While the strategy-as-practice research agenda has gained considerable momentum over the past five years, many challenges still remain in developing it into a robust field of research. In this editorial, we define the study of strategy from a practice perspective and propose five main questions that the strategy-as-practice agenda seeks to address. We argue that a coherent approach to answering these questions may be facilitated using an overarching conceptual framework of praxis, practices and practitioners. This framework is used to explain the key challenges underlying the strategy-as-practice agenda and how they may be examined empirically. In discussing these challenges, we refer to the contributions made by existing empirical research and highlight under-explored areas that will provide fruitful avenues for future research. The editorial concludes by introducing the articles in the special issue.
This article focuses on cultural identity-building in the cross-border merger context. To provide an alternative to the dominant essentialist analyses of cultures and cultural differences, cultural identity-building is conceptualized as a metaphoric process. The focus is on two processes inherent in the cross-border merger context: construction of images of Us and Them and construction of images of a Common Future. Based on an analysis of a special metaphor exercise carried out in a recent Finnish-Swedish merger, the article illustrates how the metaphoric perspective reveals specific cognitive, emotional and political aspects of cultural identity-building that easily remain `hidden' in the case of more traditional approaches.
The invasion of Iraq was premised upon accounts of the situation that have proved unsustainable, but that has not generated a change in the strategy of the coalition forces. Conventional contingency accounts of leadership suggest that accurate accounts of the context are a critical element of the decision-making apparatus but such accounts appear incapable of explaining the decisions of those engaged. An alternative model is developed that adapts the Tame and Wicked problem analysis of Rittell and Webber, in association with Etzioni’s typology of compliance, to propose an alternative analysis that is rooted in social constructivist approaches. This is then applied to three asymmetric case studies which suggest that decision-makers are much more active in the constitution of the context than conventional contingency theories allow, and that a persuasive rendition of the context then legitimizes a particular form of action that often relates to the decision-maker’s preferred mode of engagement, rather than what ‘the situation’ apparently demands. In effect, the context is reconstructed as a political arena not a scientific laboratory.
This is a case study of managerial identity work, based on an in-depth case of a senior manager and the organizational context in which she works. The article addresses the interplay between organizational discourses, role expectations, narrative self-identity and identity work. Identity is conceptualized in processual terms as identity work and struggle. The article illuminates fragmentation as well as integration in the interplay between organizational discourses and identity. It aims to contribute to a processual oriented identity theory and to the methodology of identity studies through showing the advantage of a multi-level intensive study.
Geert Hofstede's legendary national culture research is critiqued. Crucial assumptions which underlie his claim to have uncovered the secrets of entire national cultures are described and challenged. The plausibility of systematically causal national cultures is questioned.
The recent turn to ‘strategy practice’ offers a genuine opportunity for establishing an alternative perspective that is clearly distinct from the traditional strategy process view. The challenge is to clarify and articulate an alternative set of ontological and epistemological premises for founding this new approach to theorizing strategy.What has been called the ‘practice turn’ in social theory provides this alternative basis for a ‘post-processual’ approach to theorizing strategy-as-practice. This ‘practice turn’ involves a radical reformulation of the intractable problem of agency and structure that enables us to bypass the ‘micro/macro’ distinction so intimately tied to the social sciences in general and to strategy research in particular. Already, there are signs that the discourse of the strategy-as-practice research community reflects this awareness and are thus straining towards some form of ‘trans-individual’ explanation that is not restricted to the mere ‘activities’ of strategy actors nor to the traditional emphasis on macro-structures and processes. This article contributes to the clarification of some of the underlying premises of current strategy theorizing and shows how the strategy-as-practice perspective can further differentiate itself from the strategy process view. From the social practices viewpoint, everyday strategy practices are discernible patterns of actions arising from habituated tendencies and internalized dispositions rather than from deliberate, purposeful goal-setting initiatives. We term this epistemological stance ‘post-processual’. Such a post-processual world-view offers a revised understanding of strategy emergence that has profound explanatory implications for the strategy-as-practice movement.
Pluralistic organizations characterized by multiple objectives, diffuse power and knowledge-based work processes present a complex challenge both for strategy theorists and for strategy practitioners because the very nature of strategy as usually understood (an explicit and unified direction for the organization) appears to contradict the natural dynamics of these organizations. Yet pluralism is to some extent always present in organizations and perhaps increasingly so. This article explores the usefulness of three alternate and complementary theoretical frames for understanding and influencing strategy practice in pluralistic contexts: Actor-Network Theory, Conventionalist Theory and the social practice perspective. Each of these frameworks has a predominant focus on one of the fundamental attributes of pluralism: power, values and knowledge. Together, they offer a multi-faceted understanding of the complex practice of strategizing in pluralistic contexts.
This article summarizes the literature explaining workplace bullying and focuses on organizational antecedents of bullying. In order to understand better the logic behind bullying, a model discussing different explanations is put forward. Thus, explanations for and factors associated with bullying are classified into three groups, enabling structures or necessary antecedents (e.g. perceived power imbalances, low perceived costs, and dissatisfaction and frustration), motivating structures or incentives (e.g. internal competition, reward systems and expected benefits), and precipitating processes or triggering circumstances (e.g. downsizing and restructuring, organizational changes, changes in the composition of the work group). The article concludes that bullying is often an interaction between structures and processes from all three groupings.
It is often assumed that research over the last decade has established an effect of human resource management (HRM) practices on organizational performance. Our critical assessment of existing studies finds that, although collectively they have opened up a promising line of inquiry, their methodological limitations make such a conclusion premature. We argue that future progress depends on using stronger research methods and design that, in turn, will require large-scale long-term research at a level of magnitude that probably can only be achieved through partnerships between research, practitioner and government communities. We conclude that progress so far justifies investment in such big science.
The article argues that institutionalist theory applied to multinationals focuses on the issue of ‘institutional duality’, that is, that within multinationals, actors are pressured to conform to the expectations of their home context whilst also being subjected to the transfer of practices from the home context of the MNC itself. This institutional duality leads to conflicts that can be labelled as forms of ‘micro-politics’. The head office managers transfer practices, people and resources to subsidiaries in order to maintain control and achieve their objectives. Local subsidiaries have differential capacities to resist these transfers or to develop them in their own interests depending on their institutional context. The article distinguishes institutional contexts that produce ‘Boy Scout’ subsidiaries, doing what they are told and consequently allowing locally distinctive capabilities to be undermined and those that produce ‘subversive strategists’ which look to deepen their connection with the local context not the MNC itself. These processes are exacerbated by the demands of capital markets which impose performance requirements on MNCs and lead to continuous organizational restructuring. Head offices become stronger in their attempts to impose standards in all their subsidiaries. The consequences of these processes are that except for a few pockets of ‘subversive strategists’, multinationals produce subsidiary ‘clones’ with little ability to leverage the specific assets which the institutional context provides. As it is the subversive strategists that are best placed to be innovative, the problem for the MNC is how to manage this tension.
Mainstream leadership studies tend to privilege and separate leaders from followers. This article highlights the value of rethinking leadership as a set of dialectical relationships. Drawing on post-structuralist perspectives, this approach reconsiders the relations and practices of leaders and followers as mutually constituting and co-produced. It also highlights the tensions, contradictions and ambiguities that typically characterize these shifting asymmetrical and interdependent leadership dynamics. Exploring three interrelated ‘dialectics’ (control/resistance, dissent/consent and men/women), the article raises a number of issues frequently neglected in the mainstream literature. It emphasizes that leaders exercise considerable power, that their control is often shifting, paradoxical and contradictory, that followers’ practices are frequently proactive, knowledgeable and oppositional, that gender crucially shapes control/resistance/consent dialectics and that leaders themselves may engage in workplace dissent. The article concludes that dialectical perspectives can provide new and innovative ways of understanding leadership.
Senior executives are thought to provide the organization’s ethical ‘tone at the top’. We conducted an inductive interview-based study aimed at defining the perceived content domain of executive ethical leadership. We interviewed two types of key informants - corporate ethics officers and senior executives - about executive ethical leadership and then a contrasting category we labeled ‘ethically neutral’ leadership. Systematic analysis of the data identified multiple dimensions of ethical and ethically neutral leadership. The findings suggest that ethical leadership is more than traits such as integrity and more than values-based inspirational leadership. It includes an overlooked transactional component that involves using communication and the reward system to guide ethical behavior. Similarities and differences between ethics officers’ and senior executives’ perceptions also led to insights about the importance of vantage point and social salience in perceptions of executive ethical leadership. In order to be perceived as an ethical leader by those outside the executive suite, the executive must engage in socially salient behaviors that make the executive stand out as an ethical figure against an ethically neutral ground.
Although many organizational researchers make reference to Mead’s theory of social identity, none have explored how Mead’s ideas about the relationship between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ might be extended to identity processes at the organizational level of analysis. In this article we define organizational analogs for Mead’s ‘I’ and ‘me’ and explain how these two phases of organizational identity are related. In doing so, we bring together existing theory concerning the links between organizational identities and images, with new theory concerning how reflection embeds identity in organizational culture and how identity expresses cultural understandings through symbols. We offer a model of organizational identity dynamics built on four processes linking organizational identity to culture and image. Whereas the processes linking identity and image (mirroring and impressing) have been described in the literature before, the contribution of this article lies in articulation of the processes linking identity and culture (reflecting and expressing), and of the interaction of all four processes working dynamically together to create, maintain and change organizational identity. We discuss the implications of our model in terms of two dysfunctions of organizational identity dynamics: narcissism and loss of culture.
Discourse is a popular term used in a variety of ways, easily leading to confusion. This article attempts to clarify the various meanings of discourse in social studies, the term's relevance for organizational analysis and some key theoretical positions in discourse analysis. It also focuses on the methodological problem of the relationship between: a) the level of discourse produced in interviews and in everyday life observed as `social texts' (in particular talk); b) other kinds of phenomena, such as meanings, experiences, orientations, events, material objects and social practices; and, c) discourses in the sense of a large-scale, ordered, integrated way of reasoning/ constituting the social world. In particular, the relationship between `micro and meso-level' discourse analysis (i.e. specific social texts being the primary empirical material) and `grand and mega-level' discourse (i.e. large-scale orders) is investigated.
The group engagement model (Tyler & Blader, 2003) suggests that identification with one's organization is based not only on the individual's evaluation of the status of the organization (i.e. perceived external prestige), but also the individual's evaluation of their own status within the organization (i.e. perceived internal respect). Using data drawn from three different sources (subordinates, supervisors, and company records), results from a sample of healthcare employees (n = 205) provide support for the core relationships proposed in the group engagement model and extend the model by showing that prestige and respect have different antecedents. The perceived status of the organization's employees, the organization's perceived success in achieving its goals, the visibility of the organization, and the status level of the individual employee were all associated with perceived external prestige. The results also indicate that visibility within the organization, perceived opportunities for growth, and participation in decision-making were all related to perceived respect. Further, prestige and respect were directly related to organizational identification, but only indirectly related to organization-supportive behavior. These results extend the group engagement model in that we utilize a form of supportive behavior that focuses upon constructive change (i.e. voice behavior; Van Dyne & LePine, 1998), rather than the helpful, but status quo maintaining behavior.
The present study tested the hypothesis that burnout and work engagement may crossover from husbands to wives and vice versa. Data were collected among 323 couples working in a variety of occupations. The Job Demands-Resources model was used to simultaneously examine possible correlates of burnout and engagement for each partner separately. The results of a series of hierarchical regression analyses provide evidence for the crossover of burnout (exhaustion and cynicism) and work engagement (vigor and dedication) among partners. The crossover relationships were significant and about equally strong for both partners, after controlling for some important characteristics of the work and home environment. These findings expand previous crossover research, particularly by showing that positive experiences at work may be transferred to the home domain. We argue that the crossover of positive feelings among partners should be placed more prominently on the research agenda.
This article introduces work/family border theory - a new theory about work/family balance. According to the theory, people are daily border-crossers between the domains of work and family. The theory addresses how domain integration and segmentation, border creation and management, border-crosser participation, and relationships between border-crossers and others at work and home influence work/family balance. Propositions are given to guide future research.
This paper suggests that feelings (moods and emotions) play a central role in the leadership process. More specifically, it is proposed that emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage moods and emotions in the self and others, contributes to effective leadership in organizations. Four major aspects of emotional intelligence, the appraisal and expression of emotion, the use of emotion to enhance cognitive processes and decision making, knowledge about emotions, and management of emotions, are described. Then, I propose how emotional intelligence contributes to effective leadership by focusing on five essential elements of leader effectiveness: development of collective goals and objectives; instilling in others an appreciation of the importance of work activities; generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, cooperation, and trust; encouraging flexibility in decision making and change; and establishing and maintaining a meaningful identity for an organization.
This article explores fundamental issues in performance measurement systems broadly conceived. Three key moments or themes are identified. First, the foundations of measurement in counting practices, and their inherent reductionism, are considered. Second, the relations between measurement and technologies of monitoring and control, such as auditing, are discussed. Third, first- and second-order measurement (meta-measurement) are distinguished, respectively as particular institutions of counting and data production, and as related dense networks of calculating experts operating on these numbers within specific cultures of objectivity. Finally, arguments about the consequences of performance measurement systems are evaluated, contrasting democratic enthusiasm for performance measurement control technologies with the view that they are some kind of ‘fatal remedy’. In place of a simple dichotomy of trust or distrust in numbers, the development of performance measurement instruments is argued to be a cycle of innovation, crisis and reform, which continually expands into new regions of social and economic life, and which expresses varying degrees of commitment to precision.
Understanding innovation in the biomedical field requires an appreciation of its highly interactive nature and of the many professional and organizational boundaries that create barriers to interaction and the sharing of knowledge. Yet, research to date has directed much less attention to understanding the intricacies of interactive biomedical innovation in practice, than it has to exploring the factors influencing innovation at an institutional level. Drawing upon empirical research and taking an approach informed by symbolic interactionism and a practice-based perspective on knowledge and learning, this article offers insights into the processes involved in supporting knowledge sharing by focusing on `objects' and the varying roles they play (instrumental and symbolic) in enabling (or potentially disabling) interaction amongst groups and organizations involved in biomedical innovation projects.