Since the earliest days of strategic management research, scholars have sought to measure and model the effects of top managers on organizational performance. A watershed moment in this effort came with the 1984 introduction of Hambrick and Mason’s upper echelon view and their contention that firms are a reflection of their top management teams (TMT). An explosion of research followed and hundreds, if not thousands, of manuscripts have since been published on the subject. While a number of excellent reviews of this extensive literature exist, a relative few have asked questions about the overall state and future of the field. We undertook this assessment in an effort to answer some key questions. Are we still making progress on the big questions that gave rise to the upper echelon view, or have we reached a point of diminishing returns with this stream of research? If we are at an inflection point, what are the issues that should drive future inquiry about top management teams?
Steven A. Stewart and Allen C. Amason
Bill Wooldridge and Birton Cowden
Scholarly interest in how managers make strategic decisions dates from the inception of the strategic management field and continues in the present. Although such decision-making was originally conceived as a completely rational, top-management process, contemporary thinking recognizes that strategies from across multiple organizational levels change within social and political contexts. Within this broad domain, multiple research streams address a wide variety of topics and issues. Prominent among these are, (1) the extent to which strategic decisions are formed through comprehensive analysis versus piecemeal decision-making, (2) how characteristics of top managers and the composition of top management teams affect strategic decision-making, (3) the role of politics, conflict, and consensus in strategy making, (4) how cognitive biases and heuristics influence the process, (5) when and how intuitive judgments can form the basis for effective decision-making, and (6) how managers at various organizational levels participate in the process. Research across these streams is both descriptive and normative, with a focus on contextual contingencies and relationships to firm performance. Taken as a whole this literature has significantly enhanced understanding of how strategies form within organizations. Contemporary work continues to provide new insights and demonstrates the continued value of this productive area of study.
Vinícius Chagas Brasil and J.P. Eggers
In competitive strategy, firms manage two primary (non-financial) portfolios—the product portfolio and the innovation portfolio. Portfolio management involves resource allocation to balance the important tradeoff of risk reduction and upside maximization, with important decisions around the evaluation, prioritization and selection of products and innovation projects. These two portfolios are interdependent in ways that create reinforcing dynamics—the innovation portfolio is the array of potential future products, while the product portfolio both informs innovation strategy and provides inputs to future innovation efforts. Additionally, portfolio management processes operate at two levels, which is reflected in the literature's structure. The first is a micro lens which focuses on management frameworks to boost portfolio performance and success through project-level selection tools. This research has its roots in financial portfolio management, relates closely to research on new product development and marketing product management, and explores the effects of portfolio management decisions on other organizational functions (e.g., operations). The second lens is a macro lens on portfolio management research, which considers the portfolio as a whole and integrates key organizational and competitive concepts such as entry timing, portfolio management resource allocation regimes (e.g., real options reasoning), organizational experience, and the culling of products and projects. This literature aims to set portfolio management as higher level organizational decision-making capability that embodies the growth strategy of the organization. The organizational ability to manage both the product and innovation portfolios connects portfolio management to key strategic organizational capabilities, including ambidexterity and dynamic capabilities, and operationalizes strategic flexibility. We therefore view portfolio management as a source of competitive advantage that supports organizational renewal.