Strategic orientations in practice : exploring the strategy belief structures of line-managers embedded in practice.
Recently researchers have started to investigate the cognitive strategic orientations of individual top managers and have pointed out these may be key in determining the direction and success of their organizations in terms of performance, but they have been unable to effectively operationalize this notion in empirical research and this is holding up knowledge development. To make a contribution that helps overcome this limitation a theoretical framework is developed which specifies the different possible cognitive strategic orientations of top managers as well as those of managers at lower organizational levels involved in the strategy process. This theoretical framework is investigated in the empirical phase of the study into strategic orientations in practice. Additional contributions to knowledge of strategic orientation are made in three main domains. Firstly, current knowledge of strategic orientation is largely limited to analysis at the level of the firm whereas there is a lack of understanding of any relationships with practice at lower organizational levels. The exploratory research undertaken for this thesis contributes to new knowledge of different rational, developmental and interactive strategic orientations of front-line managers and this contributes to a cognitive explanation for emergent strategy linked to strategy processes embedded in practice. In theorising the presence of different strategic orientations in practice the discussion highlights the importance of network and spatial embeddedness within enacted environments. Secondly, a contribution to further knowledge of the links between strategy processes and the content of strategies within a retail context is made. The research highlights different strategy processes used in practice by retail front-line managers in a branch network of stores and these are linked to consequences such as different objectives, performance expectations and the fulfilment of personal goals. Thirdly, a contribution to research methodology is made by addressing problems associated with the comparison of cognitive maps.