The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Adoption of Strategic Goals. Exploring the Success of Strategy Implementation Through Organizational Activities

Petri Aaltonen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 16th of July, 2007, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-951-22-8842-7)   [1019 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-951-22-8841-0)


This study is about the success of strategy implementation. Implementation, the conceptual counterpart of strategy formulation, has been regarded as an extremely challenging area in management practice. Still, strategy implementation has received remarkably less attention in the strategic management literature. The existing implementation frameworks are mostly normative and rather limited.

On the other hand, the strategy as practice research agenda has emerged to study strategy on the micro level, as a social phenomenon. Practice researchers have introduced an activity-based view on strategy which is concerned with the day-to-day activities of organizational life which relate to strategic outcomes. Still, there is a clear need to know more about these strategic activities: what are they like, and how are they related to strategic outcomes.

This study explores the success of strategy implementation in terms of organizational activities, by focusing on two questions: how are strategic goals realized through organizational activities and how are strategic activities related to the success of strategic goal's adoption? The research questions are addressed empirically in a multiple case study setting, in which qualitative data from 101 interviews plus rich supplementary archival data are generated and analyzed with a grounded theory approach.

The analysis produces a general strategic activity categorization consisting of 25 activities under five main activity categories of determining, communicating, controlling, organizing, and interacting with the environment. The activities divide into existing and desired ones, which further divide into enhancing and novel ones. The analysis reveals that successful adoption of a strategic goal is related to the existence of so-called necessary strategic activities, a moderate set of desired activities that enhance the existing ones, and an extensive repertoire of novel desired activities. In addition, the scope of the strategic goal's origin and its coherence with other elements of strategy is proposed to contribute to the adoption of the strategic goal.

The study contributes to the strategy as practice discussion by taking the activity-based view seriously and showing in detail what the strategic activities are like and how they are linked to the success of strategy implementation. The research reveals that strategy implementation is a much more complicated, creative, communicative, and external-oriented phenomenon than the extant literature presents. Furthermore, this study adds to the very limited empirical research on how strategies are adopted and enacted on all organizational levels. The practical implications of the study concern critical evaluation of existing and desired activity patterns, as well as understanding the significance of the strategic goal's origin and the coherence of the strategic whole.

Keywords: strategy, strategy implementation, goals, activities

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© 2007 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26