Monash University

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Managing strategic alignment: an abductive approach

posted on 2017-02-28, 00:22 authored by Warrier, Ravi
This dissertation documents research into the meaning and implementation of strategic alignment in a division of a global motor company. The issues central to the research originated in the researcher’s earlier professional experience in another company which forms the basis for an initial case study in this thesis. Another case study from the literature (the well-known Intel study by Robert Burgelman and debated by Chris Argyris) had previously concluded with the articulation of a similar set of issues. Comparison of the issues identified in the two case studies resulted in a set of defining topics which guided the subsequent literature review. This review established an inventory of gaps in the literature resulting in the formulation of research questions and hypotheses concerning the nature of strategic alignment and how it is most effectively implemented. This then formed the basis for the interpretation of three interventions at the research site, aimed at improving employee engagement through increased strategic alignment, as sequential Action Research (AR) cycles. The research presents a number of interesting features. • It applies a multi-methodological approach that combines inductive cross-case analysis to unearth research issues, a review of the literature to crystallise the issues into research questions, and an interpretive participant-observation project to develop concepts and tools to address those questions. • It focuses on three interventions in a host organisation, one at the organisational level and two at the departmental level, that are interpreted as AR cycles to generate valuable insights despite the limitations of participant observation. • The project was informed by the recent articulation of a theoretical basis for a methodology that integrates Pepper’s World Hypotheses, Peirce’s pragmatism, Emery’s Open Systems Theory and Dewey’s iterative experiential learning cycle. • Its conclusions are based on the triangulation of data from multiple sources, including quantitative data from independently conducted surveys and qualitative data from documentation generated during the interventions, semi-structured interviews and personal observations of the researcher and other participants. • An innovative feature of this project is the development and application of an evaluation framework to the project. The framework integrates the single-, double- and triple-loop learning model; the FMA model for AR; and a number of other frameworks and models. The evaluation framework was tested by applying it at the level of each individual intervention as well as across the three interventions. This research makes the following contributions to management theory, the practice of management and methodology for research in management: • Theory: The research proposes a theory for strategic alignment, a concept identified in the literature as associated with organisational effectiveness. • Practice: The research recommends the use of learning interventions that are based on the contextualist, pragmatist model of experiential learning. • Methodology: The research operationalizes and strengthens a recently articulated model for inductive top-down theorising for research in management.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Peter O'Neill

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics

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