Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Employee Alignment with Strategic Change: A Study of Strategy-Supportive Behavior among Blue-Collar Employees

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Employee Alignment with Strategic Change: A Study of Strategy-Supportive Behavior among Blue-Collar Employees

Article excerpt

It may not be surprising that poor organizational strategies often fail, but research in strategy implementation demonstrates that even good strategies fail during implementation (Bonoma, 1984; Huff and Reger, 1987; Wooldridge and Floyd, 1989). Failure of a new strategy or a strategic innovation is often due to the inability or resistance of individual employees to commit to a strategy and adopt the necessary behaviors for accomplishment of strategic objectives (e.g., Heracleous and Barrett, 2001). Failures in this process of strategic commitment lead to strategic misalignment, or individuals failing to engage in behavior that supports the organization's strategic goals (Boswell and Boudreau, 2001). Because strategy implementation is predominantly goal-directed (Barney, 1998) and teleological in nature (Van de Ven and Poole, 1995), strategic misalignment reflects the absence of goal-directed behavior.

The problem of strategic misalignment has a considerable history in the management discipline and has been described under numerous labels such as the problem of achieving coordinated action, goal incongruence and non-alignment (Barnard, 1938; Boswell et al., 2006; Labovitz and Rosansky, 1997; March and Simon, 1958). This body of research has provided considerable insight into the challenges that impede collective alignment with strategies. However, little is understood about the mechanisms by which individuals come to be aligned with strategies.

The purpose of this study is to understand the antecedents of alignment by examining the role an individual's strategic knowledge and commitment play in subsequent engagement in strategy-supportive behavior. Strategic knowledge represents an individual's global understanding of a strategy being pursued by his or her organization; individuals who agree with statements such as "I understand what strategy X is all about" are demonstrating strategic knowledge as we define it. We propose that strategic knowledge and several individual characteristics influence strategic commitment, which we define as an individual's willingness to support a strategy. Three questions guided our research: (1) how does individual knowledge of the organization's strategy influence commitment to the strategy, (2) what additional antecedents contribute to strategic commitment, and (3) does strategic commitment predict strategy-supportive behavior? For this research we adopt a definition of strategy that reflects what many multi-unit manufacturing firms would call an operating strategy. For example, this definition would include strategic initiatives that are somewhat narrow in scope and yet help to guide the operating units within an organization.

We believe our research contributes to management scholarship in several ways. First, we explore a subcomponent of generalized commitment, namely commitment to a particular strategic initiative (cf. Jansen, 2004; Neubert and Cady, 2001). Such a focus seems especially relevant today, given the increasingly short-term bonds between individuals and organizations (Rousseau, 1997). Second, the framework proposed broadens the strategic perspective to include individual actors rather than focus on the organizational level and associated outcomes. Similar strategy-individual linkages have led to breakthroughs in strategic human resource management (Barney and Wright, 1998; Schuler and Jackson, 1987; Wright and Snell, 1998) and the upper echelons perspective (Finkelstein and Hambrick, 1996; Hambrick and Mason, 1984). Third, we test the theory in a lean transformation setting, providing greater contextual insight into how commitment to a strategy may be facilitated and its ability to predict strategy-specific behavior. We chose to study an organization that was adopting a strategy built on lean manufacturing in large part because a successful lean strategy necessitates both understanding and involvement from production employees (e.g., Mehta and Shah, 2005). …

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