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Switching strategic perspective : The reframing of accounts of responsibility

Sillince, John A.A. and Mueller, F. (2007) Switching strategic perspective : The reframing of accounts of responsibility. Organization Studies, 28 (2). pp. 155-176. ISSN 0170-8406

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Abstract

We provide an empirical study of the reframing of accounts of responsibility for strategy. We found that top management ambivalence about strategy provided a middle management team with wide scope for interpretation of responsibility for developing and implementing a strategic initiative. In the early stage, responsibility as well as expectations about the strategy's successful outcome were 'talked up'. In the later stage, when it was considered that the strategic initiative was failing, the middle management implementation team engaged in 'talking down' of expectations. We show that reframing from initial duty to capability to later accountability shaped and reflected actors' changing goals. By focusing on responsibility we increase understanding of the division of labour in the actual practice of strategizing, including where and how strategizing is done. Most important, we show how protagonists' goals drive the framing and reframing of strategic agendas, and how linguistic devices such as disclaimers and self-handicapping influence this process.