Dynamics of Strategic Agency and Participation in Strategy-Making: The Entanglement of Human Actions, IT, and Other Materialities

Dynamics of Strategic Agency and Participation in Strategy-Making: The Entanglement of Human Actions, IT, and Other Materialities

Pikka-Maaria Laine (University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland) and Piritta Parkkari (University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJIDE.2015100103
OnDemand PDF Download:
$37.50

Abstract

Although there are a few studies that have highlighted the role of material artifacts, tools, and technologies as part of strategy-making, researchers need a more profound understanding of the dynamic entangling of human actions and materialities, and the performative effects of this in strategy-making. In particular, there is a paucity of knowledge regarding how the co-constitution of the social and material produce strategic agency. The authors draw from sociomateriality as a practice philosophical perspective to examine the dynamic construction of strategic agency in and through the continuous (re)configuring of human actions, information technology, and other materialities. The authors' study is part of an ongoing ethnographic study of a Finnish entrepreneurship society that promotes startup entrepreneurship. Based on our analysis, the authors distinguish three strategy-making practices: informing the purpose of the entrepreneurship society, enacting startup scene membership, and providing IT services. The authors demonstrate how strategic agency is dispersed to humans, IT, and physical settings. However, the authors argue that it is not sufficient to focus on technologies or other materialities as such, but to acknowledge the whole sociomateriality of practices. Furthermore, the authors also argue that participation in strategy should be seen as a dynamic process of exclusion and inclusion.
Article Preview

1. Introduction

Information and communication technologies are becoming pervasive in many areas of human activity around the world (Walshman, 2012). Technology, especially information technology, has also made its way into strategy work, as software, visual aids, and analytic tools are becoming prevalent in strategy-making (Jarzabkowski & Pinch, 2013). Moreover, there are increasing calls within strategy-as-practice research for an emphasis on material artifacts, technology, and the body in strategy-making (Jarzabkowski et al., 2007; Vaara & Whittington, 2012). This has led to an emerging stream of research on strategy tools, material artifacts, and IT as part of strategy-making (Jarzabkowski et al., 2013; Kaplan, 2011; Stieger et al., 2012). Studies on materiality have provided important insights into the role and implications of material artifacts and technologies in strategy-making. What is not fully understood, though, is the dynamic entangling of human actions and materialities, and the performative effects of this in strategy-making. In particular, there is a paucity of knowledge regarding how the co-constitution of the social and material produce strategic agency.

We address this gap by examining how the continuous (re)configuring of human actions, information technology, and other materialities produce strategic agency. This is important because it extends our understanding of strategic agency, and helps us to explore how a larger number of people can participate in strategy-making in and through materiality. We draw from sociomateriality (Barad, 2003; Orlikowski & Scott, 2008; Suchman, 2007) as a practice philosophical approach (Orlikowski, 2010), because it sets aside the distinctiveness of social and material in favor of the ontological co-constitution of human activity and materialities in practice. It allows for the full acknowledgement of the inherent immanence of materiality in any practice. Social and material are in a constant process of (re)configuring. These sociomaterial configurations are seen as performative, which means that they produce what they are supposed to represent. In our study, we examine how they produce various issues within strategy-making - such as the organization, its purpose and characteristics of actors - in order to be able to highlight the construction of strategic agency. By strategy-making we refer to the actions that are consequential for the strategic outcomes, directions, survival, and competitive advantage of the organization (Johnson, Melin, & Whittington, 2003). Strategic agency, in turn, means a capability to act in strategy-making (Giddens, 2001; Mantere, 2008; Thomas, 2009). We apply sociomateriality as a practice philosophical approach in our empirical study, which is part of an ongoing ethnography in a Finnish entrepreneurship society. Entrepreneurship societies are informal, non-accredited, mostly student-led societies that aim to promote entrepreneurship by arranging various activities around entrepreneurship (Pittaway, Rodriguez-Falcon, Ayiegbayo, & King, 2011).

Our study makes four contributions to strategy-as-practice research. First, we propose a novel practice theoretical approach to examine strategy-making: sociomateriality as a practice philosophical perspective. Second, we demonstrate how strategic agency is produced to both human and non-human actors in and through the continuous (re)configuring of human and non-human actions. Third, our study adds to studies on the role of technology in strategy-making by arguing that it is not sufficient to focus on information technologies – or other materialities – as such, but to acknowledge the whole sociomateriality of strategy practices. Fourth, we demonstrate the continuously changing dynamics of participation in strategy-making.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Reset
Open Access Articles: Forthcoming
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2011)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2010)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing