Phase 2 of The Linked Management Models

Strategy and The Storms of Chaos 

Thriving on Chaos - How to navigate through the storms of chaos.

By Craig A. Stevens, PMP, CC and his students

Figure 1. The Forces of Chaotic Change and Thrive-ability





I sincerely appreciate you sharing your expertise with us in class last night. It was enjoyable and inspiring. I also appreciate you sending your web links.


Thanks again!


Donna Sue Snyder

America Service Group Inc.

Director, Human Resources


Sub-Step 1 - Forecasting the Waves of Changing Trends

Sub-Step 2 - Risk Management and Preparing for the Lightning of The Unexpected Events

Sub-Step 3 - Optimizing the Buoyancy of the Supporting Allies (Business Relationship Management, Customer, Social and Political, Supply Chain Management, etc.)

Sub-Step 4 - Competitive Strategies and Competing Against the Storming Enemy Forces (Competition, Negative Social and Political Issues, Conflict, Etc.)

Sub-Step 5 - Leading Your Organizational Ship


PowerPoint Presentation on the Storms of Chaos

Thriving in “The Storms of Chaos”


By Craig A. Stevens, PMP

(Based on the model in the book Geronimo Stone, Book 2 -- The Storms of Chaos)

Storms of Chaos:

Some of you have seen the movie “the perfect storm.”  In addition, some of you know that the movie is based on real life.  It was a real storm and a true story of men’s lives.

Glenn Beck uses this word picture to explain some of the chaos going on in the world today.  Parts of his words are paraphrased here... (

In the movie George Clooney, the captain of a fishing boat, fights for his crews life in not just any storm, but a perfect storm.  An experienced captain can ride out one storm but this was different, many storms that come together simultaneously.  The result was, the collective power of a number of combined storms sank the fishing boat and killed her entire crew.  It actually happened.  This crew died the same way thousands of other sailors died, while trying to fight to stay alive.  

The term “The perfect storm” has become a part of our nation’s lexicon.  It represents any major collection of events that describe the impossible to survive situation.  Sometimes it refers to major forces that come together simultaneously to change the landscape of our current business environment, creating chaos.  “Storms of chaos” describe a state of complete disorder and confusion, which brings many “winds of change.” 

Ship of State:

Likewise, ships often describe people and organizations.  You have heard whole nations referred to as ships of state or large organizations described as ships.  The metaphor is useful to describe how hard it is to turn those ships or for organizations to change.  Sometimes, ships even describe people, as two ships passing in the night. 

The Purpose of this Article:

The purpose of this article is to show how a ship or boat caught in a storm describes our chaotic lives and business environments.  In addition, the storm helps us to visualize the abstract concept of chaos.  By showing how we can use the picture of a storm to help us plan our actions, our organizations and families can better manage, survive, or even thrive on chaos.

The Forces of Chaotic Change and the Thrive-ability of Our Organizations:

In a chaotically changing environment, one never knows what is going to happen next.  The chaotic changes seem to happen in random patterns similar to waves on a body of water.  In smaller markets, similar to smaller bodies of water (like a pond), these waves are easier to understand and forecast.  However, in the largest markets, like larger bodies of water or an ocean, all the rules change and forecasting change becomes more difficult as chaos hits the organization from all sides.  One can think of an organization in a larger radically changing environment as a ship on the ocean. 

Often when explaining how overwhelming and complicated life can become; I use a very visible prop.  I take a stack of papers and ask the audience to imagine that the stack represents their life’s work.  It symbolizes every piece of work they ever produced for any reason, all on unnumbered sheets of paper.  Then, I throw the paper in the air -- ever sheet flies in different directions.  Next, I ask now what do we do.  The answer comes as -- start categorizing the papers in manageable groups.  That also, is what you do with chaos.

By adding the storm scenario, we can paint the picture of our organization during change.  This picture of a ship on the ocean helps us to describe and organize chaos into five groups that help us understanding and proactively manage chaos.  (Figure 1. The Forces of Chaotic Change and Thrive-ability)

Group 1 – The Waves:

The waves represent trends we can see coming.  The Y2K scare of the past was something we saw coming.  Some thought it was going to sink everyone’s ship.  We feverishly fought to prepare for the turning of the clock.  This drove major changes in the most industries the banking industry was practically effected.  When the wave did hit, we were either well prepared or the wave turned out to be less than we expected. 

Group 2 – The Lightning:

Lightning represents the unexpected events.  We all know lightning exist but few of us prepare for the strike.  We never really know if or when it will strike.  Lightning strikes may take the form of a key employee leaving at a bad time, a fire, an injury, or the terrorist attacks of 9/11.   

Group 3 – The Actual Storm:

The storm represents everything trying to sink your ship.  The storm is the enemy.  These negative forces take the form of thing like bad politics or those political things that go against your business.  Negative forces can be bad social norms that work against your organization.  The storm can be competition, conflict, or all the other things that hurt your business.   

Group 4 – The Buoyancy

Buoyancy represents everything keeping our ship afloat, all our supporting allies.  Buoyancy is the supporting markets, cash flow, debt management, our families, friends, our church, those social norms in our favor, good politics in our favor, our supply chain, good customer relationships, and generally those things in our favor.

Group 5 – The Ship

The ship represents the organization.  The two concepts important to the organization’s thrive-ability are (1) what the organization is designed to do (ride the ocean or a pond) and (2) its sea worthiness (structure, systems, leadership, staff preparedness, resources/provisions, etc.).  One is more related to effectiveness and the other efficiency.  All the other groups are more external while the ship is internal.  You only have control over your ship – you are the captain, so lead it.    

Managing the Waves: Every wave has someone’s attention.  We have to master communication with all our sailors.  We have to listen to the gatekeepers of our organization.  These are the people most keenly aware of their own areas of interest, closest to the different types of work, and most tapped into their own spears of influence.  Forecasting tools are important, but expertise and relationships at every level are the most important assets. 

Managing the Lightning: One prepares for lightning with risk management, emergency and contingency plans, security, insurance, back-up plans, training, empowerment, and building an organization to withstand loses.

Managing the Storm:  One fights the storm by mastering competitive strategies, competing well, raising productivity and quality, and becoming politically and socially proactive. 

Managing the Buoyancy:  We must optimize our buoyancy.  Remove those things that make us too heavy, build relationships, balance our lives, build good will, provide good service, build allies, and improve cash flow. 


Although perfect storms are rare, hardly a month goes by without a storm of some magnitude effecting our organizations.   We have learned that storms will come and bring with it some challenges, the waves of trends, the lightning of the unexpected, and our old enemy the storm itself.  Nevertheless, we have buoyancy and the ship in our favor.  So we have a choice, we can master the storms of chaos or be mastered by it.  One leads to success and profit, the other to leads to failure.  You are the captain of your ship, master your job, and fight for your crew.  There is no other choice, it takes effort, but the entire economic navy depends on the skills of its captains. 

The storm idea came about in a dream during a time of  intense study.  Mr. Stevens adapted a couple of the concepts from Michael E. Porter’s “Diamond of Competitive Advantage,” (Porter, 1990) to principles of change management and added the storm scenario. Porter, Michael E., "The Competitive Advantage of Nations," Harvard Business Review, March - April 1990




Simplified PowerPoint Show

Using a Straights, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis with the Storms of Chaos Model.

One way to use the Storms of Chaos Model is to look at every element of the Storms of Chaos Model and use the SWOT Analysis to brainstorm for each.  

  1. What are the Waves of Trends we can see coming toward us?  

  • Where are our strengths and weaknesses?  

  • What Opportunities can be capitalize on?  

  • What Threats will we need to watch out for?


Go to the Project Management Pages to Read About Project Management

Strategic Planning

The importance of change in the strategic planning process

By Machelle TenBroeck and Janet Crabtree June 18, 2008

The ever-changing global marketplace requires managers to strategically plan for all contingencies. One of the most important parts of strategic planning is the external and internal environment. According to Carter McNamera, there are four models of strategic planning:

1. Basic Strategic Planning is a process typically followed by organizations that are extremely small, busy, and have little experience with strategic planning. The entire process might be implemented in year one of the to get a sense of how planning is conducted, and then embellished in later years with more planning phases and activities to ensure a well-rounded direction. Top-level management usually carries out the planning.

2. Issue (or Goal) Based Strategic Planning often evolves from organizations that began with the “basic” planning approach described above. This is a more comprehensive and more effective type of planning.

3. Alignment Strategic Planning models are used to ensure strong alignment between an organization’s mission and its resources. The goal is to effectively operate the organization and is useful for organizations that need to fine-tune or improve strategies making them more effective. An organization might choose this model if it is experiencing a problems with internal efficiencies.

4. Scenario Strategic Planning might be used in conjunction with other models to ensure planners use strategic thinking. The model may be useful, particularly in identifying strategic issues and goals.

All of these models contain similar elements including a focus on external and internal environments.

Strategies should change with the organizational life cycles that all organizations go through from infancy to maturity.  Organizations should analyze the external and internal environments through the entire lifecycle. In the book, 5 Life Stages of Nonprofit Organizations (Wilder Foundation, 2001), the author, Judith Sharken Simon, provides another perspective on life cycles of organizations. She identifies five life stages as follows:

Stage 1: Imagine and Inspire "Can the dream be realized?"

Stage 2: Found and Frame "How are we going to pull this off?"

Stage 3: Ground and Grow "How can we build this to be viable?"

Stage 4: Produce and Sustain "How can the momentum be sustained?"

Stage 5: Review and Renew "What do we need to redesign?"

In conclusion, managers must be aware of all forces that affect the business and make decisions based on the ever-changing needs of the organization.

Work Cited

McNamara, Carter, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Basic Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models, 2006 

Julian, Scott D., Justis, Robert T., Keels J. Kay An Exploration of the Relative Effect of the Internal and External Environments on Organizational Responses to a Strategic Issue 



Retention: Increasing Profits by Increasing Longevity in Technical Services Companies

by Jesse Johnson, Tiffany Smith, and Dan Sorrow (TNU 2008)

Many individuals in the twenty-first century make thousands of dollars a day by simply answering questions for businesses. Questions such as what makes a business successful? Why do some businesses fail while others succeed? What are some of the components of change in a business? This paper will take a more in-depth look at several of these questions and it will look at some of the different components of change. To illustrate these components, the writers of this paper will use a business model known as the Storms of Chaos Model (Stevens). The various components that make up this model are the storm itself, the waves generated by the storm, the lightning from the storm, the ship riding in the storm, and the buoyancy that keeps the ship afloat in the storm. Before addressing each topic individually, the focus will be on the history and the background of the problem that has created this chaotic storm. The storm issue addressed in this paper involves an employee retention situation within Engineering and Technical Services Companies.

Many times these companies suffer a considerably high colleague turnover rate. The number of colleagues separating over the last two years has remained steady. One company reported that twenty-two colleagues separated in both 2005 and 2006. This turnover decreased staffing levels from a 2005 figure of forty-two employees in comparison to today’s thirty active colleagues.

Low retention creates a considerably negative impact on their region as a whole. High turnover rates influence team synergy, customer relationships, and region expenses. One example of this is increased employee workloads to continue accomplishing mission objectives. This often results in burnout and frustration. High colleague turnover affects customer relations as well. Customers are seeking a consistent point of contact in order to meet their needs. Additionally, the cost of training new employees has an impact on expenses. In 2006, the one company lost 29 million dollars due to colleague turnover alone.

     I. The Storm

The storm represents threatening, competition, societal, political, and other enemy forces (Stevens).

“The major challenge management faces today is living in a world of turbulence and uncertainty where new competitors arrive on the scene daily & competitive conditions change” (Blanchard, Hersey, and Johnson 3). Technical companies constantly require additional employees due to current business growth rates. Managers have limited time to provide individual training prior to a new employee starting work. It is common for a new employee to work anywhere from one to three months before attending official training. When training does take place, colleagues have to provide much of it. The high stress, fast pace, and fierce competition of the job itself is extremely challenging for new hires within the company. Due to the stressful environment, the turnover rates continue to rise year after year. Increased turnover causes remaining employees to incur additional responsibilities due to the vacancies of separated employees.

Furthermore, in the cutthroat world of business, it is quite common for competitors to keep an eye on the new technical employees being trained. Once a company incurs the expense of training the new employees, competitors will not hesitate to swoop in and offer these newly trained employees a larger salary with better benefits. This practice ensures the competition of a constant flow of well-trained employees as well as a constant drain on larger companies' financial and human resources. Although non-competes are often signed by each colleague when they are hired, non-competes are useless unless every single colleague is pursued. Pursuing former employees, who are guilty of violating their non-compete, is not common practice by many companies because of the expense, time and good will factors.

     II. Waves

In this model, waves represent events seen in advance. These events are predictable. Some corporations are able to adjust to the oncoming waves. They may be nimble enough to ride the wave to shore, while another corporation sinks. Frequently the same wave will benefit one organization while sinking another. 

The waves of change in a large technical company typically bring changes in staffing and retention. Years ago, it was not unheard of for employees to stay at one company for the majority of their career. It was common practice for an individual to build a career at one company. They would climb the corporate ladder in anticipation of success. Switching jobs frequently, or job-hopping, was not common. In fact, potential employers frowned upon job-hopping. Many times with only one breadwinner per family, stability was the primary motivator; therefore, they were unlikely to switch jobs frequently. The workforce operated on an unwritten contract of mutual loyalty. Employees stuck with their employer; in turn, the employer took care of the employee (Dibble 25).

The informal employment contracts of the past existed on conditions far different from those that exist today. Employers were unequivocally in the driver’s seat of the employer/employee relationship. For example, 401K benefits did not exist, and the employer or perhaps distant stockholders owned stock. Employers set the terms of employment in their company. If employees were unhappy with the terms, they could simply leave. Employers tended to treat their employees well because such treatment provided them with the security of capable and loyal workers. Additional job satisfaction factors also included unions negotiating increases in pay, benefits, and working conditions. Unintentionally, unions improved conditions for non-union employees as well (Dibble 28).

Today’s employee feels that he or she must look out for number one and have full control of their career at all times. Influencing this frame of mind is the trend of organizational downsizing. Organizations must take risks and generate creative ideas if they would like to remain competitive in today’s labor market. Because of this risk taking behavior, companies succeed or fail at a rapid pace. The success of a company depends largely on how they compare to their competitors in regards to employee satisfaction (Judy and D’Amico 52).

According to author Fredrick Reichheld, “Many organizations claim that employees are their greatest asset and key factors to the success of the business; however, when profits are down, they react by lying off these invaluable assets” (15). Companies choosing to lay people off when times get tough will inevitably create disloyalty within their organization. Reichheld also notes, “Many companies who layoff employees will significantly under perform in years to come due to the tone employee disloyalty has created” (17). Due to the tight labor market, highly skilled employees have the flexibility to determine how often they will switch jobs. Those employees are able to name their salary at each new opportunity. This trend has had a significant impact on the turnover rate nationwide. In 1999, employee turnover skyrocketed to the highest rate in almost twenty years. According to a survey conducted by BNA, Inc. 1.2% of the workforce left their jobs each month during 1999 in comparison to1.1% per month in both 1997 and 1998, and .9 % in 1996 (Cooper 1). Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Compared to other generations, which would often remain at one company for their entire career, some perceive Generation X employees as less loyal to their employers. Many Generation Xers perceive their organizations as a place to learn new skills and broaden experience levels. The current opportunity [exists] as a springboard for improved future opportunities (Kaye & Jordan-Evans 22). Unlike their parents, Generation X individuals are more likely to leave if they are not satisfied with the experience they are having at a company (Poskaitis 10).

     III. Lightning

In the storms of chaos model, lightning is any sudden and unexpected event that takes place. One example of this would be the tragedy of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Simply put, this unforeseen and unpredictable event radically changed the way many organizations did business.

Prior to 9-11, jobs were plentiful and the employment market thrived. When the tragedy occurred, the staffing industry was one of the first businesses to suffer and they continued to do so for three years. During this time, there were more people available and not enough jobs. Now the labor market has reversed and companies are suffering a people shortage, in part because of the aging and retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. According to a projection figure by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 151 million jobs by the year 2009, with only 141 million people employed (Kaye & Jordan-Evans 45). According to the study conducted by the Workplace Resource Learning Center, replacing employees will cost an organization an average of $14,000 for employees with a high school education and an average of $66,000 for those with college educations (Cornick 2).In addition to the tangible costs mentioned above, employee turnover will influence customer relations. In 1992, Sears came up with a plan to enhance employee attitude as well as retention. This positively influenced customer service, satisfaction, and retention, therefore ultimately increasing revenue. The results of this plan indicated a five-point improvement in employee attitudes that drove a 1.3-point improvement in customer satisfaction. These improvements ultimately increased one corporation’s revenue by .5% (Terez 17).

One of the most common assumptions made by employers identifies pay as the motivator to seek alternative employment opportunities. However, many companies paying employees at competitive rates are still troubled with high employee turnover rates. A study conducted by Robert Half International Inc., polled 150 executives employed by the 1,000 largest companies in the United States to find out the primary reasons people are leaving companies. Only 15% of the executives surveyed stated money as the determining factor in leaving a job (Grossman 2).

Non-monetary issues such as flexible work schedule, benefits, and training are just some of the reasons why employees [flee] to other companies (Ettore 9). A study conducted by Ranstad Consultants polled more than 6,000 American employees in regards to the factors motivating them to stay at their current place of employment. According to the survey results, money was not nearly as much of a factor as one may have assumed. The employees participating in this survey listed the following as the most important factors motivating them to stay with their current employer: liking the team they worked with, a pleasant work environment, an easy commute, challenging work, job security, ability to work independently, and opportunity for advancement (Jackson 2).

Harkins identifies five reasons why employees begin to seek alternative employment opportunities. They are the confidence factor, the emotional factor, the trust factor, the fit factor, and the listening factor. The confidence factor involves the employee’s confidence that the organization is moving in a positive direction towards a long-term mission. The emotional factor illustrates a need for recognition, reward, and development. The trust factor results when employees leave an organization with the feeling that management has broken many promises. The fit factor suggests that employees must feel that they fit in with their team and company. The listening factor suggests that employees must feel management legitimizes their concerns and suggestions. (Harkins)

In today’s ever changing labor market, it is important for companies to understand the reasons for change and to create better loyalty among their current employees. The talent war is at hand and employers must be willing to change with the trends of the markets. Retaining top talent and working to determine turnover will assist companies to reduce their cost of replacing, rehiring, and retraining.

     IV. The Ship

Using the Storms of Chaos model, the ship is an example of an organization with all the unique strengths and weaknesses of that organization. Employment Services is the one of the largest employers in the United States of America. Often the purpose of an employment services company is to provide the best-qualified candidates to employers. This typically should allows goal achievement for both the individual and the employer.

As an example: a company like Adecco is an technical employment company that works with large and small companies to provide supplemental and full-time staffing solutions. Adecco’s motto is, “better work, better life.” Adecco’s goal, as a whole, is to help people realize their full potential, enrich lives, and strengthen communities. In doing so, Adecco strives to provide companies with the best recruitment solutions, tools, and people to successfully satisfy the workplace needs and meet business challenges.

Adecco’s culture consists of companies and individuals seeking to improve their current situation. As is the strength of many large companies, Adecco’s structure is very systematic and organized.  Client companies can depend on their quality.  Adecco structure is the same in every corporately owned office, regardless of what part of the world the office is located. A branch manager manages each office. For a company like Adecco, the branch manager is responsible for the entire operations of the branch, such as sales, development, and training of new hires. Typically in technical services, offices may also consist of a Sales Executive and recruiter(s) with expert knowledge in the specific niche of the office, such as Engineering. Additional staff member positions may increase depending on the growth of the office and the demands of the clients. Each office may be in a geographical area. Managing each geographical area may be a Regional Manager/Vice President and/or a Regional Operations Manager. Regions may typically consist of several branches. Regions then may fall under the support of a division, such as Engineering and Technical. Each division may receive support from a large corporate office with support staff.

     V. Buoyancy

The model describes buoyancy as the supporting market, societal, political, and other allied forces (Stevens). In order for companies to experience buoyancy, employee retention must become a priority. Developing a retention plan would greatly improve retention efforts. People are ultimately the product and the client of technical service related companies. To maintain buoyancy, these companies must implement a system to stop the loss of its most valuable assets.  

The first contact in the retention process occurs during the interview process. The first step of the retention program should include the development of an interview guide. One purpose of the guide is to be a tool used during the candidate selection process. Another purpose of the interview guide is to establish a consistent candidate selection process within the region. Often an interview guide or tool will determine the critical skills required to assure success in his or her position. It may also contain questions to assess whether a candidate is a good match and for the employment opportunity. These tool will often take the place of the generic interview questions included in the HR Manuals. Furthermore, many HR manuals may not be specific to Technical expertise; therefore, may lack relevance as the primary tool for selecting quality technical candidates.

Once a candidate agrees to an offer of work, the region must strive to connect the individual to the company though a carefully planned orientation process. The structure of the orientation process should connect employees to their home Branch as well as the company as a whole. Small branches that spread out over a broad geographic territory may present a challenge when trying to help employees connect to the organization. With this in mind, it is essential to use resources from these branches that may be across a specific region during the orientation process.

Participation from colleagues at every level in a region is achievable through a “welcome wagon” approach to the orientation process. In this approach, seasoned colleagues from branches across the region will contact the new employee to offer their expertise in a particular area. For example, when a recruiter is hired, pertinent areas to address would include topics such as; an orientation overview, organizational purpose and mission, company history, policies and procedures, recruiting methods, and recruiting tools available. The branch manager may be responsible for issues regarding policies and procedures; however, colleagues from other branches can introduce other topics. For example, during the first month of employment, a regional manager should likely complete the orientation process by meeting with the new employee. During this meeting, the regional manager will discuss the organization’s purpose, structure, and history. This process provides the new employee with the tools needed to succeed.

A company can enhance employee retention by implementing flexible scheduling options. Due to today's customer-oriented environments, it is logical that employees should create a schedule that allows them to best service their customer’s needs. For example, recruiters deal primarily with candidates working during the day. Often, recruiters will have the most success speaking directly to candidates outside of the traditional 8-5 workday. With this in mind, allowing them to work 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. could aide to enhance the productivity of a recruiter.

Another area for development is a well-structured exit interview process within the region. The purpose of the exit interview is to gather data regarding the reasons why an employee decides to leave the company. Consistent reasons motivating employees to leave the organization should lead to a modification to the colleague retention program.


It would be an understatement to say that the business world is a complex and ever-changing environment. Unfortunately, many organizations do not fully understand the powerful driving forces of change. Too often organizations will sail blindly through the storms of chaos, unknowingly headed for the rocky shore. Many organizations have sunk due to their cavalier attitude regarding change. The writers of this paper intended to act as a lighthouse for the ships at sea. A lighthouse provides illumination to ships during both smooth and stormy waters. The captain must navigate through many situations in order to ensure the crew is safe and the ship stays on course. Here’s wishing the captain and crew of every friendly ship, “clear skies, fair winds and following seas” (United States Navy).

Works Cited

Blanchard, Kenneth H., Paul Hersey, and Dewey F. Johnson. Management of Organizational Behavior Leading Human Resources. 8th Edition. 2001: 3 Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall

Cooper, Evan. Job Turnover Soaring. 23 July 2000. 30 April 2007

Cornick, Gary. The cost of a poor hire. 1999. 30 April 2007,

Dibble, Suzanne. Keeping you valuable employees: retention strategies for your organization’s most important resource. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999.

Ettore, B. “Is salary a motivator?” Management Review, volume 88. 1999 

Grossman, Robert J. “How to woo high-demand candidates.” HR Magazine. December 3 May 2007.

Harkins, P.J. “Why employees stay or go.” Workforce, 77 10. 74-78

Jackson, Alex. “Flexible workplace ranks top; soft benefits win out.” Success in Recruiting and Retaining.Vol.2  July 2000

Judy, T. & D’Amico, C. Workforce 2020:Work and Workers in the 21st Century. Indianapolis: Hudson Institute. 1999. 

Poskaitis, M. “The generation gap comes of age in your office.” National Public Account 44,3 (1999): 10.

Reichheld, Fredrick. The Loyalty Effect. Boston: Bain & Company Inc., 1996. 

Stevens, Craig. The Storms of Chaos Model. 20 January 2008. 

Terez, Tom. 22 Keys to Creating a Meaningful Workplace. Holbrook:Adams Media Corporation. 2000. United States. Navy. 31 January 2008


Strategy, The Storms of Chaos

in Health Care and IT


By Linda Morrow, the UoPhx, MBA 590, 2007

Edited by Craig A. Stevens


            According to Hart, author of “The Strategy of indirect approach,” Strategy is a long-term plan designed to achieve a particular goal, most often winning.  Strategy differentiates from tactics (immediate action with resources at hand) by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed.  Strategy is adaptable by nature rather than a rigid set of instructions.  Strategy is a process not a document.  Strategy is also predecessor to tactics.  

The Strategy Hierarchy

             According to Christensen, who wrote the article The Innovator’s Dilemma,” within the majority of large corporations several levels of strategy take place.  Management directs corporate principles, ethnicity, goals, and missions using functional, organizational, business, and/or corporate strategies.

Functional Strategies:

            Functional Strategy includes management of functional areas like marketing, new products, human resources, financial, legal, and information technology.  Each functional department attempts to meet overall corporate objectives.

Operational Strategy:

            Operational Strategy is the lowest level of strategy and it focuses on day-to-day operational activities such as scheduling.  Peter Drucker explained this strategy in his theory of management by objectives (MBO).

Business Strategy:

            In Michael Porter’s seminal article, “What is Strategy?” the critical distinction between operational effectiveness and strategy is business strategy.  He also presented remarks toward general business theory.  Although his theories may not relate to medical economics, his dialogue is pertinent for physicians in medical practice.  Medical practices in our society as a whole can improve patient care by benchmarking other successful programs.  This would increase fiscal strength by applying business strategies to medical practice management.

            According to Mr. David, author of Strategy Management, business strategy is a combination of three main processes, (1.) situation analysis, (2.) self-evaluation, (3.) competitor analysis.  Each are both internal and external and are both micro-environmental and macro- environmental.  

            Objectives are set with each assessment.  This involves creating vision statements (long-term view of a possible future), mission statements (role that the organization gives itself in society), overall corporate objectives (both financial and strategic), strategic business unit objectives (both financial strategic), and tactical objectives.  The situation analysis leads to a strategic plan that provides details of how to achieve these objectives. 

            A three-step formulation process is used to determined where you are now, where you want to go, and how to get there.  (David, F. 1989)  According to Mr. David, author of Strategic Management, The elements of strategies relate directly to an organization’s overall development process.  From the research, as a vision is communicated, it supports a set of necessary strategies related to decision-making and helps to create a clear image.  Therefore, as one begins to formulate strategies, the goals begin to become clear, and so do the steps of implementation.  The corporate environment consists of very complex systems with many platforms needing figurative blueprints.  While having good blueprints helps a builder create a planned image, so too, a clear strategic blueprint helps an organization to plan and achieve productive, worthy, users responsive, and maintainable result.  

            According to David, the strategic planning process starts by prioritization and framing the strategic questions needed to address at every phase of the business process.  The goal is a strategy framework that clearly outlines, in brief segments, the different high-level strategies an organization needs.  Each segment in the process requires an owner to be accountable for the growth and development of the organization and its systems.

Corporate strategy:

            According to Peter Drucker, we are in an age of discontinuity, extrapolating from the past is hopelessly ineffective.  We cannot assume that trends that exist today will continue into the future.  Drucker discusses four kinds of discontinuity:

  1. new technologies
  2.  globalization
  3. cultural pluralism
  4. knowledge capital

            Corner, Kinichi, and Keats explained that strategy and decision-making in organizations transpire at two levels, individual and aggregate.  Both these levels include similar processes:

  1. understanding
  2. encoding
  3. storage  retrieving information
  4.  strategy options
  5.  results
  6.  Feed back.

Leaders as Visionaries

            In the year 1977, Abraham Zaleznik identified a difference between leaders and managers.  He describes leaders as visionaries.  They care about substance, whereas managers claim to care about process, plans, and form.  He also claimed in 1989, that the rise of the manager was the main factor that caused the decline of American business in the 1970s and 1980s.  However, Craig Stevens explains, “you cannot have excellent management without excellent leadership.  Leadership is a necessary part of working with people, managing in general, and obtaining excellent long-term results.  The difference is related more to excellent verses poor management, instead of management verse leadership.”  (Craig Stevens, 2007)

Structure and Goals            

            Another major element of strategy is structure and goals.  This element is especially important to Chief Information Officers.  They constantly have as a purpose to bring about changes to structures and of setting project goals.  Most companies still view the information technology (IT) function as a separate cost center that requires substantial funding annually as a “cost of doing business.”  Many times organizations never realize the value created by IT outputs or the return on investments.  In the case of many businesses today, the IT function lacks the credibility of being a strategic partner to the organization, which is one of the reasons for high system failures.  Structural aspects of organizations like those in technology departments must also function like a business in order to gain overall corporate success.

            According to Overby, author of How to Run IT Like a Business, reported most departments today track such metrics as “downtime” to estimate their performance.  However, to make any department function like a business, other measures such as return on investments and value creation should also be tracked.  This forces managers to consider their spending in terms of how beneficial it will be to the company.  Many suggest that performance reviews should include a combination of certain performance measures and customer satisfaction components to encourage the technology department to serve the internal customers.

            According to Zaleznik, realigning the technology department to a “business” approach will be difficult.  It is a culture issue.  The technology departments as well as end users have many years of fixed cultural perceptions to conquer.  However, technical operations are especially considered imperative to everyday activities and the future growth and development of a company.

            According to the Physician Executive Journal, health care administrators and health care professionals should spend more time on business strategy.  Physicians should learn how to differentiate the practice and the marketplace, while increasing value for the patients and revenue for the practice.  When managing a primary care clinic, one is aware of all the challenges in a medical group.  Reason being, a clinic must function under careful coordination of operational effectiveness and meet standards of service delivery.  Another aspect of business is medicine, which mandates some attention from most clinics in strategy.  Some physicians tend to ignore the vital tool of business strategy at their own risk.  However, even in healthcare, professional leadership (as well as leadership from professionals) plays a significant role in strategy. 




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2.               Christensen, Clayton (1996).  “The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard Business Review, Press.  Boston retrieved October 6, 2007 from

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4.               Drucker, Peter, The Practice Management Harper and Row, New York, 1954

5.               Hart, L. (1942).  The Strategy of Indirect Approach

6.               Overby, S. (2004).  How to Run IT like a Business CIO Magazine, May 1, 2004 Issue page 48 retrieved from

7.               Porter, M. (2007) “What is Strategy”?  Harvard Business Review Volume 74, pp.61-78

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9.               Zaleznik, Abraham “Managers and Leaders: “Are the different?”  Harvard Business Review, May_ June, 1977

10.            Stevens, Craig A.

11.            Physician Executive, American College of Physician Executives retrieved October 5, 2007 from


By TaTiana Smith, UoPhx MBA590, 2007
Edited by Craig A. Stevens

Strategy is a continuing plan of action premeditated to achieve a specific goal. Strategy is different from tactics, the origin is usually well thought out and planned. Strategy can be an idea that develops into a course of action, or style of thinking with countless advantages and or disadvantages for an organization’s future. “Strategy is the plan of action, how we’re going to get from where we are to where we want to be,” according to Dan Burns. After formulating strategy using a variety of strategic planning methods, any form of action taken relies on the scope of the overall strategy of the organization. Strategy is the arrangement of the policies needed for attaining company missions or objectives…to the distribution of resources and organizational structure.

In public relations and marketing, the value of success and failure relies heavily on strategies. Companies outsource tools from other companies to gain and continue success; these tools include newsletters, brochures, and websites. According to Nora Carr, “research is the first step in moving from activity based to strategic public relations.” Information revealed from research can ultimately make or break programs and campaigns. Various research strategies differ based on communication needs. Although online surveys produce data in sufficient time, the information does not prove validity because the statistics do not represent the entire population. An organization should always associate the succession method to the organization’s goals and strategies. This link will assess the strengths and weaknesses against the organization’s goals and strategies.

If business professionals do not translate research into strategy effectively, accurate data and communication becomes useless. Within public relations, strategy is defined as depicting or determining the main approach needed to decipher the communication challenge. The smart strategist looks for leverage points, by building on the organization’s current strengths or advantages. Themes, messages, and appeals are key aspects of strategy development. Solid leadership today does not assure solid leadership will always exist. A concrete understanding of the strengths, limitations, leadership, and aspirations of employees is the key to strategy. Strategy dictates if an organization can become the best and remain on top in the future endeavors.

Because of the uncertainties attached to predicting the future, according to Michael Raynor, strategies with the greatest possibility of success also contain the greatest possibility of failure. Organizations are faced with uncertainty because they cannot predict the future. The strategy paradox arises from a collision of communication and uncertainty. The paradox is a consequence of the need to connect to a strategy despite an uncertainty about which strategy to connect. If, according to Raynor, the strategy paradox is a consequence of conflict between communication and strategic uncertainty, the solution would be separating the management of the two. The future is unpredictable and strategy making must take unpredictability into account. Uncertainty is placed at the core of decision making at the highest levels of the organization.

According to Breene, strategy is comprised of three critical tasks that define accurate strategy execution: commitment, change, and prompt decision making. Organizations must focus on commitment to develop their strategic vision. Key players must make sure the vision is concise, clear, and understandable so that employees can connect to the organization’s goals. Change is necessary for organizations strategically to stay ahead of competition. In order to maintain success, organizations must be able to implement change quickly, rather than a long and drastic process. Strategy entails skillful progression and rapid decisions, with commitment, decision-making can sustain organization change. Strategy development has become a continuous process; triumphant execution depends on hasty and effective decision-making. Organizations have to be capable of adapting to environmental and industry changes to necessitate operative strategy.

The decision-making process should be as swift as possible; however, it must be managed carefully and appropriately. According to Simon Knox, organizations need to decide “who and what matters before managing the consequences of any strategy shift.” Prior to communicating any new strategy, organizations must develop clear objectives by reviewing the current strategies. The focus must then shift to enhanced strategies reasoned to fit the changing environment. Determining key strategy markets the shift in the organizations goals and success. Marketing the shift in goals, implementation, change, and decision-making is the key to strategy and success.


1. Breene, R. Timothy S., Paul F. Nunes, Walter E. Shill. The Chief Strategy Officer. Harvard Business Review. University of Phoenix Library.

2. Carr, Nora. American School Board Journal. “Winning the War for Public Education”. March 2006. National School Boards Association. University of Phoenix Library.

3. De Koning, Guido M.J. Gallup Management Journal. “Building Your “Bench Strength” (Part 2).” April 2005. University of Phoenix Library.

4. Knox, Simon, Colin Gruar. The application of stakeholder Theory to Relationship Marketing Strategy Development in a Non-profit Organization. Journal of Business ethics. Spring 2006. University of Phoenix Library.

5. Morris, Michael, Leyland F Pitt, Earl D. Honeycutt. Business-to-Business Marketing: “A Strategic Approach.” chapter 7. 3rd edition, Sage Publications

6. Raynor, Michael. "The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it)”. New Zealand Management. August 2007. University of Phoenix Library.