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Work-task types, stages, and information-seeking behavior of strategic planners

Yuelin Li (Department of Information Resources Management, Nankai University, Tianjin, China)
Ying Li (Department of Information Resources Management, Nankai University, Tianjin, China)
Ying Pan (Besunyen Holdings Company Limited, Beijing, China)
Hongliang Han (Department of Information Resources Management, Nankai University, Tianjin, China)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 5 September 2018

Issue publication date: 7 January 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine information-seeking behavior (ISB) of strategic planners in enterprise across different work-task types and stages.


A case study was conducted in a pharmaceutical company in China, labeled as T Company. One of the authors worked in the department of strategic planning of this company as an intern. The data were collected via participant observation and unstructured in-depth interviews. Open coding was performed to analyze the data.


Four work-task stages were identified: project preparation, gathering, discovery and presentation, and strategy formulation. The results indicate that work-task types, work-task stages, and strategic planners’ work role or position affect their information needs, source selection, and seeking process. Task complexity, task familiarity, and task goal are of the most important task attributes that directly shape strategic planners’ ISB. Work role determines the extent to which strategic planners can access the information of the company. Internal information has priority, but external information is also important when internal information is not sufficient; both are equally important for strategic planning projects. Social media has been a very important channel to access, disseminate and share information. Workshops are an important approach to producing final project reports. Face-to-face discussion and information exchange play a critical role in the formulation of new strategies.

Research limitations/implications

This is a case study with data collected from only one company in China. Some of the results may not be generalizable. However, it adds new knowledge to ISB research in enterprise, informs people how to provide better information services for strategic planners, and informs MBA education for students’ better information-seeking skills.


Though myriad studies on ISB, little research has been done to examine strategic planners’ ISB from a business context, especially taking into account the effect of work-task types and stages.



This study was sponsored by the National Social Science Foundation of China (No. 17AZD036). We also appreciate the support from T Company and all participants of this study. Without their generous help, we could not finish this study. We also appreciate the reviewers and benefit a lot from their comments.


Li, Y., Li, Y., Pan, Y. and Han, H. (2019), "Work-task types, stages, and information-seeking behavior of strategic planners", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 1, pp. 2-23.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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