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Pitfalls in implementing a strategic early warning system

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PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons why the concept of a "strategic early warning system" (SEWS) has not been widely introduced and why it fails to be implemented successfully in German corporations. The aim of such systems is to detect changes in an organizational environment ahead of time by scanning the environment for "weak signals", which come in the form of trends. Design/methodology/approachThe questions that arise, particularly because the concept of SEWS is not entirely new, are: What are the pitfalls in implementing these systems, why do they occur, and how can they be overcome? To answer these questions, a single case study was conducted. FindingsThe study suggests that the failure of SEWS is due mainly to a lack of participation of potential future users in the implementation phase, a lack of joint understanding of the nature of trends, differing and unrevealed requirements of trends by various interested parties, a broad misconception of the "weak signals" concept and trends, an excessively heavy reliance on alleged "hard data", a lack of interaction among users, and finally a "missing link" to the strategic functions in an organization. Research limitations/implicationsThe results of the study are limited due to the fact that they are derived from a single case study. Originality/valueThe identification of pitfalls contributes to the research on implementing SEWS and this can also be linked to "strategic issue management" and the foresight process.
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Keywords: Germany; Organizational change; Organizational planning; Strategic management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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