Academic journal article The Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends

Strategic Actions Analysis: A New Tool for Managers

Academic journal article The Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends

Strategic Actions Analysis: A New Tool for Managers

Article excerpt


The study of strategic management over the past 40 years has focused mainly on the development of plans to achieve long-term performance (Meers & Robertson, 2007; Miller & Cardinal 1994; Venkatraman & Ramanujam 1986). However, this dominant approach is made more difficult when the business operating environment is volatile (Grant, 2003). It has been suggested that managing change requires plans that are flexible and creative (Hamel, 1996) as well as organizational processes that are proactive, continuous and diverse (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997). Further, it has been argued that strategies emerge in organizations despite planning efforts due to environmental change, mutual adjustments and individual actions (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985). Hutzshenreuter and Kleindienst (2006) claim that more studies are needed, that involve decisions and actions by individuals involved in organizational processes. This will help to explain the shift of focus away from strategic planning (Mintzberg, 1994) and will assist individuals involved in the process.

This paper addresses this need by presenting a new framework called Strategic Actions Analysis (SA Analysis) that examines the actual actions of managers in organizations. Actions rather than strategies are analyzed because they are more likely to be consistent with managerial decisions (Pecotich et al., 2003) and are the starting point for new strategies that are developed despite or in the absence of plans.

Classifying strategy

Despite more than four decades of research there is no international consensus on the definition of strategy (O'Regan & Ghobadian, 2007; Tovstiga 2015). Strategy has been defined as a plan, ploy, position, perspective and pattern (Mintzberg, 1987). Plans are purposeful and look forward; a ploy determines a plan by anticipating competition; a position looks to the environment and seeks to locate the organization within that environment; a perspective is a shared viewpoint that is recognized by looking inward at the collective intuition of the organization; and a pattern is a tessellation of organization decision and action that is recognized when looking backward.

Most commonly, strategy is referred to as a 'game plan' for the future (Thompson et al., 2005). Notwithstanding, a landmark study by Mintzberg (1978) demonstrated a method of looking backward to track patterns of strategy. From this study, it was postulated that strategies can occur as ex post facto results as well as the a priori guidelines that were originally intended. Five kinds of strategy were identified by Mintzberg (1978), namely: intended, unrealized, deliberate, emergent and realized.

According to Mintzberg's classification, the overall intentions of an organization are labelled the intended strategies. The strategies that actually occur are identified as realized strategies. Intended strategies that get realized are called deliberate strategies. Intended strategies that do not get realized become unrealized strategies. Under this reasoning, intended strategies are either realized as deliberate strategies or are unrealized. Further, realized strategies that were never intended can emerge, in some cases taking the place of unrealized strategies. These are known as emergent strategies. Thus, emergent strategies are those that are realized "despite or in the absence of any intentions" (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985, p. 257).

Recent summaries of strategy development types highlight the ongoing relevance and importance of Mintzberg's classification (Langley et al., 2007; Wiltbank et al., 2006). Strategies can be formulated as intentions and they can be formed as patterns despite intentions. The formulation of strategy implies that strategies are crafted, designed, planned or positioned according to analysis, rationality or formality, whereas strategies that are reported as being formed as a pattern, can occur despite or in the absence of intentions (Mintzberg, 1978). …

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