‘After Derrida’ — Strategy-as-Practice
Having discussed the deconstruction of strategic realities with regard to strategy context, process, and content and outlined detailed implications of our analysis, we now show how our remarks can be connected with the most recent research in the field of strategic management. This is important because scholarly work in general, and a critical study in particular, needs to be accessible to other researchers; others have to be given the opportunity to relate similar pieces of work to the key conclusions of a treatise. Because the three deconstructions underscore the significance of situated managerial activity, we relate the implications of our study to the recent discussions of a practice perspective on strategy (Jarzabkowski 2005; Johnson et al. 2003; Whittington 2002a, 2002b). Of course, the deconstructions in chapter six already point to the importance of practice. Yet what is different — and this is where chapter six and seven vary — is a systematic discussion of strategy practice by embedding our remarks in an existing research framework.
KeywordsSocial Practice Strategic Management Strategy Process Strategy Research Strategy Formation
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- 118.Other possibilities to underscore the need for a practice perspective on strategy are discussed by Whittington (2002b), who refers to Giddens’s (1984) structuration theory, and Jarzabkowski (2004), who refers to de Certeau’s (1988) theory of everyday life.Google Scholar
- 119.Understanding strategy as consisting of practices occurring in praxis does not imply merely focusing on strategy process issues, as the word practice might indicate. Traditional process research focuses on the organization as a whole and is less concerned with related managerial activity (Whittington 1996: 732).Google Scholar
- 120.The social character of practices is also emphasized by Schatzki (2001: 3) who argues that practices can be types of discursive activity. Language, then, characterizes social practices, because what is done is inseparable from what is said. In a late Wittgensteinian sense, Giddens (1979: 4) claims that “[l]anguage is intrinsically involved with that which has to be done: the constitution of language as ‘meaningful’ is inseparable from the constitution of forms of social life as continuing practices.” (emphasis in the original) See also the discussion by Reckwitz (2002: 254–255) and Yanow and Tsoukas (2005: 5).Google Scholar
- 121.Whittington (2002b: 3–4) argues regarding strategy practices that “[a]t the enterprise level, these might be the routines and formulae of the formal strategy process, laid down in corporate cultures; at the wider societal level, these strategy practices might be the working through of accepted analytical tools, or even due notions of appropriate strategy-making behavior, as promulgated by legislation, business schools, consultancies or model firms such as General Electric.” To not confuse praxis with practice, we should be aware that aspects of strategy praxis could become practices. For instance, an informal lunch break meeting about a particular domain of interest that becomes institutionalized can become a valuable strategic practice. Strategy praxis represents the whole of human action regarding strategy in and between organizations, whereas strategic practices are routinized patterns of activity within this praxis. As strategists follow these practices, they reproduce and modify their existing stock of practices on which they draw in their next round of strategizing praxis (Whittington 2002b, see also Whittington 2006: 620).Google Scholar
- 123.If communities are mostly informal, there is the question of whether and how management can do anything about their existence. Aware of the limitations ‘to manage’ a community of practice, Wenger et al. (2002: 49) suggest ‘cultivating’ communities instead. Cultivating means designing for aliveness, not by dictating formalized structures, but by bringing out the community’s own internal direction and character. Cultivating a community implies guiding this institution to realize itself to become ‘alive’. As Wenger et al. (2002: 53) state, “‘[a]live’ communities reflect on and redesign elements of themselves throughout their existence.” To design for aliveness, managers can ensure that the community has sufficient resources (e.g., time and technological infrastructure) and they can stimulate discussions within the community by bringing in information from outside the community. Instead of forcing participation, cultivating a community means providing opportunities for interaction and participation to keep the peripheral members connected. Communities of strategy formation, like any other community of practice, are living things that cannot be deliberately designed in a formalized way without risking their existence. For an indepth discussion see Wenger et al. (2002: 49–64) as well as Wenger (2004). The discussion about how to cultivate communities of practice, which are self-organized systems, could also benefit from perspectives that consider autopoietic systems thinking and its implications for management practice (for an overview see Bakken and Hernes 2003).Google Scholar
- 124.In terms of methodology, ethnomethodological ideas (Berard 2005; Garfinkel 1984; Garfinkel and Sachs 1990; Maynard and Wilson 1980) seem one possible alternative for conducting empirical research with regard to the Strategy-as-Practice research agenda. For ethnomethodologists, social structure is not visible by virtue of its links with physical structure but becomes observable as a manner of speaking. Macrostructure is a practical achievement of people whose sayings and doings make relevant collective categories (e.g., strategy practices, Coulter 2001: 34). Not much different, microanalysis looks at how actors enact these categories by becoming engaged in conversations. In consequence, ethnomethodology blurs the distinction between the macro and micro; in both cases research refers to what people say. For the Strategy-as-Practice agenda this implies taking the study of single speech acts (Schegloff 1987) and episodes of strategic talk (Hendry and Seidl 2003) more seriously.Google Scholar