Strategic ambiguity as a rhetorical resource for enabling multiple interests


The literature on ambiguity reflects contradictory views on its value as a resource or a problem for organizational action. In this longitudinal empirical study of ambiguity about a strategic goal, we examined how strategic ambiguity is used as a discursive resource by different organizational constituents and how that is associated with collective action around the strategic goal. We found four rhetorical positions, each of which drew upon strategic ambiguity to construct the strategic goal differently according to whether the various constituents were asserting their own interests or accommodating wider organizational interests. However, we also found that the different constituents maintained these four rhetorical positions simultaneously over time, enabling them to shift between their own and other’s interests rather than converging upon a common interest. These findings are used to develop a conceptual framework that explains how strategic ambiguity might serve as a resource for different organizational constituents to assert their own interests whilst also enabling collective organizational action, at least of a temporary nature.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Economics, Finance & Entrepreneurship
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Operations & Information Management
Additional Information: The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Human Relations, 63(2), February 2010 by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. © The Author(s) 2010 Reprints and permission:
Uncontrolled Keywords: academic careers,change,collective action,context,organizational culture,organizational theory,Management of Technology and Innovation,Strategy and Management,Social Sciences(all)
Publication ISSN: 1741-282X
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 07:09
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2009 14:29
Full Text Link: http://hum.sage ... stract/63/2/219
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2010-02
Authors: Jarzabkowski, Paula
Sillince, John
Shaw, Duncan


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