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Title: Strategy making in practice : the case of Cretan hotel managers
Author: Stavrakakis, Pavlos
ISNI:       0000 0001 3478 4200
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2006
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This study investigates how managers contribute to the strategy of their firm, specifically focusing on an occupational group of hotel managers. Following the call of the Strategy-as-Practice (S-a-P) research community for heightened awareness of the managers' role and contribution to strategy, and based on the observation that strategy formation is context-specific, it attempts to generalise about the managers' contribution within a specific context. Generalising about the practitioners' contribution to strategy is problematic, however, requiring a conceptual linkage between managerial activity and organisational strategy. Drawing upon the S-a-P literature and the literature on managerial work activity, this study suggests that the managers' response to uncertainty provides that integrative link. This is supported by a simplifying assumption, namely the unitary view of organisation, whereby the central role of the managers within a firm is assured, assuming that power is concentrated upon them. The research inquiry itself spans levels of analysis: the level of the individual manager, the organisation, and the organisation's context. In turn, it requires breadth to account for the reciprocal influence among those levels of analysis. This need is accommodated by a case study approach. Nine independent hotels from the island of Crete were chosen as the sample for the study, while the data collection methods used included observation, interviews and document analysis. The results show that the hotel managers' contribution focuses on developing valuegenerating strategies for their firm; a necessity as they are at disadvantage: they are fragmented, in a saturated sector, equipped with an undifferentiated product, and ultimately reliant upon their suppliers to reach their markets. Value-generating strategies are developed through the management of the intangible resources of the firm and by building a positive history of collaboration with the suppliers. In addition, the managers' contribution is inextricably linked to their everyday activity, which supports the development of value-generating strategies. It is argued that an activity-based view of strategy can unearth some otherwise unobservable constructs that become apparent only through its micro-analytic approach. A focus on practitioners and their contribution can also be an additional level of analysis in strategy research, perceiving strategy formed through the practitioners' activity. As such, strategy can be redefined as an outcome, formed at multiple levels, with strategy practice (or the practitioners' activity) to partly account for that outcome. Generalising about the managers' contribution to strategy requires a trade-off, a choice between content and context specific generalisations. This choice ultimately depends on the reference group of practitioners in question, which delineates the boundaries of the context. In pluralist organisational contexts, that reference group is confined within the organisation's boundaries. On the other hand, unitary organisational contexts allow the selection of wider reference groups. In either case, only local generalisations can be made, taking into account the bounded nature of strategy formation. The study concludes with an analysis of its contribution to the existing body of knowledge, its limitations, and further proposes potential avenues for future research.
Supervisor: Blundel, Richard ; Colford, Jack Sponsor: Hellenic Scholarship Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral