Strategic initiatives are a central driver of strategic renewal in large, complex firms. Leading corporations use initiatives to integrate their fragmented knowledge base into discrete, proactive undertakings that advance new ways for the firm to exploit or expand its resources. However, managerial routines of existing, large-scale businesses tend to be inappropriate for the explorative and autonomous nature of initiatives. Thus, the conditions of large, established firms, such as size, complexity and formalization, not only increase the need for a project-based approach to strategic change. They also lead to profound obstacles to new projects and often impede a successful launch of viable initiatives.
This dissertation study addresses this classical paradox of strategic renewal in large, complex firms and explores the management of new strategic initiatives. It complements the holistic, largely descriptive models of existing initiative research by a micro level analysis of project leaders' managerial practices. Based on a study of eight e-business initiatives in two leading European financial service firms, it extends beyond traditional strategy process research and identifies managerial practices which address initiative content, organization and process. A pragmatic leadership style, described as an artful managing for and by results, is proposed as leitmotiv for an effective management and realistic theories of strategic initiatives.