Making sense of strategising: the process and practice of participation during strategy formulation

Garlick, Ashley ORCID: (2021) Making sense of strategising: the process and practice of participation during strategy formulation. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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Strategy As Practice (SAP) scholars have been called to explore the strategy work of individuals outside the senior leadership team as part of the “open strategy” concept.
Within this, participation is a way to elicit the input, contributions and feedback of actors across the organisation, resulting in a better-quality strategy. While participation practices have been explored in relation to isolated episodes or actor groups, previous research fails to consider how participation is used across different strategising activities by different actors and over time. There has also been a lack of understanding of the broader process of strategising, particularly concerning sensemaking as a social, collective process.
This thesis examines the process and practice of participation from frontline personnel during the strategy formulation of a single organisation (Charity Ltd.). In doing so, it evaluates how senior leaders used participation as part of a strategising process, how enablers and constraints affected participation in strategy formulation and identified the practices used to facilitate it. A single case study approach conducted 16 interviews with nine senior and middle managers selected based on their involvement with a strategising process from within a British organisation between 2017-2019 during the formulation of a new strategy. Interview data were triangulated with 26 hours of direct participant observation across 11 strategy workshops and archival analysis of 281 documents and artefacts.
The study found that participants and facilitators use participation activities to form, explore and confirm their understanding of strategy in a continuous, iterative sensemaking process. Six influencing factors were identified: board direction and existing strategy, appropriate timing, stakeholder and process legitimacy, leadership competence, organisational restructuring, and available time and resources. These either required alignment, had a reinforcing relationship, or existed in tension. Five practices were used in combination by strategy practitioners to facilitate participation: creating the space for participation, developing multiple narratives, selection and privileging of information, the use of ambiguity, and using materiality to fix strategy discourse. An emergent issue was also identified where participation diluted middle managers’ contribution, leading to a feeling of being marginalised in the process.
This thesis adds an essential dimension to the established body of knowledge on sensemaking by explicitly identifying participation as a sensemaking process. It forwards a framework of participation in strategy formulation, identifying a set of practices to facilitate participation. Practitioners looking to implement participation in a strategising process can use the knowledge of enablers, constraints, and relationships to better design activities and have a greater awareness of when, where and how participation will be effective. This research enables SAP scholars to articulate the process of participation in strategy making, using the framework to explore the nature of participation in other strategy environments. Scholars wishing to build on this thesis could explore the nature of narrative concerning participation, confirm the influencing factors in other environments, and further explore the role of middle management in participatory approaches to strategy formulation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Participation in strategy formulation; strategy as practice; sensemaking
Subjects: Business and finance > Business and management > Strategy
Depositing User: Ashley Garlick
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2021 13:08
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:15


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