Strategy Textbooks: A Case of Consistently Inconsistent Evaluations

Cathy A. Enz, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration

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© Academy of Management. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Recommended Citation:

Enz, C. A. (1986). Strategy textbooks: A case of consistently inconsistent evaluations [Electronic version]. Academy of Management Review, 11(1), 226-237.


"This book is too superficial, but it meets my needs better than others available." This quotation illustrates the equivocal praise which business instructors provide the textbooks that they adopt for their capstone policy courses. Ten representative strategy/policy textbooks were reviewed and almost all of them received at least one instructor's nomination as the best strategy textbook available, yet reviewers consistently identified deficiencies and their intent to change books.

What is it about business strategy/policy textbooks or courses that brings out consistent inconsistency across text users even when they evaluate the same book? In the present review a representative group of strategy textbooks are compared with two purposes in mind. First, what are the characteristics of these textbooks and how do they compare with each other? Do the textbooks differ on textual material or case quality? Second, what do different adopters across the country think of the textbook they are using?

The area of study referred to as business policy, strategic management, management policy, or administrative policy is the focus of this review. The diversity of approaches to this capstone integrative course is reflected in the textbook titles. Although many books come close to having the title strategic management, some use the traditional title business policy, and many combine the labels. The diversity of titles unobtrusively indicates the absence of a core body of knowledge and an area of business study which is experiencing growing pains.

A review of these textbooks is exacerbated by the relative newness of the field and the integrative nature of the subject matter. Since the business environment is constantly changing, so is the material presented in strategy courses. Because choosing a business strategy textbook is closely linked to pedagogy, this review provides information on course approach as well.