A Social-symbolic Work Perspective on Strategy as Practice: the Objects of Strategy Work

Tyson Rallens, Thomas B. Lawrence and Nelson Phillips (In press) In Damon Golsorkhi, Linda Rouleau, David Seidl and Eero Vaara (Editors), Cambridge handbook of strategy as practice (3rd edition). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2023

32 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2023

See all articles by Tyson Rallens

Tyson Rallens

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Thomas Lawrence

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Nelson Phillips

Imperial College Business School

Date Written: July 31, 2023

Abstract

The social-symbolic work perspective directs attention to the purposeful, reflexive efforts of organizational actors to shape or maintain parts of the social world, which are called social-symbolic objects. While this perspective shares much with other branches of strategy-as-practice research, it can be a useful complement to other approaches. In particular, the concept of social-symbolic objects highlights a neglected question in strategy-as-practice: what do strategy practitioners work on? In this chapter, we summarize the social-symbolic work perspective and then demonstrate how it can contribute to strategy-as-practice research by using it to clarify the concept of strategy work. Strategy work is a core construct for strategy-as-practice research but one that has remained ambiguous, with it often difficult to know what counts as strategy work. To remedy this ambiguity, we conceptualize strategy work as a kind of social-symbolic work defined by its focus on specific social-symbolic objects. We identify a range of social-symbolic objects discussed in strategy-as-practice literature and map these objects into three categories: strategy objects, strategic objects, and strategists (as objects). We then examine how actors combine strategy work into programs of action and how objects of strategy work are embedded in broader ecologies of social-symbolic objects. Finally, we outline two opportunities for future research: using social-symbolic objects as a sensitizing lens for strategy-as-practice research; and using our approach to mapping objects of strategy work in other domains of social-symbolic work.

Keywords: social-symbolic work, strategy-as-practice, social-symbolic objects

Suggested Citation

Rallens, Tyson and Lawrence, Thomas and Phillips, Nelson, A Social-symbolic Work Perspective on Strategy as Practice: the Objects of Strategy Work (July 31, 2023). Tyson Rallens, Thomas B. Lawrence and Nelson Phillips (In press) In Damon Golsorkhi, Linda Rouleau, David Seidl and Eero Vaara (Editors), Cambridge handbook of strategy as practice (3rd edition). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4527365

Tyson Rallens

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Thomas Lawrence (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Nelson Phillips

Imperial College Business School ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

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