Differentiated workforce on strategy implementation within the insurance industry: a strategy as practice approach

Mothuloe, Vincent Barney
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Within the field of strategic management research, the formulation of strategy has received considerable attention while strategy formulation has been overlooked. Although successful strategy implementation is the responsibility of all stakeholders in an organisation, most empirical research focuses on top and middle management. Consequently, there is limited knowledge regarding strategy practitioners at other levels of the organisation, and, in particular, little is known about the roles of the differentiated workforce in strategy implementation work in a developing country like South Africa. Furthermore, what people “do” when they formulate and implement strategy, needs further investigation. This study, therefore, researches the problem of strategy implementation by focusing on two companies in the insurance industry in South Africa. It also analyses the extant literature, and investigates the roles of the differentiated workforce, paying attention to their daily micro-practices which have a far-reaching impact on organisational competitiveness. The current literature also omits extensive discussion on the tools, enablers, and constraints of the differentiated workforce in implementing business strategy. The study therefore takes cognisance of these in answering the research question: What practices are utilised in strategy implementation within the insurance environment in South Africa? To address this research question, the researcher conducted a cross sectional qualitative study by following the strategy-as-practice (SAP) approach, and built a rich database, obtained through interviews of 16 participants at two insurance organisations. Following a process of thematic analysis, data were organised, categorised, interpreted, identified, synthesised and generalised, and the preparation of data for the coding process was in accordance with Saldana’s (2009) coding manual. NVivo11, a Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS), was used for more in- depth data analysis. The data revealed that strategy formulation and implementation are dispersed throughout the entire organisation, and that organisational context may affect the differentiated workforce’s strategy implementation through particular barriers and challenges. The data also show that the roles of the differentiated workforce serve as a bridge between the various strata, and provide a meaning-making platform for the entire organisation. Importantly, given the high rate of strategy implementation failures, a practical implication of this study is to help management optimise their structure, processes, practices, and strategy implementation tasks, in order to enhance organisation’s performance. The findings of the present study represent an incremental and meaningful contribution to the existing literature on SAP by creating a deeper understanding of the significance of the differentiated workforce as practitioners to delivering and driving strategy implementation that contribute to organisational competitiveness and survival. In particular, the study also provides practical implications that could assist TMT in adopting strategies that could capitalise on the differentiated workforces’ strategy making and implementation competencies and capabilities that currently are under-utilised and overlooked. The limitations and recommentations of the study provide a useful guide for future research considerations.
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Management). University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020