A common language for strategy and change

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Mark Twain

There is a “plan” behind the activities of almost all organisations, some type of method, some kind of idea of what the organisation should be doing. It is, to some extent, a strategy, but as we will come to learn it is much more than just a plan.

Strategy as an element of management, business and organizational learning is a relatively young discipline. The first book on the subject was written at the beginning of the 1960s. Strategy has traditionally been viewed as a theoretical subject. In principle there are as many definitions as there are people who have attempted to define it, making it difficult to explicitly set the meaning of the concept. However, on the whole, the majority view, among both practitioners and researchers, is that a strategy is any type of work that defines how to specify goals to be achieved, a description of the chosen route to be taken in order to reach our intended future objectives.

Now let us move on to consider development and change. Is there a difference between the two, or are they the same thing? Development has acquired a more positive connotation while change often sounds more negative. For the sake of simplicity I would like to view them as synonyms. Few people like change for changes sake, but everyone wants to improve something.

Change is traditionally seen as something that occurs on two levels – the organizational and the individual. The organizational level includes changes in the structure or roles within the organisation, changes in responsibilities or new incentive schemes. However, implementing changes in the structure of an organisation does not necessarily lead to real changes in how the organisation functions. The purpose of these organizational changes is usually to alter behavior. The real changes happen at the individual level – it is the employees’ behavior we need to change. There can be no real change without alterations in behavior and these take place at an individual level.

If we look at strategy and change from a behavioral perspective we can describe it as a new, modified or alternative way for a person to carry out a task – a change in a behavior that the person has in their behavioral repertoire.