Strategy: empirical evidence
Strategy: empirical evidence
A study at Nottingham Business School has examined the enormous field
of management literature for evidence of what, amongst all of the assertion
and prescription, actually seems to work. The following are ten headings,
under which are grouped relevant ideas. The weight to be put on human resouce
management is evident. It is also the case the uniform prescriptions are
not enough: one has to satisfy markets and regulators, staff and customers
and also, whilst appeasing these stakeholders, continually improve and become
distinctive. The two key prescriptions seem to be:
- Know yourself, and know your operating environment
- Adapt yourself to your circumstances, whilst maintaining and enhancing your distinctiveness
As an organisation's circumstances will surely vary with geography and
with any given stakeholder interaction, so the suite of reponses which you
offer must be both differentiated; yet, in some way, must remain internally
harmonious. To achieve this is difficult. It is nescessary to innovate and
to change, but it is also necessary to maintain a unity. This demands that
the talents throughout the organisation (as well as those outside of it)
are harnessed into a "superorganism". We have yet to learn how to do this
well, or as is often the case, at all.
Change and learning
Successful organisations in the 21st Century focus on the ability to
do things differently in ways which cannot easily be imitated by competitors.
Products and services need to be reinvented continuously. Traditional organisational
structures and cultures cannot deliver this.
- Clear development strategies are the best driver for change, combining
long-term vision and short-term contingency.
- Flexibility, cost effectiveness, reliability and customer care are
just entrance factors and do not guarantee success.
- Sustainability is increasingly equated with the speed at which organisations
can translate the tacit knowledge and creativity of employees at all levels
into new products and services.
- Enhanced productivity is increasingly about speeding up the rate of
innovation, not just doing more for less.
- Customer focus makes change inevitable, continuous and directed.
- Flexibility and willingness to change must be deeply embedded in organisational
- Globalisation is a resource for change, not a threat.
Workplace partnership and employee involvement is critical for effective
and sustainable change.
- Failure to ensure employee 'ownership' of change is a major source
of underachievement and innovation decay.
- A formal and effective commitment to management-workforce partnership
is a powerful resource for innovation and development throughout the organisation.
- Partnership is not another management fad but a framework for animating
and driving innovation.
Need for a goal oriented approach.
- Direct involvement of employees in the redesign of organisational structures
and jobs is more expensive in the short term, but more effective and sustainable.
- Employees increasingly expect rewarding work and a high quality of
working life, including the day-to-day ability to influence their own jobs.
- A 'bottom-up' approach to change needs careful preparation, using effective
tools to promote dialogue and trust.
- New ways of working need new forms of reward and remuneration, including
- Gain-sharing generates organisational versatility and a culture of
- Win-win solutions are both effective and sustainable.
Building the team-based organisation.
- Are 'teams' now a meaningless concept?
- From basic teams to extended teams to involved teams.
- Workload and targets become negotiable.
- Team-based principles are needed throughout the whole
- Ad hoc teams are a resource for problem solving and
- Establish responsive knowledge systems (not knowledge
management) to enable self-management of knowledge.
- Reform traditional remuneration systems. Rethink the role of middle management and supervisors.
Creative working environments combine increased
competitiveness and quality of working life.
- Jobs for life are dead. The key task for employers is to find a new
basis on which to persuade employees to share their full range of talents
- Creative and empowering workplace environments enable employers to
gain the full benefit of employee's knowledge, competence and innovative
potential while increasing opportunities for individual fulfilment.
- Creativity and innovation cannot just be learnt as an individual competence:
they are the product of how people are able to interact in the working environment.
- Lean, cost-driven organisations are not innovative organisations: people
need slack to be creative together.
- Quality of working life is a competitive advantage.
Investment in training and development.
- New forms of work organisation maximise the returns on investment in
training and workforce development.
- There is a strong link between success of new forms of work organisation
and investment in workforce development.
- Greater emphasis is needed on core competencies such as communication
Technology as a factor in facilitating change.
- New forms of work organisation maximise the returns on
investment in technology.
- Information technologies can (but don't always) reinforce
communication and empowerment.
- The design of technology often makes assumptions about
work organisation. This is sometimes unhelpful.
- Workforce participation in the design and implementation of
new technology leads to mutual gains.
No effective change without senior management commitment.
- Management values and attitudes deeply affect the nature
and effectiveness of the change process.
- The introduction of workplace partnership and new forms of
work organisation is as much an investment as the
introduction of new buildings or equipment.
- 'Organisational culture is defined by the things of which
managers approve or disapprove'.
- Front-line managers can't be allowed to avoid responsibility
for organisational development by hiding behind HR.
- Set-backs are inevitable: anticipate them and hold your
- Real change is more difficult than you expect.
Learning for change.
- There are plenty of recipe books, but they don't work.
- The task is not to try and catch up with 'best practice', but to
innovate by learning from validated practice.
- European diversity is a learning resource.
- The learning organisation is good at networking; it is close to
all its stakeholders; it accumulates, distributes and uses
knowledge effectively; and it proactively manages the value
- Employees involved in change at all levels need to acquire
research skills in order to identify, analyse and appraise
lessons from other organisations, and to evaluate progress on
a continuous basis.
- Networks generate knowledge and facilitate peer support.
- Successful change always involves painstaking research,
negotiation, experimentation, critical appraisal and redesign
over many cycles.
- Partnership and work organisation are reflective processes:
there is no end state.
- Continuous improvement needs to be a central part of the
- Continual appraisal of research into evidence-based practice is
a stimulus for improvement.
The wider picture.
- Organisations do not exist in a vacuum.
- Co-operation with public policy makers, business support
organisations and universities to resource change.
- Celebrate and exploit Europe's distinctive public assets.