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Strategic groups: Theory, research and taxonomy


  • John McGee
  • Howard Thomas


This paper discusses the concept of strategic groups, focusing upon the importance of intra‐industry strategic groupings in understanding differences across firms within an industry. The problems involved in identifying strategic groups within industries are examined through a comprehensive review of recent studies. It is demonstrated that much of the research has used surrogates for elements of a firm's strategic direction, e.g. vertical integration, product range, R & D expenditure, to suggest bases by which creative and sustainable groups are formed. The authors argue that certain theoretical concepts such as mobility barriers, isolating mechanisms and controllable variablesprovide much firmer bases for identifying strategic groups within industries. Thus, taxonomies for understanding the nature of strategic group formulation can be developed. Implications of the strategic group concept for such strategic issues as the structure‐performance linkage, firm mobility, patterns of rivalry, industry evolutionand firm growthare then examined. The paper concludes by indicating fruitful directions for strategic group research in the context of the strategic management field.

Suggested Citation

  • John McGee & Howard Thomas, 1986. "Strategic groups: Theory, research and taxonomy," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(2), pages 141-160, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:stratm:v:7:y:1986:i:2:p:141-160
    DOI: 10.1002/smj.4250070204

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    Cited by:

    1. Anne Toppinen & Ning Li & Anni Tuppura & Ying Xiong, 2012. "Corporate Responsibility and Strategic Groups in the Forest‐based Industry: Exploratory Analysis based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Framework," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 19(4), pages 191-205, July.
    2. Susanne Hügel & Markus Kreutzer & Nico B. Rottke, 2019. "Firm Innovativeness In Service Industries: A Construct Validation In The External Environment And Industry Structure Contexts," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 23(06), pages 1-57, August.
    3. Kenneth F. Harling, 1988. "Strategic management of farm supply and grain elevator businesses," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 4(4), pages 301-314.
    4. Kazan, Erol & Tan, Chee-Wee & Lim, Eric T.K & Sørensen, Carsten & Damsgaard, Jan, 2018. "Disentangling digital platform competition: the case of UK mobile payment platforms," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86345, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Gunardi, Hery & Primiana, Ina & Effendi, Nury & Herwany, Aldrin & Satyakti, Yayan, 2020. "Risk and Competition in the Indonesian Private Banking Market: An Asymmetric Rivalry Within and Between Strategic Groups," MPRA Paper 98451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Luis Escobar & Harrie Vredenburg, 2011. "Multinational Oil Companies and the Adoption of Sustainable Development: A Resource-Based and Institutional Theory Interpretation of Adoption Heterogeneity," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 98(1), pages 39-65, January.
    7. Chinmay Pattnaik & Qiang Lu & Ajai S. Gaur, 2018. "Group Affiliation and Entry Barriers: The Dark Side Of Business Groups In Emerging Markets," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 153(4), pages 1051-1066, December.
    8. Mahoney, Joseph T., 1995. "The management of resources and the resource of management," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 91-101, June.
    9. Elizabeth G. Pontikes, 2018. "Category Strategy for Firm Advantage," Strategy Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(4), pages 620-631, December.
    10. Wright, Peter & Kroll, Mark & Pray, Bevalee & Lado, Augustine, 1995. "Strategic orientations, competitive advantage, and business performance," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 143-151, June.
    11. M. à ngeles López-Cabarcos & Sérgio Göttling-Oliveira-Monteiro & Paula Vázquez-Rodríguez, 2015. "Organizational Capabilities and Profitability," SAGE Open, , vol. 5(4), pages 21582440156, November.

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