STRATEGY AS A CONCEPT AND THE UNIT OF ANALYSIS, INCLUDING POINTS OF DEPARTURE

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CHAPTER 3 LITERATURE REVIEW

“The mind is not a book to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of the skull to be perused by an invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing”. J.K. Rowlings: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

INTRODUCTION

In Chapter Two, a limited scope contextual review of global and national ODAconditions was provided. The chapter concluded that the ODA systems and strategies are highly dynamic, that change is an inevitable part of the system, and that this change is sometimes incremental, and at others times evolutionary. The chapter, therefore, dealt with the applied context or research setting for the theoretical perspective and empirical data.
Chapter Three reviews a selection of the literature that informs the study of strategy. It provides the broader scope of scholarship from which the theoretical framework will be derived. First, an overview of a selection of the theories that highlight the ‘schools of thought’ of strategy (as a broad concept) is given. This line of thinking is directly relevant to the research problem that was explored. Thereafter the discussion focuses on the review of ‘strategy as practice’ based on the theoretical perspective that was selected to both inform and be extended through this study. The review covers the role of story and narrative in the practice of strategy, based on the research question and methodological considerations of the research. Befitting a literature review, the chapter identifies some of the gaps in the theory which this study aims to fill. The discussion complements the theoretical framework chapter in that it provides substantiation and debate for the core theoretical backdrop against which the progress, new knowledge, findings and recommendations of the research was reviewed.
It is noted that some references within this review predate the expected last five years. This is deliberate in the pursuit of “the significant old”, considered to be seminal thinkers, as well as the new in strategy. (Mintzberg, AhlstrandandLampel 2009:9).

Chapter 3 in relation to the research process.
COMMENCING THE REVIEW

Strategy… just strategy,’ Strategy as planning,’ ‘Strategy as process,’ ‘Strategy as practice,’ ‘Strategy as post-modern,’ ‘Strategy as narrative,’ ‘Strategy as objective,’‘Strategy as personal,’‘Strategy as…’
Any review of strategy inevitably presents a researcher with countless pages of debates that fill libraries, businesses, governments and cyber worlds. Such pages bear testimony to the scholars, theorists, practitioners, lay persons and idle readers who have tried to wrap their heads around this sometime elusive, sometime intensely tangible concept.
Stories are told of strategies being ‘locked away in a safe’ and released only in terms of ‘carefully numbered,’ signed-out copies (Floyd, Roos, Jacobs andKellermans 2005:253), or ‘stored in a document and in the heads of management’ (Haugstad 2001:13).Yet, in parallel worlds, strategies are created and re-created, shocked and macro-shocked (Angwin, Cummings andSmith 2007) in a moment, or a cycle, moving fluidly with ease and/or disruptively jarring into a world where change is part of the world’s everyday heartbeat.
Strategy encompasses levels and layers, people and positions, planning and analysis, formulations and implementations. It is at once an overwhelming intellectual concept as well as a pragmatic prosaic concern:“those who have ultimate responsibility for strategy – have to deal with the entire beast of strategy as a living thing” (Mintzberget al 2009:382). Theorising around strategy joins the best of minds in deeply contested battles with turf wars leaving the ‘towers’ of academe dripping with metaphorical blood; while in board rooms and business, on street corners and in souks, money is made and lost in intensely public or intimate acts of strategy.
I am at once defeated and elated that I am to review a subject that contains such rich as well as superfluous, redundant elements.
It the same time, it is comforting to know (despite the sexist gender) that:
A scientist who wishes to maximise the empirical contents of the views he holds and who wants to understand them as clearly as he possibly can, must therefore introduce other views: that is he must adopt a pluralistic methodology… Knowledge so conceived is not a series of self-consistent theories that converge towards an ideal view… It is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible alternatives, each single theory, each fairy tale, each myth that is part of the collection forcing others into greater articulation and all of them contributing, via this process of competition, to the development of our consciousness… Experts and laymen, professionals and dilettanti, truth-freaks and liars – they are all invited to participate in the contest and to make their contribution to the enrichment of our culture (Feyerabend1993:21).
While celebrating the multiple realities offered by this introduction, I however must still trace the ‘line of sight’ of strategy and provide a comprehensive theoretical review to underpin the research question, namely: How are the strategic practices of South Africa’s Official Development Assistance reflected through the storied experiences of strategy practitioners?
To respond to the above immediately brings one into contested domains where the assumptions, underlying premises and frames of reference of the reviewer are on the table and axiomatically questioned. Acknowledging this contestation, but counter posing it with the conventions of this review, I shall visit the theories of this both complicated and complex field of strategy, within the context of the research question and the theoretical framework that undergirds this study. Put graphically, I attempt to achieve the following as I depict in the model below:

STRATEGY AS A CONCEPT AND THE UNIT OF ANALYSIS, INCLUDING POINTS OF DEPARTURE

Strategy, with its countless meanings, will mainly be viewed conceptually and with broad-brush strokes. I do this whilst questioning the concept of reified strategy and seeking to explore how strategy is practised given the fact that strategy means many things to many people at different places in an organisation. This will be discussed in the appropriate section of the review. I therefore offer strategy as a conflated term, a notion with which other theorists concur;Janczak (2005:64) wonders if it is a “generic organisational phenomenon”from planning to formulation, to management to approach, etc., andZeleny (1997) questions if anyone actually knows what strategy is?
A starting point, often considered for a discussion on strategy, focuseson strategy in relation to mainstream management strategy. However, debating where strategy ‘sits’ in relation to classic business theory (the firm vs. industry, etc.) is not the thrust of this review based on the context of the study (public sector, and not business) and given the driving theoretical approach where strategy is seen as being embedded in people and not things (Whittington 1996, 2006). Furthermore, given complexity and globalisation, and owing to the stellar shifts in the global economy, boundaries between firms and markets, producers and consumers are dissolving (Grant 2000). Luhmann(1985:25) also posits that there are “more possibilities that can be actualised” when one considers complexity within such global systems.
Cummings (2002:79) in Re-creating Strategy speaks of the “conventional (but fabricated) history of management” and makes a case for countering and critiquing this. In What is Strategy-and does it matter?Whittington(1993:11) talks of the “beginnings of a coherent discipline” appearing in the 1960s with the writings of Chandler, Ansoff and Sloan.In Strategy Safari, Mintzberget al(2009:9) argue that:
there is a terrible bias in today’s management literature toward the current, the latest, the ‘hottest.’ This does a disservice, not only to all those wonderful old writers, but especially to the readers who are all too frequently offered the trivial new instead of the significant old.
Foucault (1977) reinforces this and reveal show we create a particular kind of privileging discourse in society, speaking of the spurious battles waged between ‘schools’ of thought. He laments too the loss of the individual unique voice in the conflation of schools. He also highlights how ‘laminated’ theory is, saying that multiple traces are left of individual authors in a composite school.
Boje(2008:162) offers this interpretation: “Strategy schools constitute a monstrous family accomplished with practices of inclusion and exclusion. Instead of leaders, managers, organizers…being classified, it is academic writers who are the heroes.” He also refers to the ‘laminate’ and offers that “Porter…is an integration of Andrews as well as Ansoff” and hints starkly at the ‘murdered authors’ and then ‘traces’ of their ‘rebirth.’ (Ibid:163).
Given that there is no general agreement on starting points and that the field is contested on so many levels, I open the conversation of theorists by highlighting conflicting or consensual ‘points of departure.’ These are guided by the places where the debates on strategy crystallise in a series of texts (cited below) that attempt to constitute strategy as a concept. Given the point and purpose of the literature review, this approach makes sense to me both as writer and guide of this undertaking. This underlines the epistemological and ontological positions made explicit throughout the study and is in line with Galliers and Newell (2003:193)who encourage the developing of “own ‘architectural’ models of understanding, developing, configuring and re-configuring the flow of information, knowledge and wisdom.”

A NOTE ON THE USE OF THE PERSONAL PRONOUN, ‘I’ IN THE REVIEW

A first point of departure, highlighted in ‘my opening note,’ was the choice of whether to use the first person, ‘I’ or not in the literature review.Roos in Innovating strategy process(in Floyd et al2005:260) argues for the foregrounding of the first person given that we deal with sentient, living, and human issues when dealing with strategy. “Strategy researchers should try to remain the cognizing…affective first person narrator they are rather than escaping into the conventions of third-person anonymity.”
I have therefore used the “I’ but done so in balanced proximity with the more formal conventions of this craft of a literature review.

TOWARDS THEORIES ON STRATEGY
East contends with West

“Like butchers, we all chop up reality for our convenience, in some cases using one part of the beast while throwing out the rest…Of course the further back we look, the lumpier it all appears in retrospect. The nuances get lost” (Mintzberget al2009:382). This is Mintzberg’s take on getting into the skin of strategy.
Not surprisingly, in the first ‘chop of reality’ long ago, lies the contestation as to where the concept of ‘strategy’ began: was it in the East or the West? And so, the debate begins…
Sun Tzu’s 300-600BCE military treatise, The Art of War, is regularly referenced in mainstream books and articles on strategy and appears to be viewed as the first written ‘accidental’ ‘reference book’ on strategy. Indeed, the Dover Edition of 2002 highlights Sun Tzu’s currency as a useful guide in terms of how to strategise successfully in competitive business.
Many business and management strategies are based on appropriating the lessons contained in The Art of Warandstrategists reference the drawing of strategic manoeuvres from this ancient slim volume (McNeilly, 2011).
Enter a Western view that claims that even the word ‘strategy’ is derived from militaristic roots. In 508-507BCE, the term strategos was evidently coined in Ancient Athens: stratos meant ‘an army settled in over a terrain’ and age in meaning ‘to lead’ (Cummings 2002:234). Before the middle to late 1960s when the term ‘strategy’ came to be widely used in business-speak, it was mainly used within a military context. These military antecedents and metaphors persist to this day (Whittington 1993).Ansoff (1980:135) is an early founding father of strategy who advocates creating a ‘war room.’ In hearing of approaches such as these, feminists might well argue for relational concepts of strategy (Uhl-Bien 2011).

The‘discipline’of strategy

Whittington (1993:11) speaks of a ‘coherent discipline’ becoming evident between 1962 and 1965 when Alfred Chandler (business historian), Igor Ansoff (theorist) and Alfred Sloan (businessman) established a level of pioneering foundational thinking on strategy.Ansoff (1987:504),in theorising on the accumulation or development of scientific knowledge paradigms,states that “a new part of reality first receives scientific attention in the 1950s,” namely strategic behaviour. Cummings (2002) talks of a singlehanded creation of the paradigm for strategy research in the hands of Chandler.
The following is a foundational definition often cited (Whittington 2008; Grant 1998): “Strategy is the determination of the basic long-term goals of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals.” Chandler is often attributed the accolade of being the founding father of strategy. Within this strategy, executives (male) “co-ordinate, appraise and plan” (Chandler1962:13and8).Strategy is therefore claimed within these views as a rational plan, and many textbooks, reports and articles show neatly linear graphics of the various models of sequential steps of strategy.
Predating this however, in the seminal Volume 1, Number 1 of the Harvard Business Review of 1922, Wallace B. Donham(1922:1) lays the seeds of the idea of strategy as a discipline when he states: “it is pertinent to inquire how the representative practices of business men generally may be made available…and how a proper theory of business is to be obtained.”

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 CONTRIBUTING TO THE BODY OF KNOWLEDGE AND RELEVANCE OF THE STUDY
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT AND ASSUMPTIONS
1.4 RESEARCH PROPOSITION AND QUESTIONS
1.5 BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH SETTING
1.6 DELINEATION AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.7 INITIAL LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
1.8 OUTLINE OF CHAPTERS
1.9 NOTEON PERSONS: THIS DOCTORAL DILEMMA
1.10 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
1.11 ANNEXES OF THE STUDY
1.12 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2 RESEARCH SETTING AND CONTEXT OF OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE WITHIN THE SCOPE OF STUDY
2.1 INTRODUCTION .
2.2 STRATEGY AS PRACTICE: THEORETICAL POINT OF REFERENCE
2.3 SOUTH AFRICA WITHIN THE EVOLVING GLOBAL ARCHITECTURE OF OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE: MACRO PERSPECTIVE
2.4 SOUTH AFRICA WITHIN THE NATIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE: MESO PERSPECTIVE
2.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 LITERATURE REVIEW
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 COMMENCING THE REVIEW
3.3 STRATEGY AS A CONCEPT AND THE UNIT OF ANALYSIS, INCLUDING POINTS OF DEPARTURE .
3.4 A NOTE ON THE USE OF THE PERSONAL PRONOUN, ‘I’ IN THE REVIEW
3.5 TOWARDS THEORIES ON STRATEGY
3.6 TOWARDS THEORIES CONTINUED: HONING IN ON POSITED THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
3.7 SPECIFIC RESEARCH GAPS TO WHICH THIS STUDY RESPONDS
3.8 A MEETING OF STRATEGY AS PRACTICE AND THE NARRATIVE TURN
CHAPTER 4 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4. 2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
4.3 DISCUSSION OF THE MAIN THEORETICAL POSITIONS OF THE FRAMEWORK
4.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
5.1 INTRODUCTION TO THE CHAPTER
5.2 OVERVIEW OF THE CENTRAL APPROACH TO THE STUDY
5.3 STATEMENT OF SUBJECTIVITY
5.4 RESEARCH APPROACHES AND PARADIGM
5.5 GRAPHIC OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
5.6 RESEARCH DESIGN AND THE WHEREFORES
5.7 RESEARCH METHODS
5.8 METHODOLOGICAL NORMS
5.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 6 PRELIMINARY EXPLORATIONSTUDY
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 BACKGROUND TO THE PRELIMINARY EXPLORATION
6.3 DISCUSSION OF THE THEORETICAL LENSES
6.4 OUTLINE OF THE RESEARCH PROCESS FOR THE PRELIMINARY EXPLORATION
6.5 THE PRELIMINARY EXPLORATION ITSELF
6.6 DISCUSSION OF THE DATA OF THE PRELIMINARY EXPLORATION
6.7 IMPLICATIONS FOR MAIN STUDY: REFLECTION
6.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 7 PRESENTATION OF DATA, INTERPRETATION AND THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTION
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 RECAPPING THE MAIN RESEARCH QUESTION AND SUB-QUESTION IN THE LIGHT OF THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
7.3 RESPONDING TO THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
7.4 THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTION
7.5 CONFLUENCE OF THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
7.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 8:CONCLUDING DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
8.1 INTRODUCTION
8.2 SUMMARY OF THE THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS OF THE STUDY
8.3. RELATION OF DATA TO THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
8.4 REALISATION OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND CONSIDERATION OF PRELIMINARY EXPLORATION
8.5 CONCLUDING LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH
8.6 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SOUTH AFRICA’S PRACTICE OF ODA
8.7 IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
8.8 CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
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Strategy in the skin: Strategic practices of South Africa’s Official Development Assistance”

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