An Emergent Strategy - A Radical Approach to Strategy Setting

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There are two approaches to strategy making - a deliberate or emergent strategy.

A Deliberate Strategy

The deliberate strategy is analytical and structured - Vision Staement, Mission Statements, Strengths and Weaknesses (SWOT), Objectives etc.

An Emergent Strategy

On the otherhand, the emergent strategy, as the name suggests occurs by chance or happens within the organisation without any long term planning. It occurs from the day to day decisions made to run the company at the tactical and routine level of the company.

Listen to Scott Cook of Intuit software and here what his thoughts are about using an Emergent Strategy. Scott Cook on Emergent Strategy Video

For example, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, built his stores close to his first store in rural settings rather in big population cities, because it was easier from him to manage. He stubbled on a winning strategy - because there was less competition - and people in the countryside would come miles to get discounted items.

This type of strategy come from managers' responses to problems. It is good when it is hard to predict what is likely to happen in the market place or with technology. This almost always the case in the early days of a company. On the otherhand a deliberate strategy is good when a winning strategy has become clear.

Research suggests that in over 90% of all new successful businesses, the initial strategy of the founders was flawed. Entreprenuers rarely get their strategies right. The successful ones are those with enough money left over from the first attempt to try again.

Scan for 'What works well and what does not work well' then adapt

You need to develop a way of operating where you are constantly scanning for what works well and what does not work well. It is a bit like nature when nothing is really planned - it all happens by chance - the fittest survive by adapting to their current environment if they can or moving to somewhere they can thrive. It is similar to an evolutionary approach.

For more on this go to Smiling Owner - Belly Button to Belly Button handbook. This describes a emergent approach to running a small enterprise but the principles would apply to any size of business.

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