned strategy, to the most emergent, the imposed strategy.

  1. The planned strategy aims at realising the intentions of the authority without much distortion. The goal of the enterprise is immutable and procedures are put in place to prevent actors to derive from their intended role. For a planned strategy to be possible, the organization must be able to predict very accurately the changes in the environment or it has to be extraordinary stable.


Figure: Planned Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. Sometimes, the members of an organization share a common vision.  This leads to ideological strategy formation: clear and collective intentions are embedded in the behaviour of everyone in the company, and actions are therefore highly deliberate. It differs from the planned strategy in that an authority does not impose it, and there is therefore some tolerance for emergent strategy. However, the ideological strategy being shared by all makes it resistant to change.

Ideological strategy

Figure: Ideological Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. Young companies and entrepreneurial ventures usually have what is called an entrepreneurial strategy. The owner has a strong control over the organization and is able to impose his vision. The key difference with the ideological strategy is that the employees don’t share the vision. In fact, they don’t necessarily know the specific intentions of the entrepreneur. As a consequence, this type of strategy formation allows some level of adaptability: if the leader changes his mind, the strategic orientation is redefined as well.

Entrepreneurial strategy

Figure: Entrepreneurial Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. The fourth type of strategy can be described as deliberately emergent. It is the umbrella strategy, in which the leader doesn’t have tight control over the members of the organization and the environment. The management therefore provides general guidelines that rule the behaviour of the actors: emergent strategies are accepted within these boundaries.

Umbrella strategy

Figure: Umbrella Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. When confronted to an even more uncertain environment, leaders can’t impose boundaries. Instead, they define the process of strategy formation, based on which patterns of actions emerge. This is the process strategy, in which the management doesn’t have direct control on the content of the strategy.

Process strategy

Figure: Process Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. The unconnected strategy takes place when a subgroup within the organization manages to operate without falling under the same control hood as the rest of the organization. The unconnected strategy occurs concurrently with the main strategy of the organization, usually by remaining under the radar. This is a clearly emergent form of strategy at company level, but from the point of view of the subunit, this strategy can be highly deliberate.

Unconnected strategy

Figure: Unconnected Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. If the two main conditions of deliberate strategy are relaxed (no clear intentions from the management nor severe control process), strategy formation comes out of the convergence of opinions of the actors. This is a consensus strategy: depending on what they are experiencing and how the environment is evolving, they decide on a common relevant pattern that the organization must follow.

Consensus strategy

Figure: Consensus Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)

  1. As soon as the organization loses control over its own strategy formation, it has an imposed strategy. It is the environment (e.g. an external group of influence) that dictates the strategy of the organization and the company has no other option than consenting.

Imposed strategy

Figure: Imposed Strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)


Mintzberg, H., & Waters, J. A. (1985). Of Strategies, Deliberate And Emergent. Strategic Management Journal, 6(3), 257-272.

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