Strategic planning with emergent properties Mintzberg image
Strategic Planning works with an intended 3 part focus.
  1. strategy that’s realized ‘deliberate strategy’
  2. strategy not realized ‘unrealized strategy’
  3. (most often not mentioned) where realized patterns are not expressly intended ’emergent strategy’ … Thanks to Mintzberg for the model.
Been in early meetings for Strategic Planning with 3 organizations. Most of them have only ever completed a SWOT before developing strategy and a plan. This was done by people within the organization. I am all for using the existing knowledge and capacity of insiders … and my concern is internal knowledge that is gathered through a one time SWOT meeting is no better than brainstorming. You end up with lots of speculation, hollow choices, the loudest voice wins, and things that would have happened without the Strategic Plan.


Talking with my quality improvement, data and evaluation partners CCNY here are some ideas of information companies can benefit from to make smarter Strategic Plans that allow for emergent changes to happen.


Making a Smarter Strategic Plan:
  1. External analysis of similar companies. This is more than a SWOT … this is creating comparison reports to show – population(s) served; outcome metrics; products and services; geographic footprint; plus other pertinent information (this will be a way to understand the current condition of the environment)
  2. External analysis of customer base. This is more than a SWOT … this is looking at age, demographics, political affiliation, religious affiliation, geographical maps, plus other pertinent information.
  3. Internal analysis of operations, management, and organizational structure. This is more than a SWOT …. this is looking at current data, outcomes, metrics, staffing, competencies, management reporting, access to data to create Quality Improvement, access to data to share with customers (those paying for the product or service, those receiving product or service, etc)
  4. Internal analysis of current Quality Assurance or Quality Improvement
  5. Someone to translate and support staff to understand #1,2,3,4 and develop plans to operate in a changing environment
  6. Someone to help identify where you are …. what is working well … what is not working well …
  7. Support and development of the management team to prepare for the changes happening
  8. A process to keep the plan in place – while allowing for emergent ideas and approaches to be seen and used to move the company
  9. A visual (info-graphic like) image to show updates and progress in a visual way to all employees, maybe key customers suppliers vendors, where you are on the plan and what is working


There is nothing wrong with just doing a SWOT… The concern is that without some of the above information you are making strategy based on limited knowledge and understanding. With limited knowledge and understanding, you may miss or not be able to capture opportunities when they present themselves.