The use and benefits of strategic management in organizations is widely accepted as an essential management practice. Most organizations now engage in periodic strategic management processes, but the strategies used can differ depending on organizational focus and needs. Research has classified five different types of strategic management varying in both complexity and focus. Knowing the type of strategic management used by an organization can help leaders and stakeholders better understand whether the organization has properly identified environmental factors and has subsequently developed effective strategies and goals to address opportunities and threats.
Strategic Management Typology
The five types of strategic management enumerated from most simplistic to most complex are linear, adaptive, interpretive, expressive, and transcendent. These five types of strategic management represent a continuum of organizational focus and action. Organizations can respond to environmental factors, anticipate environmental changes, and in some cases even begin to change or reshape the external organizational environment itself. The type of strategic management used by an organization will determine the effectiveness of the organization.
Chaffee (1984) identified and described three types of strategic management – linear, adaptive, and interpretive. Cope (1987) later introduced the expressive type of strategic management as a combination of the adaptive and interpretive. Clough (2001) combined the work of Chaffe, Cope, and other authors to formulate a continuum of four strategic management types. Clough (2013) further refined the strategic management continuum by adding the transcendent type of strategic management based on field experiences with numerous organizations.
Linear Strategic Management
Linear is the simplest form of strategic management, where an organization is engaged in basic rational decision-making processes. The organization identifies a series of possible outcomes based on the internal and external environments and chooses courses of action best suited for the organization. Organizations engaged in linear strategic management react to changes in the internal and external environments. These reactions do not result in substantive changes to the products or services offered by the organization. For example, an organization might experience a decline in revenues and implement a new sales initiative. The new sales strategy does not change the product or address the relevance of the product in the environment.
Adaptive Strategic Management
As the name implies, an organization using adaptive strategic management scans the internal and external environments for threats and opportunities to create strategies that adjust to the changing environments. When leaders and stakeholders think about strategic management, most envision using the adaptive type of strategic management. These leaders know that an organization must understand and adapt to an ever-changing world. The serious and focused organizational inquiry necessary for the adaptive model requires more effort, resources, and direction than the linear type of strategic management.
Interpretive Strategic Management
The interpretive model focuses on understanding and implementing the mission and vision of the organization. Here, the organization is constantly seeking to evaluate itself to determine if it is satisfied with the direction and mission of the organization. An organization using the interpretive type of strategic management is more focused on adjusting the organization’s mission to the changes in the internal and external environments than on adapting products and services. The interpretive model increases in complexity because it requires the organization’s various constituencies to interact in a highly communicative and organized manner.
Expressive Strategic Management
The expressive model of strategic management combines the adaptive and interpretive models previously described. An organization using the expressive strategic management type is focused on adapting to changes in the internal and external environments and constantly clarifying, communicating, and validating its mission and vision. The expressive model requires the highest degree of integration and coordination for organizational members and stakeholders. The expressive type is the ideal that most organizations strive to attain when engaged in strategic management.
Transcendent Strategic Management
Over time, some organizations master the linear, adaptive, interpretive, and expressive types of strategic management. These organizations have usually been operating at the expressive level for several years, skillfully adapting to environmental challenges and artfully communicating and shaping their missions. These organizations seem to transcend traditional planning models, rising above the external environment. Their organizational actions begin to define the external environment rather than having the external environment define organizational actions.
Smart Organizational Development
The ultimate goal of strategic management is to help the organization fulfill its mission and vision. The types of strategic management that have been described show a continuum of models from simply existing in the environment to understanding the environment, connecting with the environment, and finally shaping the environment. As organizations grow and develop, they often move up and down this continuum of strategic management types. Leaders, stakeholders, managers, priorities, and resources are constantly changing, affecting how an organization approaches and fulfills strategic management objectives.
Maximizing Organizational Effectiveness
Knowing and understanding the various types of strategic management can help an organization become more effective. It is not just enough to properly initiate, develop, and execute a strategic plan. An organization can enthusiastically engage in strategic management and not be effective. Most organizational planning efforts achieve the goals enumerated in the plan. However, most organizations fail to engage in substantive change because the strategic plan’s focus is not aligned with the organizational needs and environmental indicators. Achieving strategic objectives formulated using a linear strategic management process may not be as effective as almost achieving artfully crafted goals developed using an expressive strategic management model.
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