SMJ Special Issue on Strategy Processes and Practices (SAPP): An Overview

SMJ_leftThe CfP for a Special Issue on “Strategy Process and Practice: Dialogues and Intersections” in the Strategic Management Journal––edited by Robert Burgelman, Steven Floyd, Tomi Laamanen, Saku Mantere, Eero Vaara, and Richard Whittington––has attracted tremendous interest. In the meanwhile, all accepted papers are available online, and they will appear in print very soon. Given that this Special Issue is considered as a major milestone in the development of SAP research, the time is ripe to provide an overview of the papers in this Special Issue.

Strategy Processes and Practices: Dialogues and Intersections (Introduction to the Special Issue)

  • Authors/Editors: Robert A. Burgelman, Steven W. Floyd, Tomi Laamanen, Saku Mantere, Eero Vaara, Richard Whittington
  • Research summary:

Building on our review of the strategy process and practice research, we identify three ways to see the relationships between the two research traditions: com- plementary, critical, and combinatory views. We adopt in this special issue the combinatory view, in which activities and processes are seen as closely intertwined aspects of the same phenomena. It is this view that we argue offers both strategy practice and strategy process scholars some of the greatest opportunities for joint research going forward. We develop a combinatory framework for understanding strategy processes and practices (SAPP) and based on that call for more research on (a) temporality, (b) actors and agency, (c) cognition and emotionality, (d) materiality and tools, (e) structures and systems, and (f ) language and meaning.

Relating Microprocesses to Macro-outcomes in Qualitative Strategy Process and Practice Research

  • Authors: Saouré Kouamé, Ann Langley
  • Research Summary:

A common challenge among qualitative Strategy Process and Strategy-as-Practice scholars concerns the need to link micro-level processes and practices to organizational-level outcomes in order to make their research more managerially relevant. In this methodological article, we explore and evaluate different ways of addressing this challenge. We draw on a corpus of qualitative process and practice studies to develop and illustrate three micro–macro linking strategies associated with these perspectives: correlation, progression, and instantiation. The strengths and weaknesses of the different linking strategies are discussed, and opportunities for complementarity, combination, and development are proposed. The article reveals the distinctive but complementary contributions of Strategy Process and Strategy-as-Practice strands of scholarship to understanding how microprocesses affect macro-outcomes.

Bridging Practice and Process Research to Study Transient Manifestations of Strategy

  • Authors: Laurent Mirabeau, Steve Maguire, Cynthia Hardy
  • Research Summary:

At the intersection of Strategy Process (SP) and Strategy-as-Practice (SAP) research lies the focal phenomenon they share—strategy, which manifests itself in a variety of ways: intended, realized, deliberate, emergent, unrealized, and ephemeral strategy. We present a methodology comprised of three stages that, when integrated in the manner we suggest, permit a rich operationalization and tracking of strategy content for all manifestations. We illustrate the utility of our methodology for bridging SP and SAP research by theorizing practices that are more likely to give rise to unrealized and ephemeral strategy, identifying their likely consequences, and presenting a research agenda for studying these transient manifestations.

New CEOs and their Collaborators: Divergence and Convergence between the Strategic Leadership Constellation and the Top Management Team

  • Authors: Shenghui Ma, David Seidl
  • Research Summary:

An important challenge that new CEOs face is establishing a group of immediate collabo- rators, which we call the “strategic leadership constella- tion.” Drawing on a comparative case study, we show that due to constraints on the CEO to change the top management team (TMT), the composition of the strate- gic leadership constellation initially tends to differ from that of the TMT: in some cases, it consists of a subgroup of the TMT; in others, it also comprises individuals out- side the TMT such as staff members or lower-level man- agers. We show that the discrepancies between the strategic leadership constellation and the TMT lead to tensions that trigger a process of convergence between these two bodies, particularly as the constraints on TMT change decrease and the CEO’s needs evolve.

Strategy as Staged Performance: A Critical Discursive Perspective on Keynote Speeches as a Genre of Strategic Communication

  • Authors: Matthias Wenzel, Jochen Koch
  • Research Summary:

In this article, we explore how keynote speeches come into being as a staged genre of strategic communication. In our critical discursive analysis of video data on Apple Inc.’s keynote speeches, we demonstrate how keynote speeches are multimodally accomplished through the embodied enactment of four discursive practices: referencing, relating, demarcating, and mystifying. We show how different bodily movements, which we describe as leveling and leaping gestures, systematically contribute to constructing different conceptions of strategy through the enactment of these discursive practices as a staged genre of strategic communication. Our findings contribute to strategy-as-practice research by extending the nascent but growing literature on genres of strategic communication, the strategist’s body in the strategy process, and the use of video-based research methods.

A Universe of Stories: Mobilizing Narrative Practices During Transformative Change

  • Authors: Elena Dalpiaz, Giada Di Stefano
  • Research Summary:

Constructing narratives of transfor- mative change is an important but challenging practice through which strategy-makers attempt to influence acceptance of an ongoing transformation. To understand whether and how strategy-makers can construct a steady influx of captivating narratives of transformative change, we analyzed how one noted strategy-maker assisted the successful transformation of his organization over three decades by orchestrating the production of change narra- tives. Our analysis reveals that the strategy-maker con- structed and reconstructed meanings of change over time using three sets of distinct but interconnected narrative practices. We develop a dynamic model linking the simultaneous mobilization of these practices to strategy- makers’ ability to harness the persistent tension between novelty and familiarity in a transformative change, and thereby, win endorsement from key audiences.

Connecting and Creating: Tertius Iungens, Individual Creativity, and Strategic Decision Processes

  • Authors: Olli-Pekka Kauppila, Lorenzo Bizzi, David Obstfeld
  • Research Summary:

In contrast to previous research that emphasized macro-to-macro relationships, this study investigates how strategic decision characteristics shape the creative process at the organizational micro-level. Whereas individual creativity thrives on novel combinations of diverse knowledge and perspectives, we argue that the characteristics of strategic decisions influence the extent to which employees’ combinatory activities enhance their creativity. Multilevel modeling results based on 638 employees from 34 organizations show that the positive relationship between tertius iungens (TI) orientation and creative performance is reinforced by strategic decision comprehensiveness, especially when coupled with low strategic decision speed. The results suggest that, paradoxically, when top managers consider a narrower range of options and act more quickly to respond to challenges in the external environment, they risk constraining creative processes within the organization.

How Innovators Reframe Resources in the Strategy- making Process to Gain Innovation Adoption

  • Authors: Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan-Narasimhan, Barbara S. Lawrence
  • Research Summary:

This multicompany qualitative field study combines strategy process and strategy-as-practice perspectives to show how innovators successfully gain adoption for their autonomous innovations by reframing the meaning and potential of the associated internal resources to create fit with their organization’s strategy. Mapping the five steps involved in the resource reframing process onto the different parts of the Bower-Burgelman process model of strategic change shows that innovators can shape the strategic context for their autonomous innovations before external market validation is available. These findings confirm the unique potential and importance of different forms of discourse in shaping the strategic innovation process.

Evolving Efficacy of Managerial Capital, Contesting Managerial Practices and the Process of Strategic Renewal

  • Authors: Sankalp Pratap, Biswatosh Saha
  • Research Summary:

This paper examines the adaptation process of a large manufacturer in the Indian steel industry faced with radical socio-political shifts in the external ecosystem. It uses the Bower-Burgelman process model in combination with Bourdieu’s praxis theory to explain the emergence of competing managerial initiatives and associated contests in the company’s internal ecology of strategy making in terms of socially acquired dispositions. It illuminates process-practice pathways through which top management’s resource allocation supported changes in the efficacy of the different forms of capital of the contesting managerial classes, thereby legitimizing the daily ‘doings’ of the rising class and institutionalizing a (re)defined adaptive rule structure.

Toward a Social Practice Theory of Relational Competing

  • Authors: Paula Jarzabkowski, Rebecca Bednarek
  • Research Summary:

This article brings together the com- petitive dynamics and strategy-as-practice literatures to investigate relational competition. Drawing on a global ethnography of the reinsurance market, we develop the concept of micro-competitions, which are the focus of competitors’ everyday competitive practices. We find var- iation in relational or rivalrous competition by individual competitors across the phases of a micro-competition, between competitors within a micro-competition, and across multiple micro-competitions. These variations arise from the interplay between the unfolding competitive arena and the implementation of each firm’s strategic portfolio. We develop a conceptual framework that makes four contributions to: relational competition; reconceptua- lizing action and response; elaborating on the awareness- motivation-capability framework within competitive dynamics; and the recursive dynamic by which imple- menting strategy inside firms shapes, and is shaped by, the competitive arena.

Inter-organizational Sensemaking in the Face of Strategic Meta-problems: Requisite Variety and Dynamics of Participation

  • Authors: Felix Werle, David Seidl
  • Research Summary:

When faced with complex strategic problems that exceed their individual sensemaking capac- ities, organizations often engage in inter-organizational collaboration. This enables them to pool the participants’ different perspectives and to grasp the problem at hand more comprehensively. Drawing on data collected from two longitudinal case studies, we examine how those who participate in inter-organizational sensemaking pro- cesses are selected and how the particular selection of participants affects the dynamics of the sensemaking pro- cess in turn. In our analysis, we show how the selection of specific problem issues influences who joins or with- draws from the collaboration and we identify a mecha- nism that accounts for changes in the particular dynamics of the sensemaking process over time. Our findings help explain how the process of inter-organizational sensemak- ing can yield different outcomes.

Emotional Practices: How Masking Negative Emotions Impacts the Post-acquisition Integration Process

  • Authors: Natalia Vuori, Timo Vuori, Quy N. Huy
  • Research Summary:

We conducted a real-time field study of a post-acquisition integration process. We identified two practices that contributed to integration failure. First, the practice of masking negative emotions caused members of both firms to perceive that the partner firm’s members were satisfied with the integration process, even though they were not. These false perceptions of satisfaction resulted in minimal corrective actions, the escalation of the situation, and ultimately, integration failure. Second, efficiency-driven communication practices used in inter- firm communication exacerbated the effect of masking negative emotions on false perceptions of satisfaction by shielding both firms’ members from the other firm’s mem- bers’ spontaneous emotional reactions. Our research invites scholars to consider more deeply the emotional conse- quences of various common organizational practices.

The Power of PowerPoint: A Visual Perspective on Meaning Making in Strategy

  • Authors: Eric Knight, Sotirios Paroutis, Loizos Heracleous
  • Research Summary:

Relying on ethnographic data from two consulting engagements, we find that strategists use three visual mechanisms (depiction, juxtaposition, and salience) to create PowerPoint slides. These visual mechanisms prompt meaning-making through the conversations they stimulate, creating strategic visibility. As participants react to visuals, they enact revised interpretations of the strategy, reflecting strategic resonance. Based on the interactions among these three sub-processes, we develop a process model for how visuals influence meaning making in strategy engagements. We contribute to existing strategy practice and process studies by explaining how visuals help broker divergent interpretations of a strategy and give rise to new understandings, especially when issues are politically sensitive or analytically complex.

  • Paper: Click here

Enacting Knowledge Strategy through Social Media: Passable Trust and the Paradox of Nonwork Interactions

  • Authors: Tsedal B. Neeley, Paul M. Leonardi
  • Research Summary:

Despite the recognition that knowl- edge sharing among employees is necessary to enact knowledge strategy, little is known about how to enable such sharing. Recent research suggests that social media may promote knowledge sharing because they allow social lubrication and the formation of trust. Our longitu- dinal and comparative analysis of social media usage at two large firms indicates that users who participate in nonwork interactions on social media catalyze a cycle of curiosity and passable trust that enables them to connect and share knowledge. Paradoxically, the very nonwork- related content that attracts users to social media and shapes passable trust can become a source of tension, thwarting a firm’s ability to encapsulate knowledge in the form of routines and to use it to enact its strategy.

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