Balancing Deliberate vs Emergent Strategy

January 7th, 2022

Even the best laid plans need room for adjustment and adaptation!


Today’s post is from our archives at SafeSourcing

People can be unpredictable. Its part of what keeps life interesting. But when a project gets thrown a curveball by someone who missed a deadline, overlooked a requirement, or is just plain uncooperative, the complexities that emerge are not typically the kind of “interesting” we want to experience. Michael Porter and Henry Mintzberg were the originators of the concepts of Deliberate vs Emergent strategy more than 25 years ago, and their views are still relevant today. We can account for most of the variables rational players bring to the table, but human beings aren’t always rational, and therefore not always predictable. This is why a balance between deliberate and emergent strategies must be achieved for any project.

The aspects of your project that should be deliberate are things like financial goals, timeframes, logistical requirements, etc. High level criteria for success often do not change and should be deliberate, pre-planned, and static. When our expectations regarding the execution of this strategy collide with reality in a way that will not resolve without adaptation, our ability to develop emergent strategy is essential.

No two procurement projects have to be run the same, and in fact usually should not be. Often times the optimal strategy for achieving pre-determined goals will not be known until some insight has been gained about the supplier base; how many suppliers are capable of providing the product/service? What is the geographical availability of capacity? Is pricing market regulated? What service level guarantees are available? Is the market experiencing price increases/supply shortages? These variables should influence our strategy for execution, by changing things like baseline pricing, terms and conditions, SOW’s, and freight considerations.

Some managers believe that any form of adaptation is a weakness of strategy. It isn’t. The old way of thinking about strategy is to assume all outcomes can be known and predicted. That’s why most of the Fortune 500 Companies that existed 50 years ago don’t exist anymore. They believed their position to be a product of previous strategy that should never be changed. The companies that have thrived over the years have continuously adapted, reinventing themselves over and over again to stay relevant, and capable of exceeding their customer’s expectations.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

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