Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Adoption of mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) in strategy building

Based on reading several papers on this subject it seemed like the norm is to analyze companies and their strategies essentially from a quantitative standpoint, which is deeply rooted in data. This understanding cannot be flawed due to the inherent association between numbers and success metrics. However, the readings this week had me particularly interested as they shed light on seemingly ignored qualitative aspects.

It should not be ignored that organizations are inherently people centric in nature and thus any analysis of and within it should include this factor. By this I mean that firms and their endeavors are essentially for and by the “people”.  And therefore are vulnerable to opportunities and pitfalls associated with them. A strategy can be excellently designed and outlined yet its execution is dependent on the understanding of the “person” responsible for undertaking it. Further the strategy itself is generated from the input of many individuals that bring their own unique perspective to it. For this reason quantitative analysis may present a compelling argument yet is not enough. Thus, presenting a case for additional adoption of qualitative methods.

Both the recommended papers for this week outlined methods to develop, communicate, and analyze strategies. The suggested steps were applicative, lucidly stated and augmented with good examples. And even though they were to some extent specific they had allowances to include the diversity introduced by the participants. However similar to other intellectual works the selected two studies also had their limitations. Because the studies were primarily qualitative their discussions were inclined towards being conceptual. Due to the lack of “data” reliability it’s difficult to generalize the results. Therefore it is recommended that mixed methods should be adopted to present such results.

For example in the paper “bringing science to the art of strategy” the recommended model is discussed from the purview of primarily only one firm. By itself the qualitative results are excellent however if the findings were bolstered quantitatively i.e., results from several companies. Then the generalizability of the results could not be lightly refuted. Similarly in the paper “can you say what your strategy is?” quantitative data would have provided further validity to issues faced by the employees in terms of their understanding of the selected strategy. Where quantitative data could efficiently list the areas they lack understanding, qualitative methods could assist in understanding the reasoning’s behind them.

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