Strategic management to strategic change by elfphabet5


									                                            CHAPTER 30

                Strategic management
                 to strategic change?
           The aim of this chapter is to provide some personal views on the way strategic
           management might develop, and to add a few thoughts about strategic success.

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                          Strategic management has made great strides since it emerged as a topic under its
                          old name of long-range planning. We now have better techniques of strategic
                          analysis, and new concepts of strategy formulation, and we understand more
                          about the behavioural aspects of managing strategically. It is perhaps of interest
                          to try to speculate where the subject might be heading.
                             In trying to forecast its future I should like to steal from some of my editorials
                          from the early issues of the Journal of Strategic Change, and from material that
                          Igor Ansoff wrote to mark the launch of this journal in early 1992.
                             I have always been an admirer of elephants, and once lived in a country where
                          they roam wild. There is something that I find appealing about these majestic
                          animals, and I have in the past used them to illustrate some of the issues around
                          strategic change.
                             Despite this, I was unprepared for the brief report which appeared in the Daily
                          Telegraph of 22 May 1992. ‘Rider trapped for 2 days on mad elephant’. Naturally
                          I read on. The story was about an Indian elephant rider who, it said, was trapped
                          on the back of an elephant while it ran amok for 200 miles before it could be
                          tranquilised and he could be rescued. It was in a state of sexual frenzy, known as
                          a must (what else could it be called!). However, the mahout did not suffer from
                          hunger, as he grabbed fruit that had been tied to trees for him along the
                          elephant’s route. This implies some careful planning and forecasting, in order to
                          predict the route correctly, and needed a high degree of accuracy. An inch too far
                          to the left or right, and the poor mahout would have gone hungry, with food just
                          out of reach. I do not know if the story was a left-over from 1 April although from
                          the tone of the article I think the Telegraph were keeping their options open.
                             From observation over many years, I believe that many organisations follow a
                          strategic path in a somewhat similar fashion to this elephant, stimulated by
                          something, and charging off down a path without thinking about the implications.


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                             Quick response, of which the hanging down of food for the mahout is a simile,
                             saves some of the problems from becoming disasters. Somehow we do not seem to
                             learn as much as we should from past experience. To my knowledge there has been
                             at least one major study of the failure rate in acquisitions at roughly ten yearly
                             intervals. The conclusions in the 1970s, 1980s and more recently 1993 had one
                             thing in common. The failure rate was around 50 per cent. Either something
                             continually goes wrong in the pre-merger strategy, or we are still struggling to
                             learn how to implement the strategies which are so perfect on paper.
                                The headlong rush of the maddened elephant reminded me of a cartoon
                             sequence I devised some years ago for a lecture about the difficulty of making
                             change happen in organisations. The first picture showed a number of bowler-
                             hatted, pinstriped city gents trying to make a reluctant elephant move, pushing and
                             prodding with their umbrellas: it dealt with the difficulty of getting any willingness
                             to change at all. The second slide showed the same characters trying to restrain an
                             elephant that was charging off in the wrong direction. I now know that it was
                             suffering from a must! This was to illustrate the difficulty of ensuring that the right
                             change was implemented. There were other cartoons in the sequence, which ended
                             with a suggestion that the wrong strategy could result in the organisation
                             becoming a white elephant.
                                My previous company, Harbridge Consulting Group, has had encounters with
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                             elephants, both of the varieties illustrated in the cartoons and the real thing. A few
                             years ago, two of my colleagues were running a course in Zambia. The hotel, in a
                             game park, consisted of a series of low buildings with verandahs which were used
                             for breakout groups. Into the hotel compound strolled a bull elephant with one
                             broken tusk. Whether the students by that time had learnt much about strategic
                             change was doubtful, although they demonstrated that they needed no coaching in
                             how to beat a fast tactical withdrawal in the face of changed prospects. The
                             elephant was not undergoing a must, and among our corporate souvenirs is a
                             photograph of the animal attentively studying the flip chart. We have had no
                             reports that he has applied the learning he gained within his own community!
                                The elephant theme has been used by others, including the mind-blowing image
                             of teaching elephants to dance, although this probably owes more to Rudyard
                             Kipling than to Rosabeth Moss Kantor.
                                My belief is that the next decade of advances in strategic management will be
                             much more about managing strategic change than formulating strategy. Indeed
                             one could see the term ‘strategic change’ becoming the new byword for the next
                             phase of strategic management.
                                Strategic emphasis has, over time, been moving to a greater focus on
                             implementation. I think the future will bring a greater merging of formulation
                             skills with those of organisational behaviour and change management. Put
                             another way, successful change comes about through a blend of the hard and soft
                             disciplines, the analytical and the behavioural. Neglect of one in favour of the
                             other is likely to lead to actions which do not yield the desired results.
                                Trends in management rarely appear from nowhere, and the emphasis I see on
                             strategic change is a logical step in the evolution of strategic management.
                             Nevertheless, it does challenge the traditional boundaries between functions, and
                             requires a closer binding of many functions which have traditionally been
                             regarded as independent. This does not mean that planners have to report to


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                             organisational development people, or that human resources in some way comes
                             under planning. It does mean that traditional views of roles have to change, and
                             that each should be seen as a non-watertight element of an overall task that has to
                             be conceived as an entity.
                                Igor Ansoff can fairly be described as the father of strategic management, first
                             exposing the concept of strategic planning and later leading the thinking that
                             developed this to the concept of strategic management. In a letter to me about the
                             new journal, he observed: ‘The role of the corporate planner . . . is already obsolete,
                             both in theory and practice, and the journal could contribute to the concept of the
                             strategic change manager . . . who combines four disciplinary perspectives:
                             analytic, psychological, sociological and political.’
                                While the title of corporate planner – or the many other variations on this
                             theme – may live on, the role in successful organisations is much as Igor
                             describes it. Similarly, organisational development can no longer be a staff
                             activity whose efforts are unrelated to the corporate objectives and strategy,
                             while those organisations which give little thought to organisational behaviour
                             must find mechanisms to bring these skills into the change process. The same
                             argument can be made for many of the activities of the human resource function,
                             such as management development. Overall there is a need for leadership and
                             management of a high order, activities which cannot be separated from strategic
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                             decision making or organisational development. The real issue for all players is
                             how to manage strategic change in an era of increasing turbulence. While there
                             are many structural solutions, the most important step is the realisation of the
                             mutual interdependence of all these players, if successful change is to take
                                The turbulence in the business environment is a driver of change, and leads to
                             what might be called a situational approach to strategic management. In
                             particular I refer to the recent thinking by Igor Ansoff which appears elsewhere
                             in this book. However, the events which change the business prospects also
                             change the expectations and attitudes of the people we employ. The future of
                             strategic management, which I see as strategic change, will also be a future which
                             takes far more account of the economic value of human resources. I foresee far
                             more emphasis on approaches and techniques to address this issue than has been
                             the case in the past, and I would hope for a kit bag of tools which matches the
                             range of choice now available for dealing with other aspects of strategy.
                                I should like to leave the last new thought with Igor Ansoff1:

                               . . . important as they are, unidisciplinary perspectives of a multidisciplinary
                               problem do not automatically add up to a solution of the total problem. This
                               fact is amply supported by the voluminous literature in cybernetics, general
                               systems theory and sociology.
                                   The second reason is that I cannot think of any really important problem
                               in today’s society and its organisations whose solution is not vitally
                               dependent on intimate contemporaneous interplay of the whole range of
                               ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences.

                          (The extract refers to the role he sees for the journal, and the omissions do not
                          distort his intentions.)


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