Father of Strategic Management
Harry Igor Ansoff is the father of strategic management. He was born in Vladivostok, Russia, on December 12, 1918. Both his father and mother were Russian-born of Soviet descent. In September 1936, the Ansoff family departed Russia through Leningrad on a freighter that can accommodate 12 passengers.
After crossing the Atlantic Ocean for two weeks, the ship docked in New York. Igor was taken to Stuyvesant High School, one of two premier high schools in New York City, by a Russian Orthodox priest when he was 17 years old. Igor was able to graduate after only one year because the priest translated his grades into American equivalents. At the end of 1937, Igor graduated with the highest honors from the New York State University system. This was the beginning of a four-year scholarship with all expenses covered.
Igor graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology at the top of his class five years after moving to New York. He also concluded he did not want to be an engineer. His formal education was completed in 1948 when he was 30 years old, after receiving a Master’s degree in Modern Physics. World War II intervened, and, in 1946, he attended Brown University to earn a doctorate in Applied Mathematics.
He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II as a liaison with the Russian Navy and as an instructor in physics at the U.S. Naval Academy. The RAND Corporation offered him a job in their Mathematics Department in California. Igor then became a Project Manager in the large-scale project activity focused on making recommendations to the U.S. Air Force on technology and weapon system acquisition. At RAND, his second major study focused on NATO air forces’ vulnerability. As a result of RAND and the airforce’s disdain for “soft metrics”, Igor learned his first lesson in organizational myopia, which would become one of his main concerns some 20 years later.
Igor joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Corporate Planning Department in 1957, becoming Vice President of Planning and Director of Diversification. As a result of his experience at Lockheed, he gained valuable skills in dealing with the problem of managing organizations in the face of environmental discontinuities, which became the center of his attention during the next 30 years. In 1969, he became the founding dean of the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. It was his condition before accepting the position that the school would concentrate on educating change agents, a type of manager desperately needed in the industry at the time but not produced by any U.S. business school. He served as a professor at the school until 1973. He founded the strategic management program at U.S. International University (USIU, now Alliant International University) in 1983. He specializes in three specific areas of research; The concept of environmental turbulence, The contingent strategic success paradigm, a concept that has been validated by numerous doctoral dissertations; and real-time strategic management.
Many marketing and MBA students are familiar with the Ansoff Matrix, a tool he created to plot generic growth strategies for businesses, via existing and new products, in existing and new markets.One of the companies he has worked with is Sterling Airlines. He has also consulted with Philips, General Electric, Gulf, IBM, and Gulf Aviation. In honor of his work, the prestigious Igor Ansoff Award was established in the Netherlands in 1981. This award recognizes outstanding research and management in the field of strategic planning and management. He was also awarded five honorary doctorates over the years, including an award by Japan Strategic Management Society and a scholarship by Vanderbilt University. He retired from USIU as a distinguished professor emeritus two years before his death. As a result of complications from pneumonia, he died in San Diego, California, on July 14, 2002.