Managing Strategic Discussions in Organizations: A Habermasian Perspective
The paper draws on Jurgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action to propose a renewed theoretical framework for “strategy work” (Mantere & Vaara, 2008) and “strategic episodes” (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2011; Corley & Gioia, 2011; Hendry & Seidl, 2003). While recognizing that the use of Habermas is quite problematic in organization studies–largely because his theory deals with democracies and free discussion, which have been presented by Habermas himself as incompatible with any kinds of management and hierarchical organizations —we argue that such a perspective is not only conceptually possible but also very useful for practitioners. In a provocative way, we assume that discussions in organizational settings have to be managed to become free and produce the outcomes expected from a discussion. Our research provides a theoretical framework to describe how interpersonal communication unfolds as well as guidelines, in a normative perspective, for organizing an ideal speech situation in order to support strategic discussion. We identify organizational and managerial conditions for the design and management of “strategic episodes” and “discussions”. Finally, our results contribute to the strategy-as-practice and the CCO (communication constitutes organizations) literatures. They are discussed as a way to strengthen the “dialogization” (Detchessahar, Gentil, Grevin & Journé, 2017) discourse that impedes the participation of various groups of practitioners in strategy work.
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