Strategic Practice Drift: How Open Strategy Infiltrates the Strategy Process

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


This paper builds theory on the process of open-strategy infiltration through an ethnographic study investigating how open strategy entered a financial services firm's strategy process behind the backs of top managers. Based on our analysis, we show how open strategy infiltrates the strategy process through a ‘strategic practice drift’, i.e., a gradual and partly unnoticed shift towards open strategy that occurs through ‘accommodating’ and ‘legitimizing’ the performance of transparency and inclusion in the strategy process. We show how the ‘goal-based ambiguity’ and ‘procedural certainty’ of initiatives that latently imply the performance of transparency and inclusion in the strategy process enable open-strategy infiltration. Furthermore, we show how top managers' ‘goal-based rationalization’ and ‘procedural renegotiation’ of practising transparency and inclusion contribute to the eventual reproduction of open strategy in the strategy process. Our model generates an understanding of how and why open strategy can enter the strategy process behind the backs of top managers and adds nuance to extant understandings of the role of top managers in this process. In addition, our findings contribute to research on strategy as practice by theorizing ‘strategic practice drifts’ and extending our understanding of the role of ambiguity therein.

ZeitschriftJournal of Management Studies
Seiten (von - bis)820-856
Anzahl der Seiten37
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 05.2024

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We are indebted to the handling Editor John Prescott as well as three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive guidance. We also thank the members of the LOST (Leuphana Organization Studies) group, participants of the European University Viadrina's virtual paper sessions, of the OT@IOA paper development workshop at the Department of Organization, CBS, and of the SAP IG's ‘open strategy’ paper session at AOM 2020 for insightful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Furthermore, the empirical work underpinning this publication was part of a larger research project on uncertainties in strategy implementation funded by PMI's Brightline Initiative at the Department of Technology, Leadership and Economy at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). We would like to thank the Brightline Initiative for their financial support, and Josef Oehmen, the Principal Investigator, for his trust and support enabling the work. Finally, we would like to thank FFR – the financial services firm that formed the basis of our empirical work – for their openness and close collaboration.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Management Studies published by Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.