Some Hot Topics in SAP Research

David Seidl (past SAP Chair, University of Zurich) and Violetta Splitter (University of Zurich)

Over the last decade, strategy-as-practice (SAP) research has generated a substantial body of knowledge about the different aspects, forms and implications of strategizing activity (for an overview of the field see Golsorkhi, Rouleau, Seidl and Vaara, 2010. Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice. Cambridge: CUP Press). As the research field has grown and matured, we can observe the establishment of distinctive subfields within SAP research focussing on issues such as the different roles of strategy tools, the forms and functions of strategy workshops, the ways in which discursive practices shape strategy, the strategic roles of middle managers or the possibilities and constraints of participation in strategizing. As is characteristic for a vibrant and creative research community, there are always lots of new research topics emerging next to the established ones.

In order to identify at least some of these new topics we conducted a survey among those SAP researchers who can be expected to have a good overview of the field. These included people with leadership roles in the SAP interest groups at the Academy of Management, British Academy of Management, EGOS, and SMS. Based on their feedback we created a list of ten currently “hot” topics which meet the following four criteria: particular interest in the topic, relative newness, growing number of people working on these topics and large potential for further research. We expect plenty more hot topics to emerge, but in the meantime we provide a brief description of current hot topics, at least as identified in the survey:

(1) Institutional dimension of strategy practice

  • Description: Research in this area examines how strategy practice affects and gets affected by macro-level institutions.
  • Researchers: Charlotte Cloutier, Loizos Heracleous, Paula Jarzabkowski, Ann Langley, Sotirios Paroutis, Michael Smets, Eero Vaara, Richard Whittington
  • Sample publications: Smets, M., Morris, T. and Greenwood, R. (2012) From Practice to Field: Multi-level Model of Practice-driven Institutional Change. Academy of Management Journal 55: 877-904; Paroutis S. and Heracleous L. (2013) Discourse Revisited: Dimensions and Employment of First-Order Strategy Discourse during Institutional Adoption. Strategic Management Journal (forthcoming).

(2) Sociomateriality in strategy practice

  • Description:Research in this area examines the role and effect of material resources in strategizing practice.
  • Researchers: Linda Rouleau, Charlotte Cloutier, Stephanie Dameron, Päivi Eriksson, Paula Jarzabkowski, Jane Lê, Curtis LeBaron, Hanna Lehtimäki, Pekka Pälli, Michael Smets, Paul Spee, Virpi Sorsa, Eero Vaara, Richard Whittington
  • Sample publications: Kaplan, S. (2011) Strategy and PowerPoint: An Inquiry into the Epistemic Culture and Machinery of Strategy Making. Organization Science 22: 320-346; Vaara, E., Sorsa, V. and Pä̈lli, P. (2010) On the force potential of strategy texts: A critical discourse analysis of a strategic plan and its power effects in a city organization. Organization, 17(6), 685–702.

(3) The role of the body in strategy practice

  • Description: Research in this area examines the role that the body and embodiment play in strategy practice.
  • Researchers: Curtis LeBaron, Gary Burke, Paula Jarzabkowski, Michael Smets, Paul Spee, Richard Whittington
  • Sample publications: Streeck, J., Goodwin, C. and LeBaron, C. (Eds.) (2011) Embodied interaction: Language and body in the material world. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; Minochia, S. and Stonehouse, G. (2007) Towards a body-aware strategic organization, Strategic Organization 5(4), 437-445.

(4) The role of numbers in strategy practice

  • Description: Research in this area examines how numbers are being used by managers in strategizing practice.
  • Researchers: Jean-Louis Denis, Bertrand Fauré, Ann Langley, Feng Liu, Linda Rouleau
  • Sample publications: Fauré, B. and Rouleau, L. (2011) The Strategic competence of accountants and middle managers in budget making. Accounting, Organization and Society, 36, 167-182; Denis, J.-L., Langley, A. and Rouleau, L. (2006) The power of numbers in strategizing, Strategic Organization, 4 (4): 349-377.

(5) The role of time in strategy practice

  • Description: Research into this area looks at how time influences and is influenced by strategy practice.
  • Researchers: Sarah Kaplan, Jane Lê, Wanda Orlikowski
  • Sample publications: Kaplan, S. and Orlikowski, W. (2012) Temporal Work in Strategy Making, Organization Science, Forthcoming.

(6) Inter-organizational strategizing

  • Description: Research in this area is examining how strategizing occurs across organizational boundaries and within field contexts.
  • Researchers: Charlotte Cloutier, Stephanie Dameron, Robert MacIntosh, Donald MacLean, David Seidl, Felix Werle, Richard Whittington
  • Sample publications: Werle, F. and Seidl, D. (2012) Inter-Organizational Strategizing as Extension of Sensemaking Capacities. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Meeting 2012; Whittington R., Basak-Yakis B. and Cailluet L. (2011) Opening Strategy: Evolution of a Precarious Profession, British Journal of Management, 22: 531–544.

(7) The role of emotions in strategy practice

  • Description: Research in this area looks at how emotions shape and are shaped by strategy practice.
  • Researchers: Feng Liu, Ethel Brundin, Mona Ericson, Paula Jarzabkowski, Jane Lê, Sally Maitlis, Leif Melin
  • Sample publications: Feng L. and Sally, M. (2012) Emotional Dynamics And Strategizing Processes: A Study Of Strategic Conversations In Top Team Meetings. Journal of Management Studies (forthcoming).

(8) Strategy practice and performativity

  • Description: Research in this area examines the performativity of strategic practices.
  • Researchers: Stewart Clegg, Chris Carter, Jean-Pascal Gond, Stéphane Guérard, Martin Kornberger, Ann Langley, David Seidl
  • Sample publications: Kornberger, M. and Clegg, S. (2011) Strategy as performative practice: The case of Sydney 2030. Strategic Organization 9:136-162.

(9) Strategy practice and identity

  • Description: Research in this area examines how strategy practice shapes and is shaped the strategists identities.
  • Researchers: Saku Mantere, David Oliver, Linda Rouleau, Eero Vaara
  • Sample publications: Beech, N., and Johnson, P. (2005) Discourses of disrupted identities in the practice of strategic change: The mayor, the street-fighter and the insider-out. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 18(1): 31-47. Ravasi, D. and Phillips, N. (2011) Strategies of alignment: Organizational identity management and strategic change at Bang & Olufsen. Strategic Organization, 9(2): 103-135.

(10) Strategic legitimation practices

  • Description: Research in this area is examining how strategists engage in legitimation activities to acquire support for their ideas, projects and organizations.
  • Researchers: Julia Balogun, Joep Cornelissen, Claus Jacobs, Florian Ueberbacher, Eero Vaara
  • Sample publications: Vaara, E. and Monin, P. (2010) A Recursive Perspective on Discursive Legitimation and Organizational Action in Mergers and Acquisitions. Organization Science, 21: 3-22; Erkama, N. and Vaara, E. (2010) Struggles over legitimacy in global organizational restructuring: A rhetorical perspective on legitimation strategies and dynamics in a shutdown case. Organization Studies, 31(7), 813-839.

First published in SAP Newsletter October 2012 (PDF).

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