Logical Incrementalism

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Description of Logical Incrementalism. Explanation.

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Definition Logical Incrementalism. Description.


Logical Incrementalism is a term coined by James Brian Quinn (1980). According to Quinn, "Constantly integrating the simultaneous incremental process of strategy formulation and implementation is the central art of effective strategic management". His adaptive approach of strategy formulation recognizes that implementing change in a large organization is complex and time-consuming and as a result a fully articulated strategic plan may actually not be possible. Instead the theory proposes a nonlinear mixture of strategic planning and spontaneous change midcourse.


Characteristic of the incremental approach is that decision-makers do not "simply arrive at goals and announce them in the precise, integrated packages advocated by the theoretical strategists and executed by their organizational constituents." What is going on in any particular subsystem is known to its members, but the master scheme of the rational comprehensive model is not apparent. This is not to be interpreted as "muddling", but rather as a defensible response to the complexities of a large organization that mitigate against publicizing goals. The announcement of goals for the whole organization too early in the planning process can "...centralize the organization, rigidify positions too soon, eliminate creative options...cause active resistance to the goals themselves...(and) provide focal points against which an otherwise fragmented opposition will organize."


The 5 stages of logical incrementalism

  1. General concern. A vaguely felt awareness of an issue or opportunity.

  2. Broadcasting of a general idea without details. The idea is floated for reactions pro and con and for refinements.

  3. Formal development of a change plan.

  4. Use of a crisis or opportunity to stimulate implementation of the change plan-retirement of a senior manager or a
    sudden loss of market share can facilitate rapid acceptance and implementation of the change.

  5. Adaptation of the plan as implementation progresses.

Key features of the logical incrementalism approach

  • It focuses on using broad, decentralized,  organizational strategies to guide decision making, entrusting members of the organization who are familiar with the situation and have the necessary facts and data to make informed choices.

  • Strategy formulation and implementation are linked in a continuous improvement cycle.

Assumptions of Logical Incrementalism. Conditions

  • Decisions can be grouped and analyzed to shape strategy and move the organization incrementally toward its objectives.

  • Decentralized decision making is politically expedient and necessary.


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Compare with: Emergent Strategy  |  Deliberate Strategy  |  Strategy Dynamics  |  Hoshin Kanri - Policy Deployment

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