This paper describes case study research undertaken in six small manufacturing companies aimed at advancing the understanding of the manufacturing strategy formation process. Concepts and methods more commonly used in corporate strategy research are used to overcome the limited view of the manufacturing strategy process taken in existing operations management literature. The research concludes that manufacturing strategy is formed in a complex process involving a combination of deliberate and emergent actions and decisions. A unique set of internal and external contextual factors influences the manufacturing strategy process for each company. In particular, the interpretative processes of managers, individually and collectively, under the influence of individual managerial, cultural and political factors significantly affect the manufacturing strategy formation process.