Strategy and Communication: How Does Ambiguity Arise?

The strategy process in organizations is a complex one involving communication across various phases and among multiple actors. From the PowerPoint slides to the staff meeting and beyond, strategy is recontextualized, and ambiguity can arise.

A new article in the Journal of Management Inquiry (JMI) uses a case-study approach to explain this process. Helle Kryger Aggerholm, Birte Asmuß, and Christa Thomsen, all of the University of Aarhus, published “The Role of Recontextualization in the Multivocal, Ambiguous Process of Strategizing” on April 23, 2012 in JMI. To view other OnlineFirst articles, please click here.

The abstract:

This paper shows how ambiguity arises across multiple strategizing activities through the presence of multiple strategic actors within and across different strategizing phases. During the authoring phase, the intentionality of the different management actor voices becomes detached from the meaning expressed in the strategy text, resulting in a decontextualized, monovocal strategy paper. In the translation phase, the study shows how the text still possesses an inherent multivocality making it impossible to talk about strategy text as an atemporal, neutral object. In the phase of interpreting the strategy, three main rhetorical positions are identified among the employees: acceptance, ambiguity and rejection, representing the multivocal interpretations of the employees interviewed. The study contributes to the ongoing discussion about the challenges and potentials of the multivocal, multicontextual nature of strategizing in organizations.

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