Controversy on Practice Based View of Strategy Continues: “On the Risk of Studying Practices in Isolation”

When Philip Bromiley and Devaki Rau published their paper “Towards a Practice-based View of Strategy” (2014) in Strategic Management Journal (SMJ, Preprint-PDF), the acknowledgment of the importance of practices was unanimously welcomed by strategy-as-practice scholars. However, the particular approach suggested by Bromiley and Rau soon received criticism. On this blog, for instance, Leonhard Dobusch warned against an approach that is “practice-based in name only“.

SO-coverIn a recent piece in Strategic Organization, a selection of SAP’s finest scholars has also weighed in. Paula Jarzabkowski, Sarah Kaplan, David Seidl and Richard Whittington write “On the Risk of Studying Practices in Isolation: Linking What, Who and How in Strategy Research”:

This paper challenges the recent focus on practices as stand-alone phenomena, as exemplified by the so-called “Practice-Based View of Strategy (PBV)” by Bromiley and Rau (2014). While the goal of “PBV” points to the potential of standard practices to generate performance differentials (in contrast to the Resource Based View), it marginalizes well-known insights from practice theory more widely. In particular, by limiting its focus to practices, i.e. “what” practices are used, it underplays the implications of “who” is engaged in the practices and “how” the practices are carried out. In examining practices in isolation, the “PBV” carries the serious risk of misattributing performance differentials. In this paper, we offer an integrative practice perspective on strategy and performance that should aid scholars in generating more precise and contextually-sensitive theories about the enactment and impact of practices as well as about critical factors shaping differences in practice outcomes.

This is the abstract, the full paper is available at SSRN.

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