School of Business publications portal
This portal is no longer updated. Aalto University School of Business Master's Theses are now in the Aaltodoc publication archive (Aalto University institutional repository)
School of Business | Department of Management and International Business | Organization and Management | 2013
Thesis number: 13235
Why does strategy matter to us? Narrative study on people making sense of business strategies on a personal level
Author: Paila, Toni
Title: Why does strategy matter to us? Narrative study on people making sense of business strategies on a personal level
Year: 2013  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management and International Business
Academic subject: Organization and Management
Index terms: johtaminen; management; organisaatio; organization; strategia; strategy; liiketalous; business economics; tarina; narrative
Pages: 63
Key terms: strategy as a practice; personal; narratives; sensemaking
Strategy is often associated with a solid top management direction and high importance. In a similar vein, dominant view on strategy considers that winning and surviving in a fiercely competitive business environment is a consequence of successful business strategies. In a narrow sense, one can see strategy making and strategizing separate from the execution of the plans. Further, such view highlights that the strategy is the art of the few while the rest of people in the organizations are to follow the approved plans. It is exactly these points and these assumptions for which the practice turn in strategy research provides an alternative view. Namely, the prevailing positivistic view is criticized as being disconnected from the reality, from the everyday practices and activities that take place in organizations. The point of critique is that strategy cannot be separated from the actions of everyone within the companies. Therefore point of departure is to see strategy as something people do rather than what organizations and companies possess. This growing body of research - studying strategy as a sum of actions, events and discussions of everyday people in everyday business - is also the foundation of my study. However, in the practice turn of the strategy research, the personal effects and motivations have not been so far been the focus of the research. Why does strategy matter to us, on a personal level? What is there in the strategy that moves us, makes us feel? My goal in this study was to shed more light on such questions.

In this study I interviewed five employees of an organizational unit that had recently gone through a major reorganization. As a research methodology I adopted narrative co-creation and analysis. In other words, I was present in the research as a co-creator of narratives as well as a researcher providing the analysis and writing this report. I utilized semi-structured interviews to co-create stories about personally relevant and important aspects, events or occasions where business strategy mattered to my informants. I analysed the each of the stories reflecting my own background and assumptions hence revealing how I made sense of the narratives that were co-created. As a result I got five quite different stories. There was a story about personal growth, a story about losing the thrill of doing new things, a story about survival from the reorganization, a story about two heroes and good old times, and finally a story about irreplaceability of practical hands-on expertise. In each of these stories the informant told about strategy, made sense of it, helped me to make sense of it and represented himself in relation to the strategy. Exactly this way people make strategy as in practice, by talking about it, by negotiating about its meanings, by explaining to itself and others. The stories and narratives are not only a vehicle for qualitative research but also the natural way we work, behave and influence each other. Therefore I hope, through this study, I have been able to add more depth and richness to the area of research in strategy as a practice.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.