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Title: Strategy as the intentional structuration of practice : the translation of formal strategies into strategies-in-practice
Author: Haugstad, Bjørn
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 9670
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Acknowledging the difficulties of achieving effective strategic management in practice, this thesis investigates how formal strategies quite often succeed in conditioning organisational actions even in firms such as professional service firms, which may lack effective measures for coercing action and which often depend on distributed decision-making. The fundamental question posed in this investigation is: what are the social processes that make strategies work? This thesis addresses that question by contributing to our understanding of strategy realisation as a continuing process of translating formal strategies into ‘strategies-in-practice’, i.e. the situated performance of strategies through choices, actions, and practices pertaining to the selection and accomplishment of concrete assignments. The thesis investigates this translation process in three small professional service firms, in which the responsibility for enacting the strategies lies with autonomous practitioners, making centralised strategy realisation difficult. Searching for integration rather than further fragmentation of different strands of strategy research, the thesis make use of Porterian activity systems theory, Giddens’ structuration theory, Wittgensteinian theory of rule-following, Searlean theory of intentionality, and the strategy-as-practice approach, in order to understand the translation process as the intentional structuration of practice. The thesis reports two main contributions, the first addressing a gap in strategy re-search, the second contradicting prevailing theories. The first contribution is an outline of a theory of strategy translation: how formal strategies are translated into strategies-in-practice, coping with insoluble strategic dilemmas, and achieving maintenance of strategic position and strategies-in-practice under pressure for unwanted change. Good strategies-in-practice are as much about managing dilemmas as about eliminating them. Second, in contrast to prevailing strategic positioning theory and generic strategies, this study documents the potential benefits of straddling strategically distinct services within a single activity system, in terms of: learning opportunities; work variation; better opportunities for attracting, developing, and retaining talented people; the possibilities of capitalising on client relationships; and the dynamics of routinisation of once-novel services.
Supervisor: Whittington, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Organisational behaviour ; Management ; Human resource management ; Business and Management ; strategy-as-practice ; knowledge management ; business enterprises ; decision making ; management case studies