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.


Informal Strategists in Strategic Decision Making 

SNF number: 100018_169436

Research team: David Seidl, Shenghui Ma

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.


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.


Open Strategy

Research Team: David Seidl, Violetta Splitter

In contrast to the traditional view on strategy, scholars have witnessed a new trend towards more openness in strategy practice that has been referred to as “open strategy”. Open strategy refers to opening the strategy process by sharing strategic information and involving a wider range of internal and/or external actors in this process. Adopting a Strategy-as-Practice perspective, we are interested in the new strategy practices that organizations develop in their attempt to cope with the trend towards more open forms of strategy-making. Beyond the practices of openness, we intend to uncover the dimensions, dynamics, dilemmas and effects of openness.

Exemplary publication:

Hautz, J., Seidl, D., and Whittington, R. (2017) "Open Strategy: Dimensions, Dilemmas, Dynamics", Long Range Planning, 50 (3), 298-309.

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

Splitter, V., Seidl, D., and Whittington, R. (forthcoming) "Practice-based approaches to Open strategy. Implications of a strong programme", in: Seidl, D., Whittington, R. and von Krogh, G. (eds.) "Open Strategy. Forms, perspectives and Challenges", Cambridge University Press.


The Emergence of Routines
SNF number: 100014_135403

Research team: David Seidl, Katharina Dittrich

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:
Dittrich K., Guerard S., Seidl, D. 2016. Talking About Routines: The Role of Reflective Talk in Routine Change. Organization Science.

Dittrich, K., & Seidl, D. forthcoming. Emerging Intentionality in Routine Dynamics: A Pragmatist View. Academy of Management Journal.


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.


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