Strategic planning as communicative process

  • A. Paul Spee

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis looks at the construction of a strategic plan within a British university (Unico). After a change in leadership, the well-known strategic planning sequence was adopted to set directions according to Unico’s three Missions, followed by the development of respective goals and measures. The evolving strategic content coincided with the development of Unico’s strategic plan. I was able to follow Unico’s planning efforts over 10 months, from first planning meeting to completion of its strategic plan. The main data source provided non-participant observation (n = 25) and ten versions of Unico’s strategic plan. Additionally, seventy-six interviews were held with participants at various points. In order to examine the strategic plan’s construction, I reconceptualised strategic planning as a communicative process consisting of oral talk and written text. Through this interplay strategic planning activities come in to being. Such reconceptualisation provided a conceptual framework to study the in situ interactions without neglecting contextual characteristics embedding the communicative process. Strategic plans are currently seen as promoting inflexibility and reinforcing the institutional nature of formal strategic planning. Adopting dialogism, as advocated by Bakhtin and Ricoeur, this research provides novel insights into the dialogic of strategy talk and strategy text, such as a strategic plan. Findings illustrated that a strategic plan production cycle provided a meaning making platform for its participants. Through recurrently amending the plan, its content became increasingly specific while at the same time reflecting agreed terminology. This thesis offers an alternative view on strategic planning, elaborates on the strategy-as-practice perspective, focusing on the under-explored area of individuals’ interactions at the micro level, and elaborates on the dialogic of text and agency/conversation, distinguishing between talk and text.
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaula A Jarzabkowski (Supervisor) & Efstathios Tapinos (Supervisor)


  • strategic planning
  • communicative process

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