can organizational strategies be certified? would wal-mart’s strategy be certified?
I found this interesting, the Strategic Management Society (respected body of academics and practitioners in the area of strategic management) is looking at creating a “strategy certification.” Here’s the logic:
You have your taxes completed with the help of a CPA and make your financial investments with counsel from a CFA. You might exercise with a certified personal trainer or a certified yoga instructor or send your invoices to be put into Quickbooks by a certified virtual assistant. So, of course, when you are developing strategy—a strategy that may require you and your organization to take considerable risks or make sizable investments and difficult decisions—you call on the insights of a certified strategist.
If only there was such a person. [More here.]
“Certifying” a strategy raises some interesting questions. So, what Certified Public Accountants do is one thing. Auditing and certifying the financials of an organization is based on the principles of comparative similarities (for example, based on rules such as the GAAP). Strategic activity, on the other hand, is about comparative differences between organizations — differentiation is the sine qua non of strategy. Organizational strategy, furthermore, is forward-looking and thus it is hard to somehow “certify” subjective assessments — where agreement is extremely unlikely — and the prospects of some radical innovation or course of action. What to one looks like an escalation of commitment, to another might look like a bold strategy. In short, I find it hard to see what exactly could be certified about an organization’s strategy.
I suppose one might think about certification and stakeholder-related considerations (indeed, these are raised in the above link), but then we get into all kinds of value-related issues. For example, I’m guessing we would get a wide range of opinions from organizational scholars on whether Wal-Mart’s strategy should be certified. This certification issue seems fraught with some of the same problems as “evidence-based management” — passing muster depends on whose evidence we are using and who is certifying. And, don’t extra-institutional actors, essentially, provide a type of legitimation that proxies certification —- protests and activism send signals that serve as a de facto, albeit ex post and noisy, certification.