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The double edge of ambiguity in strategic planning

Abdallah, Chahrazad and Langley, A. (2013) The double edge of ambiguity in strategic planning. Journal of Management Studies 49 (8), ISSN 0022-2380.

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While the communications and strategy literatures have suggested that ambiguity embedded in texts such as strategic plans many enable the accommodation of divergent perspectives and contribute to building consensus and commitment, little is known about the consequences of such ambiguity for the consumption of strategy discourse or for the enactment of planned strategy. In a case study of strategic planning in a cultural organization, we identify three forms of ambiguity embedded in the strategy text, and show how these features generate different forms of consumption among organization members. We find that strategic ambiguity initially plays an enabling role as participants engage in enacting their respective interpretations of strategy. However, over time, the mobilizing effects of strategic ambiguity lead to internal contradiction and overextension. The study contributes by exploring empirically the double-edged nature of strategic ambiguity, and by identifying the underlying mechanisms by which its paradoxical consequences emerge. We show that while ambiguous strategy discourse enables strategic development and change, it may contain the seeds of its own dissolution contributing to cyclical patterns of strategy development and reorientation.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): strategic ambiguity, interpretive discourse analysis, strategic planning, cultural organizations
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Business, Economics & Informatics > Management
Depositing User: Chahrazad Abdallah
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2012 12:57
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33

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