Intended, Deliberate, Realized, and Emergent Strategies

Cite this article as:"Intended, Deliberate, Realized, and Emergent Strategies," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2020, last accessed October 20, 2020,


What are Intended, Deliberate, Realized, and Emergent Strategies?

Henry Mintzberg and his colleagues at McGill University distinguish intended, deliberate, realized, and emergent strategies.

  • Intended Strategy – This a strategy as conceived by the top management team. Rationality is limited and the intended strategy is the result of a process of negotiation, bargaining, and compromise, involving many individuals and groups within the organization.
  • Realized Strategy – This is the actual strategy that is implemented. Generally, what is implemented is only partly related to that which was intended.
  • Emergent strategy – This is the primary determinant of the ultimate realized strategy. It involves the decisions that emerge when managers interpret and apply the intended strategy. It emerges or is the result of individual interpretation and it is affected greatly by the external circumstances of the situation.  The ultimate or final result is the realized strategy.
  • Deliberate Strategy – These are the elements of the intended strategy that remain a constant part of the firm’s continued strategy.

This framework has given rise to two factions – the Design School and Emergence or Learning Schools of Strategy. Though, Mintzberg acknowledges that the emergence of strategy as an iterative process, it does not remove the need or usefulness of ration, systematic, strategic design.

Most scholars and practitioners accept that strategy is developed at various levels in the organization through both design and emergence.

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