The dominant strategy discourse projects strategy as rational and calculable. However, leading academics conclude that strategy is “elusive” and “complex”. The purpose of this paper is to unravel strategy's elusiveness and unpack its complexity through empirical hermeneutic investigation.
Strauss' grounded theory is used to investigate leisure and cultural managers' understanding of strategy‐making. Data were collected through multiple interviews with senior managers of a local authority, and the organisation's strategy documents were examined. The grounded theory's transferability to organisations in, and outside, public leisure and culture was provisionally tested.
It was found that in making strategy, managers engage in purposeful, complex processes, here termed “navigational translation” which have mutually impacting relationships with organisational resources, the environment and managers' character, explaining its complexity and elusiveness. The provisional testing of navigational translation's transferability suggests that it has scope beyond public sector leisure and cultural strategy.
As this research focused on theory generation, a main limitation is its small‐scale testing of navigational translation's transferability. Future research could test transferability with more organisations in leisure, culture and other fields.
This explanation provides a robust understanding of strategy that could improve practice. It empowers managers so that they are no longer subjugated to unrealisable expectations that rationalistic strategy tools will work in a complex world.
Navigational translation offers a richer, practitioner‐oriented understanding of strategy, which utilises leading academic explanations from the various, competing and divergent strategy schools into a pragmatic, multiparadigmatic framework.
Bakir, A. and Bakir, V. (2006), "Unpacking complexity, pinning down the “elusiveness” of strategy: A grounded theory study in leisure and cultural organisations", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 152-172. https://doi.org/10.1108/17465640610718761Download as .RIS
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