Dissertation: Why People in Your Company Would (Not) Act upon Your Strategy?

Ausrine Silenskyte Vaasan yliopiston kampuksella
Despite extensive communication efforts or control systems, many employees still do not understand the organisation’s strategic goals, let alone act upon them. How could this be changed?

According to Ausrine Silenskyte’s dissertation presented at the University of Vaasa, the major driver of strategy implementation is the person’s commitment to their personal preferences and organisational ability to reciprocate, i.e. to ensure that the people working at the organisation feel supported in achieving their personal commitments. Once this is in place, employees open up for organisational strategy and become interested in behaving strategically.

– A strategy is meaningful only when implemented. Every manager knows how difficult it is to ensure that every person in the company understands the strategic goals and behaves strategically, helping the corporate vision to become reality. Top management tends to think that performance-driven culture and strong focus on assigned targets will lead to implementation success,” says Ausrine Silenskyte, university teacher and PhD candidate at the University of Vaasa.

In her dissertation, Silenskyte examined how and when strategic plans become strategic behaviours among employees in different parts of a Finnish multinational corporation. Her research demonstrates that the middle and project managers as well as experts in non‑managerial positions frequently experience difficulties in relating to the strategic plans and goals assigned to them by the top management, even when the company is consistent and clear in its communication about the strategy. The dissertation, which will be publicly defended on 30 September, suggests a counter‑intuitive recipe to support strategy implementation.

– Research revealed that employees may behave strategically without prescriptions, or even without knowing details in the strategy, if certain conditions are met. It is equally important to make good strategies, set clear goals and communicate them, as it is crucial to uncover personal aspirations and needs of the employees, and to create a feeling that the organisation will help people achieve these personal commitments, says Silenskyte.

Is the recipe for achieving strategic behaviours the same across all countries?

Silenskyte’s research was conducted within a global service provider, a Finnish multinational corporation and its units in Finland, Russia, and India. The research reveals that the ways to achieve feelings of reciprocity will vary across countries.

Across the three countries, Finland had the weakest sense of reciprocity, i.e. individuals related to the organisations mostly formally and the importance of reaching their personal aspirations was very high.

In India, reciprocity was almost a devotion, but not for the organisation or its strategy, but rather for the business leader: employees were willing to put aside their personal interests and follow the strategy, if they believed that leader would take care of them and their needs.

In Russia, reciprocity was more bureaucratic: employees considered that the strategy work is a matter of the managers, but they wanted to be reassured by their manager that certain daily tasks of the employees relate to general strategy.

Thus, if a multinational corporation wishes to achieve strategic behaviours in every business unit, employee definition of reciprocity must be understood at first.

The findings imply that international experts working on strategy implementation in global teams will need to calibrate their understanding of the importance of realizing personal commitment and achieving organisational reciprocity, otherwise conflicts will occur. When colleagues work on strategy implementation on a global, culturally diverse team, strategic behaviours can be reached by addressing these culturally‑specific differences in reciprocity and personal commitment.

How to understand whether strategy implementation was a failure or a success?

Business unit visits, interviews with top, middle, and project managers, and employees, as well as analysis of a large set of organisational documents revealed that the managers evaluate strategy implementation processes under the assumption that there is one “truth” in the organisation.

– It is rarely considered or remembered that the organisational systems, process descriptions, or policies are only managerial intentions described ‘on paper’. Frequently, it is assumed that once we design those structures and policies, they should and will be followed as expected. When people do not fulfil such expectations, it is normally considered that the implementation failed, says Ausrine.

The case analysis in the dissertation provides detailed illustration on how more than one “truth” exists in the organisation and explains why managers must take this into consideration.

– Different behaviours, differently utilized strategic and operational systems do not yet mean that the strategy implementation has failed! If the managers are able to recognise the stratified reality, analyse it systematically by, for example, using methodology suggested in the dissertation, the implementation efforts are likely to become so much easier and managers will know what actually failed and what turned to be an unexpected, or unintended success, says Ausrine.

Public defence

The public examination of M.Sc. Ausrine Silenskyte’s doctoral dissertation titled “Corporate strategy implementation. How strategic plans become individual strategic actions across organizational levels of the MNC” will be held on Wednesday, 30 September, at noon. The public examination will be organised online:

Password: 854280.

The field of dissertation is management. Professor Rebecca Piekkari (Aalto University) and Associate Professor Catherine Welch (University of Sydney) will act as opponents and Professor Adam Smale as custos. The examination will be held in English.

Further information

Ausrine Silenskyte, tel: +358 29 449 8295, e-mail: ausrine.silenskyte(at)uwasa.fi

Šilenskytė, Aušrinė (2020). Corporate strategy implementation. How strategic plans become individual strategic actions across organizational levels of the MNC. Acta Wasaensia 446. Doctoral Dissertation. Vaasan yliopisto. University of Vaasa.

Publication pdf: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-476-919-8

Ausrine Silenskyte was born in Lithuania, in 1986. Today she lives in Vaasa. She completed her bachelor’s degree in international economics in 2008 at Vilnius University and a master’s degree in international business at the University of Vaasa in 2012. Since then, she has been working at the University of Vaasa as a doctoral researcher, teaching in a number of courses and, in the role of a digi‑mentor, supporting other teachers in integrating digital technologies in pedagogy. In her research and teaching, Ausrine has been closely collaborating with international Finnish companies. Prior to her work at the university, Ausrine has worked in managerial positions at several international companies in Lithuania and Egypt.

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