Strategy as practice: Theoretical approaches

Track proposal:
Strategy as practice: New theoretical approaches
EURAM 2006, Oslo
David Seidl, University of Munich, Institute of Business Policy and Strategic Management,
[email protected]
Robert Chia, University of St. Andrews, School of Management, University of St Andrews,
[email protected]
Donald MacLean, University of Glasgow, School of Business and Management,
[email protected]
Under the label ‘Strategy as Practice’, researchers lately have been calling for a reconceptualisation of strategy as a social activity: strategy is not something an organisation has
but something that its members do. This implies on the one hand a focus on the myriad microactivities and interactions in and around the organisation that make up strategy in practice. On
the other hand, however, these micro-phenomena have to be seen in their wider social
context: actors in their situations are not acting in isolation but are drawing upon the regular,
socially defined modes of acting that arise from the plurality of social institutions to which
they belong. In this sense the strategy-as-practice approach tries to establish explicit links
between micro and macro perspectives. (See the strategy-as-practice website at for more information on this approach and a bibliography of
relevant papers in this area).
There are many strands of theory that might allow for the development of new perspectives on
strategy as social activity. Amongst them are the different versions of the Theory of Social
Practices (Bourdieu, Giddens, deCerteau, Foucault etc), Activity Theory, Action Theory,
Actor Network Theory, Systems Theory , Complexity Theory, Conventionalist Theory,
Discourse Theory and many more. Over the last few years, researchers have started to make
use of these theoretical approaches in strategy research. This body of experimental work is
naturally characterised by a degree of confusion relating to unarticulated differences in the use
of key terms and ideas – for example terms like “strategic practice”, “context”, “organisation”
and “outcome” can all mean different things in different approaches. This track seeks to
examine the conceptual apparatus of the various social theories that deal with the human actor
in social context and explore how far, and what ways, strategy-as-practice research might be
informed by them.
As an important means of moving the strategy-as-practice agenda forward, we aim to delve
deeper into the different theories, explore the different concepts in use and compare their role
and value in explaining strategy as social practice. This may in turn lead to the emergence of a
distinctive theoretical platform on which to conduct further research, or to debates informed
by a richer appreciation of conceptual and methodological diversity operating in the field.
In this track we thus call for papers that explore particular theoretical perspectives on strategy
as social activity. In particular we expect those papers to set out how the different approaches
conceptualise the strategic actor and strategic action; how they treat the interaction between
actors; how they account for agency; what role the human body plays in strategic activity;
how they theorise the ‘outcome’ of strategic action including phenomena such as meaning and
performance; how they address the micro-macro problem; how they account for stability and
change; how they explain the emergence of novelty or similar issues. Based on such an
analysis we would hope that the papers are able to make explicit the strengths and weaknesses
of the different theoretical perspectives. In addition to that we are particularly interested in
papers that critique work to date, attempt comparisons between different theoretical
perspectives on strategy as practice and signal helpful developments in that regard.