Selecting An Implementation Approach

On the basis of their research on management practices at a number of companies, David Brodwin and L. J. Bourgeois III have identified five distinct basic approaches to strategy implementation and strategic change.

1. The Commander Approach

The strategic leader concentrates on formulating the strategy, applying rigorous logic and analysis. The leader either develops the strategy himself or supervises a team of planners charged with determining the optimal course of action for the organization. He typically employs such tools as experience curves, growth/share matrices and industry and competitive analysis.

This approach addresses the traditional strategic management question of "How can I, as a general manager, develop a strategy for my business which will guide day-today decisions in support of my longer-term objectives?" Once the"best" strategy is determined, the leader passes it along to subordinates who are instructed to executive the strategy.

The leader does not take an active role in implementing the strategy. The strategic leader is primarily a thinker/planner rather than a doer. The Commander Approach helps the executive make difficult day-to-day decision from a strategic perspective.

However, three conditions must exist for the approach to succeed:

  • The leader must wield enough power to command implementation; or, the strategy must pose little threat to the current management, otherwise implementation will be resisted.
  • Accurate and timely information must be available and the environment must be reasonably stable to allow it to be assimilated.
  • The strategist (if he is not the leader) should be insulated from personal biases and political influences that might affect the content of the plan.

A drawback of this approach is that it can reduce employee motivation. If the leader creates the belief that the only acceptable strategies are those developed at the top, he may find himself an extremely unmotivated, un-innovative group of employees.

However, several factors account for the Commander popularity. First, it offers a valuable perspective to the chief executive. Second, by dividing the strategic management task into two stages -"thinking" and "doing" -the leader reduces the number of factors that have to be considered simultaneously. Third, young managers in particular seem to prefer this approach because it allows them to focus on the quantitative, objective elements of a situation, rather than with more subjective and behavioral considerations.

Finally, such an approach may make some managers feel as an all-powerful hero, shaping the destiny of thousands with his decisions.


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The Nature Of Strategy Implementation
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