Strategic Orientation And Identity In Nascent Organizational Contexts: The Role Of Strategy Workshops

Research output: Working paper


Formal strategic practices, such as workshops and meetings, have been studied as key arenas for decision making and strategizing within firms that ultimately influence firms’ strategic outcomes (Hendry and Seidl, 2003, Bourque and Johnson, 2008, Hodgkinson et al., 2006, Jarzabkowski and Spee, 2009, Kwon, Clarke and Wodak, 2014). Thus, we know that meeting practices influence subsequent stabilization or destabilization of organizations’ strategic orientations (Jarzabkowski and Seidl, 2008) and that characteristics of ritualization practices during strategy workshops influence the degree to which they achieve the objectives of the workshops (Johnson et al., 2010). Research also suggests that the role and identity of actors in the strategizing process influence their support for strategic initiatives (Lounsbury and Crumley, 2007, Balogun and Johnson, 2005, Sillince and Mueller, 2007). Sillince and Mueller (2007), for instance, show how middle managers “talk up” or “talk down” expectations for corporate strategy depending on whether the strategy is perceived to succeed or fail respectively while Balogun and Johnson (2005) show that during radical organizational restructuring informal interaction between middle managers leads to emergent change outcomes, i.e., changes not originally intended by top managers.
Underlying these studies is the assumption—often articulated by the practitioners being studied (Jarzabkowski, 2005, p. 13)—of stable roles and identities for the strategists or the organization. This assumption is not surprising because SAP research has been largely conducted in established organizational settings, such as universities (Jarzabkowski and Seidl, 2008, Jarzabkowski, 2003), multinational enterprises (Jarzabkowski and Balogun, 2009) and large multi-business firms (Paroutis and Pettigrew, 2007). In established organizations, organizational identities, structures and employees’ professional identities and cognitive frames are likely to have congealed, except during periods of notable controversies or environmental turbulence (Corley and Gioia, 2004, Kaplan, 2008, Ambos and Birkinshaw, 2010). In nascent ventures, however, organizational identities—members’ notions of “who we are” (Santos and Eisenhardt, 2005)—and structures may be malleable or undeveloped as employees may have no shared history (Santos and Eisenhardt, 2005, Lounsbury and Glynn, 2001). Furthermore, as Marquis and Tilcsik (2013, p. 197) observe, the formative stages of an organization’s life are “brief sensitive periods of transition” during which founding members stamp their distinctive characteristics, such as their strategy preferences (Harris and Ogbonna, 1999) and management practices (Baron, Hannan and Burton, 1999), which may persist in the organizations long after the founding members leave. Thus, we know less about the role of strategy practices, such as strategy workshops, in such nascent organizations. My research question is, “what is the role of strategy workshops in forming organizational identity in a nascent enterprise?”
Nascent social enterprises are a particular fascinating context to study questions of identity development and strategic orientation because they not only have to cope with the challenges of growth (Ambos and Birkinshaw, 2010, McKelvie and Wiklund, 2010), but also those of identity. This is because social enterprises combine two or more incompatible “archetypal configurations of organizational structures and practices” (Battilana, Besharov and Mitzinneck, 2017, p. 135), such as commercial and non-profit organizational forms, and have employees who may hold distinct but deeply-held professional identities (Glynn, 2000, Battilana and Dorado, 2010). These, in turn, have the potential to lead to intractable conflict and ultimate organizational failure (Glynn, 2000, Battilana and Dorado, 2010).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019



  • Strategy workshop
  • Organizational identity
  • Strategic decision making

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