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Strategy as Discourse - Reconstructing a Social Practice

abstract Strategy, initially a military practice, has nowadays penetrated various domains of social life beyond the immediate realm of business firms. Its discourse and practices have entered adjacent academic disciplines; have spread from the private to the public sector and have also impacted not only on organizations but on their employees’ professional identities (Whittington et al., 2003). Strategy of organizations and strategic activities of their members are mainly incarnated in discursive dynamics that seem poorly understood to date. Thus, we need a subtler understanding how strategy is discursively constructed and constituted as a social practice.

The purpose of this study is to develop a discursive view on the formation and development of strategy. The need for a subtler, micro-level understanding of the social processes in strategy is demonstrated and the evolutionary view on strategy is employed as an initial heuristic to observe the phenomenon. The practice-based view suggests strategy as a situated, socially accomplished activity. It provides three central analytical foci for understanding the development of strategy over time, namely concept of strategy; identity of strategists and their activities. Since a discursive view conceives of strategy as a discursively constructed object, studying strategy as discourse means to reconstruct the practices through which strategy as a discursive object is produced and how it in turn constructs and constitutes organizational realities.

The primary purpose of this study is to develop a theory of strategy as discourse and intends to make the following theoretical contributions. Such theory will supplement and extend the practice-based view on strategy by systematically investigating the discursive practices of organizational actors in processes of strategizing in a longitudinal multi-case study design and by examining discourse of strategy through three key foci (concept, identity, activities). Also, the findings of the study will have implications in terms of specifying ‘disaggregated outcomes’, rather than the grand concept of organizational performance, such as individual and collective ability to understand strategic issues and influence strategic decisions; group dynamics, collective skills and conversational qualities as well as effective forms of strategy development and use of strategy tools. With respect to strategy process research in general, a discursive view of strategy re-introduces organizational actors and their discursive activities in the formation of strategy. The study will also critically reflect on the heuristic usefulness of the evolutionary model for interpretive studies of strategy process. Finally, a discursive view will also inform the resource-based view of strategy by providing an analysis of interactive, discursive behavior, i.e. so-called ‘micro-assets’ that in turn might explain sustained competitive advantage.
   
keywords Strategy, Discourse, Rhetoric, Metaphor, Narrative
   
partner
type fundamental research project
status completed
start of project 2008
end of project 2012
additional informations
topics .
methods .
contact Claus D. Jacobs