Edited by Mélanie E. Hassett and Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki
Chapter 5: Studying strategy over time through the identification of patterns of actions: an illustrative case study of the strategies of Alcan and Alcoa from 1928 to 2007
Studying the past to observe phenomena that unfold over several decades can lead to very rich insights about management and strategy. But for a researcher not trained in historical research and who is interested in the study of strategic behaviors over time, finding a way to organize data in a meaningful way can be daunting. The quantity of data grows considerably as a firm increases in size, diversifies its activities and internationalizes. A chief executive officer’s (CEO) discourse on the strategy of a firm sometimes never translates into concrete action. This is not to mention that getting access to the individuals who were directly involved in strategy-making at a given time is not always possible. These are just a few examples of the challenges one can encounter when looking at the strategies adopted by one firm over long periods of time. Furthermore, organizations may experience long periods of stability followed by short periods of change and, after dozens of years, present a very different picture from what they were in the past. In this context, how can one make sense of the strategies adopted by a firm over several decades to compare different patterns within one organization and between multiple organizations?
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