The concepts of intended and emergent strategies are two of the most important strategic management tools used by many organizations since there may be a difference between the intended results and the realised results due to the volatility in the business environment. The key difference between intended and emergent strategies is that intended strategies are the strategies that an organization hopes to execute while emergent strategies are strategies implemented by identifying unforeseen outcomes from the execution of strategy and then learning to incorporate those unexpected outcomes into future corporate plans.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Intended Strategies
3. What are Emergent Strategies
4. Side by Side Comparison – Intended vs Emergent Strategies
What are Intended Strategies?
Intended strategies are the strategies that an organization hopes to execute. These are derived from the strategic plan prepared by the company’s top management. Intention is the starting point of the planning process developed in order to achieve a specific objective.
E.g. ABC Company is a producer of technology products which operates in five countries. By the end of the current financial year, ABC intends to acquire 40% or more market share in all the five countries that it operates.
When a company has a plan that it intends to achieve, significant resources and time will be allocated towards achieving the particular objective. However, a number of unforeseen occurrences can take place between the development of the plan and its realization, which makes the actual outcome different than the intended one. It has been found by research that only 10%–30% of intended strategy are realized.
In order to increase the possibility of realising intended strategies, the company must be very careful and precise in objective setting, where objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-oriented and Time bound). Further, 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.
Commitment of the top management is essential to implement an intended 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.
What are Emergent Strategies?
Emergent strategies are strategies that are implemented by 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. Henry Mintzberg introduced the concept of emergent strategy; his argument was that the business environment is constantly changing and businesses need to be flexible in order to benefit from various opportunities.
Continuing from the above example,
E.g. while working towards the objective of achieving a market share of 40% in all five countries, ABC realizes that it can obtain swift profits by entering into a new country to sell its products. The government of the new country has approached ABC and agreed to provide a substantial subsidy if ABC is to set up a factory in the new country. Due to the cost savings that will result from this offer, it will be beneficial for ABC to enter into the new country rather than pursuing marketing strategies in all five countries.
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 intended strategy implementation impossible. Therefore, most business theorists and practitioners prefer emergent strategy over intended strategy for its flexibility. In general, they view emergent strategy as a method of learning while in operation.
What is the difference between Intended and Emergent Strategy?
Intended vs Emergent Strategy
|Intended strategies are the strategies that an organization hopes to execute.||Emergent strategies are strategies implemented by identifying unforeseen outcomes from the execution of strategy and learning to incorporate those unexpected outcomes into future corporate plans.|
|Approach to Management|
|Intended strategy implements a top-down approach to management.||Emergent strategy implements a bottom-up approach to management.|
|Intended 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 – Intended vs Emergent Strategies
The difference between intended and emergent strategies is a distinct one where intended strategies are the strategies that an organization hopes to execute in order to achieve a business objective whereas emergent strategies take a bottom up approach by identifying unforeseen outcomes from the execution of strategy. Adopting an intended approach is difficult due to many unforeseen changes in the business environment. Every organization should have clear intended strategies; however, strict adherence to them will be difficult to be successful due to the rapidly changing environments, thus, an emergent approach should be adopted when and where necessary.
1. “Mastering Strategic Management.” 1.3 Intended, Emergent, and Realized Strategies | Mastering Strategic Management. University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing edition, 2015, 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
2. “How Do Strategies Emerge?” 5.2. How Do Strategies Emerge? N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
3. Mintzberg, Henry, and James A. Waters. “Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent.” Readings in Strategic Management (1989): 4-19. Web.
4. “Emergent Strategy.” Interaction Institute for Social Change. N.p., 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2017
1. “SMART-goals” By Dungdm93 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia