Sub-theme 41:

Strategizing as Wayfinding: A Process Perspective

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Simon Grand, RISE Management Research, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Robert C.H. Chia, University of Strathclyde Business School

Johannes Rüegg-Stürm, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Call for Papers

What we call "strategy" involves a lot of retrospective sense-making: there is a tendency to impute purposeful design and deliberate forethought to what are locally embedded initiatives in which the primary concern is the alleviation of immediate pressing problems, local issues, and situated challenges. In this sub-theme, we look for empirical process studies, which do not take the existence and relevance of explicitly formulated and intentionally developed "strategies" as taken-for-granted and self-evident tools and perspectives for navigating as organizations in uncertain and dynamic contexts. We focus on strategizing as an iterative, fragile, contextual process of wayfinding, where the emergence of something like strategic action is an improbable, but possible "outcome", which cannot be pre-assumed, but must be studied in detail in its unfolding over time. In other words, this sub-theme on strategizing as wayfinding is interested in understanding how strategies are dis- and re-assembled, within everyday situations, over time, and in the context of particular events.

In particular, this sub-theme will focus on two fundamental, process-related issues, which have largely been neglected in strategy research and strategic management:

  1. Instead of pre-assuming the existence of "strategies", we see it as an important and promising starting point to take the emergence of something like strategies as the central puzzle of strategy research and as an unlikely outcome, instead of "black boxing" and pre-assuming what should actually be described in strategy research. If the primary concern in organizations is with enacting and shaping situated, embedded, contextual issues, how and why can something like a strategy emerge and develop, what can we identify as "strategy" and strategic, how do particular strategic concepts, narratives, references and practices emerge and evolve.
  2. Instead of normatively pre-assuming the importance of formulating and implementing a strategy, it is be key to better understand what the implications of formulating strategies are for organizations. Could it be that the more deliberatively a strategy is proposed and enforced, the more likely are negative consequences. Or to the contrary: Could it be that formulating a strategy is essential, when considering its impossibility under uncertainty, because a strategy allows to enact and shape local activities and situated interactions in particular ways, as well as to provoke and induce decisions and actions under uncertainty.

We are convinced that radical process perspectives contribute to better understanding the emergence and becoming of strategies. Furthermore, empirical studies in this perspective are highly needed, in order substantiate the promises of recent theoretical and philosophical debates, which emphasize the importance of studying social phenomena as emerging from dynamic processes of becoming. Finally, we argue that this perspective leads to the creation of insights, knowledge, and ways of narrating organizations, which are responding to the real world of management. In sum, we suggest that a shift in our way of both, researching and practicing strategy is needed to address some of the pressing issues of our world today.

For this sub-theme, we welcome empirical process studies on strategizing, organizing, managing and entrepreneuring as processes of becoming, from various empirical contexts, including research institutions and artistic initiatives, commercial companies and public-private partnerships, virtual communities and healthcare networks. In addition to an in-depth, careful discussion of these empirical studies, we are interested in exploring the particular empirical, theoretical, epistemological and methodological challenges and opportunities of process research.

If you are particularly interested in strategy research informed by practice theories, please consider also a submission to sub-theme 05 on "Strategy-as-Practice: Informal Strategizing ? Power, Identity and Technologies".


Simon Grand?is founder and Academic Director of RISE Management Research. He is a research associate at the University of St. Gallen, in the areas of strategic management and entrepreneurship, organization studies and epistemology. He is a practicing entrepreneur and a strategy researcher, focusing particularly on entrepreneurial strategizing in the context of technological innovation, in the areas of software engineering, life sciences, information technology and fashion design.

Robert C.H. Chia?is Professor of Management at the University of Strathclyde Business School. He is a fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA) and an invited member of the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies (SAMS). He has been a senior editor with Organization Studies and is on the advisory board of various journals including Journal of Management Studies, Management Learning and the Journal of Chinese Management. He is the author/editor of three books and a significant number of international journal articles and book chapters in a variety of management sub-fields. His latest book publication "Strategy without Design" (with Robin Holt), published by Cambridge University Press in 2009.

Johannes Rüegg-Stürm?is Professor of Management at the University of St. Gallen. His research is focusing on a systemic-constructivist epistemology and methodology in management research and organization studies with a particular emphasis on strategic change and renewal. Furthermore, he is a leading scientific expert in the area of healthcare management and management of hospitals. He has published in various journals and he is author of several books on management and strategic change.

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