Putting strategy into practice : top management teams in action in three UK universities : uncovering the paradox of effectiveness and inertia

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Jarzabkowski, Paula
  • Subject: LB2300 | HD28

An investigation into top management team action in the practice of strategy was\ud conducted within three UK universities. This study examined strategic practices from\ud a top team perspective in each institution over a seven year period. The aim was to\ud understand the processes by which top teams put strategy into practice within the\ud context of organisational structures that may both constrain and enable strategic\ud action.\ud A theory of practice was developed with which to guide the investigation. This\ud theory, and interrogation of a diverse body of organisation studies and strategic\ud management literature indicated a longitudinal, processual research design as\ud appropriate, accessing rich contextual data over embedded levels of analysis. To this\ud end, 49 interviews, 51 meetings observations, shadowing of key participants, and\ud extensive documentary and archival searches were conducted. Analysis of such data\ud led to the identification of three levels of analysis which are pertinent to an\ud understanding of top management team engagement in strategy as practice. First, the\ud top team process of strategic thinking and acting. Secondly, the structuring\ud characteristics of organisational context. Thirdly, the strategy processes which form\ud the interplay between top team actors and organisational context in the practice of\ud strategy. These levels of analysis were arranged in an explanatory framework. This\ud framework shows how top management teams engage in strategy as practice through\ud the use of situated and distributed practices which mediate between their behaviour,\ud the organisational contexts in which they act, and the strategic activities which are\ud pursued. To better model the dynamic nature of these relationships, strategy as\ud practice was conceptualised as occurring within an activity system. The activity\ud system comprised three domains, top team actors, organisational structures, and\ud strategic activity, mediated by practices which are situated and distributed across the\ud domains.\ud This research is underpinned by the theoretical approaches of structuration and social\ud becoming, which interpellate the tendency to both recursiveness and transformation in\ud social order. These tendencies are conceptualised as the capacity for continuity and\ud change in the process of putting strategy into practice. The activity system model\ud developed was used to explain how practices are implicated in the mediation of\ud continuity and change.
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