Sub-theme 70: Strategy Practices and Performativity: Understanding Strategy as Performative Practice

Laure Cabantous
Cass Business School, City University London, UK
Martin Kornberger
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
David Seidl
University of Zurich, Switzerland

Call for Papers

The concept of performativity – derived from Austin's (1962) insight that some statements do not describe an external reality but actually "do things" and perform this reality – has generated many fruitful ideas in philosophy and the social sciences (e.g., Butler, Callon, Barad). These ideas have, in turn, influenced organization scholars in various streams of research (Gond et al., 2015; Guérard et al., 2011, Diedrich et al., 2013), including gender studies (Tyler & Cohen, 2010), critical management studies (Spicer et al., 2009), communication (Cooren, 2004), and information technology (Orlikowski & Scott, 2014). These studies emphasize the generative power of the concept of performativity, and illustrate its potential for organization studies.

In the field of strategy, to date there are only few accounts that utilize the notion of performativity. For instance, Vaara et al. (2010) are interested in the discursive aspect of strategy and investigate the power of strategic plans; Kornberger and Clegg (2011) rely on Austin to discuss how the "discourse of strategy" acts performatively in the context of New Public Management; Guérard et al. (2013) invite strategy scholars to adopt a performativity perspective to rethink the concept of performance; Cabantous and Gond (2011) build on Callon (1988, 2007) to explore the performative power of rational choice theory and strategic decision-making. D'Adderio (2008) builds both on Feldman notion of performative routine and Callon's approach to performativity to better theorise routines (see also D’Adderio & Pollock, 2014); Ottosson & Galis (2013) engage with Callon's notion of performativity to study how corporate strategy is justified; and Doganova and Eyquem-Renault (2009) conceptualize business models as a performative device.

Building on and extending this line of inquiry, this sub-theme invites strategy scholars to explore the generative possibilities of the concept of performativity. The sub-theme seeks to widen and deepen the engagement with one (or more) conceptualization(s) of performativity, such as that of Austin (performativity as doing things with words); Butler (performativity as actors' constituting the self); Barad (performativity as socio-material mattering); Callon (performativity as bringing theory into being), or the communicative school of communication (Cooren, 2004; cf. Gond et al. [2015] for an overview). By relying on one (or several) conceptualization of performativity, strategy scholars will be able to further the understanding of strategy, its practice and (unintended) effects, as well as focus on new phenomena that have so far been under-studied, such as the materiality and strategy; aesthetics of strategizing; strategizing as mobilizing collective action, etc.

We welcome papers, both empirical and conceptual, that engage with the concept of performativity to study strategy-related phenomena, such the discourse(s) and texts of strategy, the practice of strategy making (both back stage, and front stage), the relationships between strategy and performance, the collective dimension of strategy (i.e., strategizing as distributed activity).

In particular, we welcome work that is inspired by, but not limited to, the following key issues:

  • Performativity of strategy discourse, including the constitutive role of models, diagrams, metaphors, charts, etc.
  • Performativity and power relations in strategy practice, including their constraining and enabling effects
  • Reconsidering the roles of tools and (e)valuation devices (Lamont, 2012; Vatin, 2013) in strategy practice including accounting, financial, and other calculative practices
  • Focusing on the non-human agency and its performative effects, including algorithms, technologies, etc.
  • Theorizing performative effects of strategizing in the context of distributed collective action, including strategies of social movements, networks, communities etc.
  • The performative roles of the academic strategy discourse including the performative effect of strategy theories (e.g., blue ocean strategy; RBV models; Porter's 5 Forces framework, etc.)




  • Austin, J.L. (1962): How to Do Things with Words. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Barad, K. (2003): "Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28 (3), 801–831.
  • Butler, J. (1997): Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. London: Routledge.
  • Butler, J. (2010): "Performative Agency." Journal of Cultural Economy, 3 (2), 147–161.
  • Cabantous, L., & Gond, J.-P. (2011): "Rational decision making as performative praxis: Explaining rationality's Éternel Retour." Organization Science, 22 (3), 573–586.
  • Callon, M. (2007): "What does it mean to say that economics is performative?" In: D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa & L. Siu (eds.): Do Economists Make Markets? On the Pperformativity of Economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Callon, M. (ed.) (1998): The Laws of the Markets. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Callon, M., & Muniesa, F. (2005): "Economic markets as calculative collective devices." Organization Studies, 26 (8), 1229–1250.
  • Cooren, F. (2004): "Textual agency: How texts do things in organizational settings." Organization, 11 (3), 373–393.
  • D'Adderio, L. (2008): "The performativity of routines: Theorising the influence of artefacts and distributed agencies on routines dynamics." Research Policy, 37 (5), 769–789.
  • D'Adderio, L., & Pollock, N. (2014): "Performing Modularity: Competing Rules, Performative Struggles and the Effect of Organizational Theories on the Organization." Organization Studies, 35 (12), 1813–1843.
  • Diedrich, A., et al. (2013): Exploring the Performativity Turn in Management Studies. GRI rapport 2013:2. Gothenburg Research Institute.
  • Doganova, L., & Eyquem-Renault, M. (2009): "What do business model do? Innovation devices in technology entrepreneurship." Research Policy, 38 (10), 1559–1570.
  • Ford, J.D. , & Ford, L.W. (1995): "The role of conversations in producing intentional change in organizations." Academy of Management Review, 20 (3), 541–570.
  • Guérard, S., Langley, A. & Seidl, D. (2013): "From performance to performativity in strategy research." M@n@gement, 16 (5), 264–276.
  • Gond, J.-P., Cabantous, L., Harding, N., & Learmonth, M. (2015): "What Do We Mean by Performativity in Organizational and Management Theory? The Uses and Abuses of Performativity." International Journal of Management Reviews, published online 7th July 2015, DOI: 10.1111/ijmr.12074.
  • Hardy, C., Palmer, I., & Phillips, N. (2000): "Discourse as a Strategic Resource." Human Relations, 53 (9), 1227–1248.
  • Kornberger, M., & Clegg, S. (2011): "Strategy as performative practice: The case of Sydney 2030." Strategic Organization, 9 (2), 136–162.
  • Lamont, M. (2012): "Toward a comparative sociology of valuation and evaluation." Annual Review of Sociology, 38 (21), 201–221.
  • Muniesa, F. (2014): The Provoked Economy. Economic Reality and the Performative Turn. London: Routledge.
  • Nyberg, D. (2009): " Computers, customer service operatives and cyborgs: Intra-actions in call centres." Organization Studies, 30 (11), 1181–1199.
  • Ottosson, M., & Galis, V. (2013): "Multiplicity Justifies Corporate Strategy: The Case of Stora Enso, 1990–2008." Journal of Cultural Economy, 4 (4), 455–475.
  • Orlikowski, W.J., & Scott, S.V. (2014): "What happens when evaluation goes online? Exploring apparatuses of valuation in the travel sector." Organization Science, 25 (3), 868–891.
  • Perkmann, M., & Spicer, A. (2010): "What are business models? Developing a theory of performative representations." In: N. Phillips, G. Sewell & D. Griffiths (eds.): Technology and Organization: Essays in Honour of Joan Woodward. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 29. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 265–275.
  • Spicer, A., Alvesson, M., & Kärreman, D. (2009): "Critical performativity: The unfinished business of critical management studies." Human Relations, 62 (4), 537–560.
  • Tyler, M., & Cohen, L. (2010): "Spaces that matter: Gender performativity and organizational space." Organization Studies, 31 (2), 175–198.
  • Vaara, E., Sorsa, V., & Pälli, P. (2010): "On the force potential of strategy texts: A critical discourse analysis of a strategic plan and its power effects in a city organization." Organization, 17 (6), 685–702.
  • Vatin, F. (2013): "Valuation as evaluating and valorizing." Valuation Studies, 1 (1), 31–50.


Laure Cabantous is Senior Lecturer at Cass Business School, City University London, UK. She studies calculative practices and the performative power of models in organizational life. Her research has been published in journals such as the 'Journal of Management', 'Organization Science', and 'Organization Studies'.
Martin Kornberger is Professor for Strategy and Organization at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. He is a Visiting Professor at Edinburgh University Business School, UK, and at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria.
David Seidl is Professor of Organization and Management at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Until 2013 he was a member of the EGOS Board and co-organizer of the EGOS Standing Work Group (SWG) "Strategizing Activities and Practices". He is also a member of several editorial boards, including 'Journal of Management Studies', 'Organization Studies', 'Strategic Organization' and 'Organization'.