Temporal Work in Strategy Making

Organization Science, Forthcoming

Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2119998

49 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2012 Last revised: 8 Oct 2012

See all articles by Sarah Kaplan

Sarah Kaplan

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Wanda J. Orlikowski

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: July 30, 2012

Abstract

This paper reports on a field study of strategy making in one organization facing an industry crisis. In a comparison of five strategy projects, we observed that organizational participants struggled with competing interpretations of what might emerge in the future, what was currently at stake, and even what had happened in the past. We develop a model of temporal work in strategy making that articulates how actors resolved differences and linked their interpretations of the past, present, and future so as to construct a strategic account that enabled concrete strategic choice and action. We found that settling on a particular account required it to be coherent, plausible and acceptable, otherwise breakdowns resulted. Such breakdowns could impede progress, but could also be generative in provoking a search for new interpretations and possibilities for action. The more intensely actors engaged in temporal work, the more likely the strategies departed from the status quo. Our model suggests that strategy cannot be understood as the product of more or less accurate forecasting without considering the multiple interpretations of present concerns and historical trajectories that help to constitute those forecasts. Projections of the future are always entangled with views of the past and present, and temporal work is the means by which actors construct and reconstruct the connections among them. These insights into the mechanisms of strategy making help explain the practices and conditions that produce organizational inertia and change.

Keywords: temporal work, strategy as practice, practice lens, projective agency, cognition, sensemaking, provisional settlements, breakdowns

JEL Classification: M10, M19, L20, L21

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Sarah and Orlikowski, Wanda J., Temporal Work in Strategy Making (July 30, 2012). Organization Science, Forthcoming, Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2119998, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2119998

Sarah Kaplan (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

Wanda J. Orlikowski

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E53-329
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-0443 (Phone)
617-258-7579 (Fax)

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