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HR practices revisited

The strategic process, vision, mission & implementation

Vision, mission, strategy and implementation are by definition concepts that belong to the idea of a ‘programmable, predictable’ future. The only question is whether that makes sense if a look into the future only produces a thick fog of ambiguity.

This post is mainly about two issues :

  • on the one hand, how the organization deals with vision, strategy and planning and what the impact is on the change capacity of the organization
  • what role HR plays or should play in the business and organizational strategy of the organization

For both issues we try to answer the following questions :

  • What is the current practice in most organizations?
  • Which “theory in use”, which deep-seated (and perhaps unconscious) principles, assumptions and values are behind it?
  • What are the consequences for the individual and the organization, for performance, flexibility and innovative power (generativity)?
  • What can you do differently and how will this benefit the ‘generative capacity’ of the organization and the ownership of all employees?

Current Practices ?

These practices can be found in most organizations :

  • Top management develops a longer term vision for the organization
  • This vision is translated into an annual ‘strategy’ exercise
  • All departments of the organization ‘feed’ the strategy exercise with data and analysis
  • That final strategy is then translated by each department and team into concrete objectives, action plans and deadlines
What stands out in this way of strategizing :
  • Often a vision is ‘internally oriented’, something like ‘we want to be the greatest’
  • The vision and strategy are devised at the ‘top’ and implemented at the base (often in cascade).
  • The vision and strategy is ‘explained’ in a communication and training format and then people are expected to endorse that vision and strategy (which is often not the case)

What is the ‘theory in use’ here ?

The cues pointing to the ‘control & containment’ paradigm are quite clear :

  • This idea of vision & strategy is very clearly based on the hypothesis that the future can be more or less predicted after a thorough analysis of all the data, that you can determine a ‘final goal’ and make an action plan to get there.
  • The future is believed to be relatively ‘stable’
  • Strategic decisions must be made by the top of the organization (why?)
  • The intention behind it is mainly to avoid ‘chaos’ and to ensure that everyone colors within the lines of the predetermined vision

And what is the impact ?

The consequences of this theory in use are quite fundamental and affect the organization in its ability to develop sustainably. A few specific elements:

  • The chances that you are death wrong with your vision are very high in an unpredictable and rapidly changing context.
  • Because you are in a formal and top-down process, it is difficult to react quickly (because you have to go through that entire process again to change the vision or strategy before people are allowed to act)
  • The chance that your vision will get implemented is seriously undermined by the lack of stakeholder involvement in that strategic process
  • It limits individual ownership for action and especially the room for autonomous innovative initiatives from professionals, because their explicit role is to execute and implement.
  • It creates a kind of tunnel vision and groupthink throughout the organization (towards vision), so that many possibilities and opportunities for innovation that are outside that field of vision, are missed.
  • It slows down the organization’s responsiveness to unexpected events

Dominant ideas on HR websites ?

A vision statement is a company’s road map, indicating what the company wants to become by setting a defined direction for the company’s growth. Vision statements undergo minimal revisions during the life of a business, unlike operational goals which may be updated from year-to-year.

Vision & Mission Microsoft

Based on our expert sources’ advice, we’ve got some great tips for you: (1) Imagine how you want the business to be like in five to ten years. (2) Make sure that the statement is implying a clear focus for the business. (3) Ensure the statement is easily understood.

Source :

What could you do differently?

Alternatives split in three categories :

  • on the one hand, you can transform the strategic process into a co-creative and dialogic process that involves and connects all stakeholders
  • on the other hand, you can think differently about what gives ‘direction and energy’ to organizations? Is that a ‘sharp, simple and clear vision’ (while there is nothing to be seen in the VUCA fog), or should we develop a ‘shared ambition’ about how we want to impact the lives of customers and of society at large so people can work autonomously from that general framework.
  • and finally one can develop a culture of distributed leadership where there is room for all professionals to take autonomous innovation initiatives (probes), in order to see how a certain idea or initiative works out in practice. If those ‘probes’ appear to work, they can be scaled up in the organization.

You can see below how this generative approach contrasts with the control paradigm.

Than the situation would be dramatically different :

  • All stakeholders are enthused about the shared ambition and start working together instead of working for their own interests
  • It leads to divergent thinking, which means that many more innovative ideas will be floated and the organization can respond much faster
  • Everyone joins the quest for innovative answers resulting in sharing and developing knowledge, energy and passion throughout the organization
  • It allows to look at issues very ‘differently’ (because people no longer put on ‘uniform glasses’)

Exemples ?

More Information

These links provide you with more info on generative images, distributed leadership and organizational dialogue and their impact on sustainable performance.

  1. Clement Leemans., (2020). Distributed Leadership E-book LINK
  2. Clement Leemans., (2017). Distributed Leadership. A powerful engine for organizational performance. LINK
  3. Move!., Website Dialogic Organizations. LINK
  4. Gervase Bushe., (2020). The Generative Change Model – creating the agile organization while dealing with a complex problem. From : The Dynamics of Creative Change. In : BMI series in Dialogical Organization Development. BMI Publishing. LINK
  5. Frederic Laloux., (2015). The future of management is Teal. Business+Strategy. LINK

Organization Development