Development And Implementation Of Strategic Change Commerce Essay


In recent years, there as being a great deal of discussions about the formulation and implementation of strategic organisational change. Change management has been defined as 'the process of continually renewing an organization's direction, structure, and capabilities to serve the ever-changing needs of external and internal customers' (Moran et al 2001). According to Burnes (2004) change is an ever-present feature of organisational life, both at an operational and strategic level. Therefore, there should be no doubt regarding the importance to any organisation of its ability to identify where it needs to be in the future, and how to manage the changes required getting there. Consequently, organisational change cannot be separated from organisational strategy, or vice versa (Burnes, 2004; Rieley et al 2001).This paper summarizes the propositions and arguments from various literatures organisational strategic management and so doing, advances the argument that, central to the process is an understanding of the cultural and cognitive realities of strategic management. The characteristics of the management of strategy that makes it distinctly different and important in the practice of management, are essentially to do with the magnitude of complexity of strategic issues, in the extent to which they are concerned with uncertainty and change within the external environment of the organsational system (Pettigrew,1985 cited in Gerry 1988). "Rationalistic models have traditionally dominated both writers' and practitioners' approaches to the complexity of what we call strategic management. There are however, other well established ideas, derived from the study of management in organisations, about how managers cope with complexities and uncertainties in the task of management. These other models describe rather better how strategies are actually formulated and implemented in organisations.

Literature Review

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The basic framework for the analysis the development and implementation of strategic organisational change has been used extensively in various literatures. Recent contributors of strategic change literatures include; Porter, (2001), Mintzberg,(2004),Quinn(1995),Burnes (2004,2009) Balogun et al (2004). Although, several literatures have being written about organisational strategy development and implementation, it is mostly evenly divided between Porter's and Mintzberg's ideas.

Porter (2001 in Burnes 2009) views strategy from the standpoint of economics, he sees strategy as a position and a planned, rational-mathematical process, his ideas on how strategy should be implemented are based on the understanding of competition and other economic forces. Strategy is not devised in isolation; a company's options will always be limited by what is going on around it. His famous "Five forces" model shows the constraining impact that competition and environment has on strategy, the strength of each of these forces varies from one industry to another, but taken together will help shape an organisation's overall strategy. But his view has being under severe criticism, not least by a leading management thinker of his time, Henry Mintzberg (1976-2007 cited in Burnes, 2009)

In place of it, Mintzberg (2001 in Burnes, 2009) viewed strategy as an emergent, intuitive, reactive and non-rational process but the outcome of a rational and social process. His view is that decisions were made quickly, often on the move' usually based more on intuition and experience rather than considered analysis, rather than the best possible solution, managers seek the best solution that can be implemented given the resources available. And, says Mintzberg, because each organisation has its own culture and needs, manager' response to problems will vary. There may be no right way to manage a business. All these affects an organisations strategy.

Quinn (1980 in Gerry 1988) also saw the development and implementation of organisational strategy as incremental, he argued that such incremental development and implementation in organisational strategy is not only inevitable but logical. Managers consciously pursue an incremental approach to the management of complexity; they are aware that it is not possible to "know" about all the influences that could conceivably affect the future of organisation. Moreover they are aware that organisations are political entities in which trade-offs between different groups are inevitable, it is therefore not possible to arrive at an optimal goal or an optimal strategy; strategies must be compromises which allow the organisation to go forward. To cope with this uncertainty and such compromise, strategies must be developed in stages, carrying members of the organisation with them, and trying out new ideas and experiments to see which are likely to be effective and to induce commitments within the organisation through continual, but low scale change. This is what has become known as "logical incrementalism'.

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In the past years, organisations developed and adopted long-range planning techniques, they increasingly sought to take a long-term overview in their approach, in order to plan and cope with the vagaries of the future (Burnes, 2009). However, this process has being seen to be incapable of accurately forecasting future, the problem of the gap between objectives and outcomes remained. Long range planning techniques seems to fail because of a variety of internal and external reasons (Mckiernan,1992 in Burnes,2009). Firstly, Long range planning failed because little attention was paid to wider external economic, technological and social changes, or even changes in behavior of competitor firms'. Secondly, long range planning techniques cannot cope with the constantly heavy environmental turbulence which, to say the least, limits forecasting accuracy. In response to the failure of long range planning, the concept of strategic management began to emerge, unlike long range planning, strategic management focuses on environmental assumptions that underlines market trends and incorporates the possibility that changes in trends can and do take place, it is not based on the assumption that adequate growth can be measured (Elliot et al,1985 Mintzberg et al, 1991 cited in Burnes,2009). Strategic management is concerned with the complexity arising out of ambiguous and non-routine situations with organisational-wide rather than operational specific implications.

Task Of Strategic Management

Strategic planning, implementation and control process consist of five interrelated task

Deciding what business the organisation will be in and forming a strategic vision of where the organisation need to be headed, in effect infusing the organisation with a sense of purpose, providing long term direction and establishing a clear mission to be accomplished

Converting the strategic vision and mission into measurable objective and performance target.

Crafting a strategy to achieve the desired results

Implementing and executing the chosen strategy, effectively and efficiently.

Evaluating performance, reviewing new developments and initiating corrective adjustments in the long term direction, objectives, strategy or implementation in the light of actual experience, changing conditions, new ideas and opportunities

(Author et al 1995)

Strategic management seeks to take a broader and more sophisticated view of an organisations environment rather than long range planning.


When characterized by how change comes about, there are several different approaches, but it could be easily summed up into two major views , literatures are generally dominated by the planned and emergent changes (Bamford et al, 2003 in Rune 2005)


The classical view of strategy, advocates a linear, rationalistic and deliberate process driven from the top management of an organisation. Similar to the prescriptive view by Ansoff (1965 in Burnes 2009) this view involves a process of a number of strategic planning steps which includes analyzing the organisations environment and its resources, establishing organisations mission and objectives, identifying and evaluating strategic options and then implementing and evaluating chosen strategies. Underpinning this approach to strategic management is a range of techniques and tools, ranging from SWOT analysis to a variety of diagrammatic and quantitative methods (Adrian et al,2000). Even though there is not one widely accepted, clear and practical approach to organisational change management that explains what changes organisations need to make and how to implement them, the planned approach to organisational change attempts to explain the process that bring about change (Burnes, 2004). Although the planned approach to change is long established and held to be highly effective (Bamford et al 2003 in Rune 2005), it has come under increasing criticism since the early 1980s (Burnes,1996 in Rune 2005). Firstly, it is suggested that the approach's emphasis is on small-scale and incremental change, and it is, therefore, not applicable to situations that require rapid and transformational change (Senior, 2002 in Burnes, 1996, 2004;).Secondly, the planned approach is based on the assumptions that organisations operate under constant conditions, and that they can move in a pre-planned manner from one stable state to another (Bamford et al 2003 in Rune 2005). These assumptions are, however, questioned by several authors (Burnes, 1996, 2004;Wilson, 1992) who argue that the current fast-changing environment increasingly weakens this theory. Moreover, it is suggested that organisational change is more an open-ended and continuous process than a set of pre-identified set of discrete and self-contained events (Burnes, 1996, 2004). By attempting to lay down timetables, objectives and methods in advance it is suggested that the process of change becomes too dependent on senior managers, who in many instances do not have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions (Wilson, 1992 ). Thirdly, the approach of planned change ignores situations where more directive approaches are required. This can be a situation of crisis, which requires major and rapid change, and does not allow scope for widespread consultation or involvement(Burnes,1996, 2004; Kanter et al,1992). Finally, critics argue that the planned approach to change presumes that all stakeholders in a change project are willing and interested in implementing it, and that a common agreement can be reached (Bamford et al 2003 in Rune 2005). This presumption clearly ignores organisational politics and conflict, and assumes these can be easily identified and resolved (Burnes, 1996, 2004).In response to this criticism of the planned approach to organisational change, the emergent approach was developed. Rather than seeing change to be top-down driven, the emergent approach tends to see change driven from the bottom up (Bamford et al,2003; Burnes, 1996, 2004). The approach suggests change to be so rapid that it is impossible for senior managers effectively to identify, plan and implement the necessary organisational responses (Kanter et al,1992 in Rune 2005). Therefore, the responsibility for organisational change has to become increasingly devolved (Wilson, 1992).


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In contrast to the formalized strategic planning process and similar to the analytical process is, seeing strategy as an emerging process (Mintzberg 1995 in Burnes,2009). Adrian et al(2000) refers to the approach as "crafting Strategy", they see the development of strategy as analogous to the approach of craftsmen, whose knowledge and skills means that they formulate and implement their work in an integral manner. This provides a powerful contrast to the formal planning approach. Mintzberg (1995 in Burnes,2009), is of the view that organisational strategies emerge from a less structured and ordered way. He found out that decisions were made very quickly, often on the move, usually based more on intuition and experience than on considered analysis. Thus ,the formulation and implementation of strategy is, in practice a more integrated or fluid process rather than being different stages in a deliberately planned and formal process.

Mintzberg argued that successful companies do not start out with a detailed strategic plan, instead their strategies emerge over time from the pattern of decisions they take on key aspects of their activities. Furthermore, Burnes (2004) argues, 'successful change is less dependent on detailed plans and projections than on reaching an understanding of the complexity of the issues concerned and identifying the range of available options. It can, therefore, be suggested that the emergent approach to change is more concerned with change readiness and facilitating for change than to provide specific pre-planned steps for each change project and initiative.

Although this approach has gained popularity among scholars and practitioners, it is argued that it still lacks coherence and a diversity of techniques (Bamford et al in Rune 2005). Another criticism of the emergent approach is that it consist of a rather disparate group of models and approaches that tend to be more united in their skepticism to the planned approach than to an agreed alternative (Dawson, 1994 in Rune, 2005)

Other alternatives includes the contingency approach which explains how organisations should vary change strategies to achieve "Optimum Fit" to the changing environment. However, it is often criticized for ignoring environmental manipulation and managerial choice e.t.c


The implementation of strategic organisational change is likely to be problematic, this is especially likely to be in cases where changes involves people, and in which personal relationship and emotional responses are predominant (Mccalman et al 1992 in Adrian et al 2000). Mabey et al (1992 in Adrian et al, 2000) also considered a number of perceptions about the management of change that will affect reactions to it. Among these factors are whether change is perceived as "deviant or normal" and "threatening or desirable". Change judged as deviant will be perceived as imposed and outside prevailing cultural norms. This is likely to generate resistance at various levels. Also, change seen as threatening is also likely to generate resistance, this will require careful implementation to overcome the fear associated with these perceptions.

The methods used in implementing organisational change has an important role in affecting the nature and strength of these reactions. By methods, we mean whether change is implemented as a "Top-Down" or "bottom-Up" approach, whether its intention is transformational or incremental and whether it is a rapid or gradual process.

Top-down approach to the implementation of strategic organisational change is associated with the deliberately planned approach, it is basically designed and driven by an organisation's senior management. Although, Nicholson (1993 cited in Adrian et al 2000) is of the view that this approach is necessary to bring about radical changes in organisations, its impacts and effectiveness are often criticized.

The bottom-up approach is associated with the emergent approach to the development of organisational strategy as discussed earlier, it is bottom-up in the sense that, according to Beer et al (1990 in Adrian et al 2000) the change process commences in an operational part of an organisation and focuses on specific internal and external factors and the strategy to overcome it will emerge through operational efforts. A major distinction between a top-down and Bottom-up approach is that while the former suggest to generate transformational change the latter intends to achieve incremental change.


Generally, managers are intendedly rational in decision making and implementation but only limitedly so', in uncertain and complex external environment, rationality is predicted to cause a shift to hierarchy (Simon et al, 1957 in Cousins et al, 2008).

The emergence of irrationality into the development and implementation of strategic organisation change and with its recognition of the innate impracticability of designing planned change programmes, took place over the years, when several authors pointed out that not only were individuals and strategic managers largely incapable of acting wholly rational, but also that organisations themselves institutionally capable of acting irrationally due to uncertainty and political behavior (Wilson, 1992)

Cohen et al (1972 in Burnes 2009), argue that when a problem becomes severe it demand attention. Solutions, on the other hand, are answers looking for problem. Participants are the people in the organisation possessing problems and /or solution. Choice and opportunities are occasions when organisations are required to make decisions, when these four elements come together, decisions are made.




Solutions Decisions


Choice opportunities

Garbage can of decision-making, Burnes (2009).

Seen in this way, decision making is not conscious, rational or systematic, on the contrary, decisions are haphazard, accidental and unplanned. Nelson et al (1982 in Burnes, 2009) argue that in many cases decision-making is an unconscious and automatic process, based on a repertoire that individuals develop over time of responses to particular situations.

Even with the wide criticism of the planned and rational approach to organisation change and decision making, the reality on ground is that many managers appear not to encourage a shift in strategy implementation, preferring instead to stick to tried and tested routine, orthodox, textbook approaches-regardless of their suitability. More and more firms are opting for rational decision making approaches to strategy based on value-maximizing, financial techniques and quantitative analysis of market positions (Grant, 1991, Teece et al, 1997 in Burnes 2009). Yet, it is important to note that , in the academic world, the weight of the argument appears to be shifting from seeing strategy as a rational, mathematical process to seeing it as the outcome of the ability of organisations management to utilise its strength and competences in the competitive pursuit of success. No longer is strategy purely about the internal/external environment, no longer is it seen as a rational, quantitative process, neither is it any longer seen as a process geared towards predicting the future, but instead it seeks to shape or create the future (Joyce et al, 2001 in Burnes 2009). Indeed, writers and practioners from different backgrounds and countries have argued that it is not a process at all, but the outcome of a process, an outcome that is shaped not by mathematical models but by human creativity.

The move towards this new, more emergent, perspective on strategy has been brought about by the mounting criticisms against the classical approach to strategy. The main criticism is that it is mechanistic, inflexible, and reliant on quantitative tools and technique of dubious validity. The result is that organisations that attempt to construct strategies using the classical approach fall foul of what Peters el al(1982 in Burnes,2009) describe as 'Paralysis Through Analysis' and 'Irrational Rationality'. In effect, organisations contort themselves in a vain attempt to make the real world fit the constrains and limitations of their mathematical models rather than the opposite.


This essay seeks to evaluate the fact that the development and implementation of organisational change can never be a rational process, the answer is an emphatic "yes". From several perspectives, a numbers of authors have come to the same conclusion. For successful companies, strategies do not appear to be a preconceived and a detailed set of steps for achieving a coherent package of concrete goals within a given timescale, neither does it seem to be a rational process that is amenable to mathematical modeling, rather, it is the outcome of the process decision making and resource allocation that is embarked upon in pursuit of a vision, such approach in inherently irrational, unplanned and cannot be modeled or quantified.

This essay concludes by arguing that, rather than managers being prisoners of mathematical models and rational approaches to the development and implementation of strategic organisational change, they have considerable freedom of actions and a wide range of options to choose from, though they are not totally free agents since their actions and decisions are constrained by the unique sets of organisational, environmental and societal factors faced by their particular organisation. Fortunately, it is possible for mangers to manipulate this situational variables they are faced with. In regards to structure, mangers can also exert some influence over strategic constraints and, potentially at least, can select the approach to strategy that suits their preferences (Burnes, 2009).

However, the management of organisational change currently tends to be reactive, discontinuous and ad hoc with a reported failure rate of about 70% of all change programmes initiated (Balogun et al, 2004). This may indicate a basic lack of a valid framework of how to successfully implement and manage organisational change since what is currently available is a wide range of contradictory theories and approaches, which are mostly lacking empirical evidence and often based on unchallenged hypotheses regarding the nature of contemporary organisational change management.