Three levels of strategy with examples

As an organization, the first step that leaders usually follow is not just a definition of the strategy but also the layers it will have. This arises from the fact that strategy needs to reach all parts of the organization, and in the most relevant manner. Hence strategic management certificate courses talk about the key levels that define any strong and robust strategy – corporate, business and functional. You need to spend time and effort in developing all the three levels, for your organization to be successful.

Three levels of strategy with examples

Three levels of strategy in some more detail:

Corporate Strategy

This is a general and macro-level strategy which is overarching all the other aspects. It focuses on the purpose of the business, its areas of operations, the goals in terms of markets and target consumers, and the approaches that will be taken to meet those goals. This is an important first step because it helps you clarify your own vision and give it a form that can then be detailed out. It also provides a line of sight to the leaders and employees, both potential and existing, and allows you to define values that you will need to apply for your business’s success. Depending on the size of operations, this will be a simple or complicated process.

Also Read: What is the Concept of Strategic Management?

Business Strategy

This is the next level where the corporate strategy is percolated down to the business level. This requires some more detailing such as specific steps that will be undertaken within identified approaches, for goal achievement. It also allows different businesses to identify their alignment and linkage with the corporate strategy, and define their growth goals as per that. The go-to-market strategy comes into the picture at this stage as well. Operational details such as resource planning, workforce optimization and delivery, will also become a part of this phase.

Three levels of strategy with examples

Functional Strategy

This is more of a regular and daily strategy which needs to be defined to ensure that the organization is moving towards its goals. This is the bottom level of the strategy pyramid but it is extremely crucial because it can determine the final success. The idea at this stage is to find and work on function-wise goals that are linked to the business, and corporate strategies. Each function has its role to play with respect to business impact. Some play a direct role while others play a contributory one. Those are kept in mind to work on this level.

These are the typical three levels that most organizations, big and small, follow. Each of them is of equal importance.

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Three levels of strategy are the different levels of strategic management that run across the organization from the highest corporate level to the bottom functional level. The three levels of strategy include the corporate-level strategy, business-level strategy, and functional-level strategy.

The difference between the three levels of strategy is who to implement the strategy. Since they are affecting in the different levels;

  • Corporate level strategy involves top-level management.
  • Business level strategy involves the ability to compete of each business unit.
  • Functional level strategy involves every single function in every business unit.

Corporate Level Strategy

Corporate level strategy is the highest level of all three levels of strategy. The corporate level strategies are used to define and guideline the direction for the company in the big picture. To put it simply, the corporate strategy is the main theme of all strategies within an organization.

There are three main themes of the corporate level strategy includes growth strategy, stability strategy, and retrenchment strategy.

  • Growth strategy is a strategy that focused on expanding the business to increase the revenue in various ways: find new customers, selling existing products to the new market, merger, acquisition, and diversification. The growth strategies are simply found in the Ansoff Product-market matrix.
  • Stability strategy is a strategy that focused on stable the business (as its name) to improve the current business without investment or divestment.
  • Retrenchment strategy is a strategy that focused on stable the company’s financial position by stop unprofitable operations to cut the company’s expenses.

Business Level Strategy

Business level strategy is how the company competes with others in the market with its products or services. For the business level strategy, the company needs to determine what is the competitive advantage for each business unit.

There are 4 types of competitive advantages for the business level strategy following the Porter’s generic model: cost leadership, differentiation, cost focus, and focus differentiation.

  • Cost leadership is a strategy that the company produce products in huge amounts or with low-cost labor to compete.
  • Diffetentiation is a strategy that seeks advantage from the different by developing brands that stand out from the competitor.
  • Cost focus is similar to the cost leadership strategy but focused on the niche market insead of the mass market.
  • Focus differentiation is similar to differentiation strategy but focused on the niche market insead of the mass market.

Functional Level Strategy

The functional level strategy is a strategy that is implemented by each function in a business to support the business-level strategy. Functional level strategies typically are developed by functional area executives. A business’s functional are include accounting, finance, production, marketing, procurement, service, research and development (R&D), human resources, and logistics.

To put it simply, the functional level strategy is a strategy that uses in each department of a single business unit.

Additionally, if you ever heard about the Value Chain (by Michael E. Porter), the functional level strategy is strategies that are implemented in each element of the Value Chain.

Strategy can be defined as the effective path to achieving organizational goals and objectives in the best possible way. In organizations, there exist three levels of strategy namely corporate level, business level, and functional level.

All levels of strategies have a significant role in achieving the overall targets of the organization. In a simple sense, the functional level strategy helps business-level strategy and business to corporate-level strategy and corporate to achieve vision and mission – they all are linked and managers need to carefully set strategies at each level.

Failure to develop an appropriate strategy means failing to run the organization. Here, we will know three levels of strategy, and their sub-level strategies in detail.

The three levels of strategy are:

  • Corporate level strategy
  • Business level strategy
  • Functional/Operational level strategy

These strategies can also be studied with a “hierarchy of strategy”, like Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy where corporate-level strategy is at the top of the hierarchy, business-level strategy at the middle, and functional level strategy at the bottom.

Now. let’s understand in detail,

Corporate Level Strategy

Corporate level strategy is the uppermost level of strategy made by top-level management which sets the overall direction of the organization. It addresses the question of what business are we in?

The corporate level strategy attempts to obtain synergy among employees, product lines, business units, and other components of the organization believing that the whole is greater than the aggregate of individuals.

The corporate strategy works based on what the organization wants to achieve overall and sets strategies following the overall goals and objectives. Corporate-level strategies are set deriving ideas from vision and mission statements.

Small and large multinational corporations can both benefit from corporate strategy. Corporate strategy in a multi-business organization is concerned with geographic coverage, diversity of products/services or business units, and resource distribution to various segments or units of the firm.

As the organizational parent, the corporate headquarters works with diverse products and business units as children. These business units are coordinated at the corporate level so that the company as a whole succeeds as a family. As a result, it was determined that corporate-level strategy is linked to an organization’s total scope and development. Its constant goal is to bring value to various product lines and enterprises.

For making an effective corporate strategy the manager can go for its four different types such as stability strategy, expansion strategy, retrenchment strategy, and mixed strategy.

Stability Strategy

The stability strategy is a strategy that tries to keep an organization’s existing activities going without making any significant changes in direction. Maintaining existing products, markets, and operations is a priority. A stability strategy can be beneficial in the short term, but it can be harmful if used for an extended period of time.

Expansion/Growth Strategy

The growth strategy aims to increase sales, assets, profits, or a combination of the three. It allows businesses to take advantage of the growth curve and lower the per-unit cost of products sold, resulting in higher profitability. Due to the increased availability of financial resources, organizational procedures, and external links, larger organizations tend to endure longer than smaller companies.

Retrenchment Strategy

Both stability and expansion strategies are in aggressive nature but retrenchment is a defensive nature of strategy. A retrenchment strategy is a business approach that tries to diminish a company’s size or diversity.

It also entails cutting costs in order to maintain financial stability. It is used to limit the diversity of the company’s operations or to reduce the overall scale of the company’s operations. A retrenchment plan entails exiting specific markets or discontinuing specific products or services.

Combination/Mixed strategy

When an organization operates in a variety of environments, separate strategic business units and products follow a combination strategy. In other words, a firm is said to be implementing a combination strategy if it uses stability, expansion, and retrenchment strategies in its many strategic business units at the same time. It is primarily used to solve a variety of environmental issues.

Business-Level Strategy

Business strategy is the most common level of strategy we are discussing probably all of us heard about it. Business level strategy is the which is designed to use the best use of organizational competencies to gain a long-term competitive advantage over competitors.

Business strategy deals with the question of how do we compete? It aims to how to best successfully compete with competitors so that competitive advantage will be gained.

It steers a strategic business unit (SBU) in the direction of competitive advantage. A strategic business unit is a division of an organization that has a separate district external market for goods and services from the other strategic business units.

It could be a distinct business or product such as Samsung selling smartphones, cameras, TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, etc. The corporate strategy is followed by a business-level strategy. As a result, there should be a clear link between SBU and business strategy.

Every distinct SBU requires different strategies to compete in the market. A manager can usually go for a cost leadership strategy, differentiation strategy, and focus strategy in order to get a competitive advantage against competitors. In other words, these are the types of business-level strategy, they are:

Cost Leadership/Cost Reduction Strategy

The cost leadership/cost reduction strategy is a step in producing goods or services with attributes that customers find acceptable at a lower cost than competitors.

This strategy typically involves selling standardized goods or services to the industry’s cost-conscious clients. Cost leaders focus on lowering their costs in comparison to their rivals.

Differentiation Strategy

The differentiation strategy is an endeavor to produce goods or services that buyers perceive as unique (at a reasonable cost). Differentiators, unlike cost leaders, target clients for whom value is created in a way that sets the firm’s offerings apart from the competition. As a result, product innovation is crucial to a differentiation strategy’s success.

Focus/Niche Strategy

The focus/niche strategy entails producing goods or services that cater to the needs of a specific competitive segment. Firms use their core capabilities to fulfill the demands of a certain industry segment, a different segment of a product line, a different geographic market, or a specific customer group when they use a focus strategy.

Functional Level Strategy

The functional level strategy also called operational level strategy is developed to run effectively the day-to-day activities of the organization. Most operational strategies are no longer than one year.

The functional level strategies aim to deal with the question of how do we support the business-level strategy? A number of functions are carried out regularly to effectively run the business as different functional departmental are created – production department, HR department, marketing department, customer service department, etc. functional strategy aims to bring effectiveness in such functional areas.

At the functional level, resources, work pressure, information, and manpower are integrated to bring effectiveness to the business and corporate-level strategies. Functional strategies are for short time usually less than one year. These strategies are related to capability, efficiency, customer service, product quality, and marketing. All these functional strategists support the business level and ultimately the corporate level strategy.

Production Strategy, marketing strategy, finance strategy, human resource strategy, and research & development strategy – all are very important say parts or types of functional level strategy. Effectiveness on all these functional types is required to run shorter activities of the organization smoothly.


All these three levels of strategy are crucial to set appropriately considering the organizational capability and desired goals. While developing strategic decisions or different strategies a manager should not forget each level of strategy helps other levels otherwise desired goals will be difficult to achieve.