Strategic change under construction : role of strategy narratives

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2014-01-11
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Kansainvälinen yritysviestintä
International Business Communication
Degree programme
220 s.
Aalto University publication series. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 216/2013
This dissertation reconceptualizes a strategic change as a communicative product. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach and brings together strategic change research, discursive strategy practices, identity research, and narrative views of strategy. It incorporates a set of new ideas into the construct of sensemaking and uses it as a broad interpretive framework and the umbrella construct in bridging strategy and change, and identity construction and identifying. A cross-disciplinary literature review leads to the theoretical framing of the qualitative single case study, which produces a research narrative of a strategic change introducing various perspectives, time lines, and units of analysis to provide a rich description of the phenomenon in its context: a multinational engineering company in the beginning of a strategic change. The data for the single case study were produced in retrospective management interviews and focus group discussions and drawn from a set of documentary data – letters by the company president to the employees over a five-year research period. The research produced four essays, which together shed light and provide different perspectives on the overall research question: How does a strategic change come about in organizational narratives? Additionally, each essay answers specific research questions on problematic or overlooked areas of previous research. Based on the constitutive view of communication, the study examines how a strategic change is constituted in organizational narratives about the new strategy. While concerned with organizational strategy narratives, the research addresses the often ignored language-factor in management research. The research explores how language provides devices for the sensemaking and identity construction in the narratives. It investigates how the strategy texts become authorities and hence direct collective actions through abstraction and reification. Finally the research elaborates on the role of language as a source of intra-organizational power in a multinational organization. The main theoretical contribution of this dissertation lies in a reconceptualization of a strategic change as communicative organizing. Through an empirical case study it demonstrates how the strategic change is interlinked with dynamic, discursive processes of meaning-making and identity construction. It introduces a linguistically informed analysis for identifying the discursive tactics and linguistic devices used in shaping meanings and constituting identities. It complements existing research on intraorganizational power by including language in the discussion of power sources in an MNC. The research provides a model for managerial communication practice in strategic change. The results will moreover direct the managerial attention to language which often is overlooked as merely a technical issue in an MNC.
Supervising professor
Charles, Mirjaliisa, professor
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