The Emergent Approach to Strategy

Adaptive design and execution for change and innovation

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Emergent Approach is a new theory and practice of strategy built on an adaptive view of change and innovation in contrast to “planning” the future.

WHY IS A NEW BOOK ON STRATEGY NEEDED?

Despite how much is written about strategy, and money spent on it, reports of chronic failures persist. Two causes dominate. Strategy is still not fully defined, and strategy practice is still largely based on a planned view of the world.

Change and innovation are not wholly planned but emerge from the myriad interactions of the players involved—some by design, many not.

This science of complex adaptive systems must be the bedrock on which strategy is built. The Emergent Approach is the first book to derive strategy definition, theory, and practice from adaptive systems.

WHAT ARE THE CHRONIC PROBLEMS OF STRATEGY?

The noise of confusing and conflicting strategy definitions and terminology in the consulting-corporate-academia complex.

False promises of easy “transformations” and aspirational strategies that are at such a high level they are no more than wishful thinking.

Confusion of strategy with budgeting, annual goal setting, or forecasting the future.

Strategies that are long lists of initiates, goals, that give no guidance on what to do today.

Strategies that are no more than cliché’s and truisms.

Strategy by cascading of goals and strategy maps that leads to silo behavior and lack of integration

Strategy designed by “ivory towers,” often marginalizing—and sometimes alienating—those who know the business or the function.

Linear-sequential strategy development methods that lead to large strategy PowerPoints sitting on the electronic shelf collecting electronic dust.

Initiating strategy work by collecting the “usual suspects” of strategy—market share data, financial data, growth rates, SWOT, PESTEL—instead of diagnosing the situation and determining what information and deep dives are truly needed.

Execution, divorced from strategy, confused with implementation,  and defined as nothing more than “get good results.”

WHO IS THE EMERGENT APPROACH FOR?

The approach is aimed at corporate business and functional leaders, but it is broadly applicable.  The approach works for any aspiration and works for any functional organization in a company.

CAN I TRANSFORM MY BUSINESS WITH THE EMERGENT APPROACH?

This book offers no promise of easy “transformations.” Change and innovation are hard, sometimes ugly, with no guarantees. But with sound principles and discipline, organizations can efficiently raise the probability of success.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE EMERGENT APPROACH?

Part 1 presents the new theory of strategy based on an influence-diagram model of complex adaptive systems. The theory includes a derivation of the definition of strategy, a modified view of tactics and execution, and new tests of strategy called the five disqualifiers (see Members Section for disqualifier examples).

Part II presents a practice of strategy that reflects the new theory. The practice is built around an agile-adaptive versus the stepwise “chevron” linear mode. Strategy alternatives and scenarios are built into the process, not considered as afterthoughts. The approach includes

  • Design principles for strategy, aspirations, tactics
  • Techniques for making diagnosis of propositions, external constraints, scenarios, and most importantly, the bottlenecks to aspirations
  • Design pricniples for a strategy alternative matrix, fitness criteria, and teachniques for making assessments
  • A four-station dashboard that puts more emphasis on leading indicator clarity and measurement of execution
  • 5 online Task Sets that serve as a guidebook to the emergent approach practice

The output of the process is an implementation package containing the final framework with its strategy.

 

IS THE APPROACH FOR NEW ENDEAVORS OR IMPROVING EXISTING ONES?

The approach is the same for both new and existing endeavors. It is the same for a tweak of an existing framework or a clean sheet approach. Your aspiration determines the scope. Early tasks are labeled “draft or modify” to reflect that the tasks are the same for each.

IS THE EMERGENT APPROACH AN ALTERNATIVE TO A DELIBRATE APPROACH?

No. All strategy is deliberate because strategies give guidance that must be established before taking decisions and actions. What can be varied in designs is the degree of constraint imposed by the strategy.

A strategy framework can be either highly constraining leaving little room for adapting during implementation or very loose allowing great freedom during implementation. But in either case, there is a deliberate choice. The difference is a matter of degree.

Emergence means that results are guided by the dynamics of adaptive systems, not that it is impossible to establish a framework for shaping the future.

SUPPLEMENT TO THE BOOK

  • Chapter supplements: includes appendixes, additional examples

  • 6 Tasksets: a guidebook for design implementation

  • Templates: for use in strategy materials

  • The Five Disqualifiers: added examples

MEMBERS AREA

THE FIVE DISQUALIFIERS of strategy

Strategy-testing is a time-honored practice, and some traditional tests of strategy are well known, for instance, those offered by Michael Porter and McKinsey consulting. Traditional tests, however, are not actually tests of strategy; they are tests of entire frameworks that contain in addition to the strategy, also goals, plans, tactics, scenarios, metrics, and other diagnosis of the internal and external world you will operate in. The Five Disqualifiers are a new approach to strategy testing. SEE THE DISQUALIFIERS >

About the author

Dr. Peter Compo is a scientist, engineer, businessman, and writer who spent twenty-five years at E. I. DuPont in a wide range of leadership positions, including director of DuPont corporate integrated business planning. READ MORE >

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