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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10791/182

Title: Making sense of strategic planning: An examination of the meaning and impact of a university's strategic planning process
Authors: Jones, Keltie
Supervisor(s): Helms Mills, Jean (Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University); Devine, Kay (Faculty of Business)
Examining Committee: Wicks, David (Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University)
Diochon, Monica (Faculty of Business, St.Francis Xavier University)
Degree: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
Department: Centre for Distance Education
Keywords: strategic planning
critical sensemaking
post-secondary management
Issue Date: 22-Dec-2015
Abstract: In this dissertation, I present a study of how faculty and administration make sense of the strategic planning process. Strategic planning is a common activity for all types of organizations, yet there has been limited research on the practice during the past two decades. These processes often involve considerable investment of time and resources, and some question the value of that investment. Early research focused on searching for connections between planning and performance. The inconclusive results of these studies led many scholars to dismiss the process as ineffective, yet it continues to be a regular event for many organizations, including universities. Whereas many managers assert that the process itself is more important than the plan, there are few interpretive studies of strategic planning that examine what the process means for the organization. This dissertation presents a qualitative case study of a recent strategic planning process at a Canadian university, using interviews and existing documents to develop an understanding of how individuals experienced the strategic planning process. The goal of this study is to enrich our understanding of how individuals make sense of strategic planning and what the process can mean to the organization. I use content analysis to identify situations that triggered sensemaking and apply a critical sensemaking lens to identify and analyze what the strategic planning process meant to the individuals involved. Because sensemaking is not simply a way of interpreting organizations, but also of socially constructing organizations, I also examine the impact of the sensemaking around the strategic planning process on the organization. As an empirical study applying the critical sensemaking lens, this study provides support for the need to view sensemaking as occurring on the stage set by the organization’s formative context and power dynamics. The study reveals that the sensemaking around the strategic planning process was significantly impacted by the organization’s formative context. It also demonstrates that the strategic planning process had an impact on trust and engagement within the organization. Additionally, the study informs the practice of strategic planning, giving insight into the importance of understanding and addressing past experiences and expectations during the process and paying attention to issues and situations within the process that may be triggering sensemaking.
Graduation Date:  -1
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10791/182
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