The Emergent Strategy©

The Emergent Strategy© works to instill high-performance concepts (a.k.a. treasures) into Organizations that struggle with diverse cultural values, misguided management, miscommunication or dysfunctional (or lack of) EMS (Enterprise Management Systems). Its concepts are simple, formulated by adding a Strategic Plan with a Cultural Mission and blending it with Intuitive Communication.

An HpO uses real-time data from its EMS to track, trend and forecast how well each stakeholder department is functioning, that is to say, how well they adhere to their promise-to-deliver mission—using KPIT’s (Key Performance Indicators and Targets)—while tracking, trending and forecasting customer, market and their competitors’ business. The basis for the HpO is simple: the Leader’s Vision [Strategy]; the Managers’ Mission [Culture]; the Communication Systems—including EMS; the Diggers’ desire.

In a Kaizen[1] process HpO is achieved by attracting and cultivating people who are capable of creating and sustaining high performance. This philosophy, although excellent for up-and-coming organizations, does not apply to existing Organizations who are struggling, who simply cannot discard their existing people in place of new-hires who are inspired, creative and happy. Therefore, a different philosophical approach to cultivating a HpO is required. I call this approach: The Emergent Strategy©.[2]

A HpO is cultivated from the top-down and the bottom-up simultaneously; although they’re not always in sync with one another, they’re always communicating. The ES/HpO relationship, once established, must never be divorced, lest its children [people] suffer the consequences. The organization itself is a culture, endlessly evolving, with or without a Vision or Mission, which can easily become dysfunctional or misled in the absence of defined values, principles and the wisdom of its elders [Leaders and Managers]. The following formula for cultivating a High-performance Organization follows with a summary of each element, which will be explained in greater detail in subsequent chapters:

  • Leader’s Vision = Strategy (Risk Management)
  • Management Mission = Culture (Change Management)
  • Strategy + Culture = Organizational Effectivness
  • Expression + Feedback = Communication
  • Organization + Communication = High-Performance


Leader’s Vision = Strategy

The Leader’s Vision is not to be confused with the Company’s Vision Statement. In fact, the Leader’s Vision is not a statement at all: it’s a future location, or state, which determines where a team or an organization should arrive on a predefined date. The Leader’s Vision is the X on the treasure map.

It is the Leader’s responsibility—this could also be the responsibility of an entire Board of Directors—to determine the exact location of the X and assign it an arrival date [goal]. They do this by creating a strategic plan, which I’ll explain in detail in the next chapter.

An X can be defined as a future achievement; for example: a certain level of production throughput at a manufacturing facility; or a number of sales of a particular product line; or the completion date of a construction project. The only rule is that it must be measurable (nobody said anything about realistic; did they?). Remember, Leader’s and Directors are very optimistic; it’s their nature. You may be surprised, that is, if you’re a Manager, that what you’ve been asked to do is to draw a map outlining the shortest route to X, which means you have to guide a group of Diggers up and over a mountain range, in winter, and before spring run-off, knowing only too well that it’s impossible to do so. But, once again, the word impossible is not in a Leader’s dictionary. If it were they’d still be Managers.

It’s not unusual for a Leader, or Board of Directors, to create an unrealistic target for reaching X. Henry Ford did it all the time. To him, innovation, persistence and beliefs overruled any fear of under achievement. Steve Jobs was another fine example of an innovative, persistent and confident Leader. Of course, this does not mean that they were well liked; they were respected, however. And when supported by Managers with a Mission they more often than not reached X and discovered its riches—a shareholder’s dream.

During my assignment in Madagascar, I was fortunate to be associated with a Leader who possessed similar qualities of the Leaders I’ve described. He was not always well liked, mind you, but he was always well respected. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of Madagascar…” was a favorite quote of his.

The determination to reach X is an effective decision. It’s now up to the Managers to determine the most efficient means of arriving at X; their Mission, should they choose to accept it. 

Management Mission = Culture

As it is with a Leader’s Vision so too is it that the Manager’s Mission must be measurable. The difference, however, is in the way it’s measured. Where a Vision is static, meaning its measurement is based on arriving at X on a specific date, a Mission is dynamic, meaning it progresses toward X at an estimated speed, which is measured at predetermined intervals to calculate position and performance. This is where culture comes into play. It’s critically important that the Diggers work together in a culture that challenges them to achieve the impossible through support; given the best shovels and instructions, and given encouragement by Managers who know how to communicate, following a Mission of objectives.

If you’re an experienced Manager you may say that all this is all basic stuff, not quantum science; everyone can understand this concept. Everyone, that is, except the men and women on the end of the shovel. They still think it’s their responsibility to stumble through the jungle, with whatever tools and experience they possess, searching for a treasure they know very little about.

As I’ve said, been there, done that; and it frustrated me to no end. My purpose, at least as a Digger, was to be successful, and to be recognized and rewarded, while at the same time sharing the experience within a culture that promotes harmonized human relationships—something that is too fuzzy for Leaders to establish, but absolutely essential for Managers to cultivate. Any Manager who doesn’t believe they are responsible for cultural harmony in the workplace should either step up to the Leader’s plate, or go home.

No Manager will ever achieve performance excellence without the aid of a Vision, a Mission and a culture that inspires Diggers to achieve the seemingly impossible.

In every business, I see Stakeholder Department Managers who do not have measurable Missions for guiding their subordinates. In many instances, they don’t have a Leader’s Vision to tell them where they are expected to be, a.k.a. Key Performance Indicators.

Strategy + Culture = Organization

It could be said that any Organization—regardless of whether its Strategy or Vision is communicated—is steeped in culture; the mere fact that an Organization is made up of people [organisms] determines this. Culture is a way of life in which organisms behave, respond and evolve in order to keep its species alive. In a community, where civilized organisms reside, the ubiquitous desire to survive establishes within it a set of values and principles that form the paradigm of beliefs not meant to be challenged. This is why it is so difficult for any one person, or group, to change the way people, in a collective existence, behave. In fact, it’s neither a good idea, nor is it worth the effort, to try and change a group of people who share certain guiding principles in order to maintain their existence. As Peter Drucker[3] explains “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change them. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.” The secret, therefore, is not to change culture, rather to enhance its significance, and its ability to survive, with two vital elements: security and enthusiasm, which are tied directly to strategy and communication.

If then, the formula Strategy + Culture is equated to Organization we can be sure that we’re one step closer to cultivating the HpO by formulation. The hypothesis that the HpO can be cultivated in a structured environment, where each person is unique, requires an additional element, of which its own equation must be true: Expression + Feedback = Communication.

Expression + Feedback = Communication

Communication is the essential element in cultivating a High-performance Organization. The challenge, however, is that most human beings don’t really know how to communicate. In fact, the very reason most people feel unhappy, dissatisfied or afraid is because they’re not conscious of the way in which they express themselves and how others perceive the messages they are trying to convey. The key word here is, perceive, or perception, as it were.

We seem to be better at expressing than we are at receiving or providing feedback, which, to a large degree is normal; no one really wants to be subject themselves to the potential threat of negative feedback, until their security is threatened, or their enthusiasm has been diminished. Unfortunately, at this point, we’re reacting with unconscious behavior rather than communicating to instill confidence or harmony. So, once again survival is our prime motivator for doing anything; moving toward pleasure, away from pain, making communication a way of protecting ourselves or pleasing ourselves rather than a method of enhancing performance through cooperation, which ultimately draws us toward pleasure and away from pain without fearing that we’ll fail, or die, in the process.

It is only when we practice expressing our desires and sharing our feedback with purpose; which is to stay aligned to the Leader’s Vision and the Manager’s Mission, that we can enjoy the resulting performance. Learning to do this well is what Treasure Four is all about.

Organization + Communication = High-Performance

In an Organization where the people feel safe and happy, where they’re recognized for their contribution to the society within, the results can only be good; regardless of the challenges they may face over time, they will survive and evolve into more innovative and productive mini-civilizations and societies.

To the Digger, there is nothing more important than recognition: a sense of belonging—regardless of the rewards—which Leaders and Managers often misconstrue.

[1] Kaizen (pronounced ki-zen) is the Japanese word for continuous improvement.

[2] The Emergent Strategy© by E.J. Lister – strategies which originate in the interaction of an organization with its environment: Strategy + Culture = High Performance.

[3] Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 19, 1909 – November 11, 2005) was an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist. (

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