Deliberate versus emergent strategies: a case study of information technology in the Post Office

Nerys Fuller-Love, Joan Cooper

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17 Citations (SciVal)


This paper aims to examine the deliberate versus reactive elements of the strategy process with reference to the strategic information management of the Post Office. As the literature on strategic management has evolved, there has been much emphasis on the planning aspect of the strategy process. However, in many cases strategy is imposed due to circumstances and the organisation has to react to circumstances outside its control. At first sight, it would appear that the communications revolution would have a severe impact on the Royal Mail and that they would have to find new directions for their business. However, what has actually happened is that direct marketing, computer databases and electronic mail have increased the amount of business for the Post Office and it has had to implement a strategy to deal with this extra business. It is clear from this case study that the strategies towards information management applied by the Post Offices were emergent rather than deliberate. There are two factors which have meant that the Post Office could not have planned; firstly, there was government action in the form of a capital spending 'freeze' which meant that, even if they had a planned information management strategy, they would not have been able to implement it. Secondly, there was the increase in 'junk' mail and mail-shots on the part of businesses using computerised databases. A planned strategy would have had several advantages over the emergent strategies that the Post Office has adopted for IT. A planned strategy for the Post Office Counters in particular would have incorporated meeting the needs of the customer rather than the Benefits Agency. The decision by the Benefits Agency to pay benefits directly into bank accounts will now have serious repercussions for the Post Office. The fact that the Post Office was unable to invest in new technology as it become available meant that the task was that much greater once its competitors had overtaken it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-223
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Information Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2000


  • deliberate versus emergent strategies
  • Post Office
  • horizon


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