Best Practices in Data Collection and Preparation

Very, very helpful article on best practices of handling research data and writing transparent and well documented research.

The authors focus on
(a) type of research design
(b) control variables
(c) sampling procedures, and
(d) missing data management
(e) outlier management
(f) use of corrections for statistical and methodological artifacts
(g) data transformations

Instead of classical textbook approach, this article gives you a very clear hands-on perspective, with a good portion of examples and references.

Definitely worth a read if you do either quantitative or qualitative empirical research!

Opening Strategy

If you ever want an overview of the development of strategy as a professional field, this book is a good place to start.

Whittington, R. (2019) ‘Opening Strategy: Practices and Professionals’, in Opening Strategy. Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oso/9780198738893.003.0001.

The book takes you on a journey through the development of the academic and professional field of strategy, how practices, praxis, practitioners and the profession has developed since the 60’s until today.

After a very interesting theoretical chapter (focus: ‘strategy as practice’), much emphasis is put on how how the practitioners of strategy – both in companies, but also consultancies have developed and shaped the use of strategy. An interesting reccuring theme is how development of new technology also contributed to development of approaches to use of strategy. In recent times, the whole dimension social network mentality, has both shaped expectations and the tech employed to involve wide groups of an organisation – and beyond – in the strategy process. Thus, from the idea of closed, top-management only thinking about strategy, we are barreling towards much more openness in the whole strategic process.

Very interesting and gives food for thought on where are we heading.

More on “strategy as practice”:

  • Johnson, 2016. Strategy as Practice: Research Directions and Resources
  • Golsorkhi, 2007, Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice
  • Jarzabkowski, 2005 Strategy as Practice: An Activity Based Approach (SAGE Strategy series)

Fundamentals of strategy

I’m reading up on strategy literature these days, and I found this gem: “Fundamentals of strategy” and I’m very happy that I ordered and read it.

Johnson, Gerry et al. (2018) Fundamentals of Strategy (4th ed). Pearson Education M.U.A.

It’s written with clarity and has interesting examples. It uses a framwork from the preveously published “Exploring strategy” (2017).
The framework separates analysis of “strategic position”, “strategic choices” and “strategy in action” – and therefore separates between various analytical approaches to strategy: environment-analysis, capability, stakeholder-analysis, competitive, diversifying, structure, systems and change.
I find the book to be a clear and vivid introduction to the field of strategy including a showcase of classical and more recent strategic tools.


Organizational learning

Crossan, M., Lane, H., & White, R. (1999). An Organizational Learning Framework: From Intuition to Institution. The Academy of Management Review,24(3), 522-537.

I’ve read it before, but enjoyed reading it again. The classic paper of Crossan, Lane and White on Organizational Learning is food for thought both for academia and practice-oriented organisations.

I enjoy the frameworks given in this paper: the four processes of learning which includes personal, group and organizational level : Intuiting (personal), Intepreting (personal), Integrating (group) and institutionalizing (organization). The paper effectively shown how these processes can interact to generate organizational learning. They maintain the importance of the individual being a cornerstone in the organizational learningprocess. However: routines, diagnostic systems and rules and procedures must develop as a result of the individual and group-level processes. This is where many organizations probably struggle. Thus institutionalization can lead to barriers for organizational learning.

For strategic management, this implies that all levels must be taken into account when developing and deploying strategy. As strategic management (SM) is more involved in the organization than classic strategic planning (Whittington, 2019), SM needs to link into learningprocesses on all levels.

The article has been cited 1650 times in academic texts. Which is quite a lot. And the popularity has been growing (Web of Science). Definitely one to read! Do you agree?

That’s interesting!

Davis, M. (1971). That’s Interesting: Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1(4), 309.

Today I read the essay by Murray Davies “That’s interesting!”. Which was – really interesting!  The central tenant of the essay is to answer the question of  “How do theories which are generally considered interesting differ from theories which are generally considered non-interesting?” The answer is given promptly in the opening summary: “Interesting theories are those which deny certain assumptions of their audience, while non-interesting theories are those which affirm certain assumptions of their audience”. Davis then walks through a number of various examples this can be done and gives historical examples, including among others Marx, Freud, Kant, and Durkheim. This is a really nice read – written in a clear and interesting fashion by someone who is able to reference a large variety of examples, especially from within social sciences.

Usefulness: clarifies thoughts on how to position a paper or hypothesis which has the remote possibility to actually generate some interest – not just fill up some more storage space in an eternal it-cloud.

Best quote: “A theorist is considered great, not because his theories are true, but because they are interesting. Those who carefully and exhaustively verify trivial theories are soon forgotten; whereas those who cursorily and expediently verify interesting theories are long remembered.”

CPA and CSR: non-market strategies

Mellahi, K., Frynas, J., Sun, P., & Siegel, D. (2016). A Review of the Nonmarket Strategy Literature: Toward a Multi-Theoretical Integration. Journal of Management, 42(1), 143-173.

Reading outside your immediate research-focus can be both bewildering and very rewarding. My focus the past years has been on strategy in regards to public organisations. Certainly there are frequent references to strategy in the private sector – but actually diving into an article like this one, is both bewildering and rewarding.

Superficially, one might think non-market strategy and strategy in public agencies should be quite similar, since public agencies do not interact with markeds the same way as businesses. The illusion of similarity soon dissipates as you read about what non-market strategy is all about. I’ll return to that. Burrowing deeper, however, there are some possible bridges between the literature on non-market strategy in market-place organisations and public agencies. I’ll return to that as well.

First things first. The article delves into research on non-market strategy: especially CSR and CPA (corporate social responsibility and corporate political activity). It details how a selection of 214 articles was chosen and how they were analyzed. 163 of the papers were empirical and 51 were conceptual. Of the empirical papers, 153 were focused on the performance outcomes of CSR and 51 on CPA. There was, in other words, a large amount of research which the authors used as data for this article. The result is a plethora of details which at times is quite a challenge to follow. However: the authors supply an integrative framework which comes to assistance in ordering the huge amount of perspectives.

The article details which theoretical frameworks the underlying articles have used. The most common are Agency Theory, Institutional Theory, Resource-based view (RBV), Resource-dependence theory (RDT), Stakeholder Theory and a group of “Others”. The overview of the use of these theoretical perspectives alone is very helpful in gaining oversight over the academic field of non-market strategy. Then the authors also present an “integrative model of the nonmarket strategy-performance relationship”.  Such models clarify and give the readers a mental image of how elements fit together – at least in this paper’s discussion.

A very interesting chapter was Insights From Related Non-Business Disciplines – where there are also possible links to social contract and Habermasian theories as possible avenues forward.

Leaving the directly market-place related content aside, there is still a lot to gain in this article on strategy for public sector. I will certainly look closer into how theoretical perspectives are applied in some of the references papers. Another perspective is the focus  on how CPA and CSR may be complementary, the discussion on mediating factors between CPA, CSR and performance and not least the effect of contextual factors (legal, political, and social).  All these dimensions are in differing ways applicable also to public agencies

Therefore, for me this article was very helpful – and it gives me a ton of new articles to look further into.

Milestone: paper accepted for publishing!

Very happy that an article I have co-authored together with Åge Johnsen, Jan-Erik Johanson and Elias Pekkola has been accepted for publication in the journal “Administrative Science”:

I put a lot of work into gathering data for the part of this article detailing strategic management in Norwegian government agencies and have learned a lot from collaborating with brilliant scholars.

The purpose of this article is to analyse the design and implementation of strategic planning and performance management in governmental agencies in two Nordic countries, Finland and Norway. The Nordic countries are an interesting study from a comparative perspective because while they are commonly assumed to have been high-intensity new public management reformers, they are commonly assumed also to have a distinct public management tradition. Moreover, these two countries are interesting to study because within the Nordic public management tradition, Finland and Norway represent two different public management traditions. Finland belongs to the Eastern Nordic public management tradition, with an emphasis on decentralisation and agency autonomy, while Norway belongs to the Western Nordic public management tradition, with an emphasis on hierarchical governance and hence much performance management and reporting. Therefore, we expected to find more decentralised strategic management and emphasis on evaluation in Finland and more central, planning-like strategic management and reporting in Norway. Our comparison shows that both countries had mandatory strategic planning and utilised decentralised strategic planning in government agencies. The stronger legal orientation in the public administration in Finland, however, made strategic changes more complicated in Finland than in Norway.

Lost in translation?

Ongaro, Edoardo and van Thiel, Sandra. “Languages and Public Administration in Europe” In The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration in Europe, edited by Edoardo Ongaro and Sandra van Thiel, 61-98. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place ” George Bernard Shaw.

Ongaro and van Thiel’s article in The Palgrave Handbook of Public
Administration in Europe
raises the question whether we understand eachother
when we use the same key concepts in the study of public administration.

The first section outlines the idea behind the article. Even if English is a lingua franca in academia, the various authors’ culture and linguistic background may influence
their perception of concepts.
Then Ongaro and van Thiel lets a number of scholars in the field reflect on how
the following concepts can be understood/interpreted in the various languages in Europe:
accountability, agency/agencification, governance, leadership, management/
public management, public administration, performance, policy, public values,
security. In addition they reflect on central concepts in their
respective languages that do not communicate well into English.

The result is a very instructive demonstration that the core concepts of public administration, have a lot of different challenges in being translated into various languages – a fact which poses a challenge to for instance teaching public administration in the vernacular languages. Trying to stick to your mother tongue might be difficult when communicating insights from the international academic arena.

English is a dominant language in the international academic sphere. I believe precise communication across cultural and linguistic borders is attainable, however –
there might be an interesting richness of diverse meanings which are more or
less hidden behind the use of the same English key concepts.

The article gives insight into how not only obscure phrases, but also key concepts might create communication challenges for academics originating in different countries and cultures. Next time I read an article or speak with a colleague from another country – I might just be haunted by the question: are we speaking about the same thing even if we are using the same concepts? Hopefully – that will lead to interesting clarifications and new insights. 


The Public Administration Manifesto II

Ling Zhu, Christopher Witko, Kenneth J Meier, The Public Administration Manifesto II: Matching Methods to Theory and Substance, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 29, Issue 2, April 2019, Pages 287–298,

I read this article with anticipation and was not let down. The paper is the result of a “methods symposium” “that will appear in this and the next two issues of the
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory”. It links the
articles in this symposium together into a combination of a descriptive
“state of the art” and a normative impetus on forking out a path
forward. “

The article gave me the “big picture” on use of methods in PA-research – and I will surely return to it as a guide showing me where to go for digging further into methodological questions. If you want a up-to-date vitamin-injection concerning methodological challenges in PA research: look no further.

Four conclusions:
1 Self-reflective use of methods is essential.
2 Methodological pluralism is necessary – challenging the division of
qualitative and quantitative approaches
3 Generalizability and replicability are real and vital challenges
4 PA needs a stronger arena for “methodological debates regarding best
practices and sophisticated methods in different substantive research

I will hunt down the main articles referred to in this article, and they will appear in this space in the coming months.