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Journal ArticleDOI

Putting strategy into action – The role of artefacts for business format replication

01 Jun 2018-European Management Review (Wiley)-Vol. 15, Iss: 2, pp 221-235

TL;DR: It is demonstrated that artefact based replication is a double edged sword and that replication is constrained by ‘decoupling’ artefact-action relationships.
Abstract: In order to facilitate the implementation of replication strategies, organizations often use a variety of artefacts such as manuals and handbooks. Existing research has largely focused on the extent to which artefacts can act as knowledge repositories that help to facilitate replication. This body of literature has made significant contributions to our understanding of the role of replication, but has focused more on highlighting key challenges involved in the codification of knowledge. This paper demonstrates that artefact based replication is a double edged sword. While replication is enabled by, ‘configuring’ artefact-action relationships (focussing, situating, coordinating) our analysis also reveals that replication is constrained by ‘decoupling’ artefact-action relationships (accounting, differentiating, disengaging). Our findings contribute to research on replication and provide a more nuanced understanding of why the implementation of replication strategies might fail. We also add to the recent debate on socio-materiality in strategy research more generally.
Topics: Replication (computing) (53%)

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Accepted for Publication
European Management Review
1
Putting strategy into action The role of artefacts for business
format replication
Martin Friesl
Lancaster University Management School
Joanne Larty
Lancaster University Management School
Claus Jacobs
University of Bern
Abstract
In order to facilitate the implementation of replication strategies, organizations often use a
variety of artefacts such as manuals and handbooks. Existing research has largely focused on
the extent to which artefacts can act as knowledge repositories that help to facilitate
replication. This body of literature has made significant contributions to our understanding of
the role of replication, but has focused more on highlighting key challenges involved in the
codification of knowledge. This paper demonstrates that artefact based replication is a double
edged sword. While replication is enabled by, ‘configuring’ artefact-action relationships
(focussing, situating, coordinating) our analysis also reveals that replication is constrained by
‘decoupling’ artefact-action relationships (accounting, differentiating, disengaging). Our
findings contribute to research on replication and provide a more nuanced understanding of
why the implementation of replication strategies might fail. We also add to the recent debate
on socio-materiality in strategy research more generally.

Accepted for Publication
European Management Review
2
Introduction
Strategies of multi-unit firms are often built around a set of valuable routines that underpin
the business format of the organization (Amit & Schoemaker, 1993; Eisenhardt & Santos,
2002). In such cases, strategy implementation includes replicating those routines across
dispersed units (Argote & Ingram, 2000; Helfat & Peteraf, 2003; Nelson & Winter, 1982).
This is often called a replication strategy (Winter & Szulanski, 2001). Examples include
IKEAs approach to internationalization (Jonsson & Foss, 2011), Intel’s production of
computer chips (McDonald, 1998) or the growth strategies of large franchise organizations
(Winter & Szulanski, 2001; Winter et al., 2012). In order to facilitate the implementation of
replication strategies, organizations often codify information about routines in a range of
artefacts such as manuals, handbooks or standard operating procedures. These artefacts are
intended to guide, facilitate and coordinate the replication of routines across organizational
units (Baden-Fuller & Winter, 2005; D'Adderio, 2001; D'Adderio, 2003; Zander & Kogut,
1995; Zollo & Winter, 2002).
Existing research has questioned the efficacy of artefact based replication. This is due to
the difficulties of codifying contextually embedded, causally ambiguous and partly tacit
knowledge (Baden-Fuller & Winter, 2005; King & Zeithaml, 2001; Nonaka & Takeuchi,
1995; Szulanski, 1996; Winter & Szulanski, 2001). Yet, the focus of many studies has
remained on the characteristics of artefacts as ‘knowledge repositories’, rather than the actual
use of those artefacts in practice. This is an important difference. While prior research
emphasises the important role of observable working examples of organizational units, which
serve to demonstrate everyday practices including the use of artefacts (Jensen & Szulanski,
2007; Nelson & Winter, 1982; Szulanski & Jensen, 2004; Winter & Szulanski, 2001; Zenger
& Lazzarini, 2004), an explicit focus on how actors use artefacts in practice has largely
remained a “black box(D'Adderio, 2008; Güttel et al., 2012). The purpose of this paper is to

Accepted for Publication
European Management Review
3
unpack this “black boxby using a practice perspective to explore how the use of artefacts
impacts on the implementation of a replication strategy.
For practice theorists, artefacts are central to everyday activities, practices and routines
(Giddens, 1984; Knorr-Cetina, 2001; Orlikowski, 2007; Pentland & Feldman, 2005;
Reckwitz, 2002). This implies that the implementation of replication strategies is inherently
material, shaped by the artefacts actors use. By drawing on practice theory, this paper argues
that research on replication would benefit from investigating how the use of artefacts in
replication practice influences the implementation of replication strategies. Practice theory
provides an avenue to explore the ways in which the use of artefacts enables or constrains
actions at the unit level and thus helps to provide new insights into how these actions might
impact on the overall strategy of the organization. This paper uses the term artefact-action
relationship to denote how individual actions are inherently shaped by the situated use of
artefacts. Based on this theoretical understanding the paper addresses the following research
question: How does the use of artefacts shape the implementation of a replication strategy?
In order to explore this research question this paper adopts an inductive, explorative case
study design (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008; Suddaby, 2006). The research context of this study
is the replication strategy of Alpha, a large franchise network. In particular, our analysis
investigates the use of artefacts in the replication of Alpha’s sales and marketing routines.
The data illustrate how franchisees’ use of artefacts in practice guides replication and
facilitates local level learning that underpins their attempt to replicate Alpha’s business
format. Our analysis reveals two types of artefact-action relationships that influence the
implementation of replication strategies. Configuring artefact-action relationships (focussing,
situating, and coordinating) which enable replication and decoupling artefact-action
relationships (accounting, differentiating and disengaging) which constrain replication.

Accepted for Publication
European Management Review
4
This paper makes several theoretical contributions. First, the paper adds to the prevalent
debate on the efficacy of artefact based replication (Baden-Fuller & Winter, 2005; Winter &
Szulanski, 2001; Zander & Kogut, 1995; Zollo & Winter, 2002) by unpacking how the use of
artefacts enables or constrains the implementation of a replication strategy. Second, the paper
also contributes to research on replication by arguing that artefact-action relationships play a
key role in facilitating replication, beyond the extent to which those artefacts are
representations of often tacit knowledge. Finally, the paper also contributes to the growing
body of research on the role of artefacts in strategy implementation (Leonardi, 2015; Vaara &
Whittington, 2012).
The role of artefacts for the implementation of replication strategies: State
of research and theoretical background
The role of artefact use in strategy work
Research on strategy-as-practice considers strategy an accomplishment rather than something
organizations have (Jarzabkowski et al., 2007; Johnson et al., 2003; Whittington, 2006). This
focus on the practice of strategy foregrounds the strategic relevance of the seemingly
mundane (Johnson et al., 2003; Rouleau, 2005) and acknowledges that strategy making, be it
the development or implementation of strategy, is inherently material (Heracleous & Jacobs,
2011; Heracleous & Jacobs, 2008; Jarzabkowski et al., 2013; Vaara & Whittington, 2012).
Indeed, the study of the materiality of strategy making has become an important stream of
strategy-as-practice research. Strategy making is carried out with a range of artefacts such as
PowerPoint charts (Kaplan, 2011), frameworks (Werle & Seidl, 2015) as well as maps or
pictures (Jarzabkowski et al., 2013; Miettinen & Virkkunen, 2005); and those artefacts matter
(Dameron et al., 2015; Whittington, 2007). Jarzabkowski and Pinch (2013) even call
materiality the new ‘black’ in strategy research.

Accepted for Publication
European Management Review
5
Interest on the role of materiality in strategy work has developed in parallel to a wider
body of work on the role of artefacts in organization and management studies (Leonardi &
Barley, 2010; Orlikowski & Scott, 2008). Strategy-as-practice research has embraced this
tradition, by shedding light on how artefacts influence the development of strategy. A number
of studies investigate how artefacts create shared meaning across groups (Spee &
Jarzabkowski, 2009) or how shared meanings are created in strategy workshops (Paroutis et
al., 2015). Other studies investigate how strategy development, conceived of as a process of
idea exploration, is mediated by artefacts. For instance, these studies show how the use of
artefacts is negotiated (Belmondo & Sargis-Roussel, 2015), how artefacts are made sense of
(Heracleous & Jacobs, 2008) or how artefacts affect participation in strategy making
(Whittington, 2015). Other studies trace how different types of artefacts shape strategy
development over time (Kaplan, 2011; Werle & Seidl, 2015). The multifaceted nature of the
use of artefacts in strategy making is also mirrored in the diversity of theoretical perspectives
used such as a discursive lens (Kaplan, 2011), epistemic objects (Werle & Seidl, 2015),
affordances (Demir, 2015), or boundary objects (Spee & Jarzabkowski, 2009).
While the role of artefacts in strategy development has received substantial research
attention, research on how artefacts influence the implementation of strategy has remained
scarce (Leonardi, 2015). This is mirrored by a lack of research on strategy implementation
more generally. Indeed, in their review of strategy-as-practice research, Vaara and
Whittington (2012) only highlight a handful of examples of strategy-as-practice studies
explicitly addressing strategy implementation (Angwin et al., 2009; Balogun & Johnson,
2004; Balogun & Johnson, 2005; Fauré & Rouleau, 2011). This paper addresses this gap by
focussing on the use of artefacts for the implementation of a particular type of strategy:
business format replication.

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"Putting strategy into action – The ..." refers methods in this paper

  • ...Drawing on Meyer and Rowan (1977) we define decoupling artefact – action relationships as the maintenance of a deliberate disconnect between actual practice and those described by the formal processes of the organization....

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"Putting strategy into action – The ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...For practice theorists, artefacts are central to everyday activities, practices and routines (Giddens, 1984; KnorrCetina, 2001; Reckwitz, 2002; Pentland and Feldman, 2005; Orlikowski, 2007)....

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  • ...An important premise of practice theory is that actions and interactions are always mediated and shaped by artefacts (e.g., Giddens, 1984; Carlile, 2002, 2004; Bechky, 2003; Pentland and Feldman, 2005)....

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Abstract: Part One: Introduction Part Two: Focusing and Bounding the Collection of Data Part Three: Analysis During Data Collection Part Four: Within-Site Analysis Part Five: Cross-Site Analysis Part Six: Matrix Displays: Some General Suggestions Part Seven: Drawing and Verifying Conclusions Part Eight: Concluding Remarks

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Raphael Amit1, Paul J. H. Schoemaker2Institutions (2)
Abstract: We build on an emerging strategy literature that views the firm as a bundle of resources and capabilities, and examine conditions that contribute to the realization of sustainable economic rents. Because of (1) resource-market imperfections and (2) discretionary managerial decisions about resource development and deployment, we expect firms to differ (in and out of equilibrium) in the resources and capabilities they control. This asymmetry in turn can be a source of sustainable economic rent. The paper focuses on the linkages between the industry analysis framework, the resource-based view of the firm, behavioral decision biases and organizational implementation issues. It connects the concept of Strategic Industry Factors at the market level with the notion of Strategic Assets at the firm level. Organizational rent is shown to stem from imperfect and discretionary decisions to develop and deploy selected resources and capabilities, made by boundedly rational managers facing high uncertainty, complexity, and intrafirm conflict.

7,767 citations


"Putting strategy into action – The ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Strategies of multi-unit firms are often built around a set of valuable routines that underpin the business format of the organization (Amit and Schoemaker, 1993; Eisenhardt and Santos, 2002)....

    [...]


Book
01 Jan 1995
Abstract: How has Japan become a major economic power, a world leader in the automotive and electronics industries? What is the secret of their success? The consensus has been that, though the Japanese are not particularly innovative, they are exceptionally skilful at imitation, at improving products that already exist. But now two leading Japanese business experts, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hiro Takeuchi, turn this conventional wisdom on its head: Japanese firms are successful, they contend, precisely because they are innovative, because they create new knowledge and use it to produce successful products and technologies. Examining case studies drawn from such firms as Honda, Canon, Matsushita, NEC, 3M, GE, and the U.S. Marines, this book reveals how Japanese companies translate tacit to explicit knowledge and use it to produce new processes, products, and services.

7,194 citations


"Putting strategy into action – The ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Existing research argues that the embeddedness of organizational routines and the tacitness (Polanyi, 1964; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nightingale, 1998; Collins, 2001) of knowledge renders artefact based approaches to replication difficult (Nelson and Winter, 1982; Zander and Kogut, 1995; Szulanski, 1996; Winter and Szulanski, 2001)....

    [...]

  • ...This is due to the difficulties of codifying contextually embedded, causally ambiguous and partly tacit knowledge (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Szulanski, 1996; King and Zeithaml, 2001; Winter and Szulanski, 2001; Baden-Fuller and Winter, 2005)....

    [...]

  • ...Existing research argues that the embeddedness of organizational routines and the tacitness (Polanyi, 1964; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nightingale, 1998; Collins, 2001) of knowledge renders artefact based approaches to replication difficult (Nelson and Winter, 1982; Zander and Kogut, 1995;…...

    [...]

  • ...This is due to the difficulties of codifying contextually embedded, causally ambiguous and partly tacit knowledge (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Szulanski, 1996; King and Zeithaml, 2001; Winter and Szulanski, 2001; Baden-Fuller and Winter, 2005)....

    [...]


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20151
19951
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