Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 3, Issue 3, 2008
Book Review:
Strategic Management and Competitive Advantage:
Concepts and Cases
Christos Dimitris Tsinopoulos
Durham Business School, DurhamUniversity
522 Mill Hill Lane, Mill Hill Lane, Durham DH1 3LB, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 191 33 45555
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 45201
Book Information
Book Title: Strategic Management and Competitive Advantage: Concepts and Cases
Author: Jay B. Barney and William S. Hesterly
Publisher: Prentice Hall: Financial Times Press, UK
Edition: 2nd edition
Year: 2007
Pages: 656 pages
ISBN: 0132338238
Price: £39.59
Keywords: strategic management, competitive advantage, cases
Christos Dimitris Tsinopoulos
This is the second edition of a textbook on strategy aimed at undergraduate students. Its key
differentiator to other similar books is that it uses the so called “VRIO” (Value, Rarity, Imitability, and
Organisation) framework to integrate the positioning perspective and the resource based view. The
book does this by reviewing some of the key strategies, such as cost leadership and product
differentiation, and then trying to address a series of key questions related to the VRIO approach.
In the first part the book provides some introductory elements of strategy. It does so, by
introducing the key strategic concepts to students. It then explains the key tools for strategic analysis
such as Porter’s five forces model. The concluding chapter in this part focuses on the resource based
view and explains how it can be used to evaluate a firm’s internal capabilities.
In the second part the book focuses on the development and implementation of business level
strategies. In contrast to many other strategy textbooks which focus on the implementation process of
strategy, the authors of this textbook focus directly on the key business strategies that a firm can follow
such as cost leadership and product differentiation. I think this is a refreshing approach and helps
students easily evaluate a firm’s strategy.
Finally in the third part the book focuses on the development and implementation of corporate
strategies. In this section the book explains high level strategies such as vertical integration, corporate
diversification, and strategic alliances. Similar to the previous part, the text focuses on the strategies
rather than the strategy process.
The book uses a plethora of examples to illustrate the key theoretical points it presents, making it
both relevant and easy to read. Furthermore, as the key readership of the book is undergraduate
students, the amount of cases makes it easy to find simple examples from the marketplace to associate
them with everyday life. This task becomes even easier with the use of households names, names that
most US based students would be familiar with and often have an opinion about.
There are three additional distinctive features of the book which make it a good choice for strategy
teaching. The first is the link of the theories presented in the main text to the emerging enterprise. The
authors make a good effort to associate the knowledge and tools explained in the main text to smaller
organizations. This is something which is not very often found in strategy textbooks. As the authors
correctly argue in the opening sections of the book, business graduates are more likely to work in
smaller organisations rather than larger ones. It therefore makes a lot of sense to add such a section in
every chapter.
The second distinctive feature is the “research made relevant box” which also adds considerable
value to the strategy student. The authors have done a good job in selecting key research papers and
linking them to the discussion in the main text. As a result the text does not read as a prescription to
strategy making but also provides critical evidence based views on the theory on current developments
of strategy.
The third and final distinctive feature of the book is the case studies at the end of the three
sections, which are current, thorough and provide plenty of data for analysis. Furthermore, the choice
of the case studies is such that gives students hands on view of the issues and theories examined in the
The VRIO approach presented in the book is very convincing and provides an underlining
framework which should prove useful and clear for both students and professors to follow. It will of
course require an adaptation from current teaching practices but this should be the case whenever a new
course textbook is introduced.
One concern for the potential use of the book in international classrooms is that it is significantly
US centric. Most of the case studies used to support the arguments in the main text are of companies
residing in the USA. This would not necessarily be a problem for non US students had the context
been explained in an international basis. In fact quite often the opposite happens. For instance, when
describing the case of Ryanair a European low cost carrier, the authors compare it with SouthWest
airlines, a US low cost carrier. Furthermore, the “International Context” section of each chapter
explains the implications of international strategies for US based organisations. For example when
explaining the cost leadership strategy the authors discuss the potential cost benefits that can be gained
by US based organisations when moving their operations to low cost countries. This of course is a valid
situation. However, this may be of little value to a Chinese student trying to understand how
companies in China would like to move up the value chain.
The case studies at the end of each part, however, are considerably more international using
companies such as Vodafone, Samsung, and Toyota. Therefore, instructors deciding to adopt this book
for their teaching could use these case studies to illustrate the points they want to make.
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management /
In conclusion I think this is a very good book that can significantly add value to the teaching of
strategy at the undergraduate level. Both the structure and the clarity of writing make the key
perspectives of strategy easily understood and relevant.