Participating in strategy work through sensemaking, strategy discourse, and role-balancing - A grounded theory-based case study of a facilitated strategy process

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
105 +1
How does strategy work participation appear in a facilitated strategy process? This research question sets the scene for this thesis, in which the interpersonal and language-bound work of strategizing (strategy-as-practice) is explored through the means of a unique longitudinal case study. Strategy work is a historically lesser studied and known area of strategy and strategic management, yet an important academic window into understanding how managers, top executives, and other strategists engage in the strategy-making and craft organizational visions and directions. In this study, focus is cast on participative strategy work: co-creative and consensus-seeking decision-making. This thesis examines participation in strategy particularly through strategy as discourse, or strategy talk. With a qualitative methodology of ethnography, a rich data set of field notes, facilitated workshop recordings, interview memos, and strategy exercises are collected. The data of this thesis represents a months-long facilitated strategy work process of one energy company. In it, eight participating strategists engaged in the work of strategy-creation in order to bring about strategic transformation in their company. This data lays a foundation for a grounded theory approach in analysis. Using the Gioia Methodology, an iterative ‘mining’ of data uncovers three overarching dimensions which describe how participation took form in the case company’s strategy work. These dimensions are 1) sensemaking activities, 2) participating in strategy work through strategy discourse and rhetoric, and 3) balancing the strategist role. Combining these dimensions, this study offers a comprehensive grounded theory model that represents the dimensions’ interrelated nature in strategy work participation. The findings also create a narrative of how the participating strategists made sense of a strategic imperative to change and the role of a strategist, how they engaged in the practice of strategy talk through specific discourse and language tools, and how they establishment and avoided responsibility in their strategist role. This thesis builds on our existing understanding on the topic of strategy-as-practice as well as on the specific findings.
Thesis advisor
Helanummi-Cole, Heli
strategy-as-practice, participation in strategy, grounded theory, sensemaking, strategy discourse, role-balancing
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