Understanding operations strategizing in project-based organisations: middle managers’ interaction and strategy praxis
Journal article, 2015
The study of operations strategy (OS) in production organisations has largely focused on the content of highlevel
strategies, and less on their practical enactment. Little attention has been paid to the middle managers
who mediate the space between the strategic intent of production organisations and their operational realities.
The role and strategic agency of such managers has been shown to be influential in shaping, impeding and
enabling OS, but they remain surprisingly absent from much project organisation literature. In this paper, we
examine the role of middle managers in OS practice via a Strategy-as-Practice framework. We study two
project-based organisations, one in Denmark and one in UK, developing lean production processes. In the
Danish case, the change strategy was initiated bottom-up from the project actors, whereas in the UK, the
change strategy was imposed top-down as a strategic management initiative. In both cases, middle managers
played a crucial role in mediating and translating intention. We show how strategy praxis, and the leadership
of operations, is highly distributed within project-based organisations regardless of where change is initiated
from. The findings have resonances for theory on the agency of middle managers, and for the understanding
of micro activities of OS formulation and implementation within project-based forms of organisation.