Should Top Managers be Strategists?

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Should Top Managers be Strategists?
Stefka Nenkova, Student (University), Netherlands

The involvement of top managers in the strategic planning process is often too limited taking into account the increasing complexity of their multiple tasks and their limited time (Hunsicker, J.Q., 1980). According to Hunsicker (1980), that involvement is traditionally focused on the final stage of the process comprising review and approval of proposals. Such contribution in his view is not enough. Therefore, he suggests a reassessment of top manager’s role in the strategic planning process that should lead to:
  • A SHIFT IN THE TIMING OF TOP MANAGEMENT'S MOST IMPORTANT INPUTS FROM THE LATER TO THE EARLIER STAGES OF THE PLANNING PROCESS: one of the problems with involvement in the latest stages of the process is that often by the time a decision is taken it might be too late for an action to be taken; another may be that the chosen for approval proposals may not actually offer the best opportunities; thus, the top management participation in a process of “negotiation of objectives” in the early stages is a better option
  • A SHIFT IN THE FOCUS OF THESE INPUTS, FROM EVALUATING ALREADY FINISHED PROPOSALS TO GUIDING THEIR DEVELOPMENT PROCESS: that involves an increase of the sensitivity to changes in the business environment by shaping: 1) the range of issues to be dealt with, and 2) the preferred balance between generation of new ideas, evaluating existing alternatives, setting priorities and maintaining functional control
  • ORCHESTRATING THE “HUMAN DIMENSION”: that could be achieved by stimulating fresh thinking, generating realistic alternatives and balancing individualistic advocacy and consensus (Hunsicker, J. Q., 1980).
Hunsicker’s view raises some questions about top manager’s involvement in the strategic planning process. Is the range of involvement that he suggests feasible and is it applicable today? When we consider time constraints, would the trade-off between the possible extra time needed when shifting the timing to an earlier stage and the risk of missing opportunities or taking actions too late be a valid one?

Hunsicker, J. Q. (1980) “Can Top Managers be Strategists?”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 1, pp 77-83.


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