Strategy in the 20th Century: Explanations from History

Leonardo Silveira Conke


In this essay, we argue that an historical perspective helps to understand some of the strategic choices made by organizations. More specifically, the purpose here is to describe the great influence of historical events (related to economy, politics, technological advancement etc.) on the creation, acceptance, spreading and / or establishment of the strategic theories and tools developed since the beginning of the 20th century. Texts that usually discuss management and history outline only the Industrial Revolution or the transition from feudalism to capitalism, underestimating other historical forces that offer additional explanations to the evolution of strategic thinking. As a result of an extensive bibliographical research, we were able to identify four periods where the strategic theories developed reveal suitable responses to the challenges created by the environment: in the first one (1900-1938), strategy is concerned with organization and control of business activities, resembling the ideas developed by Scientific Administration; in the second period (1939-1964), strategic planning is formalized and the area is broadly recognized; the next decades (1965-1989) are characterized by competition and uncertainty, making strategy focus on problems emerged from the outside; finally, on the turn of the century (1990-2010), the unlimited information availability enhances the need for strategists’ conceptual and practical knowledge. Also, as a final contribution, we suggest two possible trends to the future of strategy.


Strategy History; Strategy Evolution; Strategic Theory.



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