No one ever said formulating strategies for competitive advantage was easy. And, sometimes, a firm may not be quite ready, not the circumstances appropriate, for formulating a strategy. This is so because strategy always needs to be considered from the perspective of a particular firm and its circumstances.
Firms that are earning the industry rate of return should certainly the explore the possibility of creating a competitive advantage through an appropriate strategy. But in some cases, where the forces for change are not strong or compelling, an appropriate action is to maintain the current orientation and let a new strategy pattern emerge, rather than forcing one or copying a rival. In such cases, the firm can leverage its stable position to work on the business, focus on addressing current problems and constraints, and then let a new strategy emerge from that work over time.
The real challenge in strategy is to detect those subtle signals that presage a shift in a firm’s competitive position and standing. When this happens, a firm has no choice – it must strategize to preserve its position, adapt to the coming change, or leverage the developing situation. Change doesn’t have to be ongoing and no competitive advantage is forever. Periods of stability can interrupt change. The ability to switch on strategic thinking when needed is the essence of strategic management.