Ten Hot Topics in Strategy-as-Practice Research

Shenghui Ma (University of Zurich) and David Seidl (past SAP Chair, University of Zurich)

Shenghui Ma

Shenghui Ma

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 and practices. As the research field has grown and matured, we can observe the establishment of distinctive subfields within SAP research focusing 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.

David Seidl

David Seidl

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. This survey is an update to an earlier one (by David Seidl and Violetta Splitter), the results of which were published in the 2012 SAP newsletter. The respondents of the survey included people with leadership roles in the SAP interest group 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 the topic and large potential for further research.

Although we received many more topics, these ten appear to be the most prominent ones. A comparison between these topics and those identified in the 2012 survey shows that while some topics remain “hot” (such as sociomateriality, emotions, and performativity), in the meantime other new topics emerged and started gaining momentum (such as time and space, open strategy, and power, resistance and subjectivity). We expect plenty more new topics to emerge, but in the meantime we provide a brief description of current hot topics (ordered alphabetically), at least as identified in the survey:

1. Activities and practices underlying capabilities and routines

Description: Research in this area examines how practices, activities and social interactions contribute to organizational capabilities and routines.

Researchers: Veronique Ambrosini, Patrick Regnér, Carlo Salvato

Examples:

  • Regnér, P. 2003. Strategy creation in the periphery: inductive versus deductive strategy making, JMS;
  • Regnér, P. 2008. Strategy-as-practice and dynamic capabilities – steps towards a more dynamic view of strategy, Human Relations; Salvato, C. 2003. The role of micro-strategies in the engineering of firm evolution. JMS.

2. Body and gender in strategic change

Description: Research in this area examines the role of body and gender in strategizing.

Researchers: Gary Burke, Paula Jarzabkowski, Curtis LeBaron, Linda Rouleau, Michael Smets, Paul Spee, Richard Whittington

Examples:

  • Minochia, S. and Stonehouse, G. 2007. Towards a body-aware strategic organization, Strategic Organization;
  • Streeck, J., Goodwin, C. and LeBaron, C. (Eds.) 2011. Embodied interaction: Language and body in the material world. Cambridge University Press.

3. Emotions in strategy work

Description: Research in this area examines how emotions shape and are shaped by strategy practice.

Researchers: Ethel Brundin, Mona Ericson, Paula Jarzabkowski, Jane Lê, Feng Liu, Leif Melin, David Oliver

Examples:

  • Bartunek, J., Balogun, J. & Do, B. 2011. Considering planned change anew: Stretching large group interventions strategically, emotionally and meaningfully. Academy of Management Annals;
  • Brundin, E., and Melin, L. 2006, Unfolding the dynamics of emotions: How emotion drives or counteracts strategizing, Int. Journal of Work Organization and Emotion;
  • Liu, F., & Maitlis, S. 2014. Emotional dynamics and strategizing processes: A study of strategic conversations in top team meetings. JMS.
  • Le JK &Jarzabkowski P 2014. Forthcoming ‘The Role of Task and Process Conflict in Strategizing’, British Journal of Management

4. Institutional work and strategizing

Description: Research in this area examines how practitioners in strategizing in their organization contribute to change, maintain or disrupt the institutional field level.

Researchers: Charlotte Cloutier, Loizos Heracleous, Paula Jarzabkowski, Ann Langley, Sotirios Paroutis, David Seidl, Michael Smets, Eero Vaara, Richard Whittington

Examples:

  • Paroutis, S., Heracleous, L. 2013. Discourse revisited: dimensions and employment of first-order strategy during institutional adoption, SMJ;
  • Suddaby, R., Seidl, D., Le, JK 2013. Strategy-as-practice meets neo-institutional theory, Strategic Organization;
  • Smets, M., Morris, T. and Greenwood, R. (2012) From practice to field: Multi- level model of practice-driven institutional change. AMJ;
  • Smets, M., Jarzabkowski, P., Burke, G., & Spee, P. 2014. Reinsurance Trading in Lloyd’s of London: Balancing Conflicting-yet-complementary Logics in Practice. AMJ.

5. Open Strategy as a strategy practice

Description: Research in this area examines different forms of openness in strategy making.

Researchers: Leonhard Dobusch, Julia Hautz, Saku Mantere, Linda Rouleau, David Seidl, Richard Whittington

Examples:

  • Haefliger, S., Monteiro, E., Foray, D. and von Krogh, G. 2011. Social software and strategy. Long Range Planning;
  • Teulier, R., Rouleau, L. 2013. Middle managers’ sensemaking and interorganizational change initiation: Translation spaces and editing practices. Journal of Change Management;
  • Whittington, R., Cailluet, L., & Yakis-Douglas, B. 2011. Opening strategy: Evolution of a precarious profession. BJM

6. Power, resistance and subjectivity

Description: Research in this area examines power and resistance in the social processes of strategizing.

Researchers: Julia Balogun, Stéphanie Dameron, Saku Mantere, David Seidl, Robyn Thomas, Eero Vaara

Examples:

  • Balogun, J., Bartunek, J., & Do, B. 2010. Uncovering relationships and shared emotion beneath senior managers’ resistance to strategic change, AoM Best Paper Proceedings;
  • Dameron, S., & Torset, C. 2014. The discursive construction of strategists’ subjectivities: Towards a paradox lens on strategy. JMS;
  • Hardy, C., & Thomas, R. 2014. Strategy, discourse and practice: The intensification of power. JMS.

7. Sociomateriality in strategy practice

Description: Research in this area examines the role and effect of material resources in strategizing practice.

Researchers: Stephanie Dameron, Paula Jarzabkowsi, Sarah Kaplan, Jane Lê, Curtis LeBaron, Linda Rouleau, David Seidl, Eero Vaara, Richard Whittington

Examples:

  • Dameron S, Le J.K., & LeBaron, C. (forthcoming). Materializing strategy and strategizing material: Why matter matters, BJM;
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Spee, A., & Smets, M. 2013. Material artifacts: Practices for doing strategy with ‘stuff’, European Management Journal;
  • Kaplan, S. 2011. Strategy and PowerPoint: An inquiry into the epistemic culture and machinery of strategy making. Org. Sci.;
  • Werle, F. and Seidl, D. (forthcoming). The layered materiality of strategizing. Epistemic objects and the interplay material artifacts in the exploration of strategic topics. BJM.

8. Strategy practice and performativity

Description: Research in this area examines the performativity of strategic practices.

Researchers: Laure Cabantous, Chris Carter, Stewart Clegg, Jean-Pascal Gond, Stéphane Guérard, Martin Kornberger, Ann Langley, David Seidl

Examples:

  • Cabantous, L. and Gond, J.-P. 2011. Rational decision making as performative praxis: Explaining rationality’s éternel retour. Org. Sci.;
  • Guérard, S., Langley, A., & Seidl, D. 2013. Rethinking the concept of performance in strategy research: Towards a performativity perspective. M@n@gement;
  • Kornberger, M. and Clegg, S. 2011. Strategy as performative practice: The case of Sydney 2030. Strategic Organization.

9. Strategy workshops

Description: Research in this area examines strategy workshops as “pivotal moments” (or not) in strategic change.

Researchers: Steven Floyd, Gerry Johnson, Robert MacIntosh, Donald MacLean, David Seidl, Richard Wittington

Examples:

  • Healey, M. P., Hodgkinson, G. P., Whittington, R., & Johnson, G. (forthcoming), Off to plan or out to lunch? Relationships between design characteristics and outcomes of strategy workshops, BJM;
  • Johnson, G., Prashantham, S., Floyd, S., Bourque, N. 2010. The ritualization of strategy workshops. Org. Studies; MacIntosh, R., MacLean, D. and Seidl, David. 2010.
  • Unpacking the effectivity paradox of strategy workshops: do strategy workshops produce strategic change? in Golsorkhi, D., Rouleau, L., Seidl, D. and Vaara, E. (eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice.

10. Time and space in strategizing

Description: Research in this area examines the different roles and views of time and space in strategizing

Researchers: Julia Balogun, Gary Burke, Stéphane Guérard, Katja Hydle, Paula Jarzabkowski, Sarah Kaplan, Paul Spee, Inger Stensaker

Examples:

  • Jarzabkowski, P.A., Burke, G. & Spee, P. 2015. Constructing spaces for strategizing work: a multi-modal perspective, BJM;
  • Kaplan, S & Orlikowski, W. 2013. Temporal work in strategy making. Org. Sci.;
  • Vaara, E. and Pedersen, A. 2014. Strategy and chronotopes: A Bakhtinian perspective on the construction of strategy narratives. M@n@gement.
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