IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Strategic Factor Markets: Expectations, Luck, and Business Strategy


  • Jay B. Barney

    (Graduate School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90024)


Much of the current thinking about competitive strategy focuses on ways that firms can create imperfectly competitive product markets in order to obtain greater than normal economic performance. However, the economic performance of firms does not depend simply on whether or not its strategies create such markets, but also on the cost of implementing those strategies. Clearly, if the cost of strategy implementation is greater than returns obtained from creating an imperfectly competitive product market, then firms will not obtain above normal economic performance from their strategizing efforts. To help analyze the cost of implementing strategies, we introduce the concept of a strategic factor market, i.e., a market where the resources necessary to implement a strategy are acquired. If strategic factor markets are perfect, then the cost of acquiring strategic resources will approximately equal the economic value of those resources once they are used to implement product market strategies. Even if such strategies create imperfectly competitive product markets, they will not generate above normal economic performance for a firm, for their full value would have been anticipated when the resources necessary for implementation were acquired. However, strategic factor markets will be imperfectly competitive when different firms have different expectations about the future value of a strategic resource. In these settings, firms may obtain above normal economic performance from acquiring strategic resources and implementing strategies. We show that other apparent strategic factor market imperfections, including when a firm already controls all the resources needed to implement a strategy, when a firm controls unique resources, when only a small number of firms attempt to implement a strategy, and when some firms have access to lower cost capital than others, and so on, are all special cases of differences in expectations held by firms about the future value of a strategic resource. Firms can attempt to develop better expectations about the future value of strategic resources by analyzing their competitive environments or by analyzing skills and capabilities they already control. Environmental analysis cannot be expected to improve the expectations of some firms better than others, and thus cannot be a source of more accurate expectations about the future value of a strategic resource. However, analyzing a firm's skills and capabilities can be a source of more accurate expectations. Thus, from the point of view of firms seeking greater than normal economic performance, our analysis suggests that strategic choices should flow mainly from the analysis of its unique skills and capabilities, rather than from the analysis of its competitive environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Jay B. Barney, 1986. "Strategic Factor Markets: Expectations, Luck, and Business Strategy," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(10), pages 1231-1241, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:32:y:1986:i:10:p:1231-1241
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.32.10.1231

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:32:y:1986:i:10:p:1231-1241. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Chris Asher (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.