The New Trend to Openness in Strategy - Implications for Traditional and New Strategy Actors

SNF number: 100013_207612

Research Team: David Seidl, Violetta Splitter, Theresa Langenmayr, Benjamin Grossmann, Robin Engelbach

An important aspect in strategy research is the distribution of roles in strategy development. While the existing literature on traditional strategic roles assumes that only the top managers, the strategy department and external consultants participate in the formal strategy process, we are observing a new trend in strategy making towards more openness – which is often referred to as “Open Strategy”. According to the concept of Open Strategy, which describes increased transparency about the strategy process and the inclusion of a wider range of actors in the formulation of strategy, strategy development is no longer treated as an elite process. Instead, formerly excluded actors, such as lower-level employees or even the wider public gain access to the strategy process. Also, strategy practitioners have developed new practices, such as strategy jamming, strategy blogging, strategy wikis or inter-organizational strategy workshops, to reach out to wider audiences. Extending the range of actors involved in the strategy development process and re-distributing strategy practices amongst them is likely to change the strategic roles of traditional actors but also to create entirely new strategic roles for formerly excluded actors. As research on strategic roles is a central aspect in strategy research, we want to explore how strategic roles are affected by the practices of Open Strategy.

Exemplary publication:

Splitter, V., Jarzabkowski, P., Seidl, S. (2021) "Middle Managers’ Struggle Over Their Subject Position in Open Strategy Processes", Journal of Management Studies

Seidl, D., Whittington, R. and von Krogh, G. (2019) "Open Strategy. Forms, perspectives and Challenges", Cambridge University Press


Informal Strategists in Strategic Decision Making 

SNF number: 100018_169436

Research team: David Seidl, Shenghui Ma, Tania Weinfurtner

While many studies assume that strategic decisions are taken by the members of the top management team (TMT), some scholars show that CEOs often involve different advisers from outside the TMT into their strategic decision making, such as lower-level managers or even people outside the organization. Although these individuals have a significant influence on strategic decisions, most of them do not occupy any formal strategic position in the organization and might therefore be referred to as “informal strategists.” As previous research has not examined their influence, our goal is to identify (1) what roles they play at which stage, (2) how they interact with the CEO and other strategists, and (3) what the pattern of their inclusion and exclusion over time looks like. Through a longitudinal comparative case study, we intend to contribute to a better understanding of strategic decision making at the apex of the organization.

Exemplary publication:

Ma, S., Kor, Y. Y., & Seidl, D. (forthcoming) Top management team role structure: A vantage point for advancing upper echelons research. Strategic Management Journal, 1-28.

Ma, S., Kor, Y. Y., and Seidl, D. (2020) “CEO Advice Seeking: An Integrative Framework and Future Research Agenda”. Journal of Management. 46(6): 771-805.

Kor, Y., Ma, S., and Seidl, D. (2020) “Opportunities and Pitfalls of Advice Seeking by CEOs”. Harvard Business Review China. August Issue: 132-139.


The Role of Space in Institutional Work

SNF number: 100018_146696

Research team: Stéphane Guérard, David Seidl and Tania Weinfurtner

Given that legitimacy is context-dependent, institutional actors cannot freely demand institutional change in all kinds of settings at any time. This forces organizations, wishing for new institutional arrangements but without the legitimacy to make public claims, to perform institutional work in protected spaces, i.e., undercover and away from the scrutiny of a wider audience. Institutional work performed in protected spaces serves to coordinate activities, allocate resources and share meaning in order to support and influence activities taking place in open spaces where legitimate actors can advance or impede institutional projects. This research project examines where, how and with whom institutional work is performed by mobilizing a longitudinal case study approach.

Exemplary publication:

Weinfurtner, T., Seidl, D. (2018) "Towards a spatial perspective: An integrative review of research on organisational space", Scandinavian Journal of Management


The Emergence of Routines

SNF number: 100014_135403

Research team: David Seidl, Katharina Dittrich, Benjamin Hensel

Since the publication of “An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change” by Nelson & Winter (1982) routines have been recognized to hold the potential for understanding not only organizations, but also their development. While we know that routines bring both stability and change (Feldman, M. 2000; Feldman, M. S. & Pentland, B. T. 2003), and are constitutive of organizational life, there is surprisingly little work on the question of their emergence. To address this gap, this research project seeks to understand how organizational routines emerge.

Exemplary publication:

Seidl, D., Grossmann-Hensel, B., Jarzabkowski, P. (forthcoming) "Strategy as Practice and Routine Dynamics". Cambridge Handbook of Routine Dynamics.

Feldman, M.S., Pentland, B.T., D'Adderio, L, Dittrich, K., Rerup, C., Seidl, D. (forthcoming) "What is Routine Dynamics?", Cambridge Handbook of Routine Dynamics.

Grossmann-Hensel, B. (2020) "Strategy as Practice and Routine Dynamics", Academy of Management Proceedings.

Dittrich, K., & Seidl, D. (2017) "Emerging Intentionality in Routine Dynamics: A Pragmatist View". Academy of Management Journal, 61(1), 111-138.

Dittrich K., Guerard S., Seidl, D. (2016) "Talking About Routines: The Role of Reflective Talk in Routine Change". Organization Science, 27(3), 678-697.


The Role of Meetings in Strategy Process

SNF number: 100014_130338

Research team: David Seidl, Katharina Dittrich, Stephane Guerard

In the strategic management literature, meetings have not explicitly been considered part of the strategy process except in providing a “neutral” frame within which decision-making processes take place (Schwartzman, 1989). Contemporary work, however, suggests that meetings do not just provide empty shells for decision-processes which could as easily have taken place elsewhere, but that they actively influence organizations (Boden, 1994; Schwartzman, 1989). This influence is reflected through different functions, such as sense-making (Weick 1995), information gathering (Adams, 2004; Tepper, 2004) and agenda setting (Wodak 2001), that have been associated with meetings. More recently, studies have shown that meetings may directly affect the strategy process by stabilizing existing strategies or by shaping strategic change (Hodgkinson, Whittington, Johnson, & Schwarz, 2006; Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2008). While the literature indicates that meetings do affect strategy formation, there are no coherent theories or measurable constructs that thoroughly examine how series of meetings affect strategy-making processes. This research intends to fill this gap by asking how series of meetings influence different phases of the strategy process.

Exemplary publication:

Seidl, D., & Guerard, S. (2015) "Meetings and workshops in the practice of strategy". In D. Golsorkhi, L. Rouleau, D. Seidl & E. Vaara (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Werle, F., & Seidl, D. (2015) "The Layered Materiality of Strategizing: Epistemic Objects and the Interplay between Material Artefacts in the Exploration of Strategic Topics". British Journal of Management, 26: S67-S89

Seidl, D., & Werle, F. (2018), "Inter-organizational sensemaking in the face of strategic meta-problems: Requisite variety and the dynamics of participation". Strategic Management Journal, 39(3), 830-858.


CEO Post-Succession Period

Research team: David Seidl, Shenghui Ma

Despite a large number of studies on CEO succession, we know little about the post-succession process since most research “failed to examine what new leaders do” (Miller, 1993: 656). Adopting a Strategy-as-Practice perspective, we are interested in exploring how CEOs shape strategy and the organization in the post-succession context. We argue that it is necessary to take leader integration and strategic change as dual but interrelated processes to better understand this dynamic period. Through in-depth case studies we intend to uncover what new CEOs do, to find out how these two processes interact and to better capture the dynamic and complexity of the post-succession process.

Exemplary publications:

Ma, S. and Seidl, D. (2018) “New CEOs and their collaborators: Divergence and convergence between the strategic leadership constellation and the top management team”. Strategic Management Journal, 39(3), 606-638. 

Ma, S., Seidl, D., and  Guérard, S. (2015) “The New CEO and the Post-Succession Process: An Integration of Past Research and Future Directions”. International Journal of Management Reviews, 17(4), 460-482.


Research Budget, Social Capital and Gender at the University of Zurich

Co-funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (as part of the Federal Equal Opportunities Programme 2013-2016) in collaboration with the Gender Equality Commission at the University of Zurich.

Research team: Katja Rost, Constantin Schön and David Seidl

The project focused on two central questions: (1) Are there systematic differences between female and male professors at the University of Zurich regarding their work conditions (research budget, promotions speed, salaries etc.) and social capital? (2) To what extent can we explain any differences in work conditions between female and male professors with differences in their social capital? For results of the project visit the project website at

Exemplary publication:

Schoen C, Rost K, Seidl D. (2018) “The influence of gender ratios on academic careers: Combining social networks with tokenism.” PLOS ONE 13(11): e0207337.