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Strategy-as-Power: Ambiguity, Contradiction and the Exercise of Power in a UK Building Society

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2010
Issue number2
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)151-175
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


'Strategy-as-practice (s-a-p) scholars have urged us to attend to the messy realities of strategy so as to increase the relevance of research for practitioners. This article, whilsts recognising the need to focus on what managers do, develops a critique of this literature. It argues that the s-a-p approach (Whittington, Jarzabkowski, Johnson, Balogun) and the earlier 'Power School' (Mintzberg, Pettigrew, Pfeffer) share much in common as both present power as the possession of management. This overstates the ability of managers to control others whilst understating the scope for resistance. Second, it asserts that both approaches would benefit from greater sensitivity towards the unequal context through which strategies emerge and that they serve, in part, to reproduce. Third, the article provides an empirical case study of strategy in a UK Building Society. It attends to how power is exercised in ambiguous and contradictory ways that both supports and thwarts managerial endeavours. Through considering the uncertainty that results from this, the case reflects on the possibilities for resistance. The central argument is that if we explore practice only from management's perspective, then we are in danger of not only reinforcing the status quo but also of being irrelevant to practitioners and wider constituents.