Executives managing strategic change in large organizations should not — and do not — follow highly formalized textbook approaches in long-range planning, goal generation, and strategy formulation.1 Instead, they artfully blend formal analysis, behavioral techniques, and power politics to bring about cohesive, step-by-step movement toward ends which initially are broadly conceived, but which are then constantly refined and reshaped as new information appears.2 Their integrating methodology can best be described as logical incrementalism’.
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This is the third in a series of articles based upon my study of ten major corporations’ processes for achieving significant strategic change. The other two articles in the series are: J. B. Quinn, ‘Strategic Goals: Process and Politics’, Sloan Management Review, Fall 1977, pp. 21–37;
J. B. Quinn, ‘Strategic Change: “Logical Incrementalism”’, Sloan Management Review, Fall 1978, pp. 7–21.
The whole study is published in a book entitled Strategies for Change: Logical Incrementalism (Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1980). All findings purposely deal only with strategic changes in large organizations.
See R. M. Cyert and J. G. March, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963) p. 123. Note this learning-feedback-adaptiveness of goals and feasible alternatives over time as organizational learning.
See J. B. Quinn, Xerox Corporation (B) (copyrighted case, Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, 1979).
See O. G. Brim, D. Glass et al., Personality and Decision Processes: Studies in the Social Psychology of Thinking (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962).
For some formal approaches and philosophies for environmental scanning, see: W. D. Guth, ‘Formulating Organizational Objectives and Strategy: A Systematic Approach’, Journal of Business Policy (Autumn 1971) pp. 24–31;
F. J. Aguilar, Scanning the Business Environment (New York: Macmillan Co., 1967).
For confirmation of the early vagueness and ambiguity in problem form and identification, see H. Mintzberg, D. Raisinghani, and A. Théorêt, ‘The Structure of “Unstructured” Decision Processes’, Administrative Science Quarterly (June 1976) pp. 246–75.
For a discussion on various types of ‘misfits’ between the organization and its environment as a basis for problem identification, see R. Normann, Management for Growth, trans. N. Adler (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1977) p. 19.
For suggestions on why organizations engage in ‘problem search’ patterns, see R. M. Cyert, H. A. Simon, and D. B. Trow, ‘Observation of a Business Decision’, The Journal of Business (October 1956) pp. 237–48.
For the problems of timing in transitions, see L. R. Sayles, Managerial Behavior: Administration in Complex Organizations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).
For a classic view of how these screens operate, see C. Argyris, ‘Double Loop Learning in Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, September–October 1977, pp. 115–25.
See F. F. Gilmore, ‘Overcoming the Perils of Advocacy in Corporate Planning’, California Management Review, Spring 1973, pp. 127–37.
See E. Rhenman, Organization Theory for Long-Range Planning (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1973) p. 63. Here author notes a similar phenomenon.
See R. M. Cyert, W. R. Dill, and J. G. March, ‘The Role of Expectations in Business Decision Making’, Administrative Science Quarterly (December 1958) pp. 307–40. The authors point out the perils of top management advocacy because existing policies may unconsciously bias information to support views they value.
See H. Mintzberg, The Nature of Managerial Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1973). Note that this ‘vision’ is not necessarily the beginning point of the process. Instead it emerges as new data and viewpoints interact; Normann (1977).
H. E. Wrapp, ‘Good Managers don’t Make Policy Decisions’, Harvard Business Review (September–October, 1967) notes that a conditioning process that may stretch over months or years is necessary in order to prepare the organization for radical departures from what it is already striving to attain.
See J. G. March, J. P. Olsen, S. Christensen et al., Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations (Bergen, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 1976).
For an excellent overview of the processes of co-optation and neutralization, see Sayles (1964). For perhaps the first reference to the concept of the ‘zone of indifference’, see C. I. Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938).
The following two sources note the need of executives for coalition behaviour to reduce the organizational conflict resulting from differing interests and goal preferences in large organizations: Cyert and March (1963); J. G. March, ‘Business Decision Making’, in Readings in Managerial Psychology, H.J. Leavitt and L. R. Pondy, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1964).
Much of the rationale for this approach is contained in B. Quinn, ‘Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategy’, Sloan Management Review, Spring 1979, pp. 19–30.
See C. Argyris, ‘Interpersonal Barriers to Decision Making’, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1965, pp. 84–97. The author notes that when the president introduced major decisions from the top, discussion was ‘less than open’ and commitment was ‘less than complete’, although executives might assure the president to the contrary.
For more detailed relationships between authority and power, see: H. C. Metcalf and L. Urwick (eds) Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941);
A. Zaleznik, ‘Power and Politics in Organizational Life’, Harvard Business Review, May–June 1970, pp. 47–60.
See J. D. Thompson, ‘The Control of Complex Organizations’, in Organizations in Action (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967).
See G. T. Allison, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1971).
See C. E. Lindblom, ‘The Science of “Muddling Through”’, Public Administration Review (Spring 1959) pp. 79–88. The author notes that the relative weights individuals give to values and the intensity of their feelings will vary sequentially from decision to decision, hence the dominant coalition itself varies with each decision somewhat.
See A. D. Chandler, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962).
See K.J. Cohen and R. M. Cyert, ‘Strategy: Formulation, Implementation, and Monitoring’, The journal of Business (July 1973) pp. 349–67.
See J. M. Pfiffner, ‘Administrative Rationality’, Public Administration Review (Summer 1960) pp. 125–32.
See R. James, ‘Corporate Strategy and Change — The Management of People’ (monograph, The University of Chicago, 1978). The author does an excellent job of pulling together the threads of coalition management at top organizational levels.
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© 1989 Macmillan Publishers Limited
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Quinn, J.B. (1989). Managing Strategic Change. In: Asch, D., Bowman, C. (eds) Readings in Strategic Management. Palgrave, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-20317-8_2
Publisher Name: Palgrave, London
Print ISBN: 978-0-333-51809-0
Online ISBN: 978-1-349-20317-8