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Take a pragmatic approach to your strategy

A strategy is often planned in advance, but sometimes it is also a certain pattern of organisational behaviour that arises 'spontaneously'. The trick is to give both types of strategy a place in digital transformation.

The TIMAF strategy game helps to plan, measure and improve a strategy. But this is not the only way to arrive at a strategy. Sometimes an organisation already applies a more or less unplanned strategy.

'Emerging' strategies are also likely to succeed

Henri Mintzberg, in his book The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, calls these kinds of 'emerging' strategies.

In the illustration, you see the 'Intended' strategy on the top left. This is a planned strategy, On the right you see 'Realised' strategy. This is the ultimately realised strategy.

A 'Deliberate' strategy may emerge from the 'Intended' strategy. And sometimes the strategy is not realised, for instance because it is unfeasible or undesirable. That is the 'unrealised' strategy.

Below the illustration you can see a series of activities with a certain pattern (the 'emergent' strategy) that may eventually lead to a 'realised' strategy.

Also read the article 'The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning' that summarises the book's key insights.

The combination of planned strategy and emergent strategy

Mintzberg believes that 100 per cent pre-planned - and rigidly implemented - strategies cannot be realistic. This is because one does not learn as the strategy is realised. This always leads to an undesirable strategy that fails to achieve its goal.

On the other hand, the organisation has no grip on fully 'emergent' strategies. One does not learn from them either. That is certainly not desirable either.

Strategy is planned and spontaneous

In practice, Mintzberg sees a combination of planned and spontaneous strategies. On the one hand, an organisation predicts the strategy, but meanwhile it does not lose sight of the fact that circumstances change and that the strategy has to be adjusted accordingly.

"All real-world strategies need to mix these in some way - to attempt to control without stopping the learning process."

Mintzberg is surprised that almost all the professional literature on strategy is about planned strategy and not spontaneous strategy. He also makes the next important point: that that planned strategy fails is not down to its implementation or to 'dumb' employees.

Bring strategy and implementation together

The real problem is that formulating a strategy is too often an academic exercise too far removed from execution. The trick is to bring prediction and execution much closer together and let them work together to determine the final realised strategy.

My own experience is that too often the organisation has an incomplete and abstract strategy - if it has one at all - that is totally unpopular with the professionals who are supposed to implement it. There is also often no concrete goal with measurable indicators.

How mature is your digital strategy?

The quality and prominence of the strategy largely determines the organisation's digital maturity. A digital transformation is a complex change process in which a vision is important, but in which it is also necessary to see from moment to moment what works and what does not. The strategy must be adjusted accordingly.

At what level is your organisation in digital maturity? If it is not Responsive or Predictive, there is still a lot of work to be done on the road to digital transformation.

A first start could be to create a digital strategy in the first place. The TIMAF Digital Strategy Game may be able to help with that.

Want to know more about the TIMAF maturity model? Then contact us without obligation at or call +31 (0)6 1446 5585.

Webinar: The role of strategy in digital transformation

Friday 23 June 2023 Erik Hartman will update you on the role of strategy in digital transformation using a case study.

You will be taken step by step in setting up a digital strategy and there will be plenty of room for interaction and questions with the participants.


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