The "original" strategy model

Strategy has been around for thousands of years but the study of strategy (actually strategic management) in a business context is relatively recent, in America in the 1960s. The majority of strategic management models come and go, wheeled out from time to time by consultants looking to borrow your watch to tell you the time. The odd one, however, survives the test of time.

In 1985 Henry Mintzberg and James Waters developed a model to demonstrate how the strategy that is ultimately delivered is made of two parts; deliberate strategy (what the organisation set out to do) and emergent strategy (what happened on the way). In their original paper the model looks just a little clunky, word processing not as it is today, but it should be instantly recognisable for all scholars and practitioners.

And although the concept of the model hasn't changed at all, it does look a little funkier with a 'lick of paint'.

Mintzberg-Waters model v2.jpg

The model communicates the essence of strategy with simplicity. It looks obvious with hindsight that we haven't got a crystal ball and the world changes so where our organisation ends up is a combination of our plans and what comes along on our journey.  

More importantly, and sometimes not as well recognised, without clear, simple intended strategy we have no concept of where we are headed.  You have to imagine that along with those emergent arrows going in roughly the same direction, there are hundreds of arrows pointing in all manner of other directions. Intended strategy allows us to judge which opportunities we should take heed of (the arrows going in our direction) and which we should ignore. This is the important concept of strategic intent - what is it you intend to do.  Without this you end up like Alice............

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
”That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
”I don’t much care where—“ said Alice.
”Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
”—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
”Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.
— Lewis Carroll