Is Top-Down Strategy Intelligent Design?

Previously in Transcendental Generalization, I contemplated the difference between intended result and actual result of writing, suggesting that not all the effects of a written work may have been intended by the author:

I merely suggest that while the effects of these expressions are powerful and persistent, it is wrong to assume the authors intended all the effects.

It turns out that people who have studied business strategy have also contemplated the difference between intent of managers (referred to as top-down or deliberate strategy) and actual result (sometimes referred to as bottom-up or emergent strategy). In the Harvard Business Review article, Crafting Strategy, Henry Mintzberg writes

...just as a plan need not produce a pattern (some strategies that are intended are simply not realized) , so too a pattern need not result from a plan. An organization can have a pattern (or realized strategy) without knowing it, let alone making it explicit.

I had written:

Do we say, “Bill wanted to tell us this.� when we really mean “Bill’s work is revered, timeless, and therefore great because it has elicited this in so many readers through the ages.�? It’s just a shorter way of saying the same thing, right?

Mintzberg writes:

Ask almost anyone what strategy is, and they will define it as a plan of some sort, an explicit guide to future behavior. Then ask them what strategy a competitor or government or even they themselves have actually pursued. Chances are they will describe consistency in past behavior--a pattern in action over time. Strategy, it turns out, is one of those words that people define in one way and often use in another, without realizing the difference.

In conclusion, I observed a phenomenon in literature that others have observed in business: people see dramatic results and wrongly assume all of them were the intent of a superhuman originator. In literature, the originator is the author; in business, the originator is the senior manager.

Tags: Business, Philosophy

Updated at: 17 October 2005 6:10 AM