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Strategy as practical coping: a Heideggerian perspective

Chia, R. and Holt, R. (2006) Strategy as practical coping: a Heideggerian perspective. Organization Studies, 27 (5). pp. 635-655. ISSN 0170-8406

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What strategic actors actually do in practice has become increasingly the focus of strategy research in recent years. This paper argues that, in furthering such practice-based views of strategy, we need a more adequate re-conceptualization of agency, action and practice and how they interrelate. We draw from the work of the continental philosopher Martin Heidegger to articulate a relational theory of human agency that is better suited to explaining everyday purposive actions and practices. Specifically, we argue that the dominant 'building' mode of strategizing that configures actors (whether individual or organizational) as distinct entities deliberately engaging in purposeful strategic activities derives from a more basic 'dwelling' mode in which strategy emerges non-deliberately through everyday practical coping. Whereas, from the building perspective, strategy is predicated upon the prior conception of plans that are then orchestrated to realize desired outcome, from a dwelling perspective strategy does not require, nor does it presuppose, intention and purposeful goal-orientation: strategic 'intent' is viewed as immanent in every adaptive action. Observed consistencies in actions taken are explained not through deliberate goal-orientation but, instead, via a modus operandi: an internalized disposition to act in a manner congruent with past actions and experiences. Explaining strategy in dwelling terms enables us to understand how it is that actions may be consistent and organizationally effective without (and even in spite of) the existence of purposeful strategic plans.