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Strategic Practices: An Activity Theory Perspective on Continuity and Change


  • Paula Jarzabkowski


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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  • Paula Jarzabkowski, 2003. "Strategic Practices: An Activity Theory Perspective on Continuity and Change," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(1), pages 23-55, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:1:p:23-55

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martha S. Feldman, 2000. "Organizational Routines as a Source of Continuous Change," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 11(6), pages 611-629, December.
    2. Pettigrew, Andrew M., 1997. "What is a processual analysis?," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 337-348, December.
    3. Fox-Wolfgramm, Susan J., 1997. "Towards developing a methodology for doing qualitative research: The dynamic-comparative case study method," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 439-455, December.
    4. John Hendry, 2000. "Strategic Decision Mking, Discourse, And Strategy As Social Practice," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(7), pages 955-978, November.
    5. Andrew M. Pettigrew, 1990. "Longitudinal Field Research on Change: Theory and Practice," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 1(3), pages 267-292, August.
    6. Orton, James Douglas, 1997. "From inductive to iterative grounded theory: Zipping the gap between process theory and process data," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 419-438, December.
    7. John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid, 1991. "Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 2(1), pages 40-57, February.
    8. Le Grand, Julian, 1991. "Quasi-markets and Social Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1256-1267, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Makkonen, Hannu, 2015. "The interface of value creation and service process: A categorization of the relevant perspectives and an integrative framework," jbm - Journal of Business Market Management, Free University Berlin, Marketing Department, vol. 8(3), pages 476-497.
    2. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4820 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Maria Lusiani & Ann Langley, 2013. "Professionals as strategists? Channelling and organizing distributed strategizing," Working Papers 32, Department of Management, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.
    4. repec:bbz:fcpbbr:v:7:y:2010:i:3:p:108-129 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Dal-Soto, Fábio & Marlon, Jefferson Marlon, 2017. "Estratégias de coopetição na educação superior brasileira," RAE - Revista de Administração de Empresas, FGV-EAESP Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo (Brazil), vol. 57(1), February.
    6. 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.
    7. Anna Pistoni & Lucrezia Songini & Oriana Perrone, 2016. "The how and why of a firm’s approach to CSR and sustainability: a case study of a large European company," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 20(3), pages 655-685, September.
    8. 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, January.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Demir, Robert, 2014. "Strategic Activity as Bundled Affordances," Ratio Working Papers 243, The Ratio Institute.
    12. de la Torre, R. & Lusa, A. & Mateo, M., 2016. "A MILP model for the long term academic staff size and composition planning in public universities," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1-11.
    13. Paula Jarzabkowski & Julia Balogun, 2009. "The Practice and Process of Delivering Integration through Strategic Planning," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(8), pages 1255-1288, December.
    14. 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.
    15. Phillips, Paul & Moutinho, Luiz, 2014. "Critical review of strategic planning research in hospitality and tourism," Annals of Tourism Research, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 96-120.
    16. repec:rss:jnljms:v2i7p4 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. M. Díaz-Fernández & M. González-Rodríguez & Biagio Simonetti, 2015. "Top Management Teams’ demographic characteristics and their influence on strategic change," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 1305-1322, May.

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