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Discussion on How Adaptive Systems Exist Within the Company’s Approach to Strategic Management

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Strategic Practice

Discussion on how adaptive systems exist within the company’s approach to strategic management:

Introduction

I work in a highly dynamic company that is involved in the health sector in Nigeria Africa, where decisions need to be taken and policies formulated at the highest level of governance. I have been at this for the last 10 years although in different capacities and at different levels, and have witnessed firsthand with increasing frequencies, how factors which are external to the organization and even those which are internal continue to have a high impact on how we work within the organization and also manage the organization mandate be it for example response to the recent Ebola crisis, which was on a large scale and considered a public health emergency grade 2, managing donors and partners funds, assigning tasks and roles to different partners, coordinating the organization partnership with government, to simply agreeing on what colors to paint the office wall. This brings the question of how the organization as a whole reacts, it being a complex system to becoming a complex adaptive system. Also of note is that in order for the organization to function optimally there must be an overall strategy, which simply is the methods and resources that will be used to achieve planned targets or goals.

Complex adaptive system

We live in a complex environment is a notion that people take for granted at the same time the definition for complex seem to denote something negative “chaos”,(Waldrop 1992) with managers when planning try to itemize and compensate for the complexity by separating the different parts of the complexity without taking into cognizance that it is the effect of the individual interactions which affects the whole system and therefore change how other agents behave, and is usually unpredictable. The term complex adaptive system was first mentioned by Holland (Holland 1975) and he summed up it as nonlinear systems whose different components, their behavior and interaction determine how the entire system behaves and its relationship with the environment, of note is that the interaction is not additive but rather difficult to predict and is responsible for the complexity i.e. the system itself is not a summation of the different components. Due to these, the results of these interactions can lead to unexpected results. Change occurs when these individual interactions reach maximal levels,(McElroy 2003) and the change could be either positive or unwanted.

Strategy and its component

Different persons at different times have attempted to define what strategy is but that which I believe explains it best is by Dr. Vladimir Kvint who defines strategy as "a system of finding, formulating, and developing a doctrine that will ensure long-term success if followed faithfully". (Kvint 2009).In this paper, I will try to explain how strategies are formulated generally and how this best fits with the organization I work in.

Strategies can be formulated by the management top- bottom approach or by different persons and sectors within an organization with each sector contributing to the overall strategy of the organization. It can also be done by an individual or by a group of persons but the most important fact is that whoever decides the strategy is important and such individual should be able to articulate the strategy. The advantage of a group of persons formulating a strategy is that other persons view are taken into consideration and different skill sets come into play and have an additive impact, especially where organization’s goals are dynamic.(Manu Amitabh, Fellow Scholar, M.D.I Gurgaon and Arun Sahay, Professor and Area Chairman, Strategy Management n.d.).

While is strategy important, it serves as a guide or expectations of the organizations, and defines how the organization should operate in response to change, it is usually referred to when problems arise and provide stability. Just to mention that strategy is not supposed to be cast in stones, and encouraged to improve based on acquired or new knowledge.

Strategic management is divided into 2 parts, the strategic thinking, and the strategic planning, and should be planned in such a manner that feedback and assessment of current strategies are considered to cater for future strategies.(Hill, Charles W.L. 2012).

Strategic thinking involves going outside the norm, leaving conventions behind, asking how to get ahead of the competition, knowing your comparative advantages and maximizing it, and generally thinking outside the box, when making decisions, creating the idea and of note is that in today’s organization there is a belief that traditional way of action puts one at a disadvantage (Chussi 205AD)(Liedtka 2000), while strategic planning is how to turn the thinking into reality. (Bonn 2001) A good reference for this is by Jeamme Liedtka who clearly differentiates strategic thinking from planning.(Liedtka 1998) Table 1.

Approach to strategic thinking

In my organization strategy thinking is usually done during the annual organization retreat, and does not involve a single individual but just like any other company the final decision stops at the Director table, it starts with a desk review and key performance indicator (KPI) assessment of all programs along with a SWOT analysis of what worked well and what could be done better. This is done by all 6 department heads in the organization, after this we begin to articulate the expectations for the upcoming years where benchmarks and targets are set, this is followed by the formulation of strategies, in some instances consultants are hired but usually done in house for fear of strategies being leaked or stolen, once the strategies are agreed upon, the implementation (where, how ,what, whom, when) is the next stage where the organization's resources are harnessed to ensure the strategies and goals are aligned with indicators and milestones set to monitor the progress being made with opportunities to rework the strategies and goals usually mid-year with a final assessment done at the end of the year. It is important that quarterly progress reports are expected from all the departments and collated to determine if the organization is on course.

Recent complex situations in the organization 2014-2016

In the last 2 years, the organization I worked in have been involved in 3 complex systems and I will just state the scenarios and later try to explain how we adapted.

The first was the Ebola Virus diseases which affected some countries including Nigeria, I was drafted to support the outbreak

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