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Title: Strategy formation at Malaysian higher education institutions : interaction between deliberate versus emergent approach
Author: Yee, Wee Chun
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 416X
Awarding Body: Northumbria University
Current Institution: Northumbria University
Date of Award: 2012
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There is a large body of literature on what strategies are, and how they are formed in organisations. Building upon the two traditional approaches of deliberate and emergent strategy, recent studies have suggested that strategy formation should seek to integrate various processes, especially in different contexts. In the area of strategy formation in the higher education sector, however, it remains the case that some strategic researchers advocate more deliberate planning while others favour emergent strategy formation. Literature on strategy formation is in large part theoretical rather than empirical, especially in the private higher education sector. To fill the gap, the purpose of this study is to identify how strategy formation takes place in Malaysian Private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The main objectives of this research are to examine the key reasons behind typical strategy formation activities, and whether HEI leaders in Malaysia believe that the actions taken are effective in achieving their strategic objectives. This study takes a unique research approach to investigating strategy formation processes. Informed by subtle realism ontology and social constructionism epistemology, symbolic interactionism is employed to inform the research’s theoretical perspective. Consistent with this research philosophy, ethnography is employed in this study. To ensure the high quality of this research, reflexivity is also used as an important methodology to evaluate the whole research process. A total of eight in-depth interviews were conducted amongst Malaysian Private HEI leaders, all of them key strategic decision makers and who have been involved in strategy formation at their institutions. The findings of this study suggest that strategy formation in the HEI industry in Malaysia is more emergent than deliberate, reflecting the dynamic environment and unique features of Malaysian HEIs. Some important patterns, including logical incrementalism, the political /generative process and cultural/symbolic process, were discovered in relation to emergent strategy formation processes. These emergent approaches were however not employed entirely independently, but were combined with externally imposed deliberate strategy processes. This study further explores why this is the case, and identifies the key reasons why certain strategy processes have had to be adapted in the Malaysian Private Higher Education sector. These are to be found mainly in the external environment, namely uncertainty, scarcity of information, and the significant influence of the MOHE (Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education). In addition, the study identifies three moderating factors in relation to the choice of strategy formation process: multidivisional versus simple/small insitutions; main versus subsidiary level campuses; and collective versus high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance cultures in HEI organisations. This research has been designed with the intention of bringing new insights to strategy formation in different contexts. Its conclusions make substantial contributions from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Theoretically, the study extends the mainstream of strategy formation literature into the context of private higher education in an Asian context (in this case Malaysia). For practitioners, the findings confirm that strategic decision makers face no easy task. Strategy formation is a complex process, and is highly dependent on the given context. Practitioners may use multiple strategy formation processes, balancing more emergent and deliberate thought. The findings also signal the importance of understanding the rich reality of strategy formation, which requires practitioners to have an open mind.
Supervisor: Quan, Rose Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.B.A.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: N100 Business studies