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Tensions that Enable or Constrain Strategy Making – The work of digitalizing a public-sector agency.


Karin Axelsson, Linda Höglund

Publication Type:

Conference/Workshop Paper


European Group for Public Administration. Conference


There is a small but growing research field (see e.g. Andrews and Van de Walle 2012; Boyne and Walker 2010; Ferlie and Ongaro 2015; Hansen Rosenberg and Ferlie 2014; 2016; Johnsen 2016) that has highlighted the importance of studying strategy and strategy-making in public sector organizations for the past decade. Several of these studies investigate the application of strategic management (SM) (see e.g. Bryson 2004; Drumaux and Goethals 2007; Ferlie 2003; Joyce 2000; Johnson and Scholes 2001), but few investigate how public-sector organizations apply SM in practice (Bryson et al. 2010; Höglund et al. 2018). The proposed paper can be seen as an attempt to meet this call by presenting a qualitative in-depth case study of how SM through a digitalization strategy has been applied in the Swedish Transport Administration, a central government agency in Sweden. The empirical data contains of 67 individual interviews at different hierarchical levels, focus group interviews, as well as document studies. Eight of the interviews was specifically targeting the work with the Digitalization strategy. To analyse the empirical data we align with the strategizing perspective (e.g. Jarzabkowski and Fenton 2006; Lê and Jarzabkowski 2015; Spee and Jarzabkowski, 2011). The analytic term “strategizing” is useful, because it helps us to focus on what people do in their everyday work and how they do it in relation to strategy. In other words, we aim at further develop our understanding of strategy work in the public sector by enhancing our understanding of how strategy-making is enabled or constrained in public sector organizations. By analysing micro processes of strategizing at the studied case, our results indicate that public sector organizations when working to digitalize they need to be aware of at least four possible tensions that can enable or constrain strategy making. These tensions are: Accessibility vs. Security, Management vs. Innovation, Planned vs. Emergent, Legitimacy vs. Usefulness.


author = {Karin Axelsson and Linda H{\"o}glund},
title = {Tensions that Enable or Constrain Strategy Making – The work of digitalizing a public-sector agency. },
month = {September},
year = {2018},
booktitle = {European Group for Public Administration. Conference },
url = {}