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The impact of middle manager divergent activity and stakeholder salience in organisations using formal strategic planning: a case study of England and Wales police forces

Elliott, G. (2016) The impact of middle manager divergent activity and stakeholder salience in organisations using formal strategic planning: a case study of England and Wales police forces. DBA thesis, Henley Business School, University of Reading

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This study examines the antecedents and outcomes of middle manager divergent activity in organisations which use formal strategic planning processes. Through this, it adds to understanding about the strategic role of managers in the middle of organisations and the way in which strategy development processes influence organisations. The contribution of middle managers to the success of organisations is well established, but the nature of this contribution remains unclear. Middle managers are no longer seen merely as implementers, or sometimes blockers, they are now proposed to be drivers of organisational strategy. Despite this change of view, the way in which middle managers might drive strategy and the reasons why they engage in strategic activity is not fully understood. Previous studies identify a link between middle manager strategic activity and organisation performance and suggest this may be through improving the information and ideas considered by top management. Middle managers occupy a unique position to do this. They are close to operational activity while also having contact with executive managers. This gives them insight into strategic issues which makes their divergent activity particularly valuable for organisations looking for new strategies. The positive link between formal strategic planning and organisation performance is established but remains elusive in some studies. This leads researchers to argue that the link is not direct. Understanding how strategic planning processes impact on the views and activities of middle managers is important in fully understanding the value of the process to the organisation. Doing this however, requires a researcher to open up the black-box of strategic planning and understand what is happening behind the façade of the planning process. This study brings these questions together and examines how the divergent activity of middle managers is influenced by internal and external factors in English and Welsh police forces. It uses a six-dimensional model of strategy development and a model of stakeholder salience to examine how these affect middle managers’ divergent activity. It also examines how a manager’s perception of their own strategic influence mediates this link. This adds to knowledge about how strategy development processes and external stakeholders impact on middle manager activity. Police force strategic management is very little researched compared to the operational work of policing, despite it representing a rich area for study. Significant changes in the regulation and management of police forces in the past 20 years, combined with the financial challenges facing all UK public sector agencies, means that new ways of policing are being explored. The research uses a case study approach involving 18 police forces. Data is drawn from middle managers predominantly using a large on-line survey complemented by semi-structured interviews with a small sample of the participants. Police forces have had experience of using formal strategic planning processes for 20 years. For most of this time the publication of strategic plans has been a statutory requirement. This makes the existence of strategic plans and objectives an unreliable indicator of formality and rationality in the development of police force strategies. This study looks behind the production of strategic plans to consider in more detail how strategy development affects the involvement of middle managers. The study finds that the rigid rank hierarchy of police forces significantly affects the way that middle managers see their strategic role. The managers studied split into two separate groups defined by rank. The level of divergent activity in both groups is associated with the perception of their personal influence. This perception of influence also mediates the link between strategy development processes and divergent activity. The study does not find evidence that middle manager divergent activity is associated with organisation performance. Despite the formulation of strategic plans, rational working is perceived as limited and this may constrain the link between the middle managers’ activity and strategic decisions. The integrated model of strategy development profile used in the study does not properly capture the dimensions of strategy which are important for police managers. The study adapts the original model to define five dimensions highlighting the importance of developing strategy in partnership and the impact of the misuse of power. Working in partnership, and the salience of external stakeholders with whom police managers can engage, increases the perception of influence over strategy. These findings add to understanding of the antecedents of middle manager divergent activity and the way that strategy development processes impact on middle managers. They offer insight for police forces wanting to increase the level of managers’ divergent activity.

Item Type:Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Supervisor:Day, M. and Lichtenstein, S.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:80467


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