Strategy-as-Practice [chapter]

Matthew Thomas
2021 A Handbook of Management Theories and Models for Office Environments and Services  
Strategy-as-Practice (SaP) is a distinctive approach for studying organisation strategy with a focus on micro-level social practices ( Jarzabkowski et al., 2007) . Proposed by Richard Whittington (1996) , SaP was developed into a full research agenda by Johnson et al. (2003) in the early 2000s. SaP scholars shifted the focus of strategy research from strategies, something organisations have, on to strategising, something organisations do. This in turn shifted the focus from organisations to
more » ... tegy makers (Whittington, 1996) . Linked to the broader 'practice turn' in social sciences (Knorr-Cetina et al., 2001; Whittington, 2011) , SaP has its roots in practice theory (Bourdieu, 1990) , an approach that before its application to strategy had been used by social scientists in other disciplines to research the practices of scientists (Pickering, 1992), accountants (Hopwood & Miller, 1994) and architects (Schön, 1991) . Before SaP, mainstream strategy research had a focus on the causal effects of deliberately formulated strategic plans on the performance outcomes of organisations (Golsorkhi et al., 2015) , and statistical methods of analysis predominated strategy research at this time (Laamanen et al., 2015) . The advent of SaP encouraged strategy researchers to shift their focus onto what actually takes place in strategy formulation and onto the strategy makers themselves. The shift in focus was accompanied by a change in the methodologies employed to qualitative approaches that enabled observations of the everyday actions and interactions of strategy practitioners (Whittington, 1996) . This approach to strategy research has advanced our theoretical understanding of strategy making in a way that has also produced real insights for strategy practitioners (Golsorkhi et al., 2015) . An accepted definition for what constitutes the strategy of an organisation is the long-term direction realised by an organisation ( Johnson et al., 2017) . This definition opens the possibility that not all strategy is deliberately planned. It is tempting to think of strategy making as big decisions made by senior executives in boardrooms that intentionally alter the long-term direction of an organisation; indeed, much of the early research in the field of strategy had this focus (Whittington, 1996) . However, this view of strategy was challenged in the 1980s (Mintzberg & Waters, 1985) with evidence that not all strategies realised by organisations were deliberately planned. The long-term direction actually realised by an organisation might result from *m.a.thomas.2@bham.ac.uk 75
doi:10.1201/9781003128786-7 fatcat:zxuihzuxm5a3latzwgkl6conxq