This paper argues the reasons for limited compatibility of western strategic approaches with production relations in Sri Lankan tea plantation sector from findings of case study research. Reasons for this include the great diversity within the sector in relation to key issues including caste and class, ethnic groups and their political groupings, and in particular to modes of production which span traditional, capitalist and state capitalist models. Managers in developing countries struggle to assimilate such prescriptive perspectives and frameworks into their firms in response to external pressures. This suggests strategy research needs to be informed beyond generalised strategy and national cultural typologies. Hence, the study also casts doubt upon the notion of 'culture' being a truly national concept.