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  Management
  Alternatives Pty Ltd
  ABN 23 050 334 435

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Taken for granted management ideas can be uncertain, ambiguous and paradoxical

Many management ideas we take for granted in our day to day work are in reality uncertain, ambiguous or paradoxical. Seeing this can be freeing.

Take two examples: planning and strategic planning.

Planning - some people approach planning as: "We do what we say we will do. What we plan will happen". Others approach planning as: "Pretending we know where we are going so today we can set out on a journey together. What we plan may or may not happen but we need to be moving along today." The latter view is very useful in uncertain times. The former view assumes some ability to predict the future which we may not have.

If we can’t predict the future what are we doing when we are planning? Journeying towards something we hold out in front of us?

Strategic planning - some people see strategic planning as a 1+1 = 2 problem. If we analyse what we are doing; do a SWOT analysis; do a stakeholder analysis; and so on - we will logically arrive at out strategic plan. I think strategic planning is more like a 1+2 = 12 problem. Strategic planning requires creativity. It may be more important who you have in the room doing the planning than the depth of the detailed analysis.

In recent years everyone is doing strategic planning and it is talked about as if we all know what we are talking about. However Costas Markides notes: "What is strategy really? Despite the obvious importance of a superior strategy to the success of an organisation and despite decades of academic research on the subject, there is little agreement as to what strategy really is." (What is strategy and how do we know we have one? Financial Times Handbook of Management Second Edition. 2001).

If we don’t know what strategic planning really is, what are we doing when we are doing it? Making ourselves feel more comfortable with uncertain times?

Paul Bullen
3 March 2007