Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category


How vulnerable are organizations?

Written on June 21, 2007 by Ianna Contardo in Strategy

In a reflection on the environmental changes happening around and within organizations, I came across a relatively old article. It is the fabulous yet rather unknown piece by Karl Weick on the collapse of sensemaking, an Administrative Science Quarterly paper (1993). Change management in strategy represents a fundamental topic. Its purpose consists in deeply analyzing actions and reactions between organic structures, i.e. organizations and the space in which these unravel, whether their sector, industry, market, internal environment or others. More and more, however, this analytic process meant to bring us closer to a satisfactory, controllable decision making path has forced academics and practitioners alike to question the rational boundaries within which organizational theory is debated.
Once more, my critical or “literary” vein (see the blog on the ZMET approach to strategic marketing) wishes to draw your attention in this other blog to a route that can be located in “contextual rationality” (White, 1988; reed, 1991) or a more emotionally-rooted explanation of phenomena on change.
Why are organizations vulnerable and where do their weaknesses come from? Simply stated, vulnerability can be described as those moments of uncertainty that threatens the existence of a given structure. We could compare organizations to “animals” which need to survive in an eco-system, and we as observers can thus notice their physical – read normally financial – appearance that either improves – the species reproduces itself – or extinguishes itself – usually because from a Darwinist lens they have not been able to adapt or have suddenly succumbed to the forces of changes they did not anticipate.

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This week Kellogg’s announced that it would stop advertising high-sugar and high-calorie content cereals to children.
While we may applaud Kellogg for doing “the right thing”, we would be foolish to think that Kellogg’s action will do very much to fix childhood obesity and nutritional health problems.
The problem is big, complex, and the social harm runs into the hundred of billions of dollars. Economists use the term “externalities” to describe the negative consequences of legal and normal firm behavior. Usually the cost of the negative consequences is paid for by others. The food industry legally goes about its business, while childhood obesity and its associated costs are absorbed within the health care system (private and public) or simply not paid for all, resulting in a diminished quality of life for the children.

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