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A Context-sensitive Approach to Analysing Talk in Strategy Meetings

Authors


  • The authors are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers of our paper, and the comments of the Associate Editor, Cathy Cassells, as well as the financial support of the UK ESRC/EPSRC Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) in the preparation of this manuscript, under grant number RES-331-25-0017 (Clarke). The authors would also like to thank Professors Julia Balogun and Gerry Johnson for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Corresponding author email: i.clarke@newcastle.ac.uk

Abstract

The talk of managers in meetings is central to organizational life and crucial to research in strategic management, as well as managerial and organizational cognition, sensemaking and decision-making. To achieve full understanding, both the text and the context of discussion require systematic analysis, but most approaches treat context as everything that is known and observed beyond the immediate text. This obscures different readings of the text of meetings. To resolve this problem, the discourse historical approach (DHA) to critical discourse analysis is outlined as a framework within which researchers can analyse the text and context of talk in meetings. The primary contribution of this paper is to isolate four ‘levels of context’ as a heuristic framework within which discursive practices, strategies and texts can be located. By making explicit the levels of contextual analysis that are implicit in other methods, and illustrating the DHA using an episode of strategic discussion from a multinational company, this paper shows how researchers can use the approach to analyse the naturally occurring talk of senior managers in meetings, which is arguably the most important but yet under-explored venue for strategizing.

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