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Improving Strategic Management Practices in Pluralistic Settings

New Canada Research Chair

October 1, 2008

Strategic management in pluralistic settings poses special challenges. In such organizations, values and goals may be multiple and even ambiguous, power is shared, sometimes widely, and the knowledge needed to make decisions is distributed among people at many levels and positions. The goal of the new Canada Research Chair in Strategic Management in Pluralistic Settings, held by Management Professor Ann Langley, of HEC Montréal, is to better understand how to manage strategically in settings characterized by multiple and competing values, shared power and knowledge-based work processes.

Ann Langley strongly believes that to make theoretical and practical progress, we must learn from the experiences of those who are involved in pluralistic settings, such as organizations in the crucial health sector, which she knows particularly well. Her research in collaboration with colleagues and students at HEC Montréal and at the University of Montréal has therefore very often emphasized in-depth longitudinal studies in this sector, looking at issues relating to mergers, closings, change and governance, for instance. Her work and that of her students has also focused on the arts sector and non-profit organizations. Her research is clearly relevant to co-operatives, universities and consultants, as well.

Ann Langley points out that most traditional models and techniques for strategic management were developed for organizations with hierarchical structures, clear economic purposes and a concentration of power and expertise at the top. “In pluralistic settings, though, what management tools are likely to work? What kinds of skills are needed? How can strategic change be managed successfully where authority is shared, and hence limited, and where people have different but equally legitimate ideas about what is important?”

At a time when organizations are employing more and more professionals, when they are faced with more and more social and environmental challenges and borders are becoming more fluid all the time, it is obviously important to expand our understanding of strategic management.

In that connection, HEC Montréal Director Michel Patry emphasizes that the School has one of the largest management faculties in Canada, and already has five chairs and several research units in this field alone. “Funding this new chair at HEC Montréal will create new synergy in management. It will also encourage interdisciplinarity, for instance with researchers in operations and logistics management and information technologies, and collaboration with professors at other universities. This gives us another opportunity to enhance our expertise in strategic management and hence to increase our contribution to organizations’ success and growth.”

The creation of the Canada Research Chair in Strategic Management in Pluralistic Settings was announced on September 30. This tier 1 chair was created under the Canada Research Chairs Program with funding of $1.4 million over 7 years. It is the seventh Canada Research Chair at HEC Montréal, bringing the total number of chairs at the School to 24.

Professor Ann Langley

A widely cited author in the scientific community, Ann Langley has written two books and published over 40 articles in scientific management journals. She has been a guest professor in the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Switzerland and Brazil, and has forged strong collaborative bonds with colleagues at many universities around the world. She has vast experience in directing master’s and doctoral theses, and in 2007 shared the Medal for Teaching Excellence from the Conférence internationale des dirigeants des institutions d'enseignement supérieur et de recherche de gestion d'expression française in recognition of her teaching skills. She holds an MA in operational research from Lancaster University, in the United Kingdom, and a PhD in Administration from HEC Montréal.

Her main fields of interest are strategic processes and practices, organizational management in the health field, decision making and innovation. In 2006, she co-founded the Strategy as Practice Study Group, which she still heads.

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