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First: by A. Inkpen and N. Choudhury

Maybe strategy is not always such a good thing. So we suggest two different bytes.

  • ... Strategy absence need not be associated with organizational failure . . . Deliberate building-in of strategy absence may promote flexibility in an organization . . . Organizations with tight controls, high reliance on formalized procedures, and a passion for consistency may lose the ability to experiment and innovate.

  • Management may use the absence of strategy to send unequivocal signals to both internal and external stakeholders . . . For example, various articles have described Nucor's disdain for formal planning systems and the firm's reliance instead on a consistency in action at all levels in the organization. Nucor has no written strategic plan, no written objectives, and no mission statement. For Nucor, an absence of many of the supposed elements of strategy is symbolic of the no-frills, nonbureaucratic organization Nucor has worked hard to become.

  • An absence of a rigid pattern of strategic decision making may ensure that "noise" is retained in organizational systems, without which strategy may become a specialized recipe that decreases flexibility and blocks learning and adaptation . . . .

Source: Excerpted from "The Seeking of Strategy Where It Is Not: Toward a Theory of Strategy Absence" by A. Inkpen and N. Choudhury in Strategic Management Journal Vol. 16, 1995: pp. 313–323 © 1995, John Wiley & Sons Limited. Reproduced with permission.

Next: by Henry Mintzberg

  • Strategies are to organizations what blinders are to horses: They keep them going in a straight line, but impede the use of peripheral vision. By focusing effort and directing the attention of each part within the integrated whole, the organization runs the risk of being unable to change its strategy when it has to. Setting oneself on a predetermined course in unknown waters is the perfect way to sail straight into an iceberg. Sometimes it is better to move slowly, a little bit at a time, looking not too far ahead but very carefully, so that behavior can be shifted on a moment's notice. Besides, it is not always clear what a good strategy is, or indeed if it is not better at times to proceed without what amounts to the straitjacket of a clear intended strategy.

  • Sometimes lack of strategy is temporary and even necessary. It may, for example, simply represent a stage in the transition from an outdated strategy to a new, more viable one. Or it may reflect the fact that an environment has turned so dynamic that it would be folly to settle on any consistency for a time.

  • Like every theory, strategy is a simplification that necessarily distorts the reality. Strategies and theories are not reality themselves, only representations (that is, abstractions) of reality in the minds of people. Thus every strategy must misrepresent and mistreat at least some stimuli.

  • Eventually all situations change, environments destabilize, niches disappear. Then all that is constructive and efficient about an established strategy becomes a liability. That is why even though the concept of strategy is rooted in stability, so much of the study of strategy focuses on change.

Source: © 1987, by The Regents of the University of California. Adapted from the California Management Review, "The Strategy Concept II: Another Look at Why Organizations Need Strategies" by Henry Mintzberg, Vol 30, No 1. By permission of the Regents.

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