The Strategies of Voluntary Organizations: A Study of the Content of Strategy and the Process of Strategy Formation
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An organization’s strategy has been viewed as an important variable as it defines the relationship of the total organization to its environment, and guides the internal administrative and operational activities on an ongoing basis. Research on an organization's strategy has occurred mainly within the context of business, or, profit—oriented organizations, and has focused on the content of strategy, the process of strategy formation, and the relationship between an organization's strategy and its environment, structure, and performance. The need for conducting context—speci£ic research has been highlighted in the literature, as (i) additional insights can be gained by changing the context within which a phenomenon is studied; (ii) findings from one context cannot necessarily be directly applied to another context without modification; and (iii) various context-specific theories need to be integrated together so as to arrive at general theories of a particular phenomenon. The context of voluntary organizations is an important one in India. Their role as potential agents of development is widely recognized. However, the context of voluntary organizations in India is an under—researched one. Most writings on this group of organizations have either discussed various issues pertinent to their functioning (such as funding sources, training needs, and government voluntary organization relations), or, they have recounted specific experiences of these organizations, or, they have discussed the problem areas within which these organizations work. This study examines the following two objectives related to the strategies of voluntary organizations : i) to identify the dimensions of which the strategies of voluntary organizations may be described, and ii) to study the process by which their strategies have evolved over their history. The research design used for this exploratory study was that of the qualitative case study method. This research was conducted by five voluntary organizations, and data were collected through semi-structured interviews with their present and past members and staff, as well as from secondary sources such as Annual Reports, Project proposals, etc. Information on each organization was organized into individual case reports which presented their history in terms of phases in their strategy formation process. Data analysis utilized the following sequence of steps : i) Strategic decisions were identified using Shirley's (1982) five criteria. ii) Dimensions of strategy were inferred from these strategic decisions, and the choices made therein. iii) Patterns in the process of strategy formation were identified. The major findings of this study are : I.The identification of strategic dimensions: (1) The strategic dimensions identified pertain to : (a) The client system i) its segmentation, ii) the nature of the relationship of the organization with the client—system, iii) the means used by the organization to affect behavioral change in the client—system, iv) the organization's perception of the role of the client—system vis—a—vis itself, v) the organization's perception of its own role vis—a—vis the clienL—system, vi) the extent to which client feedback and evaluation is obtained, vii) organizing the client—system, viii)-organizational response to apathy in the client—system. (b) The target system i) its segmentation, ii) the means used by the organization to influence behavioral change in the target—system, iii) the objective towards which the change—effort is directed, iv) the nature of the relationship between the organization and the target system, v) organizational response to hostility in the target- system_ - (C) The agent of change i) diversification of agents of change, ii) the dominant agent of change in implementing the change effort, iii) the means used by the organization to influence/train the agents of change, iv) delegation of the training function for the agents of change , v) decentralization of the change—agent function, vi) extent of control exercised over the agent of change, vii) change agents trained as generalists or specialists. (d)Service Delivery i) relationship between the services offered, ii) geographical point of service delivery, iii) newness of services, iv) nature of activities, v) reach of services/activities, vi) development of domains of activities. (e)Organization’s relationship with other organizations i) the organization's use of formal and informal networks, ii) the organization’s position in a network, iii) the organization's purpose for belonging to the network, iv) the extent to which the organization emphasizes networking with other organizations, v) the organization's means to influence the network. (f)Funding i) the extent to which the service delivery generates funds, ii) diversity in the group of donors, iii) organizational response to an unstable flow of funds, iv) the extent to which fund-raising is institutionalized. (2)The identification of necessary conditions in the organization’s strategy and the strategic choices made: Having identified the 35 strategic dimensions and tabulated the values are taken by the five organizations on these dimensions, necessary conditions in the strategy of this a group of organizations and the strategic choices made by they were identified. Cluster analysis was used as a heuristic device to identify possible ideal types of strategy. Two possible types were identified based on the data available on the second phase of the organization's history. The first cluster indicated a more passive role of the client—system who primarily received a single service at the agency. The second cluster indicated a more active involvement of the client system who received integrated services in their communities. The second cluster also depicted greater diversification in the change—agent function, as well as a greater delegation of the training function for change—agents, II. The process of strategy formation: (1)The empirical patterns observed across the five cases revealed two sets of patterns. In the first set, the patterns occurred in a similar manner across the five organizations studied. These patterns represented characteristics of the strategy formation process: i) strategy developed through three stages in the strategy formation process, ii) strategy formation was an evolutionary process characterized by a trial and error search for solutions to problems encountered in the field, iii) the environment had an effect on the strategy formation the process by either facilitating or, constraining the process. iv) the strategy formation process was a negotiated one, and, v) like strategy, the organization's structure also evolved over its history. (2)The second set of patterns indicated differences across the five cases whereby the strategy formation process could be viewed from a contingency perspective - These patterns revealed an underlying common theme, which viewed the strategy formation process as an organization's strategic response to five sources of complexity, i.e., complexity arising out of working in a large and unexplored problem area, a hostile environment, an apathetic environment, a resource—scarce environment, and the nature of leadership within the organization‘ Various organizational responses to these sources of complexity were identified. (3)The study also identified two approaches to the strategy formation process : i) a planned approach to the identification of domains of activities followed by a sequential approach to the development of domains, and ii) an intuitive approach to the identification of domains of activities followed by a simultaneous development of the domains of activities followed by a simultaneous consolidation of the domains of activities.
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