Sub-theme 69: Strategy as Practice at the Crossroads: Where to Next?

Paula Jarzabkowski
The University of Queensland, Australia, & City, University of London, United Kingdom
Renate Kratochvil
BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
Shenghui Ma
Fudan University, China

Call for Papers

Strategy-as-practice (SAP) is at a crossroads in what is studied, how it is studied, and by whom. Thus fast, SAP has viewed strategy as a social practice, with an emphasis on what members of an organization 'do' (Whittington, 2006) in enacting strategy. As such, the focus of SAP research has been on the activities and interactions of strategy actors in and around the organization, both in terms of what actors actually do in practice and how they accomplish strategy work. In the last two decades, SAP has successfully established itself as a distinctive approach to strategy research with over 500 published papers. As a research field, it has come from a phase of ‘germination’, and ‘blossoming’ into a phase of ‘harvesting’, where scholars can build on a large existing body of research to further investigate their questions without needing to justify the use of SAP as a theoretical lens (Jarzabkowski, et al., 2022). In recent years SAP scholars have increasingly espoused the desire to broaden the scope of concepts, theories, and methods used (e.g. Jarzabkowski et al., 2021; Ma & Seidl, 2018; Rouleau & Cloutier, 2022; Splitter et al., 2022) and moved beyond so-called ‘micro’ activities to address macro phenomena (e.g., Seidl & Whittington, 2014) such as grand challenges. However, this broadening of scope and blurring of boundaries raises critical questions for SAP researchers about which paths to embark on and where to set boundaries as the next phase of SAP research emerges.
As several scholars have stressed, SAP is at a critical juncture in its development (Jarzabkowski, et al., 2021, 2022; Kohtamäki et al. 2021; Rouleau & Cloutier, 2022). Recent reflections and debates reveal at least four issues that put SAP at a crossroads. First, there have been debates questioning the definition of what is 'strategic' in SAP research and calls for researchers to take charge in deciding and explaining why a practice is of strategic relevance (Jarzabkowski et al., 2021). Second, the notion of ‘practice’ has been questioned in terms of its implications beyond 'just' revealing what people do (Rouleau & Cloutier, 2022). Third, a separate discussion about a ‘practice-based view’ in strategic management (e.g. Bromiley & Rau, 2016; Jarzabkowski et al., 2016) hints towards the risk of topical and geographic disconnection of SAP from the broader field of strategy research. Fourth, recent reviews show that several subcommunities have emerged around distinctive topic areas within SAP research, suggesting that requisite integration might be needed to prevent potential fragmentation and maintain the coherence of the field (Kohtamäki et al. 2021; Vaara & Whittington, 2012).
Together, these issues indicate that SAP is at a crossroads in terms of what it is and is not, the space and place of SAP in the strategy field and the wider management and business field, globally, and how to balance thematic differentiation and integration as a research field. Addressing these issues is critical for reinvigorating the research agenda of SAP for its next stage of development. Building on some recent reflections and debates (Jarzabkowski, et al., 2021, 2022; Kohtamäki et al. 2021; Rouleau & Cloutier, 2022), we call for papers addressing SAP at the crossroads, including pioneering studies that have already embraced one or more new paths. We are interested in conceptual, methodological, and empirical papers utilizing a range of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches. In particular, we are keen to receive papers that provoke and extend what phenomena are studied in SAP research, by whom, and how these phenomena are theorized. Possible topics for contributions include, but are not restricted to the following themes and questions:
What is strategic?

  • Which activities or practice should be considered as strategic in SAP research?

  • How does the meaning of ‘strategy’ in SAP differ from or resonate with other streams of strategy research?

  • What are the theoretical and methodological implications of specific views on ‘what is strategic’ for future SAP research?

What is practice?

  • What does a practice view mean for investigating strategy in terms of theorization and methodology?

  • How does a practice view differ from other views (e.g., strategy process) that share the focus on activities?

  • How may SAP further develop the notion of “practice” by connecting with other streams of practice-based research in management (e.g., entrepreneurship as practice) and broader social science?

How can SAP connect to other streams of strategy and organization research?

  • How can SAP benefit from dialog with other streams of strategy research (e.g., RBV, ABV, strategic leadership, etc.)?

  • How can SAP benefit from dialog with other streams of organization research (e.g., routine dynamics, performativity, etc.)?

  • How can SAP enable us to advance other streams of strategy and organization research?

What are the new phenomena and contexts that SAP research should attend to?

  • How do specific country and institutional context (e.g., countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, or strategy in non-market contexts) shape strategizing?

  • What does strategizing look like in different types and forms of organizations and inter-organizational contexts?

  • How can SAP enable us to better understand topics of societal relevance such as grand challenges?



  • Bromiley P, Rau D (2016) Missing the point of the practice-based view: A comment on Jarzabkowski, Kaplan, Seidl, and Whittington. Strategic Organization 14(3): 260–269.
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Kaplan, S., Seidl, D., & Whittington, R. (2016). If you aren’t talking about practices, don’t call it a practice-based view: Rejoinder to Bromiley and Rau in Strategic Organization. Strategic Organization, 14(3), 270–274.
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Kaplan, S., Seidl, D., & Whittington, R. 2015. On the risk of studying practices in isolation: Linking what, who, and how in strategy research. Strategic Organization, 14(3): 248-259.
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Kavas, M., & Krull, E. 2021. It’s Practice. But is it Strategy? Reinvigorating strategy-as-practice by rethinking consequentiality. Organization Theory, 2(3).
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Seidl , D., & Balogun, J. 2022. From germination to propagation: Two decades of Strategy-as-Practice research and potential future directions. Human Relations, 75(8): 1533-1559.
  • Kohtamäki, M., Whittington, R., Vaara, E., & Rabetino, R. 2021. Making connections: Harnessing the diversity of strategy‐as‐practice research. International Journal of Management Reviews.
  • Ma, S., & Seidl, D. 2018. New CEOs and their collaborators: Divergence and convergence between the strategic leadership constellation and the top management team. Strategic Management Journal, 39(3): 606-638.
  • Rouleau, L., & Cloutier, C. 2022. It’s strategy. But is it practice? Desperately seeking social practice in strategy-as-practice research. Strategic Organization.
  • Seidl, D., & Whittington, R. (2014). Enlarging the strategy-as-practice research agenda: Towards taller and flatter ontologies. Organization Studies, 35(10), 1407-1421.
  • Splitter, V., Jarzabkowski, P., & Seidl, D. 2021. Middle Managers’ Struggle Over Their Subject Position in Open Strategy Processes. Journal of Management Studies.
  • Vaara, E., & Whittington, R. 2012. Strategy-as-Practice: Taking Social Practices Seriously. The Academy of Management Annals, 6(1): 285-336.
  • Whittington, R. 2006. Completing the Practice Turn in Strategy Research. Organization Studies, 27(5): 613-634.
Paula Jarzabkowski is a Professor of Strategic Management at The University of Queensland, Australia, and at City, University of London, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on strategy-as-practice in complex and pluralistic contexts, both inside and across organizations and, most recently, in addressing grand challenges. Paula is experienced in qualitative methods, having used a range of research designs, including cross-sectional and longitudinal case studies, and drawing on multiple qualitative data sources including interviews, observation, audio and video ethnographic techniques, and archival sources to study private and public sector organizations.
Renate Kratochvil is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at the BI Norwegian Business School, Norway. She is interested in ‘what managers do’ in large, complex organisations. In particular, Renate asks how managers generate and implement new ideas, solve complex problems and embrace the opportunities related to digital technologies. Renate uses mainly qualitative methods to collect data and find answers.
Shenghui Ma is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at the School of Management, Fudan University, China. His research focuses on top management team dynamics, strategy as practice, and sensemaking. Shenghui’s work has been published in journals such as the ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Strategic Management Journal’, and ‘Strategic Organization’, among others.