What goes on in the mind of strategist? It can be said that that strategists are engaged in the process of dealing whit strategic problems. A strategic problem is a set of circumstances requiring a reconsideration of the current course of action, either to profit from observed opportunities or to respond to perceived-threats. To deal with these strategicproblems, managers must structure their individual thinking steps into a reasoning process that will result in effective strategic behavior.
THE ISSUE OF STRATEGIC REASONING
The human ability is referred to as cognition. As strategists want to know about the strategic problems facing their organizations, they need to engage in cognitive activities. These cognitive activities need to be structuredinto a strategic reasoning process. The first step is to examine the various cognitive activities making up a strategic reasoning process. The four main cognitive activities will be discussed in the first subsection. To be able to perform these cognitive activities, people need to command certain mental faculties but the human brain is strictly limited in what it can do. These limitations topeople´s cognitive abilities will be reviewed in the second sub-section. To deal with its inherent physical shortcomings, the human brain copes by building simplified models of the world, referred to as cognitive maps. The functioning of cognitive maps will be addressed in the third-section.
The strategic reasoning process consists of a number of strategic thinking elements orcognitive activities- mental tasks intended to increase the strategist´s knowing. A general distinction can be made between cognitive activities directed towards defining a strategic problem, and cognitive activities directed at solving a strategic problem. These two categories can be further in the following elements of a strategic reasoning process:
* Identifying: before strategists can moveto benefit from opportunities or to counter threats, they must be aware of these challenges and acknowledge their importance. This part of the reasoning process is referred to as identifying, recognizing or sense-making.
* Diagnosing: strategists must try to understand the structure of the problem and its underlying causes. This part is referred to as diagnosing, analyzing or reflecting.
*Conceiving: strategists must come up with a potential solution, if more than one solution is available; strategists must select the most promising one. This part is referred to as conceiving, formulating or imagining.
* Realizing: a strategic problem is solved once concrete actions are undertaken that achieve results. Strategists must carry out problem-solving activities and evaluate if theconsequences are positive. This part referred to as realizing, implementing or acting.
In a structures approach the first step, identifying strategic problems, would require external and internal scanning and selection of priority issues. In the next step, strategic problems would have to be diagnosed by gathering more detailed data, and analyzing and refining this information. Once the problem hadbeen properly defined, a strategy could be formulated by evaluating the available options and deciding which solution would be best. In the final phase, the strategic would need to ensure execution of the proposed solution by consciously planning and controlling implementation activities. In this case, the four elements of the strategic reasoning process could actually labeled recognizing,analyzing, formulating and implementing.
However, strategists do not always reason in this step-by-step fashion. The identification of strategic problems is often not about objective observation, but rather subjective interpretation; strategists see and value particular strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strategic solutions are often not selected or discovered but are envisioned....