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A systems approach to strategic processes.

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In the 1970's Kotter wrote an article, Why "Wasting" Time Is More Important Than Ever, in which he described the average manager's day. However, what he described, and what many management texts described was contrastingly different. Texts described highly structured processes whilst Kotter observed the opposite. The interesting insight after revisiting the article, he suggests in a more recent article, What Effective General Managers Really Do, is that he did not think of the word leadership to describe the process he observed. The article, and the more importantly, the language used to describe the process was a function of the era in which the article was written. Surprisingly this was also the period in which strategic planning in organisations was widely used. The language and the times that are characteristic to us today are complexity, discontinuities, uncertainty, rapid change and unpredictability. The 1970's was the era of strategic planning models, the 1980's strategic planning models failed to deliver and so we saw the rise of strategic management, and, in the 21 st century even strategic planning models fail to deal with the current realities so we have strategic leadership. Today we have the language of leadership to describe what most academics and consultants describe as a revolution. This dissertation hopes to build the beginning of a basis for a theory for strategic leadership. Most texts of strategy cover the conceptual models fairly explicitly. However, given that we are in a transition stage from one worldview to another, fundamental assumptions about how we organise, work and hence see the world are questioned and becoming invalid. This therefore calls for a rethinking of the fundamentals that underpin the process of strategy and the models embedded within the various processes. This dissertation highlights the critical concerns for strategy given that there is a shifting worldview. The dissertation covers the basic evolution of organisational design to current practices and thinking. Most importantly the basis for thinking about strategic processes, given that traditional models of organisational design and strategic management fail within the current context. The question for strategic management, is "what next?" • We know that we cannot predict the future. • We understand that there are limits to the speed of growth and more definitely for development. • We can see the limits of management but are still attempting to describe leadership and leadership practices. • We understand the need for the creation of new approaches for organising work in a global context. Such concerns and their relevance for organisational theory, particularly the lack of a general theory of strategy, has led this dissertation to focus primarily on three interrelated areas, viz. strategy, organisational design and systems thinking It was also important to draw on the current failures of strategy in order to inform a position on understanding strategic processes. This dissertation in no way hoped to resolve the above, but rather to begin a process of building new strategic frameworks. Another troubling problem of the strategy field is that there seems to be no deeper consideration given to the problem; that each school seems to further fragment the strategic processes and tends to divide, rather than create a synthesis. It is understood that defining the entire strategic field into one paradigm is not plausible. However, a deeper understanding of the fundamental assumptions that inform the different approaches to strategy will provide insight into the re-conceptualising of strategic processes rather than devising new strategic models. These processes of redefinition involves surfacing of assumptions so as to inform a synthesising (or convergent) process, which follows the divergent creative process. In the strategic field we have witnessed the creative strategic phase, and we now require a convergent approach in order to create new basis of knowledge for strategy. In essence, we need an improved understanding of the nature of the strategic processes rather than creating new tools and models. This requires understanding of complex relationships in interaction.


Thesis (M.Com.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2002.


Theses--Business administration., Strategic planning., Organizational change.