The concepts of deliberate and emergent strategies are two of the most important strategic management tools used by many organizations. The key difference between deliberate and emergent strategy is that deliberate strategy is a top down approach to strategic planning that emphasize on achieving an intended business objective whereas emergent strategy is the process of identifying unforeseen outcomes from the execution of strategy and then learning to incorporate those unexpected outcomes into future corporate plans by taking a bottom up approach to management. There are many successful companies that have succeeded by adopting either approach.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Deliberate Strategy
3. What is Emergent Strategy
4. Side by Side Comparison – Deliberate vs Emergent Strategy
What is Deliberate Strategy?
Deliberate strategy is a top down approach to strategic planning that emphasize intention. This is built based on the vision and mission of the organization and is focused on achieving the purpose of doing business. Michael Porter introduced the concept of deliberate strategy and said that “Strategy is about making choice, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” He emphasized that businesses should strive to achieve one of the following positions in order to achieve a competitive advantage. These strategies are named as ‘generic competitive strategies’.
- Cost leadership strategy – achieving the lowest cost of operation in an industry
- Differentiation strategy – offering a unique product that does not have a close substitute
- Focus strategy – achieving a cost leadership of differentiation status in a niche market
Deliberate strategy attempts to minimize outside influence acting on business operations. However, the external environments can change drastically while such changes are difficult to predict in advance. Thus, the company must undertake a proper assessment of the political, economic, social and technological environment in order to understand the possible challenges they may face in realizing the business objectives. On the other hand, favorable market conditions alone will not help the company achieve a competitive advantage, internal capacity and capability are equally important.
The commitment of the top management is essential to implement a deliberate strategy and the initiative should be taken by them. Goal congruence should be achieved where all the employees should work towards realizing the strategy. This can be done by properly communicating the business goals to them and motivating them. Employees must think through and discuss all actions in the interest of matching company goals.
What is Emergent Strategy?
Emergent strategy is the process of identifying unforeseen outcomes from the execution of strategy and then learning to incorporate those unexpected outcomes into future corporate plans by taking a bottom up approach to management. Emergent strategy is also referred to as ‘realized strategy’. Henry Mintzberg introduced the concept of emergent strategy since he did not agree with the concept of deliberate strategy put forward by Michael Porter. His argument was that the business environment is constantly changing and businesses need to be flexible in order to benefit from various opportunities.
Rigidness in plans emphasize that companies must continue to proceed with the planned (deliberate) strategy irrespective of the changes in the environment. However, political changes, technological advancements and many other factors affect businesses in various degrees. These changes sometimes will make the deliberate strategy implementation impossible. Therefore, most business theorists and practitioners prefer emergent strategy over deliberate strategy for its flexibility. In general, they view emergent strategy as a method of learning while in operation.
What is the difference between Deliberate and Emergent Strategy?
Deliberate vs Emergent Strategy
|Deliberate strategy is an approach to strategic planning that emphasizes on achieving an intended business objective.||Emergent strategy is the process of identifying unforeseen outcomes from the execution of strategy and then learning to incorporate those unexpected outcomes into future corporate plans.|
|Inception of the Concept|
|The concept deliberate strategy was introduced by Michael Porter.||Henry Mintzberg introduced the framework for emergent strategy as an alternative approach to deliberate strategy.|
|Approach to Management|
|Deliberate strategy implements a top down approach to management||Emergent strategy implements a bottom up approach to management.|
|Deliberate strategy takes a rigid approach to management, thus is largely considered to be less flexible.||Emergent strategy is favoured by many business practitioners due to its high flexibility.|
Summary – Deliberate Strategy vs Emergent Strategy
The difference between deliberate strategy and emergent strategy is a distinct one and businesses can adopt either approach for strategy formulation. Adopting a deliberate approach is difficult due to many unforeseen changes in the business environment, however, it is not impossible to achieve a competitive advantage based on this method. Emergent strategy, on the other hand, serves as a more flexible alternative to deliberate strategy where the businesses can learn and grow with the environmental changes.
1.”Notes on Strategy; Michael Porter’s Generic Competitive Strategies for Early Stage Tech Startups.” Innovation Footprints. N.p., 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.
2. “Porter’s Generic Strategies: Choosing Your Route to Success.” Strategy Skills from MindTools.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.
3. “Emergent Strategy.” Interaction Institute for Social Change. N.p., 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.
4. Mintzberg, Henry, and James A. Waters. “Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent.” Readings in Strategic Management (1989): 4-19. Web.