Mediating Control
: Strategy implementation practice in an international hotel organisation

  • Helen Atkinson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The question at the heart of this research is: How do middle managers implement strategy through their day-to-day practice and what role does culture play in their agency. The study draws on multiple bodies of literature to adopt a transdisciplinary approach, including strategy implementation and control, strategy as practice (SaP), organisational culture and social theory. The social theories relevant here concern the relationship between agency and structure, in particular, Structuration Theory (ST), and specifically Stones’ Strong Structuration Theory (SST), which allows the agentic behaviour of middle managers to be at the heart of this study.

The literature review reveals numerous previous studies of strategy implementation
that have focussed on broad institutions and structures associated with organisational life,
downplaying the role of agency. This study adopts a practice approach with a focus on the
micro practices of middle managers to address this imbalance and the call for more analysis
of agency in is sociocultural context. Organisational culture is complex, contested and
contextually grounded, thus it is embodied in structures and agency. For this reason, the
project adopts a constructionist philosophy to explore the micro agency of middle managers
in a complex service organisational setting typified by an international hotel company case
study. Such organisations are geographically dispersed, with a unique business model that
provides a particular strategic context for this study. Qualitative methods utilizing semistructured interviews and diaries provide a rich data set, that reveal how managers exert
agency within the strategic sociocultural context, how they implement strategy through their
daily decisions and actions and what role culture plays in their agency.

The study found that managers draw upon internalised stocks of knowledge, their
individual understanding of the strategic terrain and external structures to comply with or
resist strategic hegemony. The study contributes to knowledge, in five key ways. Firstly, it
contributes through the development of a nascent culturally imbued theory of structuration
and secondly, methodologically, this study offers experiential reflection on the use of
Stones’ SST and Composite Research Strategy (CRS) for organisational research and SaP
research in particular. Thirdly, it reveals how MMs implement strategy through their day to-day actions and what role culture plays in their agency. Fourthly, GMs interview and diary
logs, reveal acts of protection and buffering unique to the agents’ position practice relations.
The final area of contribution relates to the change in the GM role that has resulted from
structural changes in the industry, which has practical implications for the professional role
of the Hotel General Manager.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorSteven Goss-Turner (Supervisor) & Nick Marshall (Supervisor)

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