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Strategic Practices: An Activity Theory Perspective on Continuity and Change


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  • Paula Jarzabkowski
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     This paper draws upon activity theory to analyse an empirical investigation of the micro practices of strategy in three UK universities. Activity theory provides a framework of four interactive components from which strategy emerges; the collective structures of the organization, the primary actors, in this research conceptualized as the top management team (TMT), the practical activities in which they interact and the strategic practices through which interaction is conducted. Using this framework, the paper focuses specifically on the formal strategic practices involved in direction setting, resource allocation, and monitoring and control. These strategic practices are associated with continuity of strategic activity in one case study but are involved in the reinterpretation and change of strategic activity in the other two cases. We model this finding into activity theory-based typologies of the cases that illustrate the way that practices either distribute shared interpretations or mediate between contested interpretations of strategic activity. The typologies explain the relationships between strategic practices and continuity and change of strategy as practice. The paper concludes by linking activity theory to wider change literatures to illustrate its potential as an integrative methodological framework for examining the subjective and emergent processes through which strategic activity is constructed. Copyright 2003 Blackwell Publishers Ltd..

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    Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Management Studies.

    Volume (Year): 40 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 1 (01)
    Pages: 23-55

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:1:p:23-55

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    Cited by:
    1. Robert MacIntosh & Nic Beech, 2011. "Strategy, strategists and fantasy: a dialogic constructionist perspective," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 24(1), pages 15-37, January.
    2. François-Xavier De Vaujany & Sabine Carton & Carine Dominguez-Perry & Emmanuelle Vaast, 2012. "Performativity and Information Technologies: An inter-organizational perspective," Post-Print halshs-00851315, HAL.
    3. Fasshauer, Ingrid, 2012. "Les interactions entre contrôle et stratégie : redéfinition du rôle des cadres intermédiaires et du levier interactif de contrôle," Economics Thesis from University Paris Dauphine, Paris Dauphine University, number 123456789/11150 edited by Berland, Nicolas, September.
    4. Marques, Maria da Conceição da Costa, 2013. "Strategic Management, Leadership and Governance of the University in Portugal," MPRA Paper 53017, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Chua, Wai Fong, 2007. "Accounting, measuring, reporting and strategizing - Re-using verbs: A review essay," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(4-5), pages 487-494.
    6. de Vaujany, François-Xavier, 2008. "Strategic Alignment: What Else? A Practice Based View of IS Value," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/4820, Paris Dauphine University.
    7. Maria Lusiani & Ann Langley, 2013. "Professionals as strategists? Channelling and organizing distributed strategizing," Working Papers 32, Department of Management, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.
    8. Rosalia Aldraci Barbosa Lavarda & Maria Teresa Canet-Giner & Fernando Juan Peris-Bonet, 2010. "Integrative strategy formation process and the management of complex work – a microorganizational analisys," Brazilian Business Review, Fucape Business School, vol. 7(3), pages 108-129, September.


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