285 - The objective: a meta-strategic concept

N. Lygeros

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An objective is an aim set by a person, a firm, an organization hoping to reach it. It represents a chosen situation for future and becomes reason for action for the entity that pitched on it. The choice of an aim represents a basic prelude to any strategic decision. For M.-A. Morsain, it is an encouragement to action will lead to assure control, check and adjust strategy through corrective actions. The objective is strategic choice aid. It predates the latest and acts on it in a catalytic way as a basic axiom. Its entity belongs to the strategic structure but not its choice. In that way, the target is a meta-strategic concept. As a matter of fact, the choice of the objective is the result of a meta-strategic theory including elements acquired by some metaheuristics. The mental schema of the latest has been explained in our article: A paradigm of creative resolution.
It is based on the following points:

1) Think tank: Group is more powerful than unity.

2) Free initiative: Free initiative is able to find even what it doesn’t look for.

3) Use of mistake: Mistake is the fastest way to change mind.

4) Brainstorming: Storm shows the strong points of each one.

5) Non-uniform reasoning: Difference makes difference.

6) Feedback: Conscience is reflection on reflection

7) In-depth research: Treasures are in shallows.

8) Holistic reasoning: The whole sees what the parts look at.

9) Resolution: Each problem has its Gordian knot

10) Metaheuristics: Learn to learn and you’ll find what you are looking for.

Out of this assembling several ideas about objective can be deduced. The choice of a objective is the result of an elaborate process. This one is generally, not only indefinite but simply ignored. . The objective is considered as an initial element of the strategic process of a firm, able to fulfil the following roles: “action guide showing everyone the way to be followed; energy catalyst able to encourage reaction and innovation; means of assuring the coherence of strategic choice and controlling differences”. As the quotation of Schopenhauer has to be reminded: We can do what we want but not want what we want, to grasp the deceitful nature of this teleological definition of objective. For the real question remains: what is the process of objective choice and who are the doers?

A naive answer would be that the objectives are set by the general management of the firm, once the situation considered and a rational decision made. Reality is often different. First of all, objective considering can’t only be an inner matter, the firm environment has also to be taken into account. For the environment, in the broad sense of the term, can lead up to change the objective to fit it to the real situation. Moreover, the objective can change after the estimation of the strategic options, leading to decision-making conflict. In consequence of all these external pressures, the firm seems more to suffer than to set objective, leading to the attitude of Mintzberg, the author of studies about the development of targets, who considers that the setting of targets is more a result of power play, wrangle than a purely rational process perfectly controlled by the general management. The target choice is reduced to play to influence. But in this context, the firm is only a doer of an unknown production. So, if it wants to innovate, it must use another method. For the inertia linked to a massive system via globalization is huge. To be accepted, innovation must be required by a great majority in order to counterbalance power conservatism.
In a more algorithmic context, its task is to modify the fitness function of a genetic process. Aware of the existence of external parameters, it has not to foresee their consequences for it is often impossible, but to restrict effects via the control of their actions within the plan group. It confirms the need of upstream work that is to say, out of the strategy that the firm is to follow, at the time of the confrontation of all the parameters. For that, it has to create a model resulting from cognitive metaheuristics in accordance with the previously suggested schema. Then, this one has to be tested within the context of generalized genetic algorithms. Then, something surprising occurs, that is to say that the initial target has not to be necessarily feasible unlike evidence points out. Neither does it have to be as best as possible. It has to take into account its future evolution under the pressure of doers with possible diverging interests. As in any strategic game, the action must be thought about before its realization. Thus, the notice of the first target is essential because meta-strategy conditions strategy.