Strategic practices: an activity theory perspective on continuity and change

Paula Jarzabkowski*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper draws upon activity theory- to analyse an empirical investigation of the micro practices of strategy in three UK universities. Activity theory provides a framework of four interactive components from which strategy emerges; the collective structures of the organization, the primary actors, in this research conceptualized as the top management team (TMT), the practical activities in which they interact and the strategic practices through which interaction is conducted. Using this framework, the paper focuses specifically on the formal strategic practices involved in direction setting, resource allocation, and monitoring and control. These strategic practices arc associated with continuity of strategic activity in one case study but are involved in the reinterpretation and change of strategic activity in the other two cases. We model this finding into activity theory-based typologies of the cases that illustrate the way that practices either distribute shared interpretations or mediate between contested interpretations of strategic activity. The typologies explain the relationships between strategic practices and continuity and change of strategy as practice. The paper concludes by linking activity theory to wider change literatures to illustrate its potential as an integrative methodological framework for examining the subjective and emergent processes through which strategic activity is constructed. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-55
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003

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