Since its first edition in 1990, John L. Thompson's Strategic Management has proved to be the staple text for many undergraduate courses in business and management. Its aim is to introduce students to commercial not-for-profit and third-sector organisations and the strategic actions they take to deal with the changes, opportunities, threats, challenges and surprises of corporate life.
Successive editions have kept up with external changes to the business and management environment: globalisation, computerisation and the digital revolution. The book covers all the major strategic analytical tools and shows students how to use them methodically, without confining readers to a workbook straitjacket. Thompson sensibly does not attempt controversial, over-pedantic or guru-style theorising or deconstructionism. The one weakness is a less-than-adequate chapter on finance.
The book's usefulness depends on the lecturer's perception of his or her role, and their assessment of whether students learning the subject of strategic management is more important than teaching students how to think strategically for themselves. Since strategic management is open-ended, the inclusion of numerous mini-case studies and 17 substantial case studies proves to be this book's major strength. With up-to-date information increasingly available to students electronically - as well as by traditional means - tutors can urge their students to discover for themselves much more than space would allow in this or any other book on strategic analysis. Thompson's case studies give a firm foundation for this practice, and there are two websites, one for lecturers and one for students, to support their lectures and reading.
Paul Joyce and Adrian Woods's book is less of a textbook than Thompson's and other "standard" works. Their claim is in the title and presupposes a grasp of the "tool chest" series of analytical theories and models. The authors devise many strategic checklists of their own, and they are more comprehensive than other standard authors.
In many respects, Joyce and Woods have written a book that is designed to be read more philosophically than other volumes full of busy practicalities and flush with sometimes overwhelming detail. Strategic thinking and creativity, after all, demand a deep and holistic understanding, developed through not-too-hurried thought, and not just dynamically gained ephemeral knowledge. A particular strength of the book is the inclusion of extensive "Readings" by other authors, helpful particularly to MBA students and final-year undergraduates. This book is also supported by a website.
Patrick Mileham is reader in corporate management, University of Paisley.
Strategic Management. Fourth edition
Author - John L. Thompson
ISBN - 1 86152 587 7
Publisher - Thomson Learning
Price - £29.99
Pages - 1,141