Role of action research in dealing with a traditional process
Kapitel i bok, 2009
Effective strategic management is becoming an increasingly important issue both for practitioners and management scholars. Not only is the process of formulating and implementing strategies given higher priority, but the role and meaning of strategies are also changing (Price, 2003). In the construction industry, however, relatively few companies seem, as yet, to have established a formal strategy process, even though there is considered to be greater awareness of the importance of effective strategic management to enhance performance and profitability (Junnonen, 1998). In the purportedly conservative construction industry, actors prefer adhering to the ‘business as usual’ mindset, which often results in a drift of strategic meanings and ultimate blurring of the organization’s strategic position (Johnson et al., 2005). Following a number of reports of companies’ failure to implement strategies (see, for example, Allio, 2005; Corboy and O’Corrbui, 1999; Kaplan and Norton, 2001), the attention of practitioners and researchers is now shifting from the formulation process to implementation dilemmas (Aaltonen and Ikavalko, 2002). The already growing body of research into strategy implementation seems to agree that one of the main reasons for failure is ineffective organizational communication caused by a lack of consideration of the social environment at the strategy execution level of the organization (Miniace and Falter, 1996). Yet, what is meant by the term ‘communication’ is not defined, and just a few studies have focused on the discursive and rhetorical aspects of strategy communication (Fairhurst et al., 1997; Johansson, 2003; Müllern and Stein, 1999). These studies typically describe managerial strategic communication as being transactional rather than interactional, monologic rather than dialogic and top-down rather than bottom-up. They also characterize strategic rhetoric at the top level of management as abstract rather than concrete, idealistic rather than realistic and distanced rather than proximal. To our knowledge, no such studies have been carried out in the construction industry. The overall purpose of this chapter is, therefore, to report preliminary results from a longitudinal case study of the strategy work carried out in a large Swedish construction company during a period of organizational change. Our concern here is the ways in which the new strategies are communicated down the chain of command in the company: from top management levels via middle management to project management. We focus on the face-to-face communications used by the different managerial levels to disseminate the corporate strategy and the implications this has on the ways in which the strategies are interpreted and understood. Of particular interest in these interactions are the underlying reasons for the different approaches toward strategy implementation. We hope to contribute some insights into the complexity of communicative processes and practices and argue that organizations need to view discursive processes and practices as an integral part of organizing.