Actualizing Organizational Potential: A Maslow-based approach to strategic and business planning


The goal of this paper is to offer a new strategy framework for assessing, transforming and monitoring an organization such that it is able to create a path to its potential.

The ability to actualize potential rests on certain preconditions. In “A Theory of Human Motivation” (1943) psychologist A. H. Maslow articulated a five-tiered hierarchy of human needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization. The manifestation of a need typically rests on the prior satisfaction of a lower level need. For example, only once we feel relatively safe and satisfied physically can we truly turn our attention toward higher needs such as love, self-esteem, and self-actualization.

Businesses function in much the same way. Various lower levels of competency must be in place for higher-level strategy to have real impact.

Our approach is to apply Maslow’s theory of personal development to financial firms as an effective framework for strategy development and implementation. At the core of this approach is the concept of a “hierarchy of business needs,” which outlines the core capabilities a firm must achieve in order to progress from the most basic level of functionality up to high level strategy actualization.

Through our experience working with wealth and asset management companies, we have classified five levels of business needs. From lowest to highest, these needs are: Service Offering, Operations & Administration, Sales, Marketing and Strategy.

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