Discursive strategies of strategy in public organizations

Christian Tang Lystbæk, Jens Holmgren, Ole Uhrskov Friis

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearchpeer-review


In the last decades, private sector principles and policies have spread into public management. This has fuelled the growth of strategic practices in public service organizations. Although public service organizations typically do not exist in markets or have directs competitors, they tend to articulate their strategies through private sector strategy terminology about competition, ranking, benchmarking, etc.. Thus, it is time to explore how strategy making is given discursive legitimacy in public organizations.
An important way to study strategy as practice is by attending of the discourse of strategy. Bodies of discursive scholarship, such as critical discourse analysis, narrative analysis, metaphor analysis and conversation analysis, have contributed with significant research into important issues and themes in strategy making processes such as sense-making, subject-positions and power relations, however they have not depicted an underlying conceptual structure in how strategy making is given discursive legitimacy in public service organizations.

In this study, we depart from previous discursive strategy research by taking a deconstructive approach in order to identify underlying conceptual structures in discourses of strategy in public management. Based on a focus group interview with six management consultants working in a municipality in Denmark, we identify two dimensions regarding how strategy making in public service organizations is given discursive legitimacy. One dimension concerns whether the main emphasis is on “logical” or rather on “emotional” foundations and another dimension concerns whether the emphasis is rooted in internal forces or external forces. We label the four discourses “rationalistic”, structuralistic”, “idealistic” and “identity “.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateJul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventEGOS - Athen, Greece
Duration: 2 Jul 20154 Jul 2015
Conference number: 31




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