Strategic planning is nothing new, the earliest roots of conscious strategy formation are often traced back to early military tactics in long-gone civilizations. Also, early merchants applied some of these techniques in their approach to success in early markets. With the rise in thriving markets and global information technology there are contributing factors to the evolution and research of strategic theories, TSoT has adapted tools for analysts focused on strategic planning for team systems.
As applied to organizations, early strategic planning theories were often task based and followed a rigid list of actions to end up at a specific goal. These early theories did not incorporate continual assessment of external environments and systems, internal resources and allocation, or the possible need for quick change in team strategy. Early strategic planning did not include the development of continuous strategic thinking skills that combine the abilities to see system issues in the bigger context of the interrelated markets and broader supersystems.
This lack of flexibility and adaptability left gaps where many organizations became unable to compete in rapidly changing markets because they were not able to change courses of action and strategic methods quickly enough to keep up. Technological changes and the rise of globalization have led to a marketplace that changes much faster than it did even one generation ago, and techniques that might have had a solid success rate in the past need to be far more flexible and open to rapid change today.
Classical theory tends to view strategic planning as important only for executives and top decision makers in organizations, believing that a micro-focus on technical skills is at the forefront of the common industry. This top-down approach could work, and did work marginally in some cases in the past, but it lacks input from some of the people most aware of how the team systems actually work. In a static environment, those at the top know from past experiences or the research of others the best approach to remaining competitive. In a fast-changing environment, a more flexible approach that utilizes the knowledge of all levels becomes almost essential. As strategic theories evolve, an emphasis on strategic thinking has begun to develop. Methods for applying strategic principles not only at top levels but also across organizational levels have emerged.
As mentioned several times a key of TSoT is that systems must be defined by IFRs, and these must link back into higher-order systems that are defined by a strategic context.
Newer theories of strategy formation emphasize strategic thinking skills over mere strategic planning methods. Although both are important, each on its own can quickly become largely useless conceptual theory or analytical rigor without direction. The skills of strategic thinking blend creative conceptualization with analytical rigor.
As markets become more complex, decision making becomes a more difficult task, and the skills of strategic thinking are designed to help managers and workers function within constant change in order to create strategy and implement actions that orient an organization while remaining flexible enough to the change and the roles of people.
Three examples of newer strategic formation theories are appreciative inquiry, the executive evolution approach, and systems thinking as strategy, which outline methods that rely on strategic thinking skills and more conceptual integration of strategy versus a straight analytical approach.