Strategy processes are becoming more open by increasing transparency and inclusion. This openness is even more relevant when managers engage with grand societal challenges and complex, emergent technologies characterized by radical uncertainty. Inclusive strategizing makes more strategic information available and enables more internal and external stakeholders to engage in strategic conversations. Under which conditions is it beneficial for companies to open their strategy process, and when should they opt for more secrecy? What are the intended and unintended consequences of openness along the strategy process? What are potential “side effects?” What is the right balance of “openness” and “closure” in the strategy process? What are the barriers for more openness, and how can they be overcome? Additionally, it is intriguing to investigate how new technologies alter the very process of strategy and, consequently, impact social and organizational structures, power distribution and roles of an organization. This track welcomes all research proposals related to these themes across a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives.
Recently I had been elected to the leadership track of the Strategizing Activities and Practices (SAP) Interest Group in the Academy of Managment (AoM). This means that I will be responsible for co-organizing the interest group’s program at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management for the next five years, starting in 2020. So at this year’s Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Boston I was not only taking part in the academic program but also had several meetings preparing me for my duties in this regard. In 2020, my main responsibility will be to organize the various Professional Development Workshops (PDWs) of the Interest Group. In case you have ideas or proposals regarding this part of the meeting’s program, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Below is a list of my scholarly contributions at this year’s AoM Annual Meeting:
“From Programmatic to Constitutive Perspectives: Two Approaches to Studying Openness in Strategy and Beyond” in a Professional Development Workshop on “Open Strategy: Practices and Perspectives” (see slides below; slides of all contributors are available at the Open Strategy Network).
Two facets are all but universally present in current works on Open Strategy. First, while being aware of and addressing challenges and dilemmas associated with openness in strategy making (Hautz et al., 2017), increasing openness is mostly perceived as normatively good, as an ideal that should be achieved. […] Second, openness is mostly considered to be the opposite of closure, or at least the other endpoint of a continuum from closedness to various degrees of openness in terms of greater transparency or inclusion (Whittington et al., 2011).
Taken together, an affirmative perspective on openness as opposed to closure is central to a currently dominant programmatic approach, which is mainly concerned with putting openness into practice and unleashing its respective potential. However, as we will argue in this chapter, addressing many of the tensions or dilemmas observed in empirical endeavours to implement greater ‘openness’ could potentially benefit from another perspective, which understands openness (and closure) as a paradox (Putnam et al., 2016) where openness and closure appear contradictory but yet simultaneously depend on each other. Key for such a constitutive approach towards openness is that this paradox cannot be dissolved entirely but only addressed in a specific way, namely by legitimate forms of closure.
Every other year (see post on the last visit in 2016) I enjoy taking part in the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, the world’s largest conference for management and organization studies scholars. This year the conference took place in Chicago. The following list is about my main activities there:
I was given the opportunity to take part as a facilitator in a Professional Development Workshop of the Strategizing Activities and Practices (SAP) Interest Group on “Advancing SAP Research”.
In the same session entitled “Expanding the Boundaries of Open Strategizing“, I was also invited to act as a commentator on each of the other three papers in the session, all of which offered new perspectives and great empirical data on openness in strategy-making.
Interestingly and as a potential long-term save-the-date, the Academy of Management announced that for the first time in its history, the conference will take place in Europe – more specifically, in Copenhagen – in 2025. I am really looking forward to this event, albeit being curious how Copenhagen will manage to cope with hosting so many management and organization scholars at once. Probably should already think about booking a hotel room.. 😉
My sister, Laura (Radboud University in Nijmegen, NL), our colleague Gordon Müller-Seitz (TU Kaiserlautern), and I have looked at an open strategy-making process of Wikimedia, the non-profit foundation behind the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. In the paper “Closing for the Benefit of Openness?“, which is now open access available at the journal Organization Studies, we find that “simply” opening up preexisting organizational processes tends to reproduce or even reinforce social inequalities already in place. To enable broad participation and to reach out to particularly marginalized groups, openness is depending on certain forms of (procedural) closure. Pleas find the abstract of the paper below:
A growing number of organizations subscribe to ideals of openness in areas such as innovation or strategy-making, supported by digital technologies and fuelled by promises of better outcomes and increased legitimacy. However, by applying a relational lens of inclusion and exclusion, we argue that, paradoxically, certain forms of closure may be necessary to achieve desired open qualities in strategy-making. Analysing the case of Wikimedia, which called for participation in a globally open strategy-making process, we show that openness regarding participation in crafting strategy content depends on certain forms of closure regarding procedures of the strategy-making process. Against this background, we propose a two-dimensional framework of openness, in which content-related and procedural openness are characterized by a combination of open and closed elements.
In the wake of new digital technologies, organizations rely increasingly on contributions by external actors to innovate or even to fulfill their core tasks, including strategy-making processes. These external actors may take the form of crowds, where actors are isolated and dispersed, or of communities, where these actors are related and self-identify as members of their communities. While we know that including new actors in strategy-making may lead to tensions, we know little about how these tensions differ when either crowds or communities are concerned. Investigating this question by analyzing open strategy-making initiatives conducted by two non-profit organizations (Creative Commons and Wikimedia), we find that tensions with communities may be resolved with increasing openness in strategy-making, while crowds are better compatible with more exclusive strategy-making practices.
The full text of the article is available at the journal’s website. As usual, please send me an e-mail in case you are interested but your institution does not provide access to the journal.
Thomas Gegenhuber and I have tracked open strategy-making practices on blogs of two ventures (Berlin-based mite and buffer in San Francisco) over the period of four years to answer the research question “how new ventures use open strategy-making as impression management over time?”. The article entitled “Making an Impression Through Openness: How Open Strategy-Making Practices Change in the Evolution of New Ventures” has now been accepted for publication in Long Range Planning as part of a special issue on Open Strategy (edited by Julia Hautz, David Seidl and Richard Whittington). The abstract reads as follows:
While previous open strategy studies have acknowledged open strategy’s function as an impression management instrument, their focus has mostly been on short episodes. The impression management literature, meanwhile, pays openness scant attention. By studying how new ventures engage in open strategy-making, we track how open strategy-making and respective impression management benefits evolve over time. Specifically, we draw on a comparative case study of two firms’ blog communication on strategy-related issues and corresponding audience responses over a four-year period. We identify three distinct modes of how organizations engage in open strategy-making with external audiences and show how each mode is related to a specific set of impression management effects. Having established the impression management functions of these modes, we then demonstrate how open strategy-making contributes to new ventures’ quests for legitimacy as they evolve. In the launch phase, dialoguing with blog audiences helps a venture attract endorsements for its organization and products. As the venture grows, concentrating on broadcasting relevant strategic information may attract media audiences’ additional support for pursuing openness as a desirable organizational practice.