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Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance
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Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance [Format Kindle]

Michael E. Porter

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Chapter 1: Competitive Strategy: The Core Concepts

Competition is at the core of the success or failure of firms. Competition determines the appropriateness of a firm's activities that can contribute to its performance, such as innovations, a cohesive culture, or good implementation. Competitive strategy is the search for a favorable competitive position in an industry, the fundamental arena in which competition occurs. Competitive strategy aims to establish a profitable and sustainable position against the forces that determine industry competition.

Two central questions underlie the choice of competitive strategy. The first is the attractiveness of industries for long-term profitability and the factors that determine it. Not all industries offer equal opportunities for sustained profitability, and the inherent profitability of its industry is one essential ingredient in determining the profitability of a firm. The second central question in competitive strategy is the determinants of relative competitive position within an industry. In most industries, some firms are much more profitable than others, regardless of what the average profitability of the industry may be.

Neither question is sufficient by itself to guide the choice of competitive strategy. A firm in a very attractive industry may still not earn attractive profits if it has chosen a poor competitive position. Conversely, a firm in an excellent competitive position may be in such a poor industry that it is not very profitable, and further efforts to enhance its position will be of little benefit. Both questions are dynamic; industry attractiveness and competitive position change. Industries become more or less attractive over time, and competitive position reflects an unending battle among competitors. Even long periods of stability can be abruptly ended by competitive moves.

Both industry attractiveness and competitive position can be shaped by a firm, and this is what makes the choice of competitive strategy both challenging and exciting. While industry attractiveness is partly a reflection of factors over which a firm has little influence, competitive strategy has considerable power to make an industry more or less attractive. At the same time, a firm can clearly improve or erode its position within an industry through its choice of strategy. Competitive strategy, then, not only responds to the environment but also attempts to shape that environment in a firm's favor.

These two central questions in competitive strategy have been at the core of my research. My book Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors presents an analytical framework for understanding industries and competitors, and formulating an overall competitive strategy. It describes the five competitive forces that determine the attractiveness of an industry and their underlying causes, as well as how these forces change over time and can be influenced through strategy. It identifies three broad generic strategies for achieving competitive advantage. It also shows how to analyze competitors and to predict and influence their behavior, and how to map competitors into strategic groups and assess the most attractive positions in an industry. It then goes on to apply the framework to a range of important types of industry environments that I term structural settings, including fragmented industries, emerging industries, industries undergoing a transition to maturity, declining industries, and global industries. Finally, the book examines the important strategic decisions that occur in the context of an industry, including vertical integration, capacity expansion, and entry.

This book takes the framework in Competitive Strategy as a starting point. The central theme of this book is how a firm can actually create and sustain a competitive advantage in its industry -- how it can implement the broad generic strategies. My aim is to build a bridge between strategy and implementation, rather than treat these two subjects independently or consider implementation scarcely at all as has been characteristic of much previous research in the field.

Competitive advantage grows fundamentally out of value a firm is able to create for its buyers that exceeds the firm's cost of creating it. Value is what buyers are willing to pay, and superior value stems from offering lower prices than competitors for equivalent benefits or providing unique benefits that more than offset a higher price. There are two basic types of competitive advantage: cost leadership and differentiation. This book describes how a firm can gain a cost advantage or how it can differentiate itself. It describes how the choice of competitive scope, or the range of a firm's activities, can play a powerful role in determining competitive advantage. Finally, it translates these concepts, combined with those in my earlier book, into overall implications for offensive and defensive competitive strategy, including the role of uncertainty in influencing strategic choices. This book considers not only competitive strategy in an individual industry but also corporate strategy for the diversified firm. Competitive advantage in one industry can be strongly enhanced by interrelationships with business units competing in related industries, if these interrelationships can actually be achieved. Interrelationships among business units are the principal means by which a diversified firm creates value, and thus provide the underpinnings for corporate strategy. I will describe how interrelationships among business units can be identified and translated into a corporate strategy, as well as how interrelationships can be achieved in practice despite the organizational impediments to doing so that are present in many diversified firms.

Though the emphases of this book and my earlier book are different, they are strongly complementary. The emphasis of Competitive Strategy is on industry structure and competitor analysis in a variety of industry environments, though it contains many implications for competitive advantage. This book begins by assuming an understanding of industry structure and competitor behavior, and is preoccupied with how to translate that understanding into a competitive advantage. Actions to create competitive advantage often have important consequences for industry structure and competitive reaction, however, and thus I will return to these subjects frequently.

This book can be read independently of Competitive Strategy, but its power to aid practitioners in formulating strategy is diminished if the reader is not familiar with the core concepts presented in the earlier book. In this chapter, I will describe and elaborate on some of those concepts. The discussion of the core concepts will also provide a good means of introducing the concepts and techniques in this book. In the process, I will address some of the most important questions that arise in applying the core concepts in practice. Thus even readers familiar with my earlier book may find the review of interest.

The Structural Analysis of Industries

The first fundamental determinant of a firm's profitability is industry attractiveness. Competitive strategy must grow out of a sophisticated understanding of the rules of competition that determine an industry's attractiveness. The ultimate aim of competitive strategy is to cope with and, ideally, to change those rules in the firm's favor. In any industry, whether it is domestic or international or produces a product or a service, the rules of competition are embodied in five competitive forces: the entry of new competitors, the threat of substitutes, the bargaining power of buyers, the bargaining power of suppliers, and the rivalry among the existing competitors.

The collective strength of these five competitive forces determines the ability of firms in an industry to earn, on average, rates of return on investment in excess of the cost of capital. The strength of the five forces varies from industry to industry, and can change as an industry evolves. The result is that all industries are not alike from the standpoint of inherent profitability. In industries where the five forces are favorable, such as pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, and data base publishing, many competitors earn attractive returns. But in industries where pressure from one or more of the forces is intense, such as rubber, steel, and video games, few firms command attractive returns despite the best efforts of management. Industry profitability is not a function of what the product looks like or whether it embodies high or low technology, but of industry structure. Some very mundane industries such as postage meters and grain trading are extremely profitable, while some more glamorous, high-technology industries such as personal computers and cable television are not profitable for many participants.

The five forces determine industry profitability because they influence the prices, costs, and required investment of firms in an industry -- the elements of return on investment. Buyer power influences the prices that firms can charge, for example, as does the threat of substitution. The power of buyers can also influence cost and investment, because powerful buyers demand costly service. The bargaining power of suppliers determines the costs of raw materials and other inputs. The intensity of rivalry influences prices as well as the costs of competing in areas such as plant, product development, advertising, and sales force. The threat of entry places a limit on prices, and shapes the investment required to deter entrants.

The strength of each of the five competitive forces is a function of industry structure, or the underlying economic and technical characteristics of an industry. Industry structure is relatively stable, but can change over time as an industry evolves. Structural change shifts the overall and relative strength of the competitive forces, and can thus positively or negatively influence industry profit...

Revue de presse

Financial Times The most influential management book of the past quarter century....A veritable goldmine of analytical concepts and tools to help companies get a much clearer grasp of how they can create and sustain competitive advantage.

Philip Kotler S.C. Johnson & Son, Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Northwestern University Michael Porter has done it again. Having defined the 'what' and 'why' of competitive strategy in his earlier book, he now defines the 'how' in Competitive Advantage.

Newsday A sharp, aggressive and cogently reasoned book about competition that your smarter rivals will try to get to first.

The Washington Post A brilliant structural analysis of what competitive advantage might mean....

Antitrust Law & Economics Review A superb guide for business managers but also necessary background study for judges, antitrust agency officials, and economic experts in antitrust cases.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 étoiles sur 5  72 commentaires
99 internautes sur 102 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Strategy book of the 1980s - still a key reference guide 11 avril 2005
Par Peter Leerskov - Publié sur Amazon.com
Michael Porter is the founding father for strategies in a competitive context. This pioneering book represents some of his best thoughts on business and corporate strategy.

Chapter 1 is a summary of his first landmark book - "Competitive Strategy". So if you just want to buy one of his bestsellers, then buy "Competitive Advantage".

The book's most important contribution is the concept of the VALUE CHAIN. Today, you won't find an MBA who doesn't know this idea. This book gives you all the details on the value chain. And it even tells you exactly how the value chain is translated into his two generic strategies: Cost Leadership and Differentiation. Most strategy books devote a separate chapter to this idea. If you want to get a more than a superficial understanding of the value chain, you simply have to read Porter's book.

This book also gets to the core of how synergies are created and when diversification might work. Curiously, Porter chooses the term interrelationships for synergies (you know, a term for a nice idea that rarely occurred in practice...).

Being a business development manager, I have strategic thinking as part of my key areas. This book is still a reference guide for me. Obviously though, Porter's views cannot stand-alone.

If you're looking for critical views on Porter's ideas, then consider buying Hamel & Prahalad's "Competing for the Future" (1994) or Kim & Mauborgne's "Blue Ocean Strategy" (2005).

Beware: You have to read Porter's Harvard Business review article "What is Strategy" from 1996, if you want his own response to the critics.

Warning: You cannot work seriously with strategy without having understood Michael Porter's core concepts. And the superficial introduction by most - even advanced - strategy books won't make you competent enough to apply his ideas skilfully. Let me give you two examples:


Most MBAs have learned about the value chain and cost structure analysis. But in real life I've seen very few who combine these two concepts proficiently. The real beauty in benchmarking cost structures is when you skilfully apply it to the value chain. This book tells you exactly how to do this. In practice, I've seen this approach applied very few times (except advanced strategy consultants). It may be because people often use Porter's concepts too casually...


Most strategy books are on drivers of differentiation - the preferred strategy choice by management gurus. And Porter does indeed help you on this issue. More importantly, this book is one of the few to tell you about the cost drivers. How many books have you read on Cost Leadership? Porter elaborates on 10 cost drivers, such as economies of scale, learning, linkages, synergies, pattern of capacity utilization, integration, timing, policies, and location.

STRATEGY IS ABOUT BEING DIFFERENT. Start out personally by reading the real thing ... it's a bargain.

Peter Leerskov,

MSc in International Business (Marketing & Management) and Graduate Diploma in E-business
29 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The 'mother' of all business strategy books 4 juin 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
I just finished a competitive strategy class in my MBA program and this book was referred to often. The most helpful section is the one that breaks down a company's activities and helps create a 'value chain' to figure out how and where an organization creates value. Once this is done, Porter delineates how competitive advantages might be created based on tinkering with value chain activities. The only thing, I felt, was not covered in the book was the 'core competence' concept which is also derived from the value chain but ignored in this particular publication. Nevertheless, this is a 'must have' for all potential strategy consultants.
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Dated, but accessible even to non-MBA types 22 décembre 2003
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
A comprehensive introduction to how you can create advantages in your industry, even if you're not an MBA-type and just an engineer (like me). It'll also give you a useful framework for assessing what your current company and group is doing, what its vulnerabilities are, and how it relates to what the rest of the market is doing so you can make recommendations.
The only downside was the dated feel of the examples, which really made it difficult for a younger person to relate to.
23 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Framework for activities within a business 28 décembre 2000
Par Gerard Kroese - Publié sur Amazon.com
Michael Porter is a Harvard Business School professor and a leading authority on competition and strategy. This book builds on his initial 1980-book 'Competitive Strategy', which focuses on the industries surrounding businesses (summary of 'Competitive Strategy' is Chapter 1!). In this book, 'Competitive Advantage', Porter focuses on the business itself. The book is based on the activity-based theory of the firm. Activities are what generate cost and create value for buyers/customers, and are the basic units for competitive advantage.

'Competitive Advantage' consists of four parts - Principles of Competitive Advantage, Competitive Scope within an Industry, Corporate Strategy and Competitive Advantage, and Implications for Offensive and Defensive Competitive Strategy. Part I introduces the concept of the value, which is a general framework for thinking about the activities involved in any business and assessing their relative costs and role in differentiation. Then Porter explains the impact of the value chain on cost advantage, differentiation, technology and competitors. Part II discusses industry segmentation and substitution. Part III explains the interrelationships among business units and their impact on horizontal strategy, achievement of interrelationships, and complementary products. Part IV discusses industry scenarios under uncertainty, defensive strategy, and attacks on industry leaders.

Although some parts of the book are somewhat outdated, I would say that many modern management books are based on or around this book. This book provides through the use of the value chain a very useful introduction into activities within businesses. I recommend readers to complement this book with Michael Porter's 1996-Harvard Business Review-article 'What is Strategy?' which is available as a e-book (pdf-file) at Amazon.com. Highly recommended to anyone interested in management and business activities.
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Must Read For Any Senior Manager or Business Owner 26 août 1998
Par TOMASAL@BELLSOUTH.NET - Publié sur Amazon.com
Mr. Porter's book did an excellent job in outlining all the key areas that matter in the real world. Mr. Porter takes you through the exercise of properly choosing strategies (price, differentiation, technology) while focusing on buyer values to create sustainable competitive advantages and barriers.
His outline of industry segmentation helps to keep readers focused on properly using capital to maximize earnings and competitive positions (a common mistake in the business world). I found the read most helpful in structuring a much more sound strategic plan for my own company. Thank you to Mr. Porter for providing such a wonderful strategic guide.
CEO Profit Line of America, Inc.
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