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Title: Do middle level managers contribute to strategic development? : a study of the practices of middle level managers in strategic renewal
Author: Brelsford, Noelle
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 7320
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2014
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This qualitative research explores the third-order sensemaking practices of middle level managers that could be seen as antecedents of strategic renewal within their organisations, and whether these micro-practices are context-specific or generalisable and transferable. The intention is to answer calls for deepening our understanding of the practices of middle level managers on influencing and changing strategic actions (Jarzabkowski and Spee, 2009; Kwee et al., 2011; Mantere, 2008; Rouleau and Balogun, 2007, 2010), and contribute to the juxtaposition of the bodies of literatures on strategic renewal, Strategy-as-practice, middle level managers and sensemaking. The every day micro-practices of middle level managers have the potential for far-reaching consequences at a macro-level on their organisation’s competitive advantage. The important role of middle level managers in strategy processes has been recognised for a considerable time (Bower, 1970; Burgelman, 1983; Floyd and Lane 2000; Floyd and Wooldridge, 1992, 1997; Nonaka, 1998). However, it has only been in the last decade that there has been a sizeable increase in the literature which discusses the role of middle level managers in strategy processes, viewing them as key strategic actors (Currie and Procter, 2005). In addition, there is also increasing focus on the role of middle level managers emerging from within a number of key process themes in the strategy literature: Strategy-as-practice (Jarzabkowski, 2005, 2008; Jarzabkowski and Spee, 2009; Johnson et al., 2003, 2007; Whittington, 1996, 2003); strategic renewal (Agarwal and Helfat, 2009; Kwee et al., 2011); and sensemaking (Maitlis and Sonenshein, 2010; Rouleau and Balogun, 2007, 2010). This socially constructed qualitative strategic management research (Patton, 2002) is looking at the phenomenon that preceeds and gives rise to strategic renewal, a second-order change process, through the sensemaking practices of 40 middle level managers in different change contexts, combined with an interpretivist approach. Interviews were held with 40 middle level managers involved in organisational transformation. The interviews intended to provide explanatory depth and causal insight to the complex, inter-related and dynamic phenomena in this study (Sayer,1992; 2000), and the agency of the middle level managers (Archer, 2007). Findings indicate that middle level managers’ formal conscious sensemaking practices are more likely to contribute to exploitation, whilst informal sub-conscious sensemaking practices are more likely to contribute to exploration within strategic renewal. Evidence is emerging that ‘issue recognition’ and ‘feeling emotions’ with related informal and sub-conscious sensemaking mechanisms have greater causal effects on renewal, and that enabling factors such as organisational size, diversity and culture, as well as external influences, underpin third-order sensemaking processes among middle level managers.
Supervisor: Higgs, Malcolm Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD28 Management. Industrial Management