Strategy as Sociomaterial Practices : Planning, Decision-Making, and Responsiveness in Corporate Lending

University dissertation from Stockholm : School of Business, Stockholm University

Abstract: In their everyday work, organizations, like individuals, find it familiar to consider information technologies and other material objects as nonnegotiable necessities. Management and organization researchers have recalled this evident fact by advancing knowledge of the mundane aspects of computer-mediated work. Some researchers have even proposed grounds, conceptually and empirically, for an alignment between strategy and technology as a rich source of competitive advantage. However, whereas some researchers have debated the notion that strategy is realized according to plans, others have focused on the drifting nature of technology, i.e. the unintended uses and conflicts during and after development, design, and implementation. Thus, the notion of strategy-technology alignment has remained an unresolved issue among researchers but still as much a desire among organizations. Recently, however, a practice-based approach has emerged in strategy and technology studies of management, suggesting that social phenomena are appropriately understood as situated and recurrent meaningful activities that both shape structures of actions and are constrained by them. The present study extends conventional views of practice in that it adapts a relational ontology to practice in which the social and material are assumed to constitute one another on a mutual and recurrent basis. Hence, the present study pursues a sociomaterial view of strategy practice, in general, and strategic planning, decision-making, and responsiveness practices, in particular, in an effort to propose an alternative framework for strategy-technology alignment. Thus, the study draws together a number of diverse, yet compatible, concepts in a unique arrangement, underscoring the inseparability of thought, body, emotions, and affect from our relationship to materiality. In taking this approach, the present study opens the less familiar ground of how material objects are considered as omnipresent companions to our social practices and discourses and thus mutually constitutive of our actions. The study draws on in-depth qualitative data from three Swedish banks to analyze and discuss the implications of a sociomaterial approach to corporate lending practice as an example within which planning, decision-making, and responsiveness are the three most prominent strategy practice activities. The study closes by discussing several implications for theory, research methods, and managerial considerations.

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