Temporal work in strategy making
Our discussion on phenomenon-centered research continues and we will look at one of the example papers suggested by Academy of Management Discoveries (AMD). In line with the research focus of our community, we will have a look at a paper by Sarah Kaplan and Wanda Orlikowski on temporal work in strategy making. The paper is a good “example of a phenomenon driven study of strategy making at organization level using a qualitative case study” (AMD, 2015).
The full paper can be downloaded here.
This paper reports on a field study of strategy making in one organization facing an industry crisis. In a comparison of five strategy projects, we observed that organizational participants struggled with competing interpretations of what might emerge in the future, what was currently at stake, and even what had happened in the past. We develop a model of temporal work in strategy making that articulates how actors resolved differences and linked their interpretations of the past, present, and future so as to construct a strategic account that enabled concrete strategic choice and action. We found that settling on a particular account required it to be coherent, plausible, and acceptable; otherwise, breakdowns resulted. Such breakdowns could impede progress, but they could also be generative in provoking a search for new interpretations and possibilities for action. The more intensely actors engaged in temporal work, the more likely the strategies departed from the status quo. Our model suggests that strategy cannot be understood as the product of more or less accurate forecasting without considering the multiple interpretations of present concerns and historical trajectories that help to constitute those forecasts. Projections of the future are always entangled with views of the past and present, and temporal work is the means by which actors construct and reconstruct the connections among them. These insights into the mechanisms of strategy making help explain the practices and conditions that produce organizational inertia and change.