Strategic direction specifies the overall business strategy for the organisation, made up of various long-term aims, goals and bundles of strategies. The overall strategies define and set the strategic direction of the organisation. Strategic direction encompasses the long-term vision and intentions envisaged by founders and senior leaders and managers.
Leaders need a clear strategic direction to make decisions that carry the organization forward along its strategic path - a course of action that ultimately leads to the achievement of the stated goals of a business or organizational strategy in the distant, indefinite future of the organisation.
Getting there is easier said than done. Strategic direction is more a dream that a real state, a mirage to be pursued in perpetuity. However, focusing on and understanding a strategic direction helps provide guidance and re-direction in a dynamic organisational environment.
Some of the selected strategies may not be purely on the basis of intended and planned best strategy. Other strategies implemented will be a product of negotiation and the power, politics and influence interplay among various organisational stakeholders. Strategies may also be imposed on the organisation by external agencies, factors and changes.
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How does a firm achieve its sustainable, long-term success? The firm's strategy is constantly under threat of drift from emergent forces, internal politics, stakeholder power and influence and a constant state of change. Strategic drift occurs when the organisation's strategy gradually moves away from the relevance of its environment and strategic goals (Johnson & Scholes, 1998). Some of the short-term strategies may be successful and beneficial to the organisation but if uncorrected, will lead to a departure or drift from the original direction. How do you maintain strategic direction? Depending on the dynamism of all these factors, how does an organisation maintain course and strategic direction?
A rational approach would portray strategy formulation, evaluation, selection and implementation as deliberate, rational, analytical and linear processes (Stacey, 2000). Rational decisions rest on objective processes based on information, established methods and techniques. An analytical process would involve use of technology to carry out computations, analysis and other forms of measurement that assign well- informed values to alternative options.
Analytical process is at the centre of strategic management literature and theory. The analysis of the internal and external environment and organisational capability is carried out using various frameworks and may require considerable effort in strategy analysis and planning. Whether selection is a single strategy or a configuration of strategies, this approach explains choice of strategy based on objective, informed, analytical and a deliberately planned process (Johnson and Scholes, 2002). The realised strategy is an outcome of intended management plans and decisions.
Another view of strategy sees strategy as being enforced or imposed on the organisation by environmental forces, agencies and changes. The strategy that is implemented emerges from the configurations of forces in the organisation's environment (Mintzberg & Walters, 1985, Mintzberge, 1987). This view proposes that the realised or ultimate strategy adopted by an organisation is a combination of intended and emergent strategies.
Organisations are social systems. In every organisation there are different clusters of interests, personal and group, that may support or challenge and threaten the status quo. Organisational power influences and political grouping and expression influence strategic choices and their successful implementation.
Pye (1995), in the context of strategy management, argues that managing is about dialogue and action. Dialogue involves talking, listening and sharing meaning so as to cause action. Pye calls this the communicative approach to managing leading to successful choice of strategy. Pye concludes that "Strategy may happen despite, rather than because of the formulations of strategists and gurus". (The strategy reader, (1998) pp422.) Stacey (2000) argues that strategic choice is influenced by non-linear relationships arising from a complex interplay of factors in the environment and human behaviour and relationships.
Stakeholder concept recognizes that a business is affected by the environment in which it is in regular contact - a person, group or organization that has direct or indirect stake in an organization because it can affect or be affected by the organisation's actions objectives and policies (SPss Predictive Analytics, http://www.businessdictionary.com 12dec2010) The interests and influences of these stakeholder groups have an impact of a firm's strategy, its success and long term sustainability.
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Freeman (1999) presents a framework of how stakeholders influence strategy and proposed key strategies used to influence organisational decisions and strategies. Based on power and inter-dependence relationships between the organisation and its stakeholders, strategy is a result of bargaining, power interplay, strategic alliances and collusions. This view of strategy proposes that an organisation will require different strategies to cope with pressure, politics and resource demands of the various stakeholders.
2.0 Research Context
Overall organisational effectiveness is influenced by whether or not the prevailing organisational power and politics are negative or positive. When positive they support intended strategies and actions, when negative, they become restrictive and misdirected.
The challenges faced by strategic leaders in implementing complex and long-range consequential decisions demand that they be sophisticated with respect to issues of leadership, power and influence. The changes that are shaping the nature of work in today's complex organizations require that we develop the political will, expertise and personal skills to become more flexible, innovative and adaptive. Without political awareness and skill, we face the inevitable prospect of becoming immersed in bureaucratic infighting, parochial politics and destructive power struggles, which greatly retard organizational initiative, innovation, morale and performance (Kotter 1985)
A balanced perspective is that Power, organisational politics and stakeholder influence are instrumental to achieving intended interests and goals. Strategists need to focus on fostering rational analytical processes alongside the social processes that positively channel power influence and politics to organizational success and excellence. There must be in place, a mechanism or deliberate effort to sustain, re-align and adjust negotiated strategies to the overall organisational strategic direction.
3.0 Research objective.
This research seeks to propose the importance of establishing long-term perpetual parameters, strategic landmarks and signposts that help navigate strategic management and realign realised strategies to organisational strategic direction. The research will analyse the presence of strategic drift and its impact on overall organisational strategy and direction.
The study will analyse contemporary strategic management practices and attempt to answer the following questions;
How is the overall organisational direction sustained amid the emergent factors and influences on realised strategies.
What mechanisms are in existence to cause automatic or deliberate adjustments to correct strategic drift in the long-term?
To what extent do organisational direction and strategies go a drift?
How do organisations achieve optimal strategy choices and sustain them in the long-term?
4.0 Research Methodology
The study will use a combination of approaches. Some aspects of the study will take a qualitative research approach. Quantitative research techniques will be applied in aspects of measurement and analysis that can be quantifiable.
The research methodology will be developed and informed through the stages of the DBA program covering the first year of the course. This section will be developed at that stage.
5.0 Findings and Conclusion.
The study will examine a wide range of strategic options and analytical processes. Whether single strategy focus or configuration of strategies the choices will be evaluated to determine the composition of analytical process and the social process. In concluding the study will seek to determine whether organisational managements are aware of and make informed choices balancing short-term strategies with the overall strategic direction.
6.0 Research timetable
I envisage a 3-year timetable as follows:
2013-2014: Complete draft survey of literature
Study research methods and finalise approach
Complete other taught modules
2014-2015: Develop research design
Develop research model
Complete research tools and techniques
Collection of data
2015-2016: Collection, analysis and structuring of data
Robert Nchoga Oenga