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39/6 December 2006



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Special Issue


Annie Pye and Andrew Pettigrew Theme Editors

Strategizing and Organizing



Charles Baden-Fuller Editorial

In many organizations, the processes that are used to describe and discuss strategy are often far removed from those that involve the organizing of work. At the mundane level, the setting of budgets is often undertaken without regard to discussions about future strategy; and we have all seen mergers precede new strategic thinking as opposed to going hand in hand. Why do we do this? Why do we separate Organizing from Strategizing? How we organise and reorganise influences the way we think about strategy and constrains strategy choices; innovations in organizing bring new thinking about strategizing, and of course vice-versa. For this reason business school MBA programmes are moving away from course structures that separate strategy thinking from strategy execution: there is a need for simultaneous thinking.

Two years ago Annie Pye and Andrew Pettigrew, two well established scholars in this field, proposed this special issue to look at how Strategizing and Organizing interface. After much hard work they have assembled an impressive array of papers linking these themes. Their excellent introduction stands alone as a useful contribution to how we should think about some of these issues, as well as tying together the contributions of the whole issue.

The authors of the papers have taken a wide variety of approaches to the theme. Jan Rivkin and Nicolaj Siggelkow use simulation analysis to explore some counter-intuitive thinking. They suggest that organizing must often precede strategizing because it influences the quality of strategic thinking, but that we must also sometimes do things the other way round. Complementing this theoretical perspective we have four contributions that look to practice. Richard Whittington, Eamonn Molloy, Michael Mayer and Anne Smith show that the way strategy is organised (such as how ‘away-days’ are presented) influences the outcomes of strategizing. They stress that we need to pay attention to how these processes happen if we want useful outcomes. Paula Jarzabkowski and Evelyn Fenton look at the practices of strategizing and organizing in professional service and public sector firms where there is pluralism of both internal values and external demands, and draw important messages for academics and practitioners. Colin Price, Charles Roxburgh and David Turnbull suggest that organisations can achieve a pay-off by tackling questions of organising and strategizing simultaneously, and use their experience as McKinsey consultants to illustrate their ideas about how to monitor both a company's performance and its health. And last, but not least, Ian Colville and Anthony Murphy use a single vivid case example of Eli Lilly and Company to explore how effective leadership in a time of crisis enables the two dimensions of organizing and strategizing to effect change.

In summary, I commend a most interesting special issue for your careful attention!


Annie Pye and Andrew Pettigrew INTRODUCTION - Strategizing and Organizing: Change as a Political Learning Process, Enabled by Leadership a.j.pye@bath.ac.uk

Core to any group of managers, in any endeavour, in any organizational context, are the questions ‘Where do we want to go?’ and ‘How shall we organize our resources to get us there (and beyond)?’ At heart, these are simplified questions of strategy and organization which, on the face of it, seem to prioritise strategy over structure: you need to know where you want to go to before you decide how to organize to get there. This classic Chandlerian view has had much support over the years, but recent developments in both theory and practice of strategy and organization lead us to question some of these assumptions.

Academic research has recently emphasised more process- and practice-oriented theorizing, while contemporary organizational practice is characterised by more complex, global and networked innovating forms than in previous eras.1 So our Call for Papers sought to move the debate forward to ask what these developments in academic thinking and organizational practice mean for understanding the relationship between strategizing and organizing: for example, is it possible to integrate strategizing with organizing and if so, with what impact on the choices made by senior managers? Or are there contexts and times in which prioritisation of one over the other remains critical to competitive performance? These were the kinds of issues outlined in our Call for Papers and we were delighted to receive an array of responses which spanned a wide spectrum of perspectives on this important focus for business action.

Our selection aimed to include a spread of academic and practitioner viewpoints which in turn reflect a breadth of perspectives, case material, ideas and insights about strategizing and organizing, both in theory and in practice. However, while they each speak differently to the strategizing-organizing agenda, what unites them all is their focus on the dynamic processes of changing enterprise. Be it public or private sector, large or small organizations, we have some fascinating examples of change from which there are several key lessons for practitioners and academics in terms of our ability to make sense of what happens in daily organizational life.

Amongst the five articles in this Special Issue, three are written by academics and two are from a practitioner point of view, one of which is a collaboration between an academic and a practitioner. They all contribute, albeit differently, to the debate which we were aiming to stimulate. Differences of definition mean the authors start from different positions and with different perspectives, and hence shed different light on their different cases. Indeed, one offer we make to readers is to take the perspective of one article and use it to reconsider the data of another: this makes for further interesting possibilities.


Jan W. Rivkin and Nicolaj Siggelkow Organizing to Strategize in the Face of Interactions: Preventing Premature Lock-in jrivkin@hbs.edu 

Motivated by real examples that run contrary to conventional wisdom, we examine how firms organize themselves to strategize well. Interactions among decisions make strategizing difficult. They raise the spectre that a firm's strategizing efforts will get stuck in a web of conflicting constraints prematurely, before managers explore a wide enough range of possibilities. A key role of organizing is to free strategizing efforts and encourage broad search. At the same time, organizing must ensure that strategizing efforts are stabilized once the firm discovers an effective set of choices. The need to balance search and stability, we argue, is a central challenge of organizing. We explore this challenge with an agent-based simulation of firms that organize to strategize in the face of interactions. The results shed light on our counterintuitive examples. They show why and when firms may benefit from unnecessary overlap between departments; how and when firms can increase firm-wide search by reining in the search efforts of individual managers; and how and when a change in organizational structure – e.g., a shift from decentralization to integration – may reflect an effective sequence of organizing, rather than a reversal of early mistakes. The disparate examples share an underlying logic. The unnecessary overlap, the reining-in of managers, the period of decentralization – all can be seen as organizational mechanisms that help ensure the broad, early search that a firm needs when interactions among strategic decisions raise the danger of locking-in on a strategy prematurely.



Richard Whittington, Eamonn Molloy, Michael Mayer and Anne Smith Practices of Strategising/Organising: Broadening Strategy Work and Skills richard.whittington@sbs.ox.ac.uk

This article examines three practices of strategising/organising – strategy workshops, the project management of strategic and organisational initiatives, and the creation of symbolic artefacts to communicate strategic change. These are seen through a practice theory lens that emphasises practical activity and the tight linkage between strategising and organising. The article argues that, in a world of accelerating change, approaching strategy and organisation as interlinked and practical activities is more effective than traditional static and detached approaches that, privilege analysis. As change drives repeated strategising/organising, it is mastery of the tools and procedures that matters, at least as much as the perfection of any transitory design. Drawing on a qualitative study of ten strategic reorganisations, the article analyses particular vignettes of strategy workshops, strategy projects and strategy artefacts in action. A common theme across all three practices is the importance of hands-on, practical crafting skills in getting strategising done. The article argues for a greater recognition of these kinds of craft skills in strategy, alongside traditional analytical skills, and addresses implications for practitioners and business schools. For practitioners, there is no need to reject formal strategy making, as some critics have proposed. Rather, practitioners can renew formal strategy by injecting craft directly into the process. Business schools, as managerial trainers for the strategy process, should extend both their research and their teaching. Strategy research needs to move beyond its traditional domain of economic analysis in order to understand the whole range of effective practices in strategising/organising work, drawing on close observation of what strategists actually do. Strategy teaching needs to bring the practicalities of strategising/organising work directly into the mainstream strategy curriculum, instead of marginalizing them into adjacent sub-disciplines such as consulting skills.


Paula Jarzabkowski and Evelyn Fenton Strategizing and Organizing in Pluralistic Contexts P.A.Jarzabkowski@aston.ac.uk

In this article, the concept of pluralism is used to expose variations in the relationship between organizing and strategizing and the consequences of these variations for managerial practice. Pluralistic contexts are those that are shaped by the divergent goals and interests of different groups inside and outside the organization. Internally, these divergent interests result in multiple organizing processes, while the interests of external stakeholders lead to multiple strategic goals and objectives. Despite the Fact that innate pluralism and the consequent complexity of strategizing and organizing processes are experienced by many organizations in the 21st century, pluralism has been inadequately examined in organisation studies and virtually ignored in the strategy literature. Having defined pluralism and explained its implications for strategizing and organizing practices and processes within organizations, three relevant questions are posed for investigating the nature of organizing and strategizing in pluralistic contexts. Case examples from the public sector, professional services and regulated industries are utilized to provide insights into these questions, and derive a framework that enables the drivers and potential problems of the interdependence between strategizing and organizing to be better understood. Practical implications for managing this interdependence are drawn.



Colin Price, Charles Roxburgh and David Turnbull Strategizing and Organizing for Performance and Health david_turnbull@mckinsey.com

It has long been recognized that strategizing and organizing need to be interlinked, but organizations have found it difficult to find a practical payoff from this insight, at least in part because of the complexity of carrying out both processes at the same time. During their extensive experience as consultants with McKinsey & Company, the authors have developed the ‘metaphor’ of ‘performance and health’ to articulate the organization's objective function. This has helped them think about strategy and organization rigorously without getting overwhelmed by the complexity.

The practical payoff from this approach is threefold. It helps organizations avoid some common pitfalls while devising strategy, such as focusing too much on positional advantage and not enough on execution. It makes sure that the enactment of strategy is cognizant of the organization and vice versa, often by allowing the same interventions to tackle both issues. And finally it helps to define the sometimes-nebulous concept of ‘health’ in order that it can be measured and managed with the same rigor that performance is. Doing this successfully will require changes in mindsets and behaviours across the organization, though in particular at the top. However, as well as the advantages mentioned above, it will also free boards to focus where they say they want to focus: on long-term company health.


Ian D Colville and Anthony J Murphy Leadership as the Enabler of Strategizing and Organizing i.d.colville@bath.ac.uk

What can you do when the pace of change and the unpredictability of events escalate to the point where they can undermine company strategy and the organization designed to deliver that strategy? When even moving to more dynamic conceptualisations of strategizing and organizing doesn't adequately reflect the vital relationship between them in practice?

This article argues that the best way of making sense of the relationship between strategizing and organizing is through leadership. The idea that leadership acts as an enabler articulating strategy and organization during times of profound change is explored through the case example of the global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, after losing control of the patent on its major drug, Prozac. 




This issue is available in full on-line at www.sciencedirect.com

Long Range Planning - International Journal of Strategic Management
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