An empirical examination of the strategic decision-making process
: the relationship between context, process, and outcomes

  • Neil Shepherd

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Despite concerted academic interest in the strategic decision-making process (SDMP) since the 1980s, a coherent body of theory capable of guiding practice has not materialised. This is because many prior studies focus only on a single process characteristic, often rationality or comprehensiveness, and have paid insufficient attention to context. To further develop theory, research is required which examines: (i) the influence of context from multiple theoretical perspectives (e.g. upper echelons, environmental determinism); (ii) different process characteristics from both synoptic formal (e.g. rationality) and political incremental (e.g. politics) perspectives, and; (iii) the effects of context and process characteristics on a range of SDMP outcomes.
Using data from 30 interviews and 357 questionnaires, this thesis addresses several opportunities for theory development by testing an integrative model which incorporates: (i) five SDMP characteristics representing both synoptic formal (procedural rationality, comprehensiveness, and behavioural integration) and political incremental (intuition, and political behaviour) perspectives; (ii) four SDMP outcome variables—strategic decision (SD) quality, implementation success, commitment, and SD speed, and; (iii) contextual variables from the four theoretical perspectives—upper echelons, SD-specific characteristics, environmental determinism, and firm characteristics.
The present study makes several substantial and original contributions to knowledge. First, it provides empirical evidence of the contextual boundary conditions under which intuition and political behaviour positively influence SDMP outcomes. Second, it establishes the predominance of the upper echelons perspective; with TMT variables explaining significantly more variance in SDMP characteristics than SD specific characteristics, the external environment, and firm characteristics. A newly developed measure of top management team expertise also demonstrates highly significant direct and indirect effects on the SDMP. Finally, it is evident that SDMP characteristics and contextual variables influence a number of SDMP outcomes, not just overall SD quality, but also implementation success, commitment, and SD speed.
Date of Award28 Mar 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn M Rudd (Supervisor), Erik A Mooi (Supervisor) & Ian Combe (Supervisor)


  • strategic decision
  • decision making
  • decision process
  • context
  • top management team

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