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A Holistic Approach to Acquisition of Strategic Resources

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    Since the early 1990s, there has been a shift of emphasis in strategic management research from external factors to internal resources. According to the resource-based view (RBV) (Amit and Schoemaker, 1993; Barney, 1991; Lippman and Rumelt, 1982; Peteraf, 1993; Reed and DeFillippi, 1990; Wernerfelt, 1984), resources constitute the main source of sustainable competitive advantages.

    The consequence of this assumption is that resources have to be heterogeneously distributed and imperfectly mobile (Barney, 1991). Thus, according to the RBV, different companies have different con? gurations of resources and these resources cannot easily be transferred between ? rms. The emergence of the RBV has resulted in increased interest in human resource management and development (HRM and HRD) among strategy scholars (Luoma, 2000; Wright et al. , 2001). Since the important contribution by Fombrun et al. (1984) of linking business strategy to human resources, several papers combining the RBV with HRM techniques have been published.

    Recent studies have mainly addressed issues The study was  nanced by grants from the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation, Tore Browaldh Foundation.such as the relationships between performance and HRM (Dee Saa-Perez and Garcia-Falcon, 2002; Joo and McLean, 2006; Lee et al. , 2005; McBain, 2004; Roos et al. , 2004) or how the two ? elds of research can bene? t from each other (Colbert, 2004; Mayson and Barrett, 2006; Wright et al. , 2001).

    The merging of or attempts to merge, the RBV and HRM have been a contributory factor in the trend toward including HRM activities in the strategic planning process (Karami et al. 2004). Even so, research in the eld of RBV has generally been highly descriptive – i. e. describing the circumstances under which strategic resources will result in a competitive advantage. Possession of strategic resources is the core of the RBV; nevertheless, how these resources are acquired has not been a central topic in the resource-based literature. This non-normative approach makes it dif? cult to combine the RBV with the more practical and normative methods that are common in the HRM and HRD literature.

    From an HRM point of view, and especially from an HRM or HRD practitioner’s point of view, it is more nteresting to examine how strategic resources and competitive advantages can be developed, and to implement appropriate HRM activities based on the result of the strategic analysis. A limited number of studies have investigated how strategic resources are developed or acquired (e. g. Barney, 1986; Godfrey and Gregersen, 1999; Haanaes, 1999; Makadok, 2001). These studies, however, have usually applied a single theory or approach and few studies have addressed the issue of resource creation from a holistic or multi-theoretical point of view.

    The purpose of this paper is not to integrate the RBV and HRD, but to review different approaches to and models of resource creation, and to integrate these viewpoints in order to provide an overall framework for acquisition of strategic resources. To illustrate how this framework can be applied to strategic analysis, an empirical illustration is also given. The scheme presented here should make the RBV more accessible to researchers and practitioners in the elds of HRD and HRM. Theoretical framework Due to the high number of contributions to resource-based theory, the de itions and treatments of certain concepts differ.

    In order to describe resource acquisition, it is therefore important to de ne key concepts such as resources, capabilities, and resource value. De ning resources Several classi? cations of resources have been developed. Resources can, for example, be divided further into internal and external resources (Hooley et al. , 1999). External resources usually consist of relations with actors outside the company, such as customers and suppliers. How a company is perceived by others, in terms of its reputation, can also be classi? ed as an external resource (Deephouse, 2000).

    In the RBV literature, the main focus has been on internal resources such as human, organizational, and physical resources. According to Rangone (1999), these resources can result in capabilities such as market management capability, production capability, and innovation capability. By using this distinction between resources and capabilities, a resource is a tangible or intangible asset, and a capability is an ability resulting from these assets (Grant, 1991). Treatment of the speci? c ability to create resources has varied in the literature, even among those contributions with resource-based approaches.

    Acquisition of strategic resources 661 JEIT 31,8 662 management, entrepreneurship, and dynamic capabilities have been used to describe the ability to generate strategic resources. The debate has concerned whether the managerial or organizational ability to develop (or invest in) strategic resources should be regarded as a strategic resource or not. Several scholars (Barney, 1991; Mahoney, 1995; Wernerfelt, 1984) have chosen to include management and strategic management in the resource concept while others (Godfrey and Gregersen, 1999) have argued for a distinction between the ability to develop resources and resources themselves.

    The managerial ability to develop and to utilize strategic resources is, of course, essential but the arguments not to treat strategic management as yet another strategic resource seem valid – and important in order to avoid the problem of circular reasoning. By making a clear distinction between strategic resources and the creation (Godfrey and Gregersen, 1999) and utilization (Amit and Schoemaker, 1993; Wiklund and Shepherd, 2003) of resources, the role of strategic management becomes clearer. By doing this, the tautology of resources creating resources, expressed by Porter (1991) and Priem and Butler (2001a, b), is avoided.

    Human resources and the management of human resources can be used as an example to support the notion of separating management from other strategic resources. There seems to be something of a consensus among scholars in regarding employees and their skills and capabilities as a strategic resource. Human resources are thus generally regarded as strategic or potentially strategic resources. If we treat the management (HRM) or the strategic management (SHRM) of human resources as a resource, we are faced with a problem.

    Both the process of developing human resources in terms of HRM or SHRM and also the end result (in terms of human resources) is then regarded as a resource. This example illustrates that the arguments for a distinction between management (or managerial resources) and strategic resources seem appropriate. Hence, treating strategic management as being separate from strategic resources is therefore the viewpoint taken in this article. Resource-based value creation A resource is said to generate a value to a ? rm if it can lead to a sustainable competitive advantage (Barney, 1991).

    Possession of a strategic resource, however, and thereby the capability of gaining a competitive advantage, does not automatically mean that a ? rm has a competitive advantage. In order for a resource or a capability to generate value to the ? rm, in terms of competitive advantage, it has to be used in organizational processes (March, 1991; Ray et al. , 2004). So, does this mean that a strategic resource, which is used in different kinds of organizational processes, will always generate a competitive advantage in terms of higher pro tability.

    Hard-core supporters of the market-based view usually neglect the fact that the freedom of action is limited by internal factors such as resources. At the other end of the scale, resource-based fanatics usually take for granted that products are sold in the optimal market and thereby neglect the complexity of adopting a suitable market strategy. By de nition, utilized strategic resources have the potential to generate above-market pro tability. However, if the products manufactured are not sold in the optimal market, the pro? tability may still be at an average level.

    Thus, an external or market view is essential in order to understand the value of a resource. Hence, the positioning of the end results (i. e. the products) by adopting the most appropriate market strategy is a consideration that cannot be neglected when analyzing strategic resources. Several scholars (Barney, 1991; Pehrsson, 2000; Porter, 1991) are supportive of the notion of the importance of combining resource and market approaches in order to obtain a holistic view of  rms and markets.

    Thus, strategic resources can be acquired in three ways:  through direct investments; through organizational processes; and  through activities undertaken in the product market. Another important aspect, which cannot be neglected when describing strategic resource acquisition, is whether the strategic resource is acquired by a deliberate decision or whether the difference in resource con guration is the result of luck (Barney, 1986).

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